A Sleeklens Portrait Workflow Review

Recently I had the opportunity to try out the “Strike a Pose” Lightroom workflow by Sleeklens. You can find what I will be talking about here. The workflow contains a set of presets and brushes designed for enhancing portrait photos.

I have used film-like presets for photos before, but I generally build a look for a photo from scratch, and make customized local adjustments on each photo. I was interested to see what I could accomplish with these tools for portraits.

Before I give you the rundown, I will say that I found the workflow very useful, especially the brushes. They made it very easy to quickly retouch the skin, hair and face on a portrait, as well as the general ambiance of the photo.

The package contains over 60 brushes and 60 presets oriented towards enhancing portraits. Sleeklens also offers other packages of presets and brushes as well, for working with different kinds of photos. In addition to the brushes and presets they provide video tutorials on how to use the tools, and a recipe list on how to achieve the look of certain images.

The video tutorials provided taught me a lot about how to go about retouching faces and portraits in general, and the brushes, aptly named,  gave me hints on what kind of options I had for retouching, aside from what I have intuitively figured out through experience.

The presets in the workflow can be divided into all-in-one presets and stackable presets. All-in-one presets are what you would expect, I found they typically required some customization to work well with a photo. The stackable presets are used sequentially, starting with a base ‘look’ preset, followed by presets for exposure adjustment, color correction, tone and tinting, ‘polish’ and vignetting. I think I have a knack for playing with Lightroom sliders, so I did a good deal of customization with these to achieve a look I was really happy with. I think they would be great presets for someone who might have less experience with Lightroom, or someone overwhelmed with the depth of adjustment possible by manually manipulating the sliders one by one, not to mention the ease at which one could over-edit a photo.

The real benefit for me was the brushes. I have used the graduated and radial filters extensively in my photos before, far much more than the brush tool. The brush presets named after their use, such as “Enhance Blue Eyes”, “Smooth Skin” or “Whiten Teeth” so it becomes very obvious what options are available for making adjustments. The video tutorials also show you how to effectively use brushes to enhance photos.

Below is a photo I took at the edge of a cave on a recent trip to Johnston Canyon. I used the stackable presets “Base - Hide and Seek”, “Exposure - More Highlights”, “Fix Red Skin” and “Bronze Tone 2”, with some customization to get the base look of the photo. For brushes I used “Add Shine to Lips”, “Enhance Green Eyes”, “Whiten Eyes”, “Hair - Add Punch”, “Even Skin Tone” and “Sharpen Face”, to name a few. I also added a radial filter using “Golden Haze” brush that I modified.

The next shot is an older one, which I took on a cloudy day. I used stackable presets “Auto Tone {Color}”, “Exposure - Less Highlights”, “Bronze Tone 2” and “Color Pop”. For the brush retouching I did many of the same adjustments, and additional touchups with “Enhance Catchlights” and “Define Blonde Hair”. I feel like I was able to make the photo look brighter and sunnier, as well as a solid retouch of the model.

The presets have their uses beyond face-centric portraits too. In the next photo I simply used the “Golden Shadow” all-in-one preset with a bit of clarity to take a photo which was originally quite dark and cold, and make it warm and glowy.

Overall I found the workflow useful to streamline retouching photos; the presets definitely lead me toward trying out a different look and feel with my edits. I found many of the all-in-one and base presets to be a little ‘heavy’ in stylizing a photo, but with a bit of customization it was easy to achieve a good look. This workflow seems to excel at quickly producing bright, warm, glowy edits to shots. I recommend checking out the various preset packages they have to offer, especially if you would like to expand your comfort zone in taking different kinds of photos.

Sleeklens also offers a variety of templates for sale such as gift certificates, which would be very useful for photographers looking to use their photos in merchandise and marketing material. I think the templates look pretty slick.

Drop me a line if you learned something.

New Site

I made a new site, again.

I was using Smugmug before, but I spent too much time fiddling with details, and the extra cost was not providing me with much benefit.

I’m now using Format, which limits the amount of customization, apart from writing custom code, but this is actually a blessing. The mobile site looks -much- better right out of the box, as well.

Thanks for checking out my site/photo blog.

Using Format