The people at Sleeklens, developers of many things photographic (particularly for Adobe’s Lightroom™ and Photoshop™), have asked me to do a short review of one of their products – a set of landscape photography oriented Lightroom presets they call Through The Woods Workflow. This bundle includes 51 presets and 30 brushes as well as instructions for installing them and some helpful “recipe lists” to aid you in their use.
What are Presets?
This review is not a tutorial on using presets and brushes but for readers who may not be familiar with them, suffice it to say that a Lightroom preset is usually two or more photo adjustment settings collected together so the user can accomplish that set of image changes with a single click. A brush (preset) is similar in that it collects a set of brush settings together so that the user can select a brush to accomplish a local adjustment goal without having to remember and make all the settings necessary for that brush each time.
And most important to me – as a Lightroom user I know that a preset should often be considered to be a starting point, rather than an end. Since presets are only “presetting” photo adjustments which can all be done individually, those adjustments can be changed at any time by the user (or, in the case of brushes, the brush settings can be changed at any time) to obtain the desired result for a particular image.
Through The Woods Review
The presets in Through The Woods are nicely organized into subsets and are divided into two different types. Those two types are called “All In One” and “stackable.” The “All In One” presets do exactly what you might expect; a single preset makes many adjustments to a photo to present a completely edited result. The “stackable” presets are designed to only set a small subset of possible photo adjustments (e.g., exposure, color, tone, etc.); the user can choose a preset from each stackable subset to accomplish the overall adjustment goal. It is this set of stackable presets which create a workflow approach to photo editing (you can just go down the list of stackable presets, choosing one or none from each subset and that creates the basic workflow). In either case (All In One or stackable), the user can then switch to local adjustments using preset brushes to further enhance the image.
This system works well for beginners as well as experts. By starting with an All In One preset, beginners can then look at the resulting adjustments and begin to see how each adjustment can help to create a particular look. That educational side-effect can used to learn from the stackable presets and the brushes, as well. And, once you’ve learned what each of the presets can do, they can definitely save time and effort when adjusting images.
The downside of this preset approach for me was trying to understand and remember what each preset does. The names of the presets sometimes helped a great deal in predicting an outcome. For example, All In One names like Calm Sunset, Dawn Rising, and Warm Shadows gave me a clue as to what the preset might do. But others like Love Me Tender, Pressed In Time, and the Royal Treatment did not help me in making a choice. The names of presets in the stackable subsets similarly had some that I considered to be useful, on the one hand, and just cute, on the other.
I solved this issue (for me) by enlarging the thumbnail photo view in the Navigator (upper left-hand corner in the Develop module). Hovering the mouse over any preset will cause Lightroom to show the effect on the photo in that thumbnail. The default view size of the thumbnail is not sufficient for me to make useful decisions but by enlarging it enough I could get a good idea of how the preset would affect the image. If after applying the preset, I wasn’t satisfied, I could either make some additional changes to the preset adjustments by hand or I could just Undo the preset and try another.
The brushes (which can be used by Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, and Radial Filter) are a somewhat different matter. There is no way in Lightroom (that I know of) to preview the use of an adjustment brush without using it; you can, of course, look at the resulting settings of a brush preset and that might help. On the other hand (very good news), the names of the brushes make them much more understandable and therefore easy to predict. If the brush preset doesn’t do exactly what is desired, one can simply adjust the strength of it, or delete its “pin.”
All in all, I found Through The Woods Workflow to be a useful preset tool, one I suspect I’ll continue to use for some images. I found the preset brushes particularly helpful in my workflow. If you are a Lightroom user but have not established a workflow for yourself (or don’t like the workflow you are using) then using these presets, particularly the stackable ones, could provide a very effective workflow approach for you.
More about Sleeklens
To see more about this landscape bundle, visit https://sleeklens.com/product/landscape-lightroom-presets/ but note that this is just a part of a larger bundle of presets called the Landscape Essentials Workflow Bundle which includes not only the Through The Woods set but also Out of the Shadows HDR Workflow and Brick and Mortar Workflow (found at https://sleeklens.com/product/landscape-essentials-workflow-bundle/).
Sleeklens also offers a full range of Lightroom presets covering portrait, wedding, food, fashion, and many others at https://sleeklens.com/product-category/lightroom-presets/ as well as a Professional Photo Editing Service at https://sleeklens.com/product/professional-photo-editing-service/.
Finally, full disclosure, no one is backing a truck full of money up to my house for this review. I was asked to review the Through The Woods product and to mention a couple of their web addresses and I was given a copy to test and keep, period, full stop. As it happens, I’ve mentioned more of those URL’s than requested.
More disclosure, I use Lightroom extensively to manage and prepare images and to a much lesser extent, Photoshop and some plug-ins. I am already a user of a very small number of Lightroom presets and brushes, most of my own making. For instance, when I import RAW photos into Lightroom (99.9% of my photos are shot in RAW; those that aren’t are usually from my phone), I automatically apply a preset to every one of them to establish a base to work from. That preset applies several adjustments including, for example, a Lens Profile (correction) and removal of most Chromatic Aberration that might be present.