A few weeks ago I was contacted by a lovely lady from Sleeklens.com who asked if I would be interested in writing an honest review of their Portrait workflow. Sleeklens provide professional workflows to photographers who are looking to speed up their editing processes and to be honest, the thought of anything to help me speed up my editing had me interested from the start!
Here's the thing - I'm not a massive Photoshop actions fan and I don't like my images to look over-processed. It may be that I'm just a bit too fussy (hubs and kids would agree) and I'll also admit that I am not the most experienced Photoshop user in the room; I know what I know, and that's about it!
It was with a little trepidation therefore that I installed and began to play with the Sleeklens Portrait Perfection Photoshop Actions. I used an image of my beautiful daughter to experiment on, taken on what should have been a lovely summers day last year, on one of the all-too-rare occasions that she allowed me to photograph her. Living in Britain as I do, summer days are few and far between - so I wanted to end up with an image that had a gentle, summery golden feel to it.
Included in the bundle you get: (taken from the Sleeklens website)
After pulling the file through from ACR I opened up my Actions pallette and began to play.
Straight off the bat you get a set of "All In One" actions. These consist of 8 different ready made 'looks' which do just as it says on the tin; everything kind of all at once. As I've already said, I'm not a massive fan of actions and I did find these just a little too heavy for my liking. You can't go into each action and fine tune each element to suit - although I did a very basic work around of duplicating my background layer and adjusting opacity. Whilst I'm sure some will love the ease and immediacy of these, for me personally they were my least favourite part of the set.
Having said that......
I pretty much love the rest!
Next down in the column are your 'Base' actions which got my image off to a good start. There are five 'base' actions to choose from; from scratch, from nature, from bright sunny days, from golden hours and from cloudy days. I used 'from golden hours' on the image because it added a lovely warm feel, just what I was looking for. Importantly for me, every one of these actions is fully customisable so you can go into each element and tweak to your heart's desire. This is ideal for control freaks like me or for those just wanting a very subtle effect.
Next come exposure, temperature and colour corrections which again are very straightforward and easy to use. I particularly like the colour corrections set with its eight options, I would suggest you have a play with each of these as I did to find which best suits your image. For me, the 'Natural' option gave a pleasing skin tone. Note for newborn photographers there is also a reduced reds option which I have used in newborn imagery with great success. I always zoom right in, use a soft brush with low flow (around 1 - 3%) and then gradually remove the red until I'm happy.
Next down is the portrait retouch section which contains everything you need to brighten eyes, add a soft glow or a honey tone, desaturate skin, add a bit of blush or create glossy lips. There is also a handy 'fast retouch' action set, which opens up give options to soften skin, brighten eyes, darken lashes, add blush, and whiten teeth options if you're in a real hurry.
The Enhance Tones section is a great one to play with and I would suggest doing just that so you can get an idea of what each action does. Once again made up of cusomisable layers, they all give a pleasing effect - my choice for the image below being "Girl Like You" which once again added to the warm sunny feel I was looking for. Do have a play with them all though - they all have their own merits, I'm already looking forward to photographing my little one in the autumn so I can use the Autumn Love action!
Vignettes is next - Vintage or a set of toned vignettes; brown, blue, cream or dark.
The Light Glow option is a great addition - literally letting you add a burst of light wherever you want in the image. These are all moveable, just click and drag and adjust opacity to suit. I personally used the neutral one but you also have the option of Blue Fire, Blue Ice, Sunny, Peach, Pink and Soft Warm light glows to try.
"From a Candy Store" is the set I found most useful. Included there are options to add a paint effect (gives a nice 'oomph' although you do need to lower opacity a fair bit), dodge and burn, frequency separation and sharpen. Once again, there is also an option to open all of these in one for those of us in a hurry! It was nice to have all of these in one place. For me though, as I tend to use dodge and burn and Frequency when starting an image, I will probably see about moving these elements higher up the column so I'm not having to search down for them every time.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing with these actions and I will certainly be using them in future. Do I recommend them? Yes I do - I think if you are a portrait photographer you will find them very useful. In addition if, like myself, you are not totally knowledgeable about all things Photoshop you will find them very simple to use. Although I was going slowly with this image as I was making notes and playing with effects as I went, for me there is no doubt that once you're familiar with the action set and know which options will give you the look you want, your work flow will certainly speed up. It is useful to have everything all together in one place and, as I said above, the ability to reduce/tweak the effect of these actions to suit is great and ensures all tastes are catered for.
If you are interested in finding out more visit the Sleeklens website below.
Here are the results of my use of the Portrait Perfection actions:
|SOC||Sleeklens Portrait Perfection Actions for Photoshop|