Full disclosure, I don’t favor post-processing actions in my own editing workflow. So when the nice folk at Sleeklens approached me to review their Landscape Adventure Actions for Photoshop it was with a certain scepticism that I booted them up.
Personally, I prefer to process every image individually, tuning its’ look or targeting elements I’m seeking to enhance or tone down. This is very much a manual process for me. I’m no ‘action hater’, I just don’t believe there’s an action, created by someone else, that will suit my style or what I hold in my mind's eye when they are generalist tools.
Now down to the review ...
First off, installation is super simple. Unzip, drop in the Actions folder, restart Photoshop and bam there they are in the Actions palette ready to go. Sleeklens also have a very clear tutorial on their website should you get stuck, or are not confident messing about with Photoshop folder structure.
A Whole Lotta Actions
Once you open the Sleeklens’ Landscape Actions palette, you really are spoilt for choice.
At over 50+ presets in the Landscape Adventure Actions, there’s plenty to choose from, and they’re applicable to any part of the editing workflow, the set’s complete with;
Image adjustments (i.e Exposure, Contrast)
Tonal changes (i.e. autumnal, sunset, sunrise etc)
Auto-enchantment options (i.e. dramatic sky, cool shadows, expanded dynamic range)
Given the number of actions Sleeklens’ Landscape pack offers it could easily be an overwhelming choice, but its neatly divided within the actions palette with headers. My only minor grievance would be some of the filters are quite cryptically entitled, the clue gives no name to what they achieve requiring experimentation before knowing what you are actually triggering i.e. Love me Tender.
Actions = One-Click Wonder?
Many actions result in a flattened un-editable files. You can instantly see though Sleeklens put these together with real thought for the end user and photographic workflow. AlI the actions I tested, kept the original files allowing for easy rollback.
Individual adjustments from each action were always selectable coming complete with masks for subsequent fine tuning. Helpful dialogue box prompts presented themselves whilst actions run, directing you to pertinent masks or relevant layers so you can fine tune the effects up or down. This inbuilt tailoring control really creates opportunities for more novice editors to get comfy and learn how Photoshop works, or, you can simply leave as where the resulting look is to taste.
And The Effects Themselves?
I conducted a Photoshop battle of sorts; editing 1 image in manual mode, and then again using the Landscape actions to gauge the quality of Sleeklens’ visual output. For both edits my aim was to;
reduce the highlights from the glare on the water
dial up the contrast on the rocks
- punch up the red in the clouds
In manual mode I did this by creating a luminosity mask then fine tuning the resulting channel masks. With Sleeklens, I ran 2 presets; EXPOSURE Reduce and ALLINONE Calm Sunset.
Overall Sleeklens (A) did a good job, there’s subtly more red in the sky and it’s got a very honest look, no overtly post production look I’ve seen before with preset actions. There’s more targeted changes in my DIY version, but luminosity masks are always going to be more precise so I’ve no complaints there.
My version managed to squeeze some more pleasing contrast / drama from the sky, in the Sleeklens’ version some of the highlights are wee bit blown still, but as the preset retains the masks I had the option to fine tune, so that could easily be addressed.
Is it worth it?
On balance, definitely at a dollar per action level the Landscape Actions are decent value! And they’ve clearly been put together with some careful thought and consideration. Given Photoshop can be a daunting tool for the novice photographer, Sleeklens offers a wide range of actions to experiment with different looks, useful when you're starting out and defining your own tastes.
Its also a valuable gateway tool allowing you to enter the world of Photoshop layers understand how changes have been made and what editing tools are available and what they do; a great way of learning tools within a complex program like Photoshop and learning how to achieve your post-production aims.
And the bad?
A (minor) complaint, there no LAB mode support. This probably won’t impact the generalist or entry-level photographer, just happens to be my editing colour space of choice.
You can read more on Sleeklens' actions here