Recently I was contacted by Sleeklens, a company who create post-production workflows for Lightroom and Photoshop and who very generously gave me the opportunity to try out their Landscape: Adventure workflow in exchange for a review.
For my own work, I typically create actions that only marginally alter the sharpness, white balance, contrast, etc of my images, as a quick way of achieving a consistent effect over a set and while I've often been tempted, I’ve never purchased an action, ever, because I'm a control freak and I have a ridiculous need to do things myself, from scratch. But as I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to mix things up a bit and try something new, and this seemed like a brilliant chance to find out what I'd been missing.
The workflow was incredibly easy to install, and the little user guide that came with it was really helpful because the workflow has a LOT of actions in it, so having something to reference which gave me something of an idea of what results each combination might have on my image saved me a lot of time going back and forth trying everything out.
The first image I edited was this sunrise in the town. Straight out of camera, the contrast was pretty low and while I like the perspective, the image definitely needed a kick. For the test, I applied no alterations to the images besides those available in the workflow and while at first -as with everything- it was a little tricky to get my head around how best to apply the layers, but once I'd familiarised myself with a couple of the actions I liked best, it was a breeze.
All of the individual actions can be altered by lowering and raising the opacity, and some of them can be 'painted' on in a layer mask with a brush tool which is really useful, especially when using effects that make the sky more dramatic, or if you want to remove the effect from one area of the image, but not from the whole thing, and so on.
The second image I pulled from my archive as an example of a shot which had a pretty even exposure straight out of camera. I found that during my first play around with the workflow that the actions are very intense, designed to boost landscape images that may have been shot in lower light, a few stops underexposed, or in dull weather and so I wanted to see if I could find a combination that would provide more of a polishing effect, rather than a transformative one.
As it turns out, you can! But I really think this particular workflow is more suitable for sweeping vistas with wide horizon's and dramatic skies that need a significant boost in the shadows or highlights and which have less in the way of detail. The clarity boost is nice and subtle though, as was the warming highlights to help correct to cool tones in the shade.
And finally, for my 3rd image I shot a more classic landscape image to play around with. I loved the desaturation, but I did find that one of the effects created a bit of colour banding in the shadows at the bottom of the shot. And it's these sorts of issues that make me wary of using actions usually, because if once applied the effect produces an issue like this, you then have to reverse edit to find the source of the problem and fix it, which isn't really an issue if you understand photoshop well but it does mean you end up using more time, rendering the process a bit redundant.
Many of the actions are a little too dramatic for my taste, though I definitely think that with such an extensive a catalogue available, that there are plenty of options that would be more in tune with the kind of aesthetic that I go for. The workflows are incredibly user friendly, right down to the action title choices which for the most part are pretty self explainatory. You can mix and match how they are combined to get a huge variety of effects without needing to know all of the complicated aspects of photoshop or spending hours to achieve them and I think it would make a perfect purchase for anyone who loves photography but doesn’t have much experience with all of the ins and outs of photoshop, or just for someone who enjoys experimenting with different effects to shake up the way they edit their photos. I certainly got a kick out of applying looks to my images that it usually wouldn't occur to me to try, and having access to the demos was a handy way of trying out some new tricks to add a shot of creativity to my photography which can sometimes be difficult to do when you comfortably find your signature style go-to editing choices.
You can check out the Sleeklens website here, they have plenty of user guides and demos to browse along with their many, many workflows. And if you like the look of the Landscape: Adventure workflow, you can buy yourself a download, here.