Review the “Through the Woods” set of Lightroom presets by Sleeklens
I’d never really considered using Lightroom presets before. It just never really crossed my mind. And so, it was with a sense of curiosity and a little skepticism that I installed the “Through the Woods” set of presets by Sleeklens. Installation was simple enough. The presets come with extensive documentation and video tutorials. Installation was simply a case of copying the preset files to the correct folder. Once this is done, the “Through the Woods” presets appear in the preset list on the left hand side of the screen in Lightroom. So far, so good.
I picked three photos from a recent trip to Venice as my guinea pigs. They were chosen quite deliberately as I was struggling to get anything satisfying out of these three particular photos. I was generally happy with the composition and lighting conditions. I just couldn’t get them to look how I wanted. I would spend an eternity fiddling with them in Lightroom and Photoshop only to be horrified by what I’d done when I looked at the photos with a fresh eye a few hours later! They went straight into to my “What on earth were you thinking” folder.
Sometimes, you can spend too long staring at the screen and not realise that you are actually slowly butchering what could potentially be really good photo. These three shots presented the perfect opportunity to try out the Through the Woods Lightroom presets by Sleeklens.
Using the presets is simplicity itself. You simply click on your chosen preset and Lightroom does the rest. You can also hover the curser over the preset and see a preview in the small screen in the top left hand corner. There are 51 presets in total in the Through the Woods package.
For each photo, I’ve posted the unedited RAW file and the photo after the presets have been applied with a before and after slider. I’ve then added the finished photo after some fine tuning in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Photo 1: Gondolas at Dawn
This shot was taken at about 7am beside the stunning Doge’s Palace in Venice. I’d already gotten some nice pre-dawn shots on St Mark’s Square and now turned my attention to the gondolas by the palace. This one of the classic views of Venice with the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. At first I was a bit disappointed with the cloudy conditions. However, a subtle pink tint on the underside of the clouds began to appear just before the sun rose above the horizon.
The raw photo however, is quite washed out and the pink in the sky is barely perceptible. I tried a few times to edit the file myself and tease the pink hues back out. I just wasn’t happy with the results. My attempts made the scene seem far too unnatural. In truth, To be honest, I ended up with shades of pink that simply don’t exist in nature, or possibly anywhere else.
I found that using a combination of two or three presets often produced the best results. In this case I used the “Punch it Up” and “Sharpen” presets. As you can see, the image has been completely transformed. The beautiful pink hues in the clouds have been brought out and the photo looks much more like the scene as I remember it. I then brightened the bottom half of the photo with the gondolas in Lightroom and did some fine tuning in Photoshop.
Gondolas at Dawn – Venice
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Photo 2: Grand Canal at Dusk
The next shot takes us to yet another iconic view of Venice: The Grand Canal from the Ponte dell’Accademia. Once again, here was a shot I was struggling to make something of in post production. The warm evening tones from the scene were hidden somewhere in the raw file. My attempts to draw them out just didn’t look right. I had somehow managed to make it look like a nuclear bomb had just exploded over Venice. Again, this photo was the perfect candidate to try out the Through the Woods presets on.
This is the shot that gave the most dramatic results after applying just one of the Lightroom presets, in this case one called “Calm Sunset”. As you can see, the transformation is dramatic. The beautiful warm tones from the evening sky have been drawn back out. The photo finally looked like what I remembered when standing on the bridge. That said, you may notice that I’ve taken the “artistic” liberty of removing some of the speed boats that were cluttering up the canal.
Raw files are fantastic for the sheer amount of information they contain. They do however have a tendency to look quite washed out and dull by nature. This means that sometimes you look back at the raw file especially if it’s some time later and wonder why you took the shot in the first place. The Sleeklens presets are very useful in drawing out those tones and details that inspired you to take the shot but have now become hidden in the washed out raw file.
Grand Canal at Dusk – Venice
Photo 3: The Bridge of Sighs
Gondola and The Bridge of Sighs – Venice
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Venice. Using my tripod to beat my fellow tourists out of the way, I managed to take this photo just as a gondola was passing underneath the bridge I was standing on. I was quite pleased with the composition in this photo with the gondola in the bottom left but the photo just didn’t seem to “pop”. My attempts at processing the image just seemed a little flat. The final result was ok but no more than that. I decided to see if any of the “Through the Woods” presets could help me achieve a more striking final photo.
For this photo, I decided to go a bit nuts and try out a few different Lightroom presets just to see what happened. In the end, I used seven in total! The presets used were: “Cinematic”, “Exdenting DR”, “Punchy”, “Medium Black Vignette”, “Less Highlights”, “Darken Shadows” and finally “Color Pop”.I expected the result to be disastrous but I ended up being surprisingly pleased with the final image. The colours, tones and textures in the scene certainly weren’t flat anymore.
The final image is much more punchy than my original effort. I hadn’t actually taken too many shots here as it’s always so crowded so I was delighted to have at least one good photo of the Bridge of Sighs.
All in all, my experience using the Sleeklens Lightroom presets was very positive. I ended up with three photographs I may have given up on before trying the presets.
Presets are not something I would use most of the time when editing my photos but I will definitely be using them on those occasions when I’m struggling to get the results I want. I think this is when they are most useful.
One criticism I have is that some of the presets gave some quite extreme or bizarre results. I would struggle to imagine when I might use them. That said, some presets looked really weird on some photos but worked very well on others. It’s just a question of experimenting until you get the results you want.
The “Through the Woods” package (and others) can be bought at sleeklens.com and costs $39. The package includes 51 presets and 30 preset brushes. I will be reviewing the brushes in a future blog post.
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