A review of Sleeklens Landscape Adventure Photoshop Actions
Sleeklens.com reached out to me to ask me if I would be interested in reviewing their Photoshop Actions for photo editing. I took a look at their website and figured it would be a fun opportunity to see if their actions could add anything fun and/or interesting to my existing editing workflow for landscape and astro-landscape photos. I have a pretty well-established workflow; however, I'm always keen on trying new techniques or software to see if they help improve my photography.
Installing the Sleeklens Actions was pretty intuitive, I just dropped the action file into the Photoshop action folder on my computer where the application was located and loaded up Photoshop. You could use Camera Raw or Lightroom as your RAW editor before opening the file in Photoshop for use with the Sleeklens Actions. For this review, I decided to use Camera Raw (simply by double clicking on the RAW file on my hard-drive), which is not my usual workflow (I usually start in Lightroom). You can apply some basic edits in Camera Raw, including lens corrections, noise reduction, sharpening, etc. and then click open. Photoshop will then open the file for use. To find the Sleeklens Actions, I went to "Window" and selected "Actions" to open up the Action dialogue window. I then opened the Sleeklens Actions by using the little drop-down in the top right corner of the Action window.
I chose three photos to edit - a photo of my friend Ellen's dog, Earl, at sunset from Island Lake near Silverton, Colorado; a photo of the Milky Way reflected in a small lake at 13,000 ft. in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and a shot of Island Lake at sunset near Silverton, Colorado. Using the actions was really easy! If you have any experience at all using layers in Photoshop, that's really helpful; however, Sleeklens Actions gives you nice prompts on how to use the Actions when you click on them, for example, the Actions tell you that you can reduce the effect of a filter you add by reducing the opacity of that layer after you use it. This helps refine the effects that are applied by the Action. Additionally, I found the descriptions provided by the Actions in the list to be pretty accurate in terms of what they actually do to the photo. A word of warning - it is really easy to get carried away with these Actions and make your photo look really bad. I tried to only use 2-3 Actions per photo and selectively adjusted the opacity of each filter used to give the photo the effects I desired.
For the second test, I decided to edit a Milky Way photograph, which is always really tricky, in general. For this photo, I found that the filters did some really nice effects (that I think I could have done on my own using curves, levels, etc), but it took great care to make sure I did not push the file too far. I found that certain filters added a lot of noise to the image that was not desirable at all, so your mileage may vary. With care, the Actions can add some really nice impact to your night photos.
The last test was to edit a photo I shot at sunset from 13,500 ft. looking east towards the nearly full moon and some awesome mountain peaks above Island Lake. The photo had a lot of varied elements (a white moon, yellow flowers, a blue lake) that made the global filters hard to use. I had to really choose carefully which filters to use on this shot; however, I think the instructions provided by the Actions helped in terms of reducing opacity of various filters, etc. An advanced user could add layer masks and really control the areas of the photo impacted by the filter used. In my edited photo, you can see how the color of the flowers was altered to match the color of the mountains, which I did not like, but wanted to keep to show the reader how the Actions can go overboard if you're not careful.
In conclusion, I think that the Sleeklens Actions have a tremendous amount of value, especially for beginner photographers intimidated by Photoshop's complex workflows. With care and practice, I think that the Sleeklens Actions can really improve the photos of many users and eventually help photographers want to push further and learn advanced Photoshop techniques to control the effects even more. I'd recommend that any beginner to landscape photography and Photoshop buy a copy today, as long as you are shooting RAW (you are shooting RAW, right!?).
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