March 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I'll let you in on a secret - I'm a bona fide Lightroom preset JUNKIE! 

I've purchased more presets than you could shake a proverbial stick at, before finally stumbling on a couple brands that have actually worked for me.  I've also tried making presets, but invariably I seem to like someone else's work they say, the grass is always greener... 

My comfort zone in editing is using a favorite preset as a base (getting me into the general ballpark of a finished image right away), and then adjusting with my own personal tweaks.

Frustrating fact: my tastes are eclectic and I always want the latest new look or style in editing. 

When I see someone selling new presets, I'm just hopeful enough to fall for the idea that this particular set will indeed be the onethat will magically give me a look I can see myself committing too.  Yep, I'm pretty much a photography-preset-seller's dream customer.

So, when I was recently approached by Sleeklens to review their STRIKE A POSE PORTRAIT WORKFLOW set, my instantaneous reply was 'Gimmie, gimmie!'


General Thoughts on Presets:


In theory, the idea of creating and selling presets is great, but in practicality, I can count on one hand how many times I've run across a true 'one click' preset that works for me (keep reading though, because I actually found one in this set!). 

Something that's not talked about much, is the fact that the brand of your camera will really affect how a preset will look since manufacturers have different secret sauces for handling color and skin tones. I'm a Nikon shooter but I've played around with Canon files, and there is a difference in the raw images in these portrait-critical aspects.  I prefer to see preset sellers showing edited examples from multiple camera types (Nikon, Cannon, etc.), and as a saavy shopper (a.k.a. 'been burned too many times before'), this has actually become a prerequisite before spending a dime.  Apart from companies, many independent photographers now see the gravy-train earning potential in marketing to other photographers, and make and sell presets if they have a unique, consistent, and popular style.  Even though I may love their work, I'll steer clear if I see that they shoot with Canon exclusively and haven't made it a point to show results on Nikon files.  

The Information Age has created a very communal feel in most areas of life.  If you've been in the photography business for any length of time, I'm sure you've heard the popular catch phrase, 'community over competition'?  People are no longer satisfied with simply viewing your pretty images.  They want to know every aspect of exactly how you got there.  Sharing information, tips, and tricks is KEY in getting followers on any kind of social media platform.  The more transparent you are and willing to 'help the other fellow get ahead', the more you're going to grow in popularity and turn that exposure into revenue potential #cashola #payday #showmethemoney!

I follow one popular photographer that is using this simple formula to earn a nice steady extra income to supplement her paid work: 

1.  Shoot with beautiful models (sex does indeed sell and anyone with an ounce of marketing skills will showcase beautiful females at every opportunity!)

2.  Share behind the scenes informational YouTube videos detailing every aspect of the shoot (gear, location, thought processes, etc.)

3.  Show edited images from the shoot using presets that she sells...'included in the links below', of course!  

Vendors that are providing social media platforms for customers to share their own work using the presets, as well as instructional videos on how to  edit with the presets is something I look for when purchasing.  (And when I say instructional videos, I mean people talking and walking you through the thought process...not sped up wordless edits set to music that I would never listen to and makes me not finish the video.)





The set entails 69 presets, and 62 brushes...yes, 62...along with some recipe helps. 


The presets are clearly marked in sections and include:

25 All-In-One presets

15 Base presets

6 Exposure presets

6 Color Correct presets

9 Tone / Tint presets

5 Polish presets 

4 Vignette presets


Plenty of educational tutorials on how to use the presets are provided. (all links at bottom of review)




If you're a photographer that likes to play around with different effects, then you'll love the variety of the All-In-One looks.  For the person that's a little more set on a certain style, these probably won't be for you.  Keep in mind, that even though it says 'all in one', you'll likely need additional tweaking to get the image edited to your tastes.  Out of the 25 presets in this category, I really liked 'Duo' in particular, and had almost a 100% success rate with it truly being a one-click preset. 


(Hover over all images in this reveiw to get more information)


Example 1:  All-In-One Duo

Sleeklens Portrait Preset ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow All-In-One preset Duo at 100% (no other edits)

Example 2:  All-In-One Portrait - Golden

Sleeklens Portrait Presets ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow All-In-One preset Portrait-Golden at 88% (no other edits)

Example 3:  All-In-One Golden Shadow

Sleeklens Portrait Preset ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow All-In-One preset Golden Shadow at 100% (no other edits)


I would have liked to see an option to activate Lens Correction (or have it built into the presets), and had to remind myself to check that before editing each image.  The amount of presets is cumbersome to scroll through, and even more so the brushes...although on the flip side, there is literally a brush for any, and every, aspect of portrait retouch you could ever want!  It's a very comprehensive set.

*Sleeklens, I found a couple spelling mistakes...the Tone / Tint preset 'Summer Ten' I'm pretty sure is supposed to be 'Summer Tan', one of the brushes is labeled as 'Skin - Skin tone & Smoth' instead of Smooth, and the 'Burne' brush should be 'Burn'


Results Using the Stackable Edits:


While the majority of the All-In-One presets are great for quickly getting a highly stylized Instagram filter look, I personally prefer a more subtle approach of gradually building up a look by stacking presets and then tweaking to personal taste.  The 6 areas of Sleeklens presets to work in would be Base, Exposure, Color Correction, Tone / Tint, and then finishing off with Polish (affecting sharpness and contrast), and Vignette.


Example 1:

Sleeklens Portrait Presets ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow edited with: Base - Greyscale Matte, Exposure Brighten, Exposure Less Hightlight, and Polish High Contrast

Lightroom Screenshot:

Sleeklens Portrait Presets ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow Lightroom Screenshot

Example 2:

Sleeklens Portrait Presets ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow edited with: Base Auto Tone {Color}, Exposure Brighten, Color Correct Fix Greens, Color Correct Reduce Yellows, Tone / Tint Warm Up + multiple brushes adjustments...


Working With the Brushes:


The amount of brushes you get in this set is astounding, and alone make the $31 price tag worth it in my opinion! 

Included are:

Burn Brush

Dodge Brush

10 Color Brushes

24 Face Brushes

4 Haze Brushes

8 Light Brushes

9 Portrait Brushes

3 Skin Brushes

Sunshine Light Brush

Vignette Soft Brush


The workflow gets a little bogged down with all the scrolling you have do, but I could see where over time you'd figure out your favorite brushes and simply remove the rest from your Lightroom folder.  I found that about half of the brushes I played with could be used straight, and the other half might require little adjustments.  I particularly liked the Enhance Eye brushes that are based on eye color - clever!


Before Brushes

Sleeklens Portrait Presets ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow All-In-One Portrait - Golden preset at 88% opacity with no brushes used

After Brushes

Sleeklens Portrait Presets ReviewSleeklens Strike A Pose Portrait Workflow All-In-One Portrait - Golden at 88% opacity using Skin Softening brush, and Enhance Brown Eyes brush


Final Thoughts:


I enjoyed playing around with the Sleeklens STRIKE A POSE PORTRAIT WORKFLOW set, and I think it's a great option for someone who's new to editing and is looking for a logical system to 'cut their teeth on' so to speak. 

A set like this could help you learn the thought process behind editing as you play around with the different presets.  The price is amazing for what you get, and Sleeklens has provided all the tools necessary to completely cover portrait editing.

If you're a more seasoned editor, and have developed your own style, it probably won't be for you...although you may be interested in the brushes collection.  Again, for $31 the brushes alone are a good deal in my opinion.


Check out the Sleeklens website, the STRIKE A POSE PORTRAIT WORKFLOW set, and YouTube tutorials for yourself!


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