Sleeklens.com contacted me a short time ago, asking if I would be interested in reviewing their Portrait Perfection collection that contains 56 Photoshop actions intended to enhance a photographer’s editing workflow when retouching portraits. So, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts after playing with the following three images (the left image is straight out of the camera and the right is edited).
Installation was as simple as downloading the zip file onto my computer, double clicking the actions file, and then opening the info panel in Photoshop by selecting Actions from the Window menu. The process was about as intuitive and quick as it gets.
I began with a base action, From Bright Sunny Days, and I was immediately impressed with the warmth it added to the image. The skin tones had a nice golden glow. Then, I darkened the exposure and added a touch of the vintage vignette, as well as a sunny light glow in the upper right corner. In the end, I added contrast (without using an action) because the image seemed a little too hazy.
For the next image, I took a different approach and selected the From Cloudy Days base action, which added richness all around. I warmed the image and enhanced the tones using the Summer Love action. Being a bit closer up, I also played with the portrait retouch actions, which gave her lips a nice gloss, her eyes a little shine, and her skin a smooth look.
Starting with the From Golden Hours base, I enhanced the tones with the Magic Garden action. I used a brown vignette and a soft warm glow, which added a beautiful color to the tops of the trees and created a greater sense of dimension. Lastly, the Rose Skin Brush gave her face and outer arm a beautiful glow. I like this brush better than the Soft Glow Skin that I used in the previous image, which seemed to darken the skin tone.
Overall, I do see where these actions are beneficial. One click of the mouse and your image changes quite drastically. However, if not careful, this can cause more harm than good. In my opinion, over-editing would be very easy to do when using this workflow. In all three of my images, I lowered the opacity of the base action to at least 75 percent. I set the opacity of the following actions much lower, generally around 20 or 30 percent. Even still, my edits appear more "Photoshopped" than usual (but perhaps this is due to my photojournalism background).
In a way, I feel as if this is cheating – not using Photoshop, but using actions. Yes, you have to adjust the actions, but I prefer to feel complete responsibility for my editing. Having said that, it completely depends on the type of job you are working on.
I do think it would be very helpful to use a mix of actions with manual editing to determine your style. There are a lot of actions in this collection, and it’s hard to know exactly how each action will change the look of your image without testing it first. For this reason, it may take awhile for you to establish your workflow, but in the long run, this certainly has the potential to be a time saver.
Sleeklens.com has a variety of other collections, all custom-built for a specific purpose, whether you are shooting portraits or landscapes or whether you want an HDR look or a nostalgic vintage feel. To view all that Sleeklens offers, click here.