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6 maggio 2016
There's so many different options for image editing nowadays but Adobe Photoshop, the mother of all editing software, is still with us and going strong after all these years, and to this day there's really no real substitute for it.
So for the professional or the serious enthusiast, it makes perfect sense in the era of presets and filters to rely on a photo editing workflow that makes heavy use of the powerful capabilities of Photoshop. Actions are a great way to speed up a PS based workflow and give it consistency.
Sleeklens is a young Danish company that offers Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions for the discriminating photographer. They claim that their products "work 'with' you, not 'for' you" in the sense that they don't mean to supply quick fix filters or do-it-all presets, rather they have developed specific toolsets to put the photographer in full control of the image editing process.
I was recently approached by Daniel Chabert, founder and CEO of the company and asked to check out their Portrait Perfection Photoshop action set and write my impressions.
Well, for one thing the action set is very complete, well organized and it allows very advanced editing techniques. The basic sections covered are 'base actions', 'exposure actions', 'temperature actions', 'color correction actions' and 'enhance tone actions', which is the exact order of a standard image editing workflow. Plus there's actions designed to take editing one step further that allow to vignette the image, add a 'light glow', dodge and burn the image or even perform advanced retouching techniques such as frequency separation. There's a specific action set called 'portrait retouch' to take care of the fundamentals of portrait retouching (desaturate skin, whiten teeth, enhance eyes, etc) let's not forget this is the Portrait Perfection set, so it's supposed to give us all the necessary tools to make perfect portraits. To top everything off, there's a few more actions that are meant to provide specific moods to the image (the 'all in one' actions), still retaining a great deal of control for the photographer to work on specific aspects of the picture.
I found the 'base actions' to be really great. They are meant to be run at the very beginning on the straight out of camera image and are absolutely fantastic to provide total control over shadow and highlight recovery and to set the basic aspects of the photographs (light, dark, contrast, temperature, color pop). The actions produce a series of layers and each can be used to fine tune a specific part of the image. The 'base actions' come in different flavors to accomodate for different type of images (nature, bright sunny days, golden hour, etc). There is *a lot* to play around with and the level of control that they offer is so broad that almost anyone will end up finding his or her own sweet spot.
I found myself running the base action 'from scratch' first thing on every image to set a good starting point on which to build upon and to perform shadow and highlight recovery to taste. Then relying on the specific actions to adjust temperature, color correct, provide the overall mood to the image and complete the image, either for print or to publish on the web (there's a specific section called 'web file preparation' that will resize and apply specific sharpening)
I may be repetitive but I will stress this again: there's a ton of actions, each is very specific for a purpose and inside each action there's a ton of settings to play around with. The possibilities may be overwhelming so I suggest that after getting to know the single actions one concentrates on a workflow that best suits 90% of his needs, knowing that the remaining 10% will still likely be covered by the set.
It's called Portrait Perfection and meant to provide a toolkit for the retoucher, even though this action set goes way beyond that. I was able to work on my standard wedding pictures and had no problems coming up with a cool 'color workflow' that would take me from my straight out of camera images to the final images with plenty of options to correct and tone my pictures to taste, regardless whether they were portraits or - more often - candid wedding photographs.
Of course, a Photoshop actions based workflow has some limits in terms of speed and straightforwardness, when it comes to processing hundreds of images. In that respect there's really no better workflow today for the wedding photographer than to rely on a RAW converter (such as DxO Optics Pro, for instance) and leave Photoshop for those cases, where heavier or deeper editing is required and a RAW developer just won't cut it.
But for those cases, where having to cook a boatload of images with specific deadlines is not a concern and a Photoshop actions approach is acceptable, this Sleeklens set is surely worth looking into! Kudos to Daniel for coming up with this :)
Here's a sample shot in its various stages as I was playing around with the actions:
straight out of camera:
base 'from scratch' + color correction + dodge and burn:
+'all in one' neutral look:
final touches and finished image: