A few weeks ago I was contacted by Sleeklens to review their Photoshop overlays and actions (check them out on Pinterest). I agreed to take a look at their skies overlays and rain overlays. If you're not sure what these are or what they might be used, they're basically a way of replacing or adding something to a photo that wasn't part of the original image to make it more interesting.
Sleeklens Lightroom Presets and tutorials are also available at these links:
This review focuses on the skies overlay package that they sell at a very reasonable $69 (reduced from $99 at time of writing. 5th April 2017).
Before I Start
Before I start the actual review part of this blog post I want to say that I'm not someone who would add something to a landscape photo that wasn't there when I shot it. I agreed to do this review as I have an open mind and I know there are people that are into this kind of thing and I don't see that there's anything wrong with that. We are all different and that is something that should be embraced, not debated at great lengths.
So....I was given these overlays a few weeks ago. In that time I've had a good chance to experiment and play around with them and had some fun while doing so. They come packaged in an easy to download ZIP file which contains 177 high res JPGs of just about any cloud formation you can imagine, 5 high res light ray and flare JPGs and a whole bunch of Photoshop actions that Sleeklens call 'Matchers' to help match the colour of the original image with the colour from the 'new' sky.
Sleeklens also provide a PDF containing what they call 'Recipes'. This is a handy guide of sky overlay and Photoshop action combinations that work well together in this pack and is a great way to get started.
My opinion is that the number of overlays provided is too many. When I moved away from using the recipes, it took me too long to find one suitable for what I was trying to achieve. But then I'm a 'less is more' kind of guy!
Before and After
The photos below are a before and after using one of the aforementioned recipes. The original photo was taken a couple of years ago when I was just getting in to photography.
As you can see from the 'before' image on the left, the sky is pretty dull and uninteresting. The Sleeklens sky overlay and associated action that was used have made this image (in my opinion) much more appealing. The colours are far more interesting and there's now a sense of drama in the scene.
In some extreme cases of long exposure photography, I noticed some banding while applying some of the actions to the RAW file in Photoshop. However it seems to be almost unnoticeable in the final exported JPG. The image to the left is a screenshot I took after applying the action. The image on the right is the exported JPG.
I've darkened the overall exposure more than I normally would to help accentuate what I'm trying to demonstrate.
Here are some more examples of a long exposure with a variety of different recipes achieving some great results.
If composites are your thing then I highly recommend the Sleeklens overlays and actions. There are some really cool results to be had and they're very easy to use, even if they may not be suited to every single situation.
If composites are not your thing, you've probably stopped reading by now!
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