I was recently approached by Sleeklens to do a review of their Portrait Perfection actions. It has been a while since I have used a new action set, and I wanted to take some time working with these before I reviewed them. After working with them for a few weeks, I have to say that these are some of the best actions that I have worked with, and I have tried a lot of actions. These days I tend to edit by hand, but there are certainly actions in this set that I will incorporate into my regular workflow. Here is a sample child portrait image that I edited using only the actions in this set, nothing by hand. The results are fantastic! I am going to talk a little bit about each section of the actions, and how I felt about them.
All in One Actions: There are eight all in one actions that apply stylized actions in one click. The neutral one is pretty nice. I found the others to be heavy handed, and the problem is that they flatten out the edit, so there is no ability to adjust the opacity of the effect. That kind of annoyed me and makes these fairly useless unless I’m doing something pretty specific. Thankfully, the review only gets better from here!
Base Actions: The set comes with five base actions, all of which are really nice. They seem to work best when you use the action that is matching up to the lighting you originally had. For instance, on the shot of the boy in the hat, it was really cloudy. The cloudy base worked out great. For the little girl below, it was golden hour and I used the golden hour base. The great thing is that these are fully customizable, and each has similar elements, in that there are sharpening, contrast, shadow brightening, highlight recovery, vignettes, spotlight, and host of other adjustments you can make that are already set up for you when you run the action. These get a giant thumbs up from me!
Exposure and Temperature Actions: No frills, but they do what they are intended to do.
Color Correction: There are eight color correction actions, including one to make vivid colors, one to make neutrals and a host of others. They seem to work as intended, and I used a green reduction action on the little girl in my sample image.
Portrait Retouch Actions: There are seven actions for skin and facial retouching and these are STELLAR. My favorite of this set is the soft glow skin action, which I used on both of the sample images in this post. It adds some tonality to the skin and evens out patchiness, but it leaves behind the texture (so I’m guessing it is doing some shenanigans with frequency separation, though I haven’t slowed the action down to figure it out fully). The fast retouch action has a number of actions within it, the best of which, I think, is the action for sparkling eyes. Which I used on both of my examples. I did not love the skin smoother within the fast retouch because it seemed to blur and eliminate texture, and I’m not a fan of actions that do that. I really liked the tone of the blush action, and used it a wee bit on the little girl pictured. Overall, these are awesomely useful and I know that I will be incorporating some of them into my every day workflow for child and family photography.
Enhance Tone Actions: This set offers 15 different Enhance Tone actions. These are a strong addition to the set, and I can see myself returning often to some of these enhancements. The Romantic Dance action worked nicely on both of the images, although for the sake of showing variety, the edit of the little girl uses the action called Hot Kiss. Note that these come on very strong when you initially apply them, so don’t judge them until you’ve lowered the opacity way down, but once you do, they are great. These and the portrait retouch actions are reason enough to buy this set.
Vignettes: The set comes with some vignettes that are helpful with workflow. The vintage vignette adds a nice bit of matte feel to the image. The toned vignettes were great and I used the dark vignette action on the photo of the little boy.
Light Glows: If you are a fan of adding sunflares to your images, this set of actions is insanely helpful. And although I’m not typically one to do that, I wanted to show some of the variety that this set offers so I used one on the photo of the little girl. It comes with eight different sunflare options to add some interested to your child and family portraits. Each flare is moveable and each one is toned in a different manner. Some are bold, some are hazy, and I could see photographers having a ton of fun trying all of these different sunflare options.
All the rest: It also comes with a grab bag of actions at the end, including dodge and burn, frequency separation, various file prep actions and one called paint effect. I couldn’t help myself, I had to try the paint effect action. It is actually cooler than I thought it would be, it added some boldness to my colors on the portrait and it also did some nice blending both of which could be useful in enhancing bokeh.
After noodling around with these Sleeklens Photoshop actions for a while, I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to add a new set to their arsenal. As with any action set, it is important to understand masking and layers to get the most out of these. But they will certainly speed up some of your processes! The set I reviewed can be purchased here.