I got a little surprise the other day when I received an email from a company called Sleeklens. It is based out of Denmark and is just a few years old. They provide various photography services including Lightroom presets, overlays for Photoshop, and editing services. Since I felt flattered that someone would go out of their way to contact me and have me review their product, I said yes.
They also told me that I could say anything I wanted. That helped as well.
Anyways, I got access to one of their Photoshop Overlay packages of my choosing. After a few minutes of bouncing around between the different styles I decided to try out their Light Rays Overlay. A few hours later I received an email with the files and this morning I went to work.
Before I go any further:
- This was the first time I have ever seen/used these before.
- I am not getting paid by these guys, so I don’t have to say anything nice.
- I have never used these before on my photos.
- I don’t really plan on using them after this.
Sleeklens gave me the opportunity to use their Light Rays overlay. It is essentially a series of black and white images that are in the shapes of various types of light phenomena, including sun burstish type things, light rays through clouds and trees and one radial one that I think would be used for fog. They download as a series of 14 images that are simply dragged onto your image, properly layered, and then have an image mode applied. You can follow their tutorial (I had to at first).
The Pros… More like where I would use it.
- I would use this on portraiture for sure. Fun creative flares like this get everyone going crazy for an image.
- Make average photos better.
- Good for low quality glass, as the overlays match what you see there most often.
- Good for advertising and adding affects to images.
If I were a beginning photographer, I would use these to make an average photo better. For example the image to the left.
I took this photo a few years ago, back when I understood some concepts of photography like sunbursts and exposure but lacked equipment and technical know how. I ended up with an average photo due to my ignorance. The sun burst does not look good due to my cheap lens (canon 18-55 3.5-5.6 kit lens) and because of that it has languished on my hard drive for 2 years.
After shuffling around through my images to edit, I came across this and figured it would be perfect for me to try out.
After following the quick tutorial (which was surprisingly easy) I added my first overlay of my choosing and began to go to work.
First thing you will notice is that it will come on overly strong. They talk about reducing the opacity and you will have to. The next thing you should do is create a layer mask and then paint in the affect to your desire. This allows for more creative control. After a few minutes I was relatively satisfied.
In the end it took this average photo and made it decent. Not great, but decent.
The other thing that I liked about it was the the sun flare matched relatively close to my poor glass that I was working with. The flares do not match my current lens at all.
The Cons: Why I will not use this in the future.
- Overlays come on too strong and require a lot of work for them to look right. I have to reduce about half the beams and shorten them up so they don’t eat the entire frame but still have to stretch them so they match whats going on.
- Increase workflow time.
- Makes the photos look “Photo-shopped.” Hiding it would be a huge challenge and not worth it as it only makes average better.
- Kind of cheapen the photos. Something I can’t risk, especially since everyone demanding photos that are not “filtered.”
- I try to only use my best images, and I would not use these on a 5 star image.
- I consider my self a professional landscape photographer, and the end results do not look like a professional landscape photographers work.
As I mentioned these sun flares do not match my current flare of my lens for example. Though this is advertised for light ray use, the light rays have to match. They have double or triple the normal amount of rays that would actually come out of a lens. I have to remove half of them to make the image look right in the first place. And since I already have a lens that accomplishes it, whats the point.
So the photo above I never really liked due to under exposure on the ground. I didn’t really know how to do bracketing when I took this shot so I only have a shot that exposes for the sky. So with a bit of editing I pulled out the shadows and added the above light rays to the image. When it first came on, it was horrendous, but with a bit of magic and know how, I redeemed it. The problem is that it took a lot of work to do this and a lot of technical mask painting to get it right. In high resolution it unfortunately still looks like an overlay. But it did make the photo better. I can’t deny that.
The last set of photos I edited are from an LDS temple near where I lived this past year. It is two shots put together with the overlay put in between. I like the fun flare affect. I wouldn’t print it, but it was fun to do some creative stuff with my images.
Portrait photographers should buy this. It is a nice secret weapon in your arsenal that can really add something to your images to make them better for your clients. Especially if you are wanting to do something that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Landscape photographers- buy a new lens and work on your skills before you spend money on this. If you are going for the highest quality images, these will not bring you there. They might bring a fun few ideas to you, but that’s it. If you are a beginning landscape photographer, this might be positive for adding some snaz to your photo, but it might end up being a crutch and decrease your skill in the long run.