One of the strong points of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is that you can save often used develop settings as presets, so that you can apply these settings with one mouse click. Presets can also be shared between users, and several companies and individuals offer their presets for sale. You can argue that paying for presets is paying for something you can easily do yourself, because all you pay for is a couple of slider settings. While that may be true, the same applies for paying for bread. You could also bake your own bread, but many people prefer the convenience of going to the bakery. With Lightroom presets it’s the same thing. You pay for the convenience of not having to reinvent the wheel, not for something you could not possibly do yourself.

Recently I was asked by a company called ‘Sleeklens’ to evaluate their ‘Through The Woods’ Lightroom presets for landscape photography. This set contains 50 develop presets and 30 brush/filter presets. The develop presets are divided into groups like ‘All in one’ (presets that give a completely finished result) and things like ‘Base’, ‘Exposure’, ‘Color Correct’ for more targeted corrections. Some presets do rather simple things like setting one or two sliders, but especially the All in One presets can change the image dramatically. I really like the ‘Calm Sunset’ in this group, that changes your image into a nice sunset shot. On their website, Sleeklens have some nice videos that show you what you can do with these presets.

The 'Calm Sunset' preset

The ‘Calm Sunset’ preset

The ‘Through the Woods’ presets are not perfect, though. First of all, they carry very long names, such as ‘Through the Woods | 1-Base – Exdenting DR – Crispy and Sharp’ (yes, including the typo). That name is so long that it doesn’t even fit inside the left panel when that panel is set to the maximum width. You have to use a fairly unknown trick to see the full name: Drag the dividing line between the panel and the image while holding the Alt-key. That allows you to extend the panel width beyond the default maximum. You can also rename presets (right-click on them), but renaming 50 presets is no fun. As these presets come in a ‘Through the Woods’ subfolder anyway, why include that ‘Trough the Woods’ again in the name? By the way: brush presets don’t appear in a hierarchy, so for these presets it does make sense to include this in the name, to keep them neatly grouped together.

My second criticism is that some presets will also reset certain settings that have nothing to do with the effect of the preset. The authors simply forgot to exclude this when they saved the preset. For example, the ‘Calm Sunset’ I mentioned earlier also sets the Exposure to zero. If your image was too dark and you made an exposure correction first (perhaps by using the ‘Exposure Brighten’ preset), your sunset image will become too dark again and you’ll have to change the exposure once more. Some presets even reset things like a manual chromatic aberration correction, or set your custom camera profile back to ‘Adobe Standard’. That’s sloppy.

And finally, I think that some presets are simply a waste of space in your panel. A preset like ‘Sharpen’ applies a completely arbitrary sharpening to the image. Sure, that sharpening will be set with a landscape photograph in mind, but because Sleeklens doesn’t know which camera and which lens you used, it’s still so arbitrary that I don’t think it’s very useful. In this case I think there aren’t enough choices. There should have been several sharpening presets, for example for high resolution cameras and lower resolution cameras, and for very sharp lenses and slightly softer lenses. The ‘Brighten’ preset will simply set the Exposure to +1 and ‘Darken’ will set it to -1. Again completely arbitrary values that you can set yourself just as quickly (and better because you can set it to any value). And ‘Auto Tone (Color)’ simply clicks the Auto button, so that is also something that hardly justifies a preset.

Despite these criticisms I think the ‘Through the Woods’ presets are a nice and balanced set, that will appeal to landscape photographers who are looking for some ‘ready to use’ solutions. You can find them here:

For other Lightroom presets go to

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