Personal Blog

SleekLens Lightroom Preset Review

I had a chance to try out the Lightroom Presets for Landscape Photography from SleekLens in trade for an honest review of the product. I generally prefer manual editing in Lightroom over using automated methods for my architectural and real estate photography, however for some landscapes and evening photographs I find this collection of presets from them very useful, mostly as a starting point to the final product. In the fall I tried them out on a luxury real estate photography project on the Pend Oreille River in Washington state.

The first image goes through the editing process starting with the original image (as shot) then shows some of the presets one at a time, followed by my final version as delivered to the client. As always, beginning with a great image is key. Presets cannot recover blown out highlights or underexposed shadows. Editing the raw files also helps greatly.


Original RAW Photo, Taken with DJI Inspire 1 Pro X5 Camera w/15mm lens © rlmillerphoto

As you can see, the original image is pretty, but quite boring and dark in the shadows. The feature of the image is the house but at first glance the eye misses it and goes straight to the river and mountains.

The first Preset is “Calm Sunset” which is my favorite for evening shots. As you can see it took the image from flat and dull to colorful and warm. There are still some adjustments I would make, but overall it did a great job.


Sleeklens Calm Sunset Preset, no other edits added © rlmillerphoto

The next one I tried is called “Dawn Rising” which produced good vivid color again but was not as much contrast but still a great starting point to editing a sunset photo.


Sleeklens Dawn Rising Preset, no other edits added © rlmillerphoto

“Shine into the sun” is the name of the third preset I like for this type of scene. It renders a slightly darker and less vivid scene but still provides plenty of colors.


Sleeklens Shine in to the Sun Preset, no other edits added © rlmillerphoto

The final preset that improved this image is called Warm Shadows. While it did improve the image, it still needs a lot of correction to be considered good. An exposure adjustment and increasing color, shadows, and vibrance would be needed before hitting “export” on this one.


Sleeklens Warm Shadows Preset, no other edits added © rlmillerphoto

Finally, here is my edit as delivered to the client. The preset I began with was the first one mentioned above, Calm Sunset. Additional edits I made included exposure, vibrance, color saturation, selective color, dehaze, and several other adjustments. The flat image we started with is now worthy of sharing!


Final Image as delivered to Client – DJI Inspire 1 Pro X5 Camera w/15mm lens © rlmillerphoto

Another drone image of the beautiful house from closer up. Here is the original, unedited version. the composition is great as it shows the river behind the house.


Original RAW Photo, Taken with DJI Inspire 1 Pro X5 Camera w/15mm lens © rlmillerphoto

Dawn Rising Preset applied:


Sleeklens Dawn Rising Preset, no other edits added © rlmillerphoto

Finally the version I delivered to my client, began with Calm Sunset and added final edits


Final Image as delivered to my client – DJI Inspire 1 Pro X5 Camera w/15mm lens © rlmillerphoto

Here is another example from the same evening shoot. This image is from the front yard looking out at the Pend Oreille River. The original image is very dull and flat. Let’s see what kind of color we can pull from this one.


Original RAW Image taken with a Sony a7rII & Canon 24mm TS-E © rlmillerphoto

Adding the Calm Sunset preset gave me a good starting point, and would almost be deliverable as-is.


Sleeklens Calm Sunset Preset, no other edits added © rlmillerphoto

Here is my final version as delivered to the client. Only minor adjustments from the earlier image with just the preset applied.


Sleeklens Calm Sunset Preset, my edits added © rlmillerphoto

Pick up a copy of the presets here or Contact Us to capture your own stunning real estate, landscape, architecture, or aerial drone images!

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Interview with American Photographic Artists (APA) on Drones

I had the privilege of talking with Andrew Buchanan of the American Photographic Artists (APA) group to discuss the usage of Drones for commercial photography.  Based in Seattle WA, Andrew is a 20 year architectural and interior photography professional and drone skeptic, but wanted to show differing points of view for the article.  Also included in the conversation is Cameron Davidson, a corporate, editorial, and advertising photographer based in Alexandria, VA who now offers drone services.  All three of us still shoot aerial photographs from a helicopter, but you can hear each of our stories on how drones have affected our respective businesses by reading the full APA article here:

About APA:
“American Photographic Artists (APA) exists to provide business tools that help photographic artists of all levels run a smarter, more creative, and profitable business. Established in 1981, APA has a strong heritage of providing benefits, which help our members achieve creative and financial success.”

Images contributed to the article are below:

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5 Questions to ask when choosing a Realtor

With all the options available, how do you pick a good Realtor to sell your home?  Most people know at least one real estate agent, but how do you make sure they will do the best job in making the sale?  These 5 questions should help you make the best decision:

  1. Are they legit?
  2. What do their clients say about them?
  3. What do their current listings tell you?
  4. Are they tech-savvy?
  5. Do they hire professionals help to market your home?

1. Are they licensed?

The first question seems like it would be obvious, but there are rare cases where people are selling homes unlicensed and uninsured.  Every state has their own way of managing licenses, but most have an easy lookup tool.  The state of Washington has one here and Idaho has one here.  You can also ask what company they work with as most licensed realtors are tied to a local Real Estate company under the umbrella of a national brand.

2. What do their clients say about them?

Once you have confirmed your agent is operating with the proper credentials, the next step would be to ask their past clients about their experience.  Unless they are new to the Real Estate business, your agent should have a list of satisfied clients they can give to you.  It should only take a couple of phone calls to see how well they do their job (or not)  The internet has brought about the addition of the online review and that may be another good way to gauge client satisfaction.  Just make sure that the reviews are from actual clients of the agent or company.  I have seen cases where a company or individual gets bad reviews for something unrelated to their work because of a mistake in another area of their life.  If the agent works for a local office, look up their business name or company account on your favorite maps program, review site, or run a web search and see if they have reviews.  Clients are not hesitant to write a negative report if something goes wrong so you may need to take the occasional negative review with a grain of salt, but if you see a pattern of negative reviews then it may be best to look for someone else.

3. What do their current listings tell you?

A good agent will usually have at least one or two homes on the market during the busy season (depending on the time of year and market activity of course) but you can also look at the homes that have already been sold by that account.  If you see a pattern of regular sold properties then that is usually a good thing.  Take a look at the listings themselves, are the homes well prepared in the photos or are they cluttered and unorganized?  Are the prices set too low or too high for the area?  A price that is way too high may indicate a lack of market understanding, and a price that is too low may indicate laziness or difficulty selling homes.  When this happens there is a tendency to lower the price of their clients’ homes when they fail to perform.  What price range of home do they sell?  If you are selling a home that is going to be on the market for half a million dollars + and the agent has only sold homes in the $150k-$200k range, perhaps you should look for someone who specializes in higher cost properties.

4. Are they tech-savvy?

This is my personal opinion (as is all of this article) but I believe that the more comfortable with technology your agent is, the better job they will do in selling the home.  There are so many ways to market property these days that it may be difficult to keep up with it all.  Hire someone who can take all of that technical information and make it easy.  To do this requires a good understanding of the technology available in the marketplace and how to use it.  Can they set up a virtual tour for you?  Do they stage empty homes, or use virtual staging to digitally add furniture?  Do they use social media to market properties?  Are they well connected both in the community and online?  These days it is not uncommon to have interest from buyers from other areas and it is critical that your agent is able to reach the widest audience possible.  The days of hosting open houses and handing out brochures are long gone.  The true marketplace is somewhat invisible because it lives largely on the internet.

5. Do they hire professionals to help market the property?

This is possibly the most important part of selling your home.  When an agent (who will be due a large commission at sale time) is cutting corners on the marketing for their current listings that can be a sign that they are not willing to invest in yours.  If an agent is just getting started in the industry they may not have a lot of cash upfront to invest, but anyone that has been involved for a while should be willing to spend money to make money.  Is your home vacant and requiring staging?  A professional staging company is going to make the home look amazing.  Since your home needs to be marketed on the internet, you need to make an amazing first impression.  This means hiring a professional to take your listing images for the MLS and set up a virtual tour.  No matter what the list price is on the property, great photographs will help it sell more effectively and for more money in most cases.

6. As a bonus, here is a list of things you should do when selling a home (Source)

Get your paperwork ready ahead of time
Get estimates of repair costs
Straighten up the outside to add curb appeal
De-clutter the inside of the house
De-personalize to allow anyone to walk in and see themselves living there
Clean, especially the areas you don’t see
Detail the landscaping
Keep pets clear of showings if possible
The same may apply for kids
Take a breath, and some photos of the before and after projects

Whether you are a listing agent, selling agent, or homeowner, you can benefit from professional real estate photography and virtual tour services to market your home.  Contact us today for a free estimate!


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Chinese Lantern Festival

We had a chance to see the amazing Chinese Lantern Festival at Riverfront Park and what a beautiful display of art and culture!  Live shows are performed nightly at 6:30 and 8:00 Sun-Thu and 7:00 and 9:00 Fri and Sat night until Nov 15th.  The display covers nearly the entire “island” in the center of the Spokane river at the park.


From the website – “a 5-week celebration of Chinese culture featuring massive lanterns, amazing performances, and incredible food.”

More information can be found on the Spokane Chinese Lantern Festival website

Here are my photos from the event, I hope you enjoy them!

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