Sleeklens Lightroom Presets and Brushes Review

I was recently approached by the Public Relations Department of Sleeklens to use and give a review of their “Strike A Pose Workflow” package. On their website you can find many more packages for Photoshop and Lightroom. As I use Lightroom for the majority of my post-processing workflow I chose the Lightroom package which comes with 69 portrait presets and 62 portrait Adjustment Brushes. 

Just to be clear, I did not have to pay for the Lightroom package and no conditions were placed on me by the company. All that was asked of me was to provide an honest review, and this is what I have embarked to do.


As mentioned this Strike A Pose Workflow package comes with huge number of presets and adjustment brushes. The presets and brushes are comprised of the following:

25 All in one presets, 15 Base presets, 6 Exposure presets, 5 Tone Tint presets, 5 Polish presets, and 4 Vignette presets.

8 Color Brushes, 31 Face Brushes, 5 Hair Brushes, 4 Haze Brushes, 8 Light Brushes. 

The description of each preset and brush is mostly self-explanatory however the fun is in the discovery of what these can do for your photos so I usually don't delve too much in the names. 


As the Strike A Pose workflow targets portraits I chose 4 portrait photos from my archive. The subjects in the photo range from being far back in the scene to headshot. I played around with the presets and adjustment brushes on the photos until I found a look I liked. 

With Lightroom presets you can do stacking which means you can add presets on top of each other. You can see what presets you have used by checking the History listing on Lightroom.

For the headshot portraits I also used the adjustment brushes to smooth skin and bring out the details in the eyes and lips. Skin smoothing is obviously not as good as Photoshop as the latter is a more superior image editing program than Lightroom, but the adjustment brushes on Lightroom produced a pretty decent result.


The photos below show the before and after treatment of the presets and brushes. I have also indicated the main presets and brushes used. 

 Presets used: 0-All In One- Catch Me If You Can, 2-Exposure-More Highlights, 4-Tone/Tint - Golden Glow, 5-Polish-Color Pop, 5-Polish-Sharpen

Presets used: 0-All In One- Catch Me If You Can, 2-Exposure-More Highlights, 4-Tone/Tint - Golden Glow, 5-Polish-Color Pop, 5-Polish-Sharpen

 Presets used: 3-Color Correct-Reduce Yellows, 4-Tone/Tint-Bronze Tone 2, 5-Polish-Soften, r-Vignette-Black Heavy  Brushes used: Soften Skin, Enhance Eyes

Presets used: 3-Color Correct-Reduce Yellows, 4-Tone/Tint-Bronze Tone 2, 5-Polish-Soften, r-Vignette-Black Heavy

Brushes used: Soften Skin, Enhance Eyes

 Presets used: 0-All In One - True Verde, 3-Color Correct - Fix Red Skin, 6-Vignette-Black Dreamy, 4-Tone/Tint - Cool down, 5-Polish - Sharpen

Presets used: 0-All In One - True Verde, 3-Color Correct - Fix Red Skin, 6-Vignette-Black Dreamy, 4-Tone/Tint - Cool down, 5-Polish - Sharpen

 Presets used: 1-Base-Greyscale Matte, 2-Exposure-Brighten, 5-Polish-High Contrast, 5-Polish-Sharpen, 6-Vignette-Black Heavy  Brushes used: Enhance Eyes

Presets used: 1-Base-Greyscale Matte, 2-Exposure-Brighten, 5-Polish-High Contrast, 5-Polish-Sharpen, 6-Vignette-Black Heavy

Brushes used: Enhance Eyes


I have to admit I am rather pleased with the versatility of the presets and brushes. Depending on the photo you are processing, you can get pretty amazing results using just the presets and brushes, without further tweaking. These presets are also a great starting point to experiment with the look and feel you are trying to achieve with your photo.

I did not follow much of the workflow suggested by the numbered groupings but that's not saying that they don't work. The workflow may work for you but for me I like to experiment!

The Strike A Pose Workflow is priced at US$39 on the Sleeklens store. For the price I think it is a bargain considering huge library of presets and brushes that come with it. I will definitely be keeping this package in my arsenal of image processing tools.

For more information on how to use the Lightroom presets check out the Lightroom tutorials.



I did a shoot with Attic Attire last year and had a few images which I wanted to make into a fantasy. Attic Attire has a warehouse load of steampunk and fantasy costumes for hire and it's an artist's candy store! 

I pieced this image together using some of my other photos, stock brushes and stock photos from DepositPhotos.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 and the RadLab plugin were used to edit and composite the images together. 

Here's the final image:

And here's the image showing all the different images which were composited together.


It's just amazing how time has flown by so quickly, year after year. 2016 is almost upon us and time for us to reflect on the year that was and to plan for the year to come. 

On a personal level 2015 was a tough year, with more lows than highs, but I have managed to get through it in one piece, more motivated and more hopeful.

Every year I try to learn something new, to pick up a new skill or knowledge. In 2015 I taught myself to program for the iPhone and I am currently working on a project which I hope to share in early 2016.

Before I end this short note, I would like to thank my family, friends and clients for a wonderful year. Thank you for all your support and patience, and I look forward to our new and exciting journey together in 2016!

As part of saying a big THANK YOU I am offering a family/individual portrait session with a huge discount for folks in AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND.

Do take advantage of this deal and let me help you make a great start to 2016!

Cheers! Michael


Here's my latest work which I have called TechnoMage, a fantasy character with a science-fiction spin. The image was shot for Attic Attire, a costume company specialising in Steampunk fashion and owned by Louina Fifita. 

Model: Kaya Campi, Designer: Yolanda Bartram, Designer: Louina Fifita

Lost Realms

Here is my latest fantasy work entitled Lost Realms. I had done a studio shoot for Starboy Fashions and loved this particular piece of costume for its intricate and beautiful design. I knew I wanted to create a fantasy piece for this, especially when I had lovely Qiana as the model.

I tried a few compositions with different scene elements and finally ended up using some photos I took on my trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, a few years ago. After some hard work here is the final outcome.

Lost Realms

And here are the elements I used to create this image. 

Lady of the Lake

My latest fantasy artwork inspired by Annie Leibovitz photographic portrait work. and loosely titled on Sir Walter Scott's poem of the same name.

Lady of the Lake

And here are the before and after photos.

Images used are from my own photos and Depositphotos stock library.

Lost in the Woods

Here's my latest work entitled 'Lost in the Woods'. I shot the original photo more than a year ago at a local park but never got around to processing it until I was inspired by some fantastic fantasy images I saw online recently. 

Photo was composited in Adobe Photoshop CC with a few stock photos. 

Check on the image to see a larger version.

Steampunk Fashion

If you are interested in Steampunk fashion do check out for high quality garments and accessories. Check in frequently for great bargains.

Starboy is the brainchild of Matt Bowden aka 'Starboy', a New Zealand rock musician who produces progressive rock music with elaborate theatrical stage performances. Matt produced a 3-part music video titled Starboy - Eternity with a steampunk theme which you can watch on Youtube.

I have had the pleasure of doing some garment shoots and events for Starboy and here are a few samples of the beautifully crafted clothing, accessories and props which you can purchased from their website.


The next evolution in website design... The Grid!

I came across a posting on Facebook by one of my favourite photographers, Von Wong with regards to a new website design and hosting service called The Grid. What is interesting is that the service uses artificial intelligence to create websites which reflect your content. You are provided with Layout Filters which help the AI build the site for you. 

I have decided to take a plunge and join in this new venture. Really looking forward to seeing it all put together when it is delivered late spring 2015 (US). 

If you are interested to find out check out The Grid website.

HELP Portrait 2014

The year has gone by so quickly! Last year our local group of photographers in Auckland got together and participated in the HELP Portrait event for the first time. I had done this previously in Hong Kong when I lived there and volunteered my experience to the Auckland group. 

Last year we took portraits of the kids and their family at The Wilson Home Trust - Charity for Children with Disabilities. We had a lot of fun interacting with the great kids and our group produced memorable portraits for them and family. Just seeing the smiles on the kids' faces made our day.

 HELP Portrait - Pre-start briefing at Auckland City Mission

HELP Portrait - Pre-start briefing at Auckland City Mission

This year we coordinated this effort with the Auckland City Mission. The mission at 140 Hobson St is an oasis of hope for the needy and homeless in the city and volunteers give their best to bring relieve to individuals and families who come through the door. 

About 30 of us from the photography group organised ourselves into teams. We set up 5 photo booths with photographers, editors and helpers assigned to each booth. We also had 4 makeup artists providing basic make-up in the staging area. 

 HELP Portrait - Crew at work

HELP Portrait - Crew at work

We spent a total of about 6 hours at the City Mission and was gratified to see many smiling faces, proudly holding up their framed photos. I take away from this experience a sense of satisfaction and humility, taking the opportunity to give back to the community, to bring some cheer to our family of people facing difficulties. Sometimes it is the small things that help make life bearable and I encourage any one to participate in this very worthwhile events.

For more information about this worldwide event please visit the HELP Portrait website.

 HELP Portrait - Recipient with 2 members of photography group.

HELP Portrait - Recipient with 2 members of photography group.

#HelpPortrait2014 #HelpPortrait #Give-Thanks

Wenderholm Regional Park, Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand has the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. It is not surprising that fans of Lord of The Rings equate Middle Earth to New Zealand as the picturesque locations truly embody the mystery and beauty of the landscape described by Tolkien.

One of the parks I visited on the weekend was Wenderholm Regional Park. It is located about 42 km north of Auckland near the east coast. It has camping grounds, bbq pits, wildlife and loads of beautiful scenery for a weekend of camping, just to get away from the city lights.

If you are into wildlife photography there is an abundance of birdlife to appreciate. Bring along a super-zoom lens to capture these up close!

Here are some photos from my walk.

FACEBOOK T&Cs Changes - Photographers Beware!

When it comes to copyright and owning the product of one's creations, creatives like Photographers, Illustrators, Musicians etc are always wary about where and how much to share without web site hosting and social media site owners taking advantage of these artistic products for commercial gains.

Take for example sites like Facebook, Squarespace, SmugMug, Flickr, Vimeo etc where creatives upload photos and videos. These sites offer  free and/or subscription-based services to host, publish and share your photos with your clients, family and friends but the cost could be a loss of privacy and control of one's artistic work. It's a matter of convenience versus what you think you can afford to give up in terms of your rights.

Fundamentally, by default, our rights are governed by global and local country copyright laws as is our rights to privacy but legalese on hosting sites privacy and terms and conditions of use sometimes are too convoluted, long and difficult to understand that most people just skip pass reading these in full, trusting that these service providers will abide by the appropriate policies and rules of the day. 

I came across this warning by Richard Harrington (member of American Society of Media Photographers) about Facebook's latest terms and conditions changes and I wanted to share this with everyone so that we are aware of the pitfalls and start looking at ways to mitigate the potential risks. For me I will start removing photos I have posted to my Business page on Facebook and only add links to my portfolio on SquareSpace from now on. 

Here is the link to Richard's warning.


Deep Freeze

I had done a a couple of shoots for my designer friends Tegan Joy and Xanthe Rose and after delivering the photos they liked I would usually choose a few which I would like to process in a different way. I saw this photo of model Helena Aubertin with blue makeup and thought it would be "cool" to put her in deep freeze.

To prepare for the composite I searched around the web looking for images of ice and frost which I could use to create the visual I had in my mind. I found these in the form of Photoshop brushes created by Deviney called Ron's Winter Collection. Deviney has a huge collection of great brushes for Photoshop so do check these out at Daz3D.

I spent a bit of time composing the image and below shows the After and Before images. Hope you like what I came up with.

Deep Freeze Before and After processing.