chicago river, chicago skyline
Last week I photographed from two elevated vantage points along the river – The London House Rooftop and the Holiday Inn Cityscape Bar. Both really fantastic locations to get a good view of the city and the river, and both with really gracious staff letting me shoot without question. However, I sure hope to get back to both locations without gray, overcast days.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was given the sleeklens Brick & Mortar Lightroom presets to try out if I shared my thoughts on them. Happy to do so as presets are often a part of my workflow. It’s also nice to get as much editing done in LR before having to head over to Photoshop for final edits. This particular set is intended to be used for architectural images so they worked perfectly for these edits.
As far as my editing workflow goes I start in LR with general adjustments to highlights, shadows, temperature, contrast, clarity and lens correction. From there I tried out some of the presets. I had a tendency to be drawn to the same few so I’ll share what I used on each image. As a note, these presets are stackable and adjustable so you can tweak things to your preference.
This first image was shot from the London House Rooftop…I guess it’s not technically very architectural and that blue/green water is super deceiving but something about the overcast day gave it this tone. Gotta love how the Chicago River and Lake Michigan take on such diverse hues depending on the sky. Anyway, I used quite a few presets, which I stacked, on this image. Here they are:
Auto Tone (color)
Darker Shadows
Less Highlights
More Contrast
Sharpening
Autumn Park (turning out to be a favorite as you’ll see I use it on a number of others below and yesterday’s images)
Enhance Blue Sky
chicago river, london house
Since there was such flatness to the city due to the gray skies and the fact that these two buildings are either gray concrete or black steel I decided to go with B/W processing. Other than my usual initial LR tweaks I only used the sleeklens Contrasting B/W preset.
marina city
This next few shots were taken from the Holiday Inn Cityscape Bar. I edited this first one in color and B/W but prefer the B/W version. Here are the presets I used:
Memories From the DDR
Good Start for Cityscape
Base – B/W Cityscape
chicago river, chicago skyline
Again, the below image was edited in both color and B/W but kinda like the color version. I only used 2 presets on this one:
Auto tone (color)
Autumn Park
chicago river, chicago skyline
So, in honesty, I tried some of the sleeklens presets on the one below but didn’t really like any of them. I used an old action in PS that has been my go-to B/W conversion. While we’re talking about presets and actions…I like them because they save time editing. I don’t love the whole editing process and prefer to use whatever speeds things up. Agree or don’t, it’s just my process and what works for me.
nuveen chicago
Back to the sleeklens presets on the next one. Here’s what I used:
A Lot of Contrast
Less Hightlight
Cool Shadow
chicago skyline
The last two images are additions to my Urban Quilt series…can’t seem to stop seeing these. I used these 2 presets on the first image:
Autumn Park
More Contrast
urban quilt
And went with a couple more on the final Urban Quilt image:
Auto tone (color)
Sharpening
Vignette
Autumn Park
urban quilt
So, there’s my basic workflow and list of some of the presets I most preferred. If you like to work with presets I definitely recommend these based on ease of use and affordability. There are many different sets for photo genres other than architecture as well. Click here for a full listing and if you’d like to specifically see the Brick & Mortar set and workflow head over here.

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