RadLab 1.1 Review

Totally Rad Actions are among my favorites for use in Photoshop.  Photoshop actions in general are very useful because the computer can run through the steps used to process photos much more quickly than I can –all the clicking, hitting enter, searching for menus, creating layers, etc. takes time.

I was excited when RadLab first came out, and even more excited when they made a 30 day trial available to try before buying.

Installing RadLab to my PC was quick and easy.  RadLab is a Photoshop Filter, so one way to access it is via the filter menu.  I have Photoshop CS5.1, so I’ve never used the filter menu to use RadLab because the installer places a very handy panel that you can use to open it up with one click.  The panel is a very thoughtful detail.  It opens RadLab by clicking on a button and  you can choose whether to run Radlab on a new layer, on  the existing layer to a smart object, or run it on the existing layer as is.  Some plug ins automatically create new layers when you run them.  Others run on the active layer and you have to create a new layer or smart object yourself if you want to edit nondestructively.  The fact that RadLab makes it so easy to choose how you want to handle your edits shows that the creators designed this plug in to be easy to use.

The RadLab stylets are organized into logically arranged categories that progress the first things you do to an image like adjusting the exposure, to the finishing touches like sharpening.  Many of the stylets are the same as the actions, and there are some new looks too! 

I really like the interface.  Many of our familiar Totally Rad actions have been incorporated as stylets in this plugin. To the left you can see your original photo.  To the right, you see all the choices with thumbnails to show how the stylet will affect your image.  By hovering the mouse over a particular stylet you get a preview on the original of how it will look.  You can stack stylets and change the intensity by moving the sliders.  You can turn off a particular stylet in a stack by unchecking the box.  And if you decide not to use the stylet, there is handy delete button for each layer. 

If you like the way your series of adjustments look, you can save it as a recipe to use on multiple images for a consistent look.  RadLab even saves the settings you used on the most recent under recipes.  This feature saved the day for me.  As I was processing an image I tried opening the image under “full” preview and RadLab crashed.  When I reopened RadLab, I clicked on the previous settings and all the effects I’d just used came back tweaks and all. 

What I like about RadLab? The fun factor and ease of use.  The visual interface where you can preview the stylets. The fact that you can save stylet combinations that you like as recipes. RadLab saves time; with actions, if you don’t use them a lot you have to run them to see what the effect looks like.  With RadLab you can preview the stylets by hovering the mouse, thus saving time and effort.  You can also import recipes from other users, which is fun too.  The recipes also preview in the same way as the stylets.  I’ve also noticed that the RadLab stylets seem a little more subtle than their Totally Rad Actions counterparts.

My wish list for RadLab?  The ability to use it to process 16 bit images.  Some options for targeted adjustments (masking and/or a brush) to apply the effects to specific parts of the image.  A Lightroom plug in would be nice too. I really miss Big Blue and Green With Envy.  Hopefully in future updates they can add targeted adjustments and include them.

RadLab vs. Totally Rad Actions?  Or, I already have the actions, why should I buy RadLab?  Since RadLab retails for $149 this is a valid question.  If you are familiar with the actions, are used to them, and are happy with the way they make your pictures look I’d say stick to the actions.  If you prefer a more visual interface and like working with plug ins, RadLab is definitely something to consider.  You can also use a combination of RadLab and Totally Rad actions, especially when a given action or stylet is in one interface but not the other.  I like RadLab and will probably buy it at the end of the trial period.

Here are a couple of my experiments with RadLab:

This picture is from Cumberland Gap National Park.  Here is the recipe I used:  Lights Out, 100%, Claire-ify 20%, Go Go Saturation! 20% and Boutwell Magic Glasses II, default settings.  If only Big Blue were included with RadLab to enhance the sky.  (Hint, hint!)

This double rainbow image is from Cumberland Falls in Corbin, KY.  Here is the recipe:  Claire-ify 50%, Go Go Saturation, 22%, Boutwell Magic Glasses, 60%.  Big Blue and Green With Envy would have been nice here. (Hint, hint again….)

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