RadLab: Momma’s Got a New Favorite Toy for Photo-Editing

I am not a professional photographer. I am a photography enthusiast who snaps photos of my children living their day-to-day lives. Despite this fact, photo-editing is still a large part of my process. I don’t want my photos to reflect that they came straight out of the camera. I want to convey a mood or elicit a feeling on my scrapbook pages and photo edits help. Photo actions help even more.

I’ve been a long follower and user of the Totally Rad Photo Action sets by Boutwell Studios. So I was pretty geeked when the announcement for RadLab was made. Who doesn’t want a Photoshop plug-in that boasts photos first, more control, and butt-kicking* new tools for photo-editing? *They used another word. I became really curious.

With such a hefty price tag attached I asked:

  • Will it really improve my average snapshots?
  • Is it worth changing my existing process? And …
  • Does it work well with Photoshop Elements?

Well I took the plunge to find out. Here’s what I discovered:

How It Works

 78 Stylets … er um … Options

The process for installation was a breeze. After a few “do you really want to install this download – yes” queries and picking my first photo, I met the screen below.

See the index of photos towards the right? 78 choices – that’s like 78 actions built into one set! The Subway sandwich shop doesn’t offer that many options! And unlike waiting a few minutes for a Photoshop action to run, each option, also known as a stylet, took seconds to appear. Yep, roll over a stylet and the preview photo changes instantly.

Stack, Stack, Stack and Away!

So I click on a stylet and the index and preview images update immediately. On the far right of the interface is a column of the stylets currently applied to my photo arranged as a recipe. The best part is that the stylets are stackable, interchangeable and all can be fine-tuned. Take a peek at the screenshot below.

The order of the recipe stylets does influence the end result of the photo.

It Knows What I Did Last Summer

Once I’m done in the lab, I’m sent back to Photoshop with my newly processed image either as a new layer, as the original layer, or as a smart object. From there, I could add the image to a scrapbook page or print and close. But the best part is RadLab remembered my settings! I can’t even remember what I wore yesterday so this is a perfect solution.

Sadly, it also reminded me that I should not have edited photos at 1 am in the morning. I should have been sleeping. But I was having so much fun!

And that, minus a few more bells and whistles, is the cliff notes on how it works. I even tested the sucker in Photoshop Elements and it worked just as well.

The Three Top Reasons Why It Works For Me

RadLab offers a creative vision I might not have seen in a photo.

Totally Rad Recipe
Go Go Saturation 100%
EZ-Burn 100%
Pross-Crossessed #2 58%

I appreciate the robustness of this edited photo when compared to the SOOC (straight out of the camera) version. Thank GoGo for that! The edge burn adds a “gloom and doom” effect, which enhances the mood of the subject. And the cross-process strengthens the cyan overall keeping the photo light and playful. I would have never moved in this direction without accidentally discovering my options in the RadLab interface.

RadLab can “rescue” a photo.

Totally Rad Recipe
Sugar Rush 100%
Flare Up | Faded 57%
The 600 71%
Boutwell Magic Glasses II 100%

For the above photo, my only goal was to lighten the shadows as the original was very dark. But the additional options in the scrolling Stylet menu were too hard to resist! Using the recipe above, not only has my photo improved, the after photo looks as soft as a Downey dryer sheet. And it smells like one too.

RadLab is not Superman with a cape; it can’t save every bad photo. But it can make nearly-good snapshots look amazing! It still helps to begin with a properly exposed photo. At the very least, I make sure my white balance is correct.

RadLab releases the boundaries.

Totally Rad Recipe (top right)
Punch Out 54%

Totally Rad Recipe (bottom left)
Punch Out 100%
Flare Up | Golden 55%
Get Faded | Winter 100%

Totally Rad Recipe (bottom right)
Punch Out 100%
Flare Up | Golden 55%
Old Skool 100%

I’ve been stuck in a photo action rut using the same tried-and-true practices. But not any more. Picking a stylet and adjusting strength, intensity, and everything else takes mere seconds. That means I have more time to push the boundaries of my photo edits with amazing results.

The End Game

Is RadLab worthy of replacing my existing process? Yes! Before RadLab I would shoot in raw format and edit every photo using Camera Raw. Finishing included minor tinting or black & white photo conversions using Totally Rad 1 photo actions. I was happy with my system.

Now I’ll still shoot in raw and make the very basic of adjustments (like finding the white balance or straightening) in Camera Raw. Then it’s off to the lab to see what I can cook up with a recipe. Yep, RadLab has completely blown my photo-editing process off the map. I’m enjoying the ride! Here’s one of my favorite edits: from soft, fluffy kitten to raging puma lunatic.

Totally Rad Recipe
EZ-Burn 100%
Troy 94%
Grittyizer 15%

RadLab Giveaway

The peeps at Boutwell Studios and Totally Rad Actions have graciously offered to giveaway one copy of RadLab to a simply tiffany blog reader. Shibby! To enter for your chance to win, simply post a comment below in this thread by Monday, September 12th, 2011 by 11:59 PM EST. Increase your chances of winning by tweeting, facebook(ing), or blogging about the giveaway. Be sure to post a new comment for each tweet or post. Good luck!

Please Note: This giveaway period has expired. Thanks to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced here on my blog on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011.