Although I'm a firm believer in learning how to manually edit your images, I also understand that when you are first starting out and find yourself having to learn approximately, oooh, I don't know, 400 different things at once, it can be hard to add yet another thing to your "to learn" list without breaking down in tears 😃
So, today, I'm going to share with you something that I purchased and LOVED for editing when I first started out post-processing my photos, but didn't have the first clue about how to go about doing it in Photoshop.
It's called Radlab, and it's a tool that you use with either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, or indeed Lightroom, that helps you edit your images quickly, and most importantly, easily. In fact, I dare say it is probably the easiest way to edit your images and get good results, because you don't have to understand how Photoshop works before you can use it!
Does this sound like this might be the thing for you? If so, then lets go in a little deeper. In this post I'll go over how RadLab works, and why you might want it - and I've even created a little video for those who prefer to see things in action rather than just read about it.
What is RadLab?
RadLab is a "plug-in" for Photoshop, which uses it's own interface for editing your photos. It's not a standalone application (you need Photoshop or Elements to run it) but it looks like one because of this entirely different interface. Although it applies edits to your images, it'a also totally different from running actions, as you will see when we get to how it works.
Once you have installed it (a total cinch - it does it all for you) all you need to do is open up Photoshop or Photoshop, and then choose to edit your image in RadLab.
When you do that you'll see the RadLab interface open up with your image already there. You'll also instantly see visuals of all the different editing options available as thumbnails along the side, just like in the picture below.
So, how does Radlab Work?
Each of those small thumbnails you see above is a different edit (called a stylet) and the thumbnail shows how it would look when applied to your image, so you are getting an instant little preview of how that particular edit would work on YOUR image.
If you want to see a preview on the big image (which I prefer), just hover your mouse over the stylet thumbnail, and the big image will show how it would look with that edit applied. So, no more wondering if the image will look better a little warmer, or with a vintage feel, or in black and white - you can see all the various options almost instantly, just by hovering your mouse over them.
Being able to see how the various edits look BEFORE you apply them is one of the things I love about RadLab. As you may already know, when using actions, you have to run the action first to see whether it works for that image or not, which can be a pain and time consuming. I find this visual preview SO much easier to work with - but it's especially helpful when you are first starting out with editing and not sure what a particular image might benefit from.
It's also ridiculously easy to apply one of these stylets - you simply click on the thumbnail of the affect you want to add to your photo and it does it for you - and pretty much instantaneously. Even if you had never opened up your editing program before I swear you would be off and running in under a minute.
You also get a little sliders to the right of the thumbnails, which allow you to control the strength of the effect of each stylet by just moving the slider left or right. Some just have one slider, but others have a few sliders so you can tweak individual elements that make up that effect. As such, it's so incredibly easy to make changes to the overall edit - you don't need to know how to lower an effect, or know how to adjust individual layers like you do with an action, you just need to move a slider to the left or to the right. Easy peasy.
You can layer on stylets, and can combine as many as you want, adjusting the strength and look of each stylet as you go or at any point in the edit.
You can see in the image below that I have applied 5 different stylets (Lights On, Fuzzy Navel etc) and moved the sliders down for each one.
Once you have finished editing, just click finish and you're done! In PS or Elements, you'll get a new "layer" with your Radlab adjustments, and you'll then just need to save as normal. (You can go on to do any additional work inside Photoshop if you want to, for example cloning and healing, or you can do any other adjustments first before taking it into RadLab)
The whole interface is very, very easy to use, that I pretty much guarantee you'll love it.
One other thing you can do with RadLab is create your own recipes. Recipes are simply a way to save your customised combinations of stylets so that you can easily and quickly apply them the next time you use the program.
For example, let's say you alway use the same 5 stylets together to create your "look", or you have just created a look that you love and want to save it. Then all you need to do is press on the save button, give the recipe a name, and it's added to your recipe tab. Then all you need to do is click on the recipe you want to use, and it will be applied at once!
The other wonderful thing about these is that other RadLab users have created and shared their recipes, for free, so you can download different recipes from other photographers. It's like getting a load of free actions!
Want to see how it works instead?
I thought it might be helpful to see RadLab in action, rather than just reading about it, so I've created a quick, ten minute video for you that basically shows you everything we've just talked about so you can see how it all works in the flesh:
Why I think you will love RadLab....
It so easy to use:
Totally Rad have really made editing using RadLab as easy as humanly possible - I really don't think it can get any easier than this! You can jump right into it, with no idea of the plug in or of Photoshop itself, and be off and running within a few minutes. Within a hour you'll be creating your own recipes.
You can create highly customisable looks:
Because everything is stackable, and easily tweaked, so you can get really create endless editing combinations with it, and really set your own look.
The editing previews:
As I said above, being able to see a preview of how your image will look BEFORE an edit is applied is fantastic, since you just can't do that with actions.
You can easily experiment with different looks:
RadLab makes it incredibly easy to try out different looks and options for your images, so it's a great way to experiment. If you are in the beginning of your editing journey its really helpful in showing you the different looks you can achieve without having to learn how to do it all first, but even if you have been editing for a while it's pretty fun to play around with :)
Within RadLab itself, you can play away to your heart's content, adding and deleting stylets at will, and even reseting and going right back to the beginning. Nothing is applied here, so it's totally non-destructive. Also, when you run the plug in in a new layer, the edits get their own individual layer in Photoshop, so you can remove it completely at an time (which again means it's non-destructive!)
Their customer service is top notch
Alright, you probably don't care too much about this one, but it's nice to know that they have a responsive support desk that you can shout at if things ever went wrong.
What you might not love so much:
The edits are too strong straight off
I've never yet run a stylet at full strength - I've always toned them way down. (Actually, I find this true of many actions and presets). So do bear in mind when looking at the preview of a particular edit that it probably is too strong, but a quick tug at a slider or two should set it to rights if you like the overall effect, but just wish it was more subtle.
What if I have Lightroom, and not Photoshop or Elements?
You can absolutely use it with Lightroom, and in exactly the same way (so it opens up the exact same interface) and you will still love the editing options.
Personally, I find it not so good to use in Lightroom because you can't "sync" your edits, so you have to work on one image at a time. This goes against one of the main points of using LIghtroom - the speed of editing.
As Photoshop and Photoshop Elements only ever allow you to work on one photo at a time anyway, you aren't losing out anything by using RadLab with them, since it doesn't have that "Sync" ability. (You can batch edit in Photoshop, and you can batch your RadLab edits too)
So if you have Lightroom, you can still use it if you wish, but bear in mind you will be working on one image at a time, or you can use Totally Rad presets instead.
What to do now
If you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements particularly, and are new to editing, then I really think you might love RadLab. It makes a complicated piece of software like Photoshop really super easy to use, and allows you to experiment without any knowledge of how to do all the different things you might want to do, or buying several sets of actions.
You can also download a totally FREE 14 day trial of RadLab, so you even get the opportunity to try it out and see if it is for you before you invest. Click on the button below to take you directly to the trial download page. (You can also get your hands on some free actions and presets too!)