Thursday, September 27, 2012

Totally Rad RadLab Review

Hello faithful followers!  As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to (read: very briefly) write a photography blog.  Since I can't really keep up with two with my busy schedule I decided to combine the two blogs.  This means bringing over some of my posts from my previous blog to share with you all here.  Awesome, right?  Well,  this is one of those posts.  :)

Today, I want to tell you about one of my all-time favorite companies that has helped me immensely along the way as I grew my business.  If you are at all into photography I bet you've heard of Totally Rad! and Totally Rad Actions (TRA).  But just in case you have, Totally Rad Actions are, well, just like the name describes- totally rad actions for Photoshop.

When I first started in Photography I was self-trained on Photoshop CS2.  It worked fine but I found myself spending long periods memorizing what I did between one image to the next so I could have a streamlined workflow (keep in mind, this was before I discovered Lightroom).  Then someone suggested I try out TRA.  What I love about these actions is the variety- you will find an action that fits every editing style and shoot.  With TRA I could edit in half the time because I just memorized my "recipes" and used the same set of actions or relatively the same set for every shoot.  My images had a consistent look and I was very, very happy.

Then one day I was just reading some things on Facebook and I saw someone mentioning how much they loved "RadLab" and how Totally Rad! did it again.  I ran over to the website to take a look and was so pleased I saw that Facebook posting because Totally Rad! has once again changed my photography life with an even more streamlined way of editing with their new product RadLab!

I can tell you what it's all about, but I'd rather show you.  Let's start with this picture of my nephew eating a Twizzlers at a hockey game:

Cute kid, huh?  This image is pretty much SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) minus some color adjustments and sharpening done in Lightroom.  As it is, it's not a bad photo!  But for the purpose of this review let's just pretend that I really want to spice this photo up!

First thing you want to do is pull the image you want to edit into Photoshop.  I am using Photoshop CS4 but you can use RadLab on Photoshop CS3 or later and Photoshop Elements 7 or later. 

RadLab is a Photoshop plug-in, which means it does not operate as a stand alone program.  You need Photoshop to use it.  You do not, however, need to have Totally Rad Actions to use it!  RadLab comes with 78 Actions (50 from TRA and TRA2 and 28 new ones!)!  If you are like me and you already own TRA and TRA2 and now you're all sad that you will pretty much have to pay for them again, don't worry.  There are some actions that I use constantly to fine tune images that are not included in RadLab (like Select O Sharp and Pro Retouch).  The money you have already spent on Totally Rad! products is still money well spent.  So, to access RadLab just go to Filter > Totally Rad > RadLab and the plug-in will open right up.

What you are seeing in the image above is the opening screen (for me) for RadLabs.  I think my favorite feature of RadLabs is that it remembers the recipes I have used previously in the Recipes Window and will show that to me first.  The image to the left is the last round of editing I did.  To the right you will see a few recipes I used.  When you are going for a consistent look in your portrait sessions this is extremely helpful!  You do have the ability to save recipes so if I find myself using one a lot I will save it and name it so I will always have it for the future.  I find I have enough saved recipes at this point that I don't often go back and create new ones, I just tweak the ones I have.  But for the purpose of this review I will not use a pre-existing recipe and just use a new one.

So here we are now in the Stylets Window.  To the right you will see the unedited version of the image, and to your right you will see the actions that are included in RadLab and how the image will look if you play that action with this image.  When you apply an action to your image the previews on the right will change to show what your image will look like if you layer your actions.  You can add 1, 2, or 10 actions together to create your perfect image.  You can also adjust the levels of your actions to tone them down and even to increase them past 100% to achieve your desired look.

Now you can see that I have used two actions- Sugar Rush at 70% and Claireify at 79%.  I can obviously do more, the previews to the right are showing me some great black and white options and the sharpening options, but I like the image the way it is so I will hit the "Finish" button on the bottom right corner of the screen.

RadLab then applies the actions to your image.  Depending on the actions you chose and the number of actions used this could take 1 second or a few minutes.  After RadLabs has done it's thing then you will be left with just the final image.  I then roughly cloned out the Twizzlers and whatever that circle was in the background (not well, mind you!) to give a finished product, which you can now see above.  Obviously if I was presenting this to a client I would have better cloned out the Twizzlers and gotten rid of the purple in the eyes, but you get the point!

RadLabs is a great way to streamline your editing while keeping your look consistent.  I am very impressed with this product and really don't see myself going back to using just the normal actions pallet in Photoshop anymore.  Totally Rad! really has done it again and done it well!

I also wanted to add that I DO see this product as fitting in with my other blog, The Eco-Friendly and Frugal Blog.  To me, time is money.  Anything that can help me edit an entire portrait session the same day I shot it and get the final product to my clients sooner is invaluable to me as a professional.  I can fit in more sessions per week and not get overwhelmed thanks to Totally Rad! and their totally rad line of products!


RadLab is available in the Totally Rad! store for the very reasonable price of $149.00.  After purchasing you will be able to immediately download RadLab and install the plug-in into Photoshop.  It takes just a few moments to get the program up and running on your computer so don't hesitate to order now so you can start working right away!

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