Haven’t posted a series for a while so here’s one that we did recently and for the benefit of my clients that are based very far away, we’re putting the slideshow up for easy viewing.
The past two weeks had been really exciting, apart from the massive work preparing for print competitions, I was working with RadLab, the latest Photoshop plugin tools from TotallyRad! and here’s my humble review of it.
Being a fan of TRA or Totally Rad Actions since 2008, I have been following the developers on twitter and RadLab is something that I can’t wait getting my paws on…So what’s the big deal about RadLab?
PC Intel i7 920 CPU @2.67 GHz
12 gig ram
Windows 7 Ultimate edition 64-bit
Images used for this review are either shot with a Hasselblad H4D-40 or Canon EOS 1Ds mk III. All images are edited in their full resolution.
The Stacking game
I love the RadLab interface! The developers have certainly thought of how workflow is carried out, starting from Basic Adjustment from the top, the familiar TRA actions in the middle and sharpening at the button. Do note that the order in which the effects are applied does make a difference – for example, the vignette from EZburn looks very different if it’s place on top or below another effect say Pool Party. It does take a bit of arranging to find out what’s best for you and that’s what RadLab is all about – mixing and matching the effects first, and then saving the formulas for images later.
This is one example of how I stacked 5 effects together. The image is shot with a Hasselblad H4D-40, a 40 megapixels digital medium format system. The raw file is rendered using Phocus, the Hasselblad’s proprietary software before pulling it into RadLab.
*A little tip. Always start with an image with low contrast. When I render my raw files, my black point is ZERO all the time and I do give a slight bump to shadow fill of about 10-20% to have the maximum shadow details possible. Since most of the actions tend to add contrast to the image, working with a high contrast image will be tricky.
The histogram on the bottom right is a really nice feature, especially a kind reminder to go easy with the actions. Click on the ‘Finish’ button and bang! Check this out…
RadLab adds contrast, punch and character to the image; highlights and shadow details are well-controlled and just look at how 3D the details are, especially subject’s face and the building behind on top right. I’m sure my clients who flew all the way from LA to Singapore for this photo shoot will be quite please to see this.
Here’s another example that stacks 6 Stylets, just look at how easily we apply all these without cracking up the image…
Dejavu – Remembering and saving the settings
One of the neatest features of RadLab is that it remembers the last few recipes that you have used, and to top it off, you can even saved them as your own favourites! Prior to RadLab, all my important work files are saved in un-flattened PSD format so that I can remember the opacity of each adjustment layer that I have applied, which also allows me to go back and make changes to it. I cannot tell you how much memory space these PSD files do take up especially when we stack like 6 actions (especially the Hasselblad files in full-res), it’s just mad, really. The great thing about Radlab is, we can now apply the same effect over the same series of images for consistent results, without those additional space hogging layers! This is also particularly useful when we are doing an album, a good two-page spread is really about the consistency across them and since all the images within are point of reference to each other – it just takes one to be out of place to ruin the entire spread.
Black and White
Bitchin B&W and Boring Old B&W are 2 monochrome effects that I have been using since the first version of TRA back in 2008 and they are now amongst of the list of Stylets in Radlab. The effects are now much easier to adjust, thanks to the sliders…and even bigger thanks to the fact that I can now apply easily the tweaked B&W settings across a series of images. To add icing to the cake, the two familiar colour temperature adjustment actions Warm it up Kris! and Cool as a Cucumber, can be used to tone the monochromatic images warm or cold respectively.
Here’s one example with BW Red filter (neutral)
Quick note: Warm it up Kris and Cool as a Cucumber at 60% and 70%.
Same Same but different
Those of us who are familiar with TRA actions would see some familiar faces in RadLab, such is Techno Color Dream World, Pool Party, Rusty Cage, etc. There are some subtle difference between running the same action via TRA 1 or 2, and through RadLab itself. Here’s one example using Pool Party straight for both instances (no adjustments or tweaking to the layers), and while the character is the same, there’s a slight difference in the contrast.
Things just get better
The good folks in TotallyRad! do take feedback seriously and implement changes and improvement to their product. Rusty cage is one action that I find a real pain to use wholesale in TRA, shadow and highlights details tend to go wild, the glow, oh mine the glow…There’s a good reason why there’s a slider for the a lot of the actions that provides ‘Glow’ , check this one out:
Comparing it to the original image, it’s a huge amount of drama and depth RadLab has added:
Other tasty and yummy Stylets that you can look forward are the Boutwell Magic Glasses. Check out this image that I took at a destination wedding in Marrakech, Morocco – ND2 filter was deployed and a single 400w strobe was used for the image. 3 different sharpening methods were used and here are the results in a glance:
One of my biggest issues with the original Boutwell Magic Glasses is that it adds halos to the image, especially in areas where there are high contrast; Boutwell Magic Glasses II is a little more controlled and conservative, but it takes care of the halos; Obvious Glasses is the obvious choice here as not only does it add contrast to the image, it gives it a right amount of saturation boost here. I can also see Obvious Glasses as a good everyday Stylet, useful for creating proofs for the customers.
My Wishlist for the next version…
- Option for layer masking. Ok, some of you might be saying “hey what’s wrong with this guy, he just said he doesn’t want those cumbersome layers and now it’s on his wishlist??” For me, I would love to have the option of the layer mask and apply the effect selectively…yes, more control when necessary. This would be particularly useful for the Highlight Separator as this is one action that while it does what it does best, i.e to recover the highlights, it does mess around with the areas where the skin tones are. Right now, I find myself having to duplicate the base layer (Ctrl-J), apply RadLab on the duplicate layer, and then adjusting the opacity of it to taste. Readers might also like to know that I never like to apply an action or an effect wholesale without any tweaking or modification on my part – it’s also faster sometimes to just down the opacity of the effects layer by 10%, rather than have to go through the whole processing algorithm again. All I’m asking for is just a check box if we want to render the effect on a separate layer people like me.
- Better vignettes controls. EZBurn, the stylet used for creating a vignette around the image tends to cause a bit of banding, especially to the skies, even at very minute amount of 7%. There are quite a good number of plugins out there that does a very good job with vignettes and this is one area that I hope to see improvement in.
For those who are new to the TotallyRad! family, RadLab is a great introductory tool, think of it as a sampler before buying TRA 1 & 2. For those who are already using TRA in their workflows, RadLab is a great platform and colour palette to encourage the users to think out of the box – no excuse for not being able to come out with their own recipes and concoctions. The endless creative permutations and possibilities is what makes this software a joy to use.
Wedding is not just an event about two person’s commitment to each other, more than that it is an event where people that you know all your life shows up to share those moments of fun, joy, laughter (and booze) with you.
The wedding of Weilun and Qiaoling was one that not only celebrates the fact that they have known each other since Secondary or Middle school and finally tying the knot, but the friends whom they have known since childhood were there with them on their Red Letter day.
Oh yes, the Geek Boys vs Leopard Prints Gals, was simply hilarious! (My toes are giggling as I’m typing now…)
When Jeanine & Mark told me about tying the knot at 1-Altitude, I was very excited because their event would be considered one of the first few weddings to grace the venue (in fact, some parts of the rooftop were having some on-going work in progress). 1-Altitude is
I love outdoor weddings simply because most of the wedding photography in Singapore are shot indoors and knowing how unpredictable the weather is over here, we were keeping our fingers crossed for great weather…
Over the past 2 years, international clients have formed the majority; out of the 30 jobs that we do each year, a good 80% are either 1) couples from overseas 2) couples working overseas 3) Singaporeans based overseas but having their wedding in Singapore. Jeanine & Mark, like most of my clients, had guests from all over the world who really know how to enjoy themselves at a wedding!
Update on 18/07/2011:
Here’s a really nice slideshow of the wedding that I uploaded on youtube. Let me know what you guys think of it.