Last August, I took a look at a preview of a new app, Radiant Photo. It promised to do some of the heavy lifting on your unedited images and greatly improve them.
One of the people behind the app is Elia Locardi, a master photographer well known to our readers who collaborated with us on our Photographing the World tutorials. If you’ve seen his work, you know the quality of his images. Now, Radiant Photo is available for purchase. It can be preordered today, and it will be available for download this week.
So, What Is Radiant Photo?
It’s an app and/or a plugin, and you open a photo within it. The image can be a landscape, a portrait, a bowl of fruit, anything really. The app applies AI to what it sees and suggests an image using parameters the app thinks will improve the original image.
If you want to tune further, and most photographers will, there are two levels of controls. One is a quick edit, which reveals a smart edit panel, and another option called “Detailed Edit” goes deeper, giving you some familiar and some new ways to tune an image. There are also presets.
As a plugin, you get them for Photoshop, Lightroom, or Corel Printshop Pro.
Using Radiant Photo
I’ve had the release candidate for a few weeks now, and I’m mightily impressed. It works on Windows and Macs, including the newer M1 and M2 Apple Silicon Macs. I did my work on an M1 MacBook Pro and an M1 Mac Studio.
I fed it hundreds of raw files (although you’re not limited to raw images) and found instant improvements in dynamic range, color tonality, noise reduction, and exposure. The software works by examining each pixel, which makes it more precise than the usual broader image editors.
I’ve noticed that the AI controls never clip high levels and always respect black levels. It also nicely cleans up color casts that can be tricky to fix manually.
Of course, all editing is subjective, and sometimes, you might not like the choices made by AI, but you have the ability to change things more to your liking. Of course, that’s what we do as editors, but in almost every case ,I find that Radiant Photo can give me a quick start on an edit, saving time and if you’re a pro, money.
Radiant Photo can also handle multiple images. Just drag them into the app or open them all from the File menu.
When you first load an image, Radiant Photo, using AI, determines what the image type is, landscape, portrait, or less obvious subjects, like newborn baby or food and drink. You’ll get a split screen and a Quick Edit or Detailed Edit option. Depending on what you select, you’ll get appropriate controls. In the detailed edit mode, you can see the usual Lightroom-type controls for shadows and highlights, saturation, etc. But you’ll also see some unique controls like skin and depth bias, sky toning, and fidelity.
Here’s an example:
Above is a drone shot taken in challenging light. Radiant Photo, with no adjustments, gave me better visible dynamic range, made some small but worthwhile color changes, and gave me details in the mountains I couldn’t see in the raw file. It didn’t finish the image for me, but I could take the image into the detailed edit part of the application, or head to Lightroom, Photoshop, or your preferred editor.
Here’s another image. With no adjustments, I got a nice image, which I could add to with additional work, or with the tools provided in Radiant Photo, I could probably finish the shot to my satisfaction.
My workflow went something like this for landscapes. I gave all my images a start with DXO PureRAW 2. It cleans up raw files, and its database can apply corrections for my camera and lens combination. From there, I enter Radiant Photo, usually the stand-alone version, or sometimes as a Photoshop plug-in.
When I’m happy, I go back to Photoshop for whatever finishing touches I deem worthwhile. In my use of Radiant Photo, it was speedy and reliable. No crashes, no surprises. A user manual is built in, but most options were obvious in their purpose.
Although I’m quite capable of doing a good manual edit on my files, I liked the head-start Radiant Photo gave me. It could “see” and offer suggestions for things I might have never noticed. At no time did it make bad suggestions, but that doesn’t mean I could not have come up with an equally effective edit on my own. I think the best use of Radiant Photo is a first step in an editing sequence, followed up by your own efforts either within Radiant Photo or back in your main editor.
Negatives: If you’re a photographer who hates the idea of AI and wants control of every aspect of your edit, then Radiant Photo is not for you. By the same token, Radiant Photo is not a single-click editor doing everything you could possibly want with no effort. You may not like the color or tonality choices it makes. You may not even like its choices for sharpening or noise reduction.
Still, I think most photographers would get value from Radiant Photo. I could see the batch feature as a big help to pros. The software was created and guided by professional photographers, and you can sense that input in the way Radiant Photo works. Its AI engine is based on Perfectly Clear Complete, which has been a very popular and well-reviewed AI editor.
Don’t think of Radiant Photo as a typical AI editor. There are no sky replacements, no panorama assembly, no layers, no HDR creation. Those features were never intended. The best use of Radiant Photo is pre-processing and applying AI to black and white points, color and white balance, noise reduction, sharpening, portrait and face adjustments, and much more.
Buying Radiant Image
The software can be ordered now. The price is $129 ($30 off for a limited time, which includes the stand-alone version and the plugins).
There’s also a subscription offering called the Radiant Toolkit. After you buy the software for $129, there’s a $50 yearly renewal that starts after your first year.
It gives you a full year of software update assurance to your purchased product that starts on the date of purchase. Each month, you will receive a $15 coupon that can be used on your choice of Presets and LOOKs in the online store (a $180 value).
You will also gain access to special webinars and educational events in the Radiant Photo Collective community.
These perks can be renewed each year and canceled at any time.