Radiant Photo Can Make Your Photos... Radiant

Radiant Photo Can Make Your Photos... Radiant

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.

My Thoughts

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. 

What's Missing?

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 Photo

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.

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30 Comments
Mikael Sundberg's picture

all can be done in Photoshop/Lightroom

Elia Locardi's picture

Honestly, I'd invite you to try it. Rad Photo makes pixel-by-pixel adjustments. I mean, sure, if you spend a lot of time trying to match it, anything is possible. And by that logic, I'm sure someone out there can do all this with Rubylith and a darkroom ;)

Ed C's picture

LOL yea right pixel by pixel adjustments. All credibility gone. If that were true it would require ridiculous processing and the very idea of pixel by pixel adjustments is counter to any logical processing of contrasts.

Elia Locardi's picture

I'll give you a chance to roll back your certainty about the validity of pixel-by-pixel adjustments, especially considering that AI auto selection tools use pixel-by-pixel detection. And since you seem to be stuck somewhere between the mid-eighties and early nineties when it comes to tech knowledge but in case you missed it, we have computers now with amazing computing power. While I certainly love my Commodore 64, I can understand your frustration with running modern applications on it. Maybe try Microsoft Paint? ;)

Joking aside, pixel-by-pixel adjustment is very possible these days, and I bet were only five or six years away from camera sensors doing this job for us.

Mikael Sundberg's picture

"Honestly, I'd invite you to try it." OK, send me an eval and Ill try it

Elia Locardi's picture

You can download the trial. Looking forward to it.

Tom Reichner's picture

Yes it can. And I think the author did a most excellent job of explaining that.

In fact, he explained that so emphatically and so clearly that I am surprised that you left the comment you left, given that he made it so clear. You're basically just saying what he already said over and over in the article.

Tor Ivan Boine's picture

cool. have to try it one day :)

Teofil Rewers's picture

Hi Elia Locardi can I use this software for mass processing of event photos?

Elia Locardi's picture

Yes. That’s exactly what it’s designed for. Full batching support as a standalone or as a plug-in for Lr and Ps.

koma tan's picture

if these AI models included convolutions, then yes they would be pixel-by-pixel. Imagine passing over a loupe on your image nth pixels wide and long. Anyway, I am a sucker for seeing more AI cannibalizing this space as I make photos mainly for fun and I don’t want to sit in front of a computer all day/night to get something that is appealing to me (general public).

Elia Locardi's picture

It’s kind of like having curves for every pixel. It’s a web of them that are content aware. Then it can treat the transitions to support the native resolution and maintain the antialiasing.

Christian Möhrle's picture

Looks interessting, I will give it a try

Alan Bevan's picture

Is there a list of cameras this software can support? It doesn’t support my Fujifilm cameras RAW files - X-H2s and GFX100s.

Elia Locardi's picture

It handles my RAF files just fine. Lately, I've been batching my entire catalog into Radiant Photo from Lightroom. The only things I do in Lightroom are any lens corrections and cropping, straightening, and the like. I don't make any adjustments to tone or color. Later I may switch to DXO but they aren't too keen on working with us to make the handoff smoother.

Elia Locardi's picture

Just open a raw file into Photoshop as a Smart Object. Every AI setting in Radiant Photo can be completely disabled too. There is absolutely nothing forced on you.

Drazen Cavar's picture

Here is my contribution.

Thanks for being able to try, but sorry, I think a lot more needs to be worked to make it any useful..It either misses the point entirely or just makes images too bright and too crispy, with one, very the same unnatural look.

Tom Reichner's picture

What you say about "bright and crispy" is good to know. I really wouldn't want software that makes my photos "bright and crispy". Definitely not the look that I want at all. I am going for a more natural look, the way things look in real life, which is more subdued and realistic than what "bright and crispy" seems to mean.

Elia, would you agree with what Drazen Cavar says about bright and crispy? Based on your experience with the software, would Radiant Photo work well for someone who wants their photos to look realistic - like just what the eye would see in real life? Or does it add extra "pop" or effects that aren't completely realistic and natural?

Elia Locardi's picture

Honestly, the are set to be photo real. But if someone told me they could make my images bright and crispy, I think I’d like that? I’ve never really described photos that way so I’m not 100% sure.

But, I created the Radiant Subtle smart presets just in case a more gentle approach is needed. Plus you can set your own setting and save them so I’m really not sure what the compliant is about. Change it to be “less crispy” save it as the preset and there you go. You do you.

Mark Smith's picture

Your contribution is valid, and thanks for it, but I don't think your rather limited experience of using Radiant Photo is enough to pass judgement on it as being useless.

Drazen Cavar's picture

Mark, you are right in that it is not easy to judge in a limited time and number of cases, I am aware of it. Yet, I was testing it intensively on dozens of examples, different types of photos, in the last several days. All lead to the same conclusion. It was hard for me to find the case where I could use Radiant, maybe only on photos which turned out so well without editing that you just need minor touch - but for that, you can use much other software.

There is also more to the story - over many bugs that are expected in pre-order phase, on a number of photos software says "no noise found" and you cannot use noise reduction though there is visible noise. Artefacts are regularly created on attempts of sharpening, and it is of no use at all.

The additional problem is that if I use Topaz or Photolab as preparation for Radiant, both of these programs will also tend to add some excessive unnatural crispiness if you do not pay attention. But they have sliders which allow you to finely tune. However, when you bring such photos in Radiant, all these things are exaggerated even more. So I feel Radiant will not work together with these.

And it's fair to mention that I am not a professional, so it is possible that some professionals will be able to establish a workflow to make the best use of the software while avoiding those not-so-good traits.

Elia Locardi's picture

Just curious. Did you change the smart presets to “subtle”? The default is called pro. Subtle is less sharp an crispy if that’s actually a thing.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Did you try adjusting the Strength? It's like opacity. And, just like any photo processing software or plugin, you have to adjust it to taste. It's unrealistic to think it'll do everything you want/need at a single click.

Try adjusting the 2 sliders under Smart Editing: Strength and Color.

Drazen Cavar's picture

I use like dozen of editing software for years, and I think I learned a little about how to deal with it, and if you read my previous post you might have noticed that I am mentioning balancing with other software which I cannot achieve with Radiant.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

The below setting is what I'm referring to. This is from your screen capture you posted. If you believe it's too bright and crispy, then reduce it. Try 50%, 30%, 20%, etc, etc. You clearly did not adjust this. If you did, you went the wrong way.

Drazen Cavar's picture

I am wondering why you think I haven't tried it if I mention to you that I intensively use editing software for years?!
This is the first thing you try, but the problem is the one that makes you dissatisfied. It is like you are toning down until it looks good, and then you see all changes disappear :)
Yet today I did find some more satisfactory results with a lot of play with almost every available slider. I will post that to my original post for consistency.

Drazen Cavar's picture

Ok, for fair feedback I need to state that today I reached much more satisfactory results after a lot of playing with almost all of the available sliders.

Yet this goes pretty far away from the "promise" that initial auto settings should provide fairly good results, and relieve some of our time.

I could use it similarly to how I use Luminar, as an occasional creative supplement, but this piece is pricier and has much fewer functions. I am pretty much an editing software geek, but I still don't see how to put this in my toolbox smoothly.

Edwin Cobbinah's picture

Tried the trial and its a hit and miss. Can't trust it without going through the set of photos to make adjustments individually, something am already familiar with using other programs.
Perfectly clear products behave similarly.
Photos needs to be well exposed, a little under exposed or overexposed and you will get noisy photos or photos with bad higlight recovery (e.g. capture one recovery compared is miles ahead).
With such potential but once again not using it for professional works.

Elia Locardi's picture

Interestingly, you say that because our tests show superior shadow recovery and very nice highlight recover. We've implemented a proper 16-bit workflow, so any noise present results from the image file potential itself and not Radiant Photo. Similarly, C1 does have the best highlight recovery, but we've been very clear that Radiant Photo is not meant to replace your raw editing software, nor do we try. And with C1, I would assume you know how much default noise reduction is applied when using recovery.

Really, I appreciate that you've taken the time to comment, but I find this review lacking, mainly since you didn't produce an example. For all we know, you're loading jpeg files in and complaining about dynamic range.