A Review of Doug Boutwell’s Totally Rad Lightroom Presets the ‘Basics’ – Number 1 in a Series of 4 Reviews
I just received my copy of Doug Boutwell’s Totally Rad Lightroom Presets and excitedly set right to work with them. This is some pretty dreamy stuff.
This set of Lightroom ‘actions’ comes bundled in four categories; Basics, Black & White, Effects, and Vignettes & Toning. I decided to start at the beginning, so this review will cover the Basics. The next review will cover Black & White, which I’ve already had my sticky little hands on and OH MY GAWD do I love it.
I approached these presets from the perspective of the beginner and/or novice. From the point of view of the individual that doesn’t have much experience with Photoshop and is possibly a bit intimidated by image post processing in general. That said, all images in this post were taken by me and the ONLY thing done to them, other than utilizing the Totally Rad presets, was some cropping. I began with images straight out of the camera with no additional touch up or Lightroom/Photoshop enhancements. In other words, I wanted to see what could be accomplished using ONLY the presets.
I clicked a lot. I paid attention to the effect of each preset. I decided which effects I liked best for each image and I wrote it down in my favorite Wonder Woman notebook.
This first image demonstration is very subtle, so I’ll guide you through it. Here is the straight out of camera image. It is decently exposed but slightly flat:
I enhanced this image by first clicking Auto Contrast and then Electric Skies/Medium. Notice the richer skin and hair tones, the deeper blues and browns. Altogether believable and ‘natural’ and all it took was two clicks of the mouse:
Okay, let’s take the training wheels off and get a little wild and crazy. The next image is a little underexposed straight out of the camera. Who am I fooling? It’s really about 2 stops underexposed. DO NOT ask me what a stop is, or I’ll be forced to tell you in excruciating detail.
But with a mere four clicks of the mouse (Auto Exposure, Auto Shadow & Black, Smack My Pix Up/Lite and Auto Brightness) we go from dark and dull to bright and dynamic. The final result is a bit contrasty, but overall not bad:
This next image is one of my favorites and was taken in a bathroom with perfectly diffused daylight filtering in. As you can see, straight out of the camera it is a little dark and flat.
With a little clicking about I was able to turn this into a little jewel of liveliness. Notice the greatly improved hair color and texture as well as the bright yet believable skin tones. Presets used – A Beginning/Medium, Auto Brightness, Auto Tone, Electric Skies/Medium and Smack My Pix Up/Lite:
Next I wanted to see if images could be pushed HARD using only the ‘basics’, so I picked the following image for all its bright, possibly even LURID colors. It’s actually pretty good straight out of the camera, but I am a complete COLOR WHORE. There, I’ve said it. Ahhhhh, I feel so much better now.
And so I turned all the pretty knobs and dials all the way to right, as they say. Notice the thick, syrupy, gooey color goodness. If this stuff came in a jar, you could spread it. This reminds me of the old school days of shooting Kodachrome 64 and underexposing it by 1/3 stop to super saturate the colors. The recipe? Auto Contrast, Auto White Balance, Electric Skies/Lite, Landscape/Lite and Smack My Pix Up/Strong:
Sometimes we’re not looking for bells and whistles. Sometimes we just want to do a little basic grunt work, like color correction. How well do these presets work in this arena? This next image was a bit yellow-orange straight out of the camera and I wanted to see if I could achieve a ‘normal’ color balance:
Well yes I can get a more natural and ‘realistic’ color balance. A little dash of Auto Contrast, a splash of Auto White Balance and a sprinkling of Electric Skies/Lite does the trick:
And if all of that clicking is just too much work for you, how about the one click wonder:
Pretty impressive, no? What WAS the one click? A Beginning/Strong.
Overall, I’m impressed. I have to say that by using just the ‘basics’ section, the results are surprisingly good. It really is possible to take an image straight out of camera that is anywhere on a 3-7 stop range of exposure, and with 1-5 clicks of the mouse, produce an image with punch and pop.
A bit much on the contrast overall. That said, contrast is in the eye of the beholder. Not enough and images are flat and dull. Too much and images are brittle and flinty with blocked shadows and flared highlights. The contrast levels are not extreme, just a bit hot. Most of the images could do with some additional Lightroom/Photoshop tweaks. However, Mr. Boutwell does NOT claim these presets are a complete replacement of other types of image post processing. Remember, I am doing this demo from the perspective of the beginner/novice.
A beginner or novice could use these presets and working solely in Lightroom could produce very lovely, lively images. Lightroom is an incredible tool for both image management AND post-processing and can serve one very well, either in the absence of or in combination with Photoshop. I’m happy to have these presets loaded onto my machine and will definitely use them to enhance my own images.
My next review will focus on the Black and White portion of the Totally Rad Lightroom Presets (see products section). I can already tell you I feel like the set is WELL worth the money just for that section.
If you are not interested in working with Lightroom presets and would prefer instead to use Photoshop actions, check out Totally Rad Actions Rule – Elevate Your Portraits to Art With Photoshop Actions.
If you would like to read more, check out these articles: