Review: New Totally Rad Lightroom ‘Effects’ Presets Add Visual Interest to Photographs

A Review of Doug Boutwell’s Totally Rad Lightroom Presets ‘Effects’ – Number 3 in a Series of 4 Reviews

A BRIEF RECAP:

In my previous two reviews about the new Totally Rad Lightroom Presets,  I discussed the Basics and Black & White presets. This review will focus on the Effects presets. As mentioned in those earlier posts, these presets are offered by Doug Boutwell through Totally Rad in four sections; the Basics, Black & White, Effects and Vignettes and Toning.

totally rad lightroom presets review image 1

GROUND RULES:

All photographs in this review were taken by me. Other than the Totally Rad Lightroom Presets, they have had no other Lightroom or Photoshop adjustments. I show each image straight out of the camera, and then follow with a series of image versions which show the different effects achieved with various preset combinations.

As with the Black & White review, most images are the result of first running some presets from the Basics section and then adding Effects.

METHODS:

In my earlier reviews I clicked a lot. This time, to keep my mind limber and receptive, I did a Bathroom Cleaning Mediation before beginning. This is similar, yet different, from the Zen practice of chopping wood and carrying water. Other than that, I still clicked a lot and paid attention to the results. Per usual, I wrote copious notes in my trusty Wonder Woman notebook.

IMAGES:

This first image was taken in Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola, Florida. I shot it with one of my favorites cameras, a Canon PowerShot A590IS. These little cameras have a fantastic wide angle lens that can be tilted off axis with some stunning results. Reminder to self: do tutorial on how to ROCK point and shoots with wide angle lenses.

Back to the topic at hand. Here is the image straight out of the camera. I would love to see SOMEONE do a fashion shoot in this location:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 1E

First I ran it through the Basics, using Highlight Hero/Strong and Electric Skies/Lite. Then I added a combination of Eddie Would Go/Strong and Golden Age/Strong to produce the effect below. There is a lovely, soft and warm glow about the image. So many of the presets in this section remind me of movies I have seen. I expect the spiritual ‘savior’ of your choice to walk through these doors at any moment:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 2E

I always struggle with giving up detail in an image. All that softness comes with a price; loss of detail. So I returned to the Basic’s and added A Beginning/Strong to this image. I really like how this added more black to the overall image and made the shadows more distinct:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 3E

The last thing I did was add one of the five different choices of vignettes offered with these presets, in this case Raphael. They are in the last section of these presets I will be reviewing – Vignettes and Toning. I really LOVE the depth and texture this particular vignette added. Once again, I am reminded of a movie and I refer to this as the 300 look. I could totally see Leonidas striding vigorously through that door.

totally rad lightroom presets review image 4E

My next image was taken outside in natural light with my trusty Nikon D70 (an comparable substitute would be the D90 or D300) with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. This is the image straight out of the camera. Overall, it’s pretty good. Exposure is spot on and color balance is pleasingly neutral, although the contrast is a bit flat:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 13E

I started with the Basics (A Beginning/Lite and Auto/Brightness), then went to the Effects and selected Friendly Confines/Strong. The result was bright, golden and a bit contrasty. There is a noticeable color shift towards yellow and it shows mostly in the hair. That said, I really like it in all its bright liveliness.

totally rad lightroom presets review image 14E

If warm and fuzzy is not your cup of tea, not to fear. Just hit the skids. Or at least the Skid Row effect. Here I used it set to medium and got instant ‘corpse-ification’ (and cue quote from Joss Whedon’s Firefly “Here lies Zoe, my autumn flower, somewhat less attractive now that she’s all corpse-ified and gross.” ) Now my secret is out; I’m a complete sci-fi NERD. But back to the subject at hand. The Skid Row effect still falls well within the desaturated color and inky blacks of the earlier mentioned 300 look.

totally rad lightroom presets review image15E

For a desaturated look that is a bit warmer and less harsh, I undid the Skid Row preset, then used Sweating Bullets/Strong. The blacks and shadows are still blocked, but the skin tones are warmer. It is an interesting effect.

totally rad lightroom presets review image 16E

The last image in my line up was also taken outside in natural light with that same D70 and 50mm f/1.4 lens. Here it is straight out of the camera. Much like the image above, it is basically good to go. A little flat, contrast wise, but still quite acceptable:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 17E

First, the Basics ( Auto/Tone, Auto/White Balance, Brightside/Lite, and Highlight Hero/Lite). Lovely really, isn’t it? The image now has more snap and pop. The skin tones are warmer, cheeks rosier, eyes livelier and the contrast level has come up. Altogether a fully ‘finished’ image, good for delivery to the client or customer:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 8E

However, this review is all about the Effects, so lets get some effects up in this house.  I selected the Golden Age preset set to medium. The result was a very soft and gently warm toned image. Of course, you do lose detail when you basically added a big jolt of yellow into the ‘filter pack’ on your ‘enlarger’. That’s old school speak from back when we printed ‘photographs’ onto paper in a ‘dark room’. Which we rode to in our horse and buggy. Anyway, it is a nice effect, but I’d like to see something a bit snappier.

totally rad lightroom presets review image 10E

So I put it in full reverse and went back to the Basics and added Auto/Tone. That brightened things up a bit. Actually I really like this one. It’s soft and warmly reminiscent of ads shot back in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Sarah Moon:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 11E

Finally, I wanted to use the desaturated look in a less extreme way. I undid the Golden Age preset and applied Sweating Bullets/Strong and the Basics preset Brightside/Lite. The result is just slightly desaturated:

totally rad lightroom presets review image 9E

PROS-

The Effects presets are a fast and easy way to create some of the more trendy looks currently hot in photography. They play well with the Basics used either as a foundation or as a supplement after the fact.

CONS-

I admit I’m not so much into the ‘degraded, color shifted snapshots ripped out of some random family’s beat up album from the 1960s and 70s’ look. I realize mine is most likely the minority opinion on this matter. Entire recent photography careers have been launched and propelled with these types of effects. That said, I suppose it isn’t really a drawback, if you like these types of effects. Besides, they come bundled in with all the other presets, which I am totally happy with.

CONCLUSION:

I don’t personally care for these presets for people photography. However, they do have fantastic potential for landscape, architectural and product shots and I will be using them for such.

In my next and final review of the Totally Rad Lightoom Presets, I will be discussing the Vignettes & Toning section.

Review: Totally Rad's RadLab software makes photo editing simple and easy.

If you would like to read more, check out these articles:

Review: New Lightroom Presets From Totally Rad Really Deliver

Review: Totally Rad Lightroom Black & White Presets Produce Glorious Images

Review: New Lightroom Presets From Totally Rad Really Deliver

High Key Studio Lighting – Tutorial

Low Key Portrait Lighting – Tutorial

Outdoor Portraiture – Overcoming Challenges

Depth of Field – Photography Tutorial

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2 comments

  1. you sold me at ‘corpse-ified’! love anyone who can quote firefly – great review.

  2. deborahwolfe says:

    Ya know Nic, the ‘verse would be a much lonelier place without Mr. Whedon and all of us Whedonettes….Whedonites…..Wheirdos…….well, you know what I mean ; )