Radiant Photo verdict
Radiant Photo sounds like countless other ‘magic’ photo apps and plug-ins that use the power of AI to make your photos perfect. The difference is that it works. Not every image will be transformed equally, but the dullest, most difficult and downright impossible images are the ones that get the most benefit. Could you do the same adjustments manually? Probably, maybe. But would you have the time or the energy to try? Probably not.
+Transforms the dullest and most difficult images
+Shows you in seconds of an image can be made good
+Manual adjustments available but rarely needed
+Works as a plug-in or standalone
-Paid preset packs will add to the price
-A one-trick pony – few other editing tools
Radiant Photo is not a photo editor, but a photo enhancer. It uses AI to analyse your photos, work out the subject or genre then apply adaptive adjustments to best bring out the colors and tones and details.
It sounds expensive for a program that sounds like it does the kind of auto corrections you take for granted as part of any regular photo editor. But it’s doing a lot more than auto levels, auto contrast, auto white balance and a bit of sharpening. Its publisher says it’s analyzing and optimizing images pixel by pixel, without being drawn into explaining exactly how – which is probably fair enough from a commercial point of view.
I already wrote a Radiant Photo review on Digital Camera World and I’ve used it a lot more since then. I normally prefer to do my image enhancements in Capture One or DxO PhotoLab, so will Radiant Photo convince me there’s another, better way?
Radiant Photo uses scene detection to work out what kind of photo you’ve given it. It has Smart Presets to apply adaptive processing to different scene and subject types. Its publishers also say it’s designed BY photographers FOR photographers.
One of its key jobs is balancing darker and lighter tones in high contrast images. This is not HDR, simply making sure that both show a rich range of details. It uses pixel by pixel analysis to preserve the sense of depth in images and balance exposures without clipping shadows or highlights.
It boasts ‘Radiant Tone’ and ‘Radiant Color’, though occasionally uses jargon light Light Diffusion and Bias that feel like they deserve a more technical explanation.
With more features like Sky Toning (grading), Foliage Toning and Precision Sharpening, Automatic face detection, face contouring, eye enhancement and more, Radiant Photo promises a lot.
Interface and usability
You can get 90% of the value of Radiant Photo without having to use a single manual control (my estimate based on the many images I’ve tried it with). You can open an image, accept the defaults and save out an enhanced version just like that. The loading, analysis and processing take a few moments, but you don’t need to do anything.
That’s assuming you’re happy with Radiant Photo’s AI scene recognition and adjustments. If you think you can do better, the left sidebar offers a selection of Smart Presets where you can choose a different scene type and manual Presets for creating a ‘look’ rather than just auto enhancements. You can get more preset packs, but they cost extra.
You might decide that the result Radiant Photo generates is close to what you want but not quite close enough. In which case, you can tweak its adjustments using either a Quick Edit or a Detailed Edit option. This does give you a lot more control, but you will be faced with more jargon, like Super Contrast, Fidelity and Corrective Filter.
You can work out which controls do what with a little trial and error but it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of adjustments and counter-adjustments that take your image further away from Radiant Photo’s AI results without making your photo look any better.
Radiant Photo takes an opposite approach to regular photo editing software. It’s like it fixes up your image how it thinks it should be done and you have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in if you want a different outcome.
I would say that about one-third of the time Radiant Photo achieves nothing that you couldn’t achieve with Auto Levels (or similar) in a regular photo editor. About a third of the time it gives you a nice-looking outcome you could probably have achieved yourself but it would have taken you longer.
The last third is the most exciting. Here Radiant Photo can transform images which have defeated all your editing attempts in the past, adding, colour, balance, detail, sparkle and – yes – radiance to even the most difficult images.
Sometimes, even with years of editing experience, you can look at an image and feel that there’s a good photo in there somewhere, but there’s no easy way in, no obvious place to start. That’s where Radiant Photo weaves its magic.
I am extremely sceptical of programs that promise instant fixes and transformations, but Radiant Photo does indeed deliver on that promise. Not every image needs it, but enough do (from my tests) to take it very seriously indeed – especially if you’re a busy pro with no time for fiddly editing, even if you have the skills.
There are a few caveats. You’ll still need Lightroom, Capture One or some other RAW processing tool for your RAW files, and Radiant Photo doesn’t do perspective corrections, layers or analog effects, so the DxO Nik Collection, PhotoLab or ON1 Photo RAW don’t have much to worry about just yet. It’s not going to replace your existing software, just augment it.
I’d prefer a bit more science and a little less fluffy jargon. I’d also prefer it to be a bit cheaper. For amateur photographers it’s expensive – but for professionals it would be considered investment that could quickly pay you back. And there’s a free trial version that can help you make that decision.