Magic Bullet Photolooks 2

Advanced Color Grading for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture

There are many plug-ins for Photoshop that change an image's looks, but few are as feature-complete as Red Giant's Magic Bullet PhotoLooks 2. This mighty plug-in is a direct port of the company's video color grading plug-in, but contrary to most ports, this one actually makes sense.

PhotoLooks 2 has a huge number of presets but derives its real value from its effects controls. Categorized in Subject, Matte, Lens, Camera, and Post groups, effects allow users to change the mood of an image completely. The Matte, Camera, and Lens groups hold digital equivalents of the real thing, including Gradient and Sky filters, Spot Exposure, a Shift/Tilt lens, Chromatic Aberration correction, and many more.

Additionally, PhotoLooks 2 comes with filters based on Colorista II, Mojo, and Cosmo. With PhotoLooks 2, photographers can color-correct an image with Colorista II color wheels, which allow for more accurate changes than the color-correction tools in Photoshop. You can create a mood by adding Mojo. The Cosmo filter can work wonders on portraits, improving complexion in natural ways. PhotoLooks 2 allows for dramatic image alterations as well. Some filters have a customizable area control to pinpoint an effect.

I found PhotoLooks 2 to be less of a performer in two areas: First, the Grain filter doesn't perform as well as Alien Skin's Exposure and DxO Labs' FilmPack; and second, some of the effects require some knowledge of movie-style grading to get the most out of them.

Company:  Red Giant Software LLC
Price: $199 (Upgrade: $49)
Rating: 4.5
Hot:  Endless possibilities; high-quality filters and effects
Not:  Color wheels difficult to control except with pen/tablet