• Price When Reviewed: $199 (£125)

  • Pros: Well-conceived interface; over 100 presets; great output.

  • Cons: Standalone version redundant

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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We love Photoshop, but lately, it feels like Adobe does more bolting on of features, than improving what’s already there. That’s why Magic Bullet PhotoLooks is such a breath of fresh air. It improves on core Photoshop image functions with an interface approach that’s entirely modern.

With PhotoLooks, you get two packages in one, a standalone program and a Photoshop plug-in. Developer Red Giant claims the standalone version is faster, but we didn’t see much difference between the two and having the tools within Photoshop is a distinct advantage.

For fast image manipulation, the program offers over 100 presets – called Looks – that change the light and colour values of images. You can use these presets as they are or dig deeper into the program’s powerful controls, tweaking and amending the defaults to conjour up your own results. There are also 36 modular image-filtering tools that you can stack together to create effects. They range from lens emulation filters to lighting tools. The results are far more subtle than other filter collections.

Each module has its own set of intuitive, graph and slider-based editors, with live previews enabling you to see effects in real time. It take some time to investigate and discover all the tools PhotoLooks offers but switch on Help for a full explanation of what each tool does, significantly smoothing the way.

Anyone who works with photos will love the control PhotoLooks gives them. This is every inch a professional post-processing tool, rather than a simple bag of tricks.