This picture taken at Porto Cathedral in the early evening when the building was nearly empty and the sun was low in the sky. There is enough dynamic range in the RAW file to bring up the shadows and recover more depth in the sky, but it’s going to need some careful local adjustments.
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This step-by-step editing walkthrough shows a number of DxO PhotoLab tools in action, principally the Local Adjustment tools, including the Graduated Filter and Control Point tools. It finishes off with some global adjustments, which are often easier to judge after you’ve made local adjustments, not before, which use the Selective Tone panel and Microcontrast adjustments.
Finally, I’ve used the PhotoLab Repair tool to remove a tourist. They were pretty small in the frame and not doing much harm, but it is a chance to demonstrate the tool in action.
DxO PhotoLab Graduated Filter
This is the first and biggest adjustment, using a Graduated Filter to make the sky richer and more intense. It’s one of the most useful tools for outdoor shots.
1. Select the local adjustment type
To add a Local Adjustment to an image, first click the Local adjustments button on the top toolbar. Now right-click on the image to show this gadget (enlarged here to make it more visible). This is where you select the kind of adjustment you want to make. I’ll start by darkening the sky, so for this I need the Graduated Filter.
2. Drag out a Graduated Filter
To apply the filter you click on the sky and drag downwards. You don’t have to be too exact right off because can move the Graduated Filter with the top control handle and the length of the transition with the bottom handle. You might need to move it a couple of times as you experiment with the adjustments.
3. Reduce the Exposure
With the mask selected you get a set of adjustments sliders alongside, organised into three sections. The top one is for exposure and contrast adjustments, and all I need to do here is drag the Exposure slider downwards.
4. Adjust color
It would be nice to give the sky a deeper dusk color, and I can do that in the second section with a Saturation boost, and an increase to the Tint slider, which shifts the sky color towards magenta.
5. Erase mask
There is a problem when you use Graduated Filters, both real filters and digital versions like this one – they don’t just darken the sky, but any objects that reach up into the sky are darkened too, like the tower in the center of this picture. One solution is to right-click to display the adjustment tool selector again and this time pick the Erase tool. I can adjust the eraser properties (highlighted, bottom) and then brush over the areas of the Graduated Filter mask I want removed. In this case, it’s the cathedral tower (also highlighted).
DxO Control Points
DxO PhotoLab Control Points allow targeted adjustments to specific areas or objects in a photo. You can control the radius of the effect and within that, it’s only colors and tones similar to those under the control point which are adjusted.
6. Add a Control Point
The Erase tool (above) is one solution for objects darkened by a Graduated Filter, but it’s quite difficult to be precise with it, so here’s another approach – a Control Point adjustment. These automatically mask the areas they are applied to, so they are a little more precise. Making sure the Local adjustments button is still highlighted, I right-click on the image and this time choose Control Point.
7. Increase Exposure to compensate
To use a Control Point, just click roughly in the center of the area or object you want to adjust, then use the adjustment sliders. Here, I just need to increase the Exposure value to compensate for the darkening effect of the Graduated Filter over the sky. You can move Control Points around to find the best position and change the radius of the area they work over by dragging the circular boundary around them.
8. A new Control Point
That first Control Point was used just to compensate for the Graduated Filter, but now I’ll use another in the lower part of the picture to brighten the areas in shadow. What works well here is an Exposure increase to brighten the shadows, a Contrast increase to maintain the depth of tone and an increase in Microcontrast to really bring out the textures and details in the old stonework.
9. Saturation, Vibrance, Temperature
I can also boost the colors, too, with a big increase to the Saturation and Vibrancy sliders and an adjustment to the Temperature to give this area a warmer tone to match the sunlit upper half of the picture.
PhotoLab Selective Tone
The Selective Tone panel does a similar job to DxO Smart Lighting, but with more precision and control. It’s a very useful way of managing shadow and highlight recovery without affecting the rest of the image.
10. Selective Tone Highlights adjustment
That’s it for the local adjustments, but I can improve this picture a little further with some global adjustments made with the regular PhotoLab tools in the right sidebar. First, I make sure the Local adjustment tool is not active (just click the Hand tool, for example). Now I can start making global adjustments. First, I’ve used the Selective Tone panel to slightly lower the Highlights value and recover a little detail in the brightest parts of the sky.
PhotoLab’s Contrast panel offers more than just a simple Contrast slider. The Microcontrast slider gives textures and object outlines real ‘bite’. It’s not unlike Lightroom’s Clarity adjustment, but a bit finer and less prone to edge effects.
11. Microcontrast (and Color Accentuation)
Increasing Microcontrast here really brings out details and textures but without increasing the overall contrast. I’ve also give the image a Saturation increase in the Color Accentuation panel below – you can make quite large changes to Saturation and Vibrancy in PhotoLab without degrading the image.
PhotoLab Repair tool
The PhotoLab Repair tool can take out anything from sensor spots to tourists. It’s very easy to use, and while you might need a separate editor like Photoshop for more advanced repairs, this is fine for most needs.
12. Object removal with the Repair tool
When you paint over the object you want to remove, PhotoLab creates an identically-shaped source area nearby to use for the repair. You can move the source area around to get the best effect. The result might not be perfect every time, but even if it isn’t, the disguise will generally be good enough the no-one else will see what you’ve done.