What is DxO PhotoLab 4?
PhotoLab 4 is the latest version of DxO’s outstanding image editing and optical correction software. It introduces a new dynamic workspace and improved demosaicing and noise reduction technology called DxO DeepPRIME that takes advantage of artificial intelligence and deep learning. There is also a batch renaming feature, an editing history utility and a new Instant Watermarking feature.
DxO’s in-depth knowledge of optical errors and how to correct them is at the heart of PhotoLab. These corrections are available for different camera and lens combinations. Therefore, when you use PhotoLab for the first time, you will be asked to download the necessary correction modules.
Like the previous versions of DxO PhotoLab, PhotoLab 4 allows local customization using U Point technology. This was introduced as a result when DxO purchased the Nik Collection from Google.
DxO PhotLab 4 is available in two versions, Essential and Elite. The Essential version has the optical corrections and a few additional controls, but DxO PhotLab 4 Elite, reviewed here, has the full range of tools, including noise reduction technology.
DxO PhotoLab 4 PhotoLibrary
One of the nice features of PhotoLab 4 is that it works around your archive structure. Unlike Adobe Lightroom, there is no need to import images. In addition, the software automatically checks the EXIF data when you preview a folder of images to find out which cameras and lenses were used. If the necessary correction modules are not already installed, you will be prompted to download them.
The PhotoLibrary section is where you browse images. You can filter the images in a folder with aspects such as star ratings, file types and tags. Moving the cursor over an image reveals the most important data.
Double-click on an image to open it in the Adjust section. This is where you can make all the edits and it’s where the real power behind PhotoLab and DxO optical reviews comes into play.
DxO has added Batch Renaming to the PhotoLab feature set. This is very easy to use in PhotoLibrary. You simply select the images whose names you want to rename, then select Image> Rename Selected Images from the menu.
Then you have the option to choose between “Replace Text,” “Add Text,” and “Rename and Add Counter” in the box that appears. After that decision is made, type the name you want to use and when given the option, select where you want it to appear (before or after the current name) in the file name.
DxO PhotoLab 4 Customize
As I mentioned, you can double-click on an image to open it in the Customize section of DxO PhotoLab. Alternatively, with the image selected in the PhotoLibrary, just click on the Customize tab.
All controls are arranged in a column on the right side of the Adjust screen, while the main settings and editing history are displayed in the column on the left. The image preview is located in the center of the screen.
DxO has divided the adjustment parameters into sections, each with its own icon. Clicking on the icon will take you through the sections named Lights, Color, Details, Geometry, Local Adjustments, and Ads.
There are arrows next to the main customization parameters in each section in the column. You can click on these arrows to expand and contract the controls to see more or less of what you need.
When you expand a control, its sliders become visible. These operate between -100 and +100, with zero being the default setting. The value can be adjusted by moving the slider, tapping the up or down arrow, or entering a number. It is very intuitive.
A blue highlight indicates which adjustments have been applied. You can disable an adjustment by clicking on the blue marker.
PhotoLab 4 introduces a star next to each adjustment parameter in the control panel on the right side of the screen. When you click on a star, it turns blue and is marked as a favorite. Then, when you open a new image for editing, you can click the star icon above the control panel icons to reveal your favorite adjustment parameters.
Next to the star at the top of the Control Panel is a small switch icon. Click on it to make it blue and all applied adjustments will be shown.
Based on the installed camera and lens module, the software automatically applies some adjustments including DxO Smart Exposure, Vignetting, White Balance, and Color Rendering, but you can adjust the intensity of the impact or, as mentioned earlier, turn it off with a click on the blue mark. If the highlight is gray, the adjustment is not applied.
Noise Reduction – DxO DeepPRIME
PRIME is one of DxO’s noise reduction algorithms. It has been around for a few years and while it has always been effective, when it first arrived it was very slow. Over the years, DxO has increased the speed at which the image is processed and for PhotoLab 4, the company introduced DxO DeepPRIME.
DxO DeepPRIME works incredibly well, transforming images taken with high sensitivity (ISO) settings. It is also very easy to use, but the preview does not adjust on the full screen image, you can only see it in a small window in the control panel, as shown below.
DxO DeepPRIME is located on the Details tab in the controls. It is next to the alternative noise reduction methods, HQ and PRIME. It’s just a matter of clicking on DeepPrime to select it.
Just to the right of the DeepPrime button is a small circle with a cross on it. When you click on this, you can then click on the main image preview to select the area you want to preview with the noise reduction applied.
With the compression of images required to create a fast-loading web page, it is difficult to show the impact of deepPRIME here, but the images below give a taste – click on them for a larger view.
I also made some more images with the examples mentioned above in all three situation, but with the small preview window at 100%.
A bit of an elaborate presentation perhaps of noise reduction but it is also a great addition to Photolab. Other AI solutions just for noise reduction cost the same as the whole DXO Photolab and there it is just there by default!
One of the most important operations to make in an image is to remove dust spots. Version 3.0 of DXO PhotoLab introduced an improved repair tool that can be switched between a clone and a repair tool.
It is also possible to adjust the size, dozing and coverage of the tool. These changes can be made before or after the repair is made, and if necessary, you can move the sample area used to make the repair.
You can also do further repairs within the cloned area. This is difficult with some other editing packages.
As in previous versions of PhotLab, at the top of the screen, above the preview, to the right of the row of tools, there is the option “Local Adjustments. Once this is selected, you can open a series of tools by right-clicking on the image (control-clicking).
The default tool is a brush, but there are also options for graduated filter, control point and automatic mask. These are supported by an eraser to adjust or enhance the mask you apply, while the New Mask option allows you to apply another adjustment with the same tool.
With the brush selected, simply paint over the image to which you want to apply an adjustment. It detects edges of, for example, transitions of sky and landscape.
An on-screen box gives you control over the selection tool. You can adjust the size of the brush, the degree of feathering, the flow, and the coverage. PhotoLab displays the mask (below in blue) so you can see which areas are being adjusted. If you hold down Alt, the brush turns into an eraser to remove the mask.
The collection of sliders becomes visible once the mask is applied. These have three levels. The top level has 8 sliders for brightness and contrast. Below that are the color sliders that allow you to adjust vividness, saturation, temperature, hue and color.
The detail controls are at the bottom of the three choices. These allow you to adjust the level of sharpening and blurring.
It is easy to paint in the mask and make adjustments.
Conveniently, you can duplicate a mask in the Control Panel and then invert it, which means you can treat two parts of an image differently, but you only need to paint in one mask.
PhotoLab 3 introduced a new color wheel in the HSL panel (hue, saturation and luminance). The colored discs above the wheel are the starting point for your adjustment.
You can then move the points around the outside of the ring to specify the colors you want to match, while the inner ring determines the range of feathering. This is intended to avoid harsh transitions.
After the selection is made, you can adjust the saturation, luminance and uniformity. It is a very quick and easy way to adjust specific colors in an image.
In this example, I have accentuated the red in the sail by turning up the saturation. This is then applied to the red only.
DxO PhotoLab 4 introduces a quick and easy-to-use watermarking feature in the Creative section. This allows you to add text and/or an image to your images.
The Text Watermark buttons allow you to write the words you want to use, set the font and size, adjust the scale and location (1 of 9 points across the image). You can also change the blending mode and the coverage of the text. There are similar controls for the image, which can be uploaded from PhotoLab as a Jpeg or PNG file.
Handy: when you’re done creating your watermark, you can save it as a preset that you can apply to other images. You can even create a selection of preset watermarks for use in different situations.
When you create a collection of images under the same conditions, chances are you’ll want to apply the same edits to them. Fortunately, batch editing is now possible in PhotoLab 4.
This is another simple process. Simply select the image you want to use as a donor for editing, then select Copy Image> Correction Settings from the menu bar. Then select the images to which you want to apply the edits and select one of the paste options from Image in the menu.
Wheb you choose “Paste selected correction settings,” you can choose the edits you want to apply in the panel that appears.
Export to disk
When you’re done making all the edits to your images, the final step is to output them in the format you want by clicking “Export to disk” in the lower right corner of the Customize screen.
DxO PhotoLab lets you specify different file formats (Jpeg, Tiff and DNG), sizes, resolutions and resizing modes in the export phase. Conveniently, you can select multiple output types at once, which means that if you want to create a high-quality file for printing, a smaller image for your website, and something small for social media, you can do it all at once.
At this stage you also decide which of your watermarks you want to apply to your images.
Everything in a film
To conclude the introduction, I would like to show you a short film.
PhotoLab 4 is a clean, uncluttered software package for image editing and optical correction. DxO’s expertise really comes to the fore with noise reduction, haze removal and sharpness enhancement. There is a lot of control and edits are applied quickly.
DxO DeepPRIME is especially good, and for anyone who regularly shoots in low light, it makes a compelling case for PhotoLab 4.
The local adjustment option is also very convenient and, like the user-friendly HSL color wheel, can produce excellent results.
I think PhotoLab is fairly intuitive to use. It also has just about all the controls you need to customize images. The tool for creating watermarks is very simple and applying the results to your images couldn’t be simpler.
By adding DxO FilmPack or ViewPoint, you get even more tools and they are all based on optical ratings. It’s a great tool for photographers who want to optimize the results of their camera and lenses. DxO PhotoLab also ties in well with DxO’s Nik Collection which offers a wide range of creative tools.