A few days ago DxO Labs released the new version of PhotoLab, the post production software of the French software house that reaches version 3. Among the multitude of post-production software on the market, maybe DxO PhotoLab has not enjoyed in the past a particular popularity, and I confess that I had not dedicated special attention to it. With the acquisition of Nik Collection and thanks to a renewed team of developers, DxO Labs has been able to improve what was still a solid base and introduce interesting new features to make PhotoLab compete in the heavy league of image post production software.
As you know I love experimenting with new solutions and thanks to the DxO Labs team that has allowed me to put my hand to PhotoLab 3 since the first beta versions, today I want to share with you the 10 reasons why I think PhotoLab 3 deserves to be tried.
1 – Customizable interface
Without a doubt, Adobe Lightroom is the most widely used image post production software at the moment, thanks to the undisputed domination of its elder brother Adobe Photoshop, with which it shares the same engine (Camera Raw) and with which it is sold. However, and despite the novelties introduced by the latest versions, Lightroom has a very rigid user interface that pushes us to follow a precise flow of post production that often and willingly is not the optimal one for us.
DxO PhotoLab 3 overcomes this limitation with a panel structure configurable at will: each tool can be rearranged according to our taste within thematic panels (Histogram, Essential Tools, Light, Color, Detail, Geometry and DxO ViewPoint) and each of these panels can be unhooked and brought of the work area for greater control and precision, as in Photoshop itself for example.
I’ve always wondered why Lightroom has never evolved on this aspect since the organization of the workspace should be the priority of every post production flow, but well that DxO Labs has not neglected this important aspect.
2 – Structure without Catalogues and keyword search
Many image post production software such as Lightroom or CaptureOne are based on the creation of Catalogues (or equivalent) in which they index the photos inside our hard drive and store within them the various changes that we make on the images.
This can be useful in certain photographic fields, but in landscape photography it can be limiting and a block when you want to think about a migration. DxO PhotoLab 3 has an open structure without a catalogue, where the changes made are saved in sidecar files that will physically reside in the same folder as the images. I find it convenient also considering my archiving methodology. In DxO PhotoLab 3 the PhotoLibrary, that is the general module of navigation among the own photos, has been completely re designed in order to allow the organization and the search of the images in a simple and intuitive way. In short: goodbye to import actions and to catalog files sized tons of Gb.
3 – Optical Modules
You know: no optical system consisting of a camera and lens is perfect, so although you take a masterful shot from a technical point of view, there will be imperfections that will not depend on you as chromatic aberrations, loss of peripheral brightness and sharpness.
Fortunately, DxO Labs has state-of-the-art optical measuring systems and has thus created incredibly accurate optical profiles that describe the behavior of the specific camera-lens combination to PhotoLab 3.
Whenever a shot is taken with a new combination of camera and lens, DxO PhotoLab 3 will allow you to download the related profile or update the present one if a new version has been released.
If you’re thinking that Lightroom also has lens profiles, know that these have an accuracy of an order of magnitude higher, and are not only intended to remove the simplest optical imperfections, but then go to feed the various tools available in post production.
4 – U-Point technology applied to RAW
You know, I’m in love with Viveza 2 in the Nik Collection since the real 1.0 edition. Thanks to the U-Point technology I can create really accurate selections and act locally in ways that I can only dream of on Lightroom. It’s been a critical part of my workflow since I’ve had memory, and I’m unlikely to do without it in the future.
There is only one problem: when I want to use this tool I have to create a TIFF copy of the image or a new layer on Ps. Surely it is something acceptable if done in the right way, but think how nice if you could use Viveza 2 directly on the RAW. DxO PhotoLab 3 responds to this request and implements Viveza 2’s U-Point technology. Actually, it goes much further, because in addition to the basic controls you found on Viveza 2 there are some additional ones related to lights, color and detail.
In addition, those already known in Viveza 2 have been completely reconfigured with proprietary algorithms of DxO Labs, allowing you to get even finer adjustments and take advantage of the optical modules we talked about earlier: if you were like me in love with Structure on Viveza 2, you’ll be amazed.
5 – Management of local adjustments with layers
I understand that Adobe must continue to push towards the use of Photoshop, but a Lightroom with local adjustments that can be managed as layers is a dream that takes years and years. Unfortunately, as for the renewal of the graphical interface, there seem to be no programmed improvements in this regard, and so the management of local adjustments is left to a visualization on the image itself with difficult access and control, and with a waste of resources so immense as to slow down the software even on the latest generation of computers.
Thanks to DxO PhotoLab 3 this problem is overcome as the local adjustments applied are organized into layers in a dedicated panel. Modifying, hiding or displaying local settings is child’s play, and even adding a good number of levels does not slow down the process.
6 – DxO ColorWheel
One of the most interesting tools introduced by DxO PhotoLab 3 is the new DxO ColorWheel. Normally we are used to make HSL adjustments on a global scale through linear cursors. Thanks to the new DxO ColorWheel we can have a new visual approach thanks to a real color wheel that allows us to visually preview and adjust inputs and outputs. Absolutely great the new Uniformity Slider helps you standardize color variations within a specific range.
In addition, thanks to the fully customizable graphical interface that allows you to unhook the tool from the right column, you can make even more precise adjustments and according to our actual needs. At the moment DxO ColorWheel is not available as a local setting, but I hope that this limit will be removed at a later update.
7 – Detail management
One of the strengths of the Nik Collection by DxO (and one of the many improvements needed in Adobe Lightroom) are the tools related to detail adjustments, intended as contrast (high, medium and low frequency) and noise reduction.
If with Nik Collection by DxO we fell in love with the Structure of Viveza 2 or Dfine 2 in noise management, in DxO PhotoLab 3 we will find these tools completely renewed and with native DxO Labs algorithms. Among them we find for example the new DxO ClearView Plus able to remove the mist effect effectively and without the creation of artifacts and the Lens Sharpness that exploits the maximum from the DxO Labs optical modules allowing a refined pre-sharpening that returns a sharpness to the image that would be difficult to recover even with more complex actions on Photoshop.
Not to forget the DxO PRIME tool for noise removal, which in fact retires the good old Dfine 2 implementing a new algorithm that can recover even the more extreme situations.
8 – DxO Smart Lighting
You know, for us landscape photographers the dynamic range is everything (or almost). Being able to effectively recover lights and shadows in our shots is a priority, and this is where DxO Smart Lightning comes in, a tool that once again exploits the optical modules (yes, if you have not yet understood I love them, and you will love them too) allowing us to gain with just a click an overall improvement in the image without altering contrast and colors.
It works globally on the image, but you can manually select the sampling area and refine the intensity of the action. Really interesting, because in fact without having yet started with our post production we are already with an optimized image.
9 – Exporting images
As I try to explain in every class, those who think that post production ends with the adjustments on the image are wrong. An image is really ready when it is properly sized and exported for the final destination.
Often when we publish our images we have different but simultaneous needs, because every destination (Instagram, Facebook, archive, printer) has a different requirement.
Thanks to DxO PhotoLab 3 we can prepare export profiles and activate them simultaneously, and this means that when I want to export my image, I can do so at the same time for all the destinations that interest me.
10 – Free trial for 30 days and no subscription
If my test isn’t enough for you, there’s nothing better than doing yours! DxO PhotoLab 3 can be downloaded free of charge and can be used for 30 days without limitations so you can try what I have illustrated in this article and much more. Moreover, unlike other post production software on the market, DxO PhotoLab 3 does not require a monthly or annual subscription: once purchased, DxO PhotoLab 3 is yours forever!
I think that DxO Labs has shown with PhotoLab 3 that it is really possible to have at an affordable price a really complete and powerful post production software that is configurable in the user interface according to our real needs. The tools available are intuitive and functional, and with the acquisition of Nik Collection and the development of new proprietary algorithms, the guys at DxO Labs have integrated at the level of editing RAW files the features of the most popular plug in the world of photography, further improving its functionality.
If it is difficult to tell in advance if DxO PhotoLab 3 will replace your current post production software, but it would surely be foolish not to take advantage of the 30 days when the software is offered for free with no limits of functionality to find out for yourself.
DxO PhotoLab 3 is available for download at THIS link.