DxO FilmPack

Add strength to a masculine portrait with DxO FilmPack 5

In collaboration with Christophe Gressin

In this tutorial, we will show you how to use DxO FilmPack 5’s tools to give your portraits contrast and intensity.

To follow this tutorial, you will need:

  • DxO FilmPack 5 Elite Edition
  • Some photos in RAW, JPEG, or TIFF format

1- Portrait photos

Portrait photos necessitate good management of the light: whether in a studio or outside, adding artificial light is often helpful for taking successful images.

Outside, you can use simple accessories such as a reflector; and just as in a studio, you can also install flash lighting to manage the way you light your subject.

We recommend that you adjust the white balance manually with the help of a gray chart, and to focus by eye by choosing a fairly large aperture so as to limit the depth of field and to bring out your subject from the surrounding décor. Be sure that the depth of field is sufficient so that the entire face is sharp.

DxO FilmPack 5’s creative tools will help you give relief to the portrait photos you consider to be most successful, whether taken in RAW or in JPEG format.

2- Developing a portrait photo

Step 1: Choose a preset as your basis

As soon as you open DxO FilmPack 5, you have access to a control panel located on the right that will allow you to begin manually processing your image straightaway.

Note, however, that the real power of the software lies in the application of film and creative presets that will serve as a basis for further development.

Interface DxO FilmPack 5 à l’ouverture d’un fichier

As for the choice of which preset to apply, you can search for presets in several different ways:

  • In your list of favorites
  • By selecting a filter: color, black & white, classic film, designer presets, [your] presets
  • By sorting: by favorites first, by alphabetical order, by type
  • By searching by name for the preset in the search bar. The results are displayed dynamically as you type.
  • Or by directly creating a new preset by clicking the associated button, which opens a control panel that will let you save your preset after you have adjusted the various settings.


If you want to modify your search criteria, all you need to do is click on name of the previously-selected search category title (displayed in red when clicked).

Here, let’s filter our presets by selecting Black & White, for example.


You can start your search with an initial filter criterion, and then switch to using a search by name among the films that corresponded to your initial selection results.

For purposes of this tutorial (focused as it is on accentuating texture and relief in a portrait), we will look for a preset that is typical of the look we want to achieve. The Adox Silvermax™ 21 preset, new in DxO FilmPack 5 (Elite Edition), is appropriate here: this film is known for its profound blacks, its wide range of grays, and its very fine grain.

Step 2: Customize the preset

After you have applied a suitable preset to your portrait, you can then apply other settings by clicking on the icon  at the top of the window that represents the sliders. These offer you many possibilities: adjusting the intensity of the applied preset, its grain, or even changing the grain to that of a different preset.

For our example, we are going to make use of the toning option that is new with version 5 of DxO FilmPack, and which allows us to change the color toning by setting the light tones and the dark tones separately.


With a conventional analog black & white photo, the image is formed of silver halide crysals: the greater the number or size of the crystals, the darker the image. Toning is an old procedure that consists of replacing the silver halide crystals with various metallic salts or colorings without silver. The goal is almost purely aesthetic — more subtle midtones, denser shadows — but also practical, in that the prints are preserved longer.

For the light tones, open the drop-down menu and select the toning you want. We will choose Sepia terra here.

Do the same thing for the dark tones. We will select Sepia toning here.

After selecting the values, the tool’s options will appear: the Intensity slider for setting the toning for each tone, and the Separation slider, which will let you define how you apply each toning to your photo by determining the level of separation between the light tones and the dark tones.

By moving the slider towards the left (negative values), you intensify the light tones; by moving the slider to the right (positive values), you accentuate the dark tones.

The Apply to buttons let you apply the toning to certain Texture, Light leak, and Frame effects, either for any one of them alone, or by combining them. 


To get a good handle on the separation between the light and dark tones, use the histogram, which is accessible by clicking the  on the top right side of the window.

The light tones are those on the right half, and the dark tones are on the left half; when you move the Separation slider, you virtually move this separation in the histogram. Thus by moving the slider to the left, you augment the dark tones and amplify the relevant areas of the image by setting the corresponding toning.

Here is an illustration of two different separation values based on the toning colors previously selected.

Separation : -70

Separation : +70

For purposes of this tutorial, we will set the Separation to –70.

Step 3: Set the contrast

In the Development section, the Light & Color tool contains a slider that lets you adjust the exposure of your photo. As this is already satisfactory in our example, we will instead look at the Contrast tool.

DxO FilmPack 5 brings you a number of possibilities when it comes to setting contrast, with six sliders that let you act globally or within specific areas in your image:

  • Contrast: Acts on the overall contrast in the image.
  • Micro-contrast: Acts on the details in the photo, either to soften or to accentuate fine transitions.
  • Fine contrast: Has a softer effect than Micro-contrast by bringing out the medium-sized details.
  • Highlights / Midtones / Shadows: Lets you set the micro-contrast by tonal area.

Depending on the type of photo and what you want to achieve, you can use all or just some of these tools to adjust the contrast in your image.

In our example, the traits of our model are very marked. Let’s start by reducing the micro-contrast: set the corresponding slider to –50.

As this has a smoothing effect on the grain of the skin, set the Fine contrast slider on +40 in order to give greater relief to the portrait by accentuating the texture of the skin.

To finish the portrait, we will act specifically on the lightest areas by intensifying them: set the Highlights slider to +60. Finally, we will set the Shadows slider to –30 to intensify the gap between the light areas and shadows in the image.

The rendering after modifying the Contrast sliders.

The rendering of the different development steps.

3- Adding creative effects

DxO FilmPack 5 provides you with creative tools that are particularly suitable for portraits; in this tutorial, we will present in some detail the settings for Blur > Vignetting as well as for the exclusive Soft focus tool, both of which are found together in the Blurpalette in the Lens effects section.

Blur vignetting

As soon as you move the Intensity slider away from its default setting of 0, the rest of the tools, invisible otherwise, are displayed.

Here are the tools and their functions:

  • Intensity: Lets you set the intensity of the vignetting blur.
  • Radius: Lets you set the size of the vignetting radius.
  • Transition: Lets you set the size of the transition area between sharp and blurry (acts principally on the sharp part).
  • Roundness: Lets you adjust the shape of the vignetting.
  • Diffusion: Complementing the transition slider, lets you adjust the diffusion of the blur effect in the blurry area.
  • Set center: Lets you precisely position the center of the vignetting effect in your image.

Unless you are trying for a particular effect, it is generally advisable to use this tool only with a slight vignetting effect and as gentle a transition as possible; this said, so as to be able to finely adjust certain options of this effect, it is easier to start out by setting the vignetting to be easily visible.

So this first time around, let’s set both the Intensity and the Transition to 100; the effects are thus plainly visible and will allow you to adjust the other options before coming back and resetting these two values to something more reasonable.

Position the center of the vignetting: select the corresponding option and place the center marker to the desired spot.

Validate by clicking on Apply.

Set the Radius slider to 60.


When fine-tuning adjustments with a slider, click on it and then move it step by step by using the left and right arrows on your keyboard.

Having now positioned the vignetting effect, you can now set the Intensity and Transition sliders to 50 and 70, respectively.

Soft focus

The Soft focus tool is an alternative to creative blur vignetting, and allows you to go further along the creative path by letting you generate a more or less blurry effect across the entire image. Pushed to its extreme, it will make everything blurry; used judiciously, you can adjust the sharpness as though you were managing the depth of field after shooting. This capacity can be adapted to processing certain kinds of portraits, as is the case in our example, in which the facial features stand out from a very dark background.

As with blur vignetting, you should start by setting the Intensity slider to help you set the second slider, Diffusion, which will let you adjust the way the blur will be applied to your image.

The Intensity slider controls the amount of blur that you will add to your image; the Diffusion slider adjust the way in which it is applied: the greater the value, the more the blur will be diffuse, and the more the sharp zones will stand out.

As we did previously, start by setting the Intensity slider to a high value so as to be able to easily see the blur; here we will set the slider to 80.

Now let’s place the Diffusion slider on a value that is in keeping with the rendering we want to achieve in terms of how we want the blur to be distributed across the image. We will choose here the value 60.

Let’s return to the Intensity slider to limit the blur so as to achieve the desired result; in our example, we will set the slider on 40.

Photo credit: Benoît Courti