Enhancing colors with DxO OpticsPro 9
In collaboration with Christophe Gressin
In this tutorial we will show you how to apply the different settings available in DxO Optics Pro 9 so as to optimize the colors in your photos. You will learn how all of the settings work and how to fine-tune your results by adjusting each color channel.
To follow this tutorial, you will need:
- DxO Optics Pro 9, Standard or Elite edition, depending on your camera.
- Some photos, preferably in RAW format.
1- Managing colors when shooting
The settings on your camera are essential to achieving the best possible results when shooting. Here are a few tips for adjusting the camera settings, depending on the result you want.
White balance: Most of the time automatic mode is sufficient, particularly when shooting in natural light, but if you are using artificial sources (e.g., in a studio, flash, night lighting), it is important to choose a color temperature that will let you compensate for any color casts from your light source.
If you have a camera with a LiveView feature, select it and choose manual mode for setting the white balance. Then adjust the color temperature of your scene while monitoring the results directly on your screen.
Exposure also has an important impact on color. If you want bright colors, use exposure compensation to slightly underexpose your photo with respect to your camera meter (–0.5 to –1IL maximum); conversely, you can overexpose the shot for a photo that is brighter overall, but with less-contrasty colors.
Using a circular polarizing filter lets you strengthen or soften certain color ranges. Its role is to saturate the colors by darkening them. Be especially careful to readjust it when you go from portrait to landscape format!
2- Basic settings
2.1 – Choose your preset
When you click on the Presets (Microsoft® Windows®) or Apply preset (OS® X) button, DxO Optics Pro 9 displays a window containing a thumbnail of each preset.
Here we will choose the Polarized postcard preset because of its contrast and saturated rendering.
2.2 – Adjust the white balance
Use the White Balance palette to correct color casts.
Choose the Color Picker tool .
Then click on a part of the image containing a neutral gray, which will serve as a reference color; the image below will display the result. Here we have chosen a clear area in the clouds.
You can also manually set the white balance by using the Temperature and Tint sliders, or by choosing a predefined setting in the Setting drop-down to apply a creative color rendering — for example, the Cloudy setting warms up our image.
We will save this setting to use later.
2.3 – Adjust the contrast
Setting the Contrast slider in the eponymous palette lets you fine-tune the rendering: by boosting the contrast, you reinforce the intensity of the colors, while you soften the colors by reducing the contrast.
For this image, we have decided to set the Contrast to –15 and the Microcontrast to 40.
The power of the Microcontrast slider has been doubled with respect to previous versions. So a setting of 40, for example, in DxO Optics Pro 9 corresponds to a setting of 80 in previous versions.
2.4 – Correct the colors
The Color accentuation palette lets you adjust color intensity. Vibrancy boosts all of the colors while accentuating blues and preserving skin tones, whereas Saturation acts upon the entire image.
To uniformly correct a photo, opt for saturation; if your photo contains sky or sea, or if it is a portrait, then we advise you to use vibrancy.
Let’s use the following photo to illustrate the effects of these different controls.
Increasing the vibrancy accentuates the blue sky more than the yellow and green fields.
Increasing the saturation changes all of the colors.
It is certainly possible to combine the two corrections ; however, we advise you to start first with vibrancy because combining the two can lead to “too flashy” results.
In our example photo, Vibrancy was set at 80 via the Polarized postcard preset, which boosted the dominant cool tones in the photo. Set the saturation to +40 to bring out the warm tones in the clouds.
To go further in your composition, you can use the crop tool to transform your image into a panoramic photo.
3- Advanced settings
3.1 – Apply the basic settings
When you open your photo, the DxO Standard preset is automatically applied. We will substitute the Polarized postcard preset for it via the Presets (Microsoft Windows) or Apply preset (OS X) button.
3.2 – Fine-tune each color parameter
You can use the Hue / Saturation / Lightness (HSL) palette to work on each color channel so as to fine-tune the colors in your photo.
Although this tool lets you correct each parameter for the overall color of the image, its real power is giving you the ability to apply different settings for any of the six color channels separately.
Each parameter acts in the following manner:
- The Hue slider changes the color of the selected channel.
- The Saturation slider acts in the same way as the global slider, but only for the selected channel and hue previously set.
- Finally, the Luminance slider adjusts the brightness of the hue of the selected channel.
It is quite rare for a photo to contain areas with just one single pure color, so for best results, it is better to combine the settings for several different channels.
In our example, we will work specifically on the green of the trees in the foreground and on the color of the castle.
The Greens channel will help us achieve a good rendering for the trees; select it and then set the Saturation slider to 50 and the Luminance slider to –20.
For the castle, let’s start by setting the color that seems dominant — yellow. We will give more warmth to this tone and then we will strengthen it so as to restore the effect of the rising sun. To do this, select the Yellows channel and set the Hue slider to –20°and the Luminance slider to +10.
To give our photo a last adjustment, we will set the Saturation slider for the Reds channel to +15 to enhance the image as a whole.
At dawn and at sunset, trees take on some yellow and red, so these color channels can have a significant impact on how the trees are rendered.
3.3 – Finalize your image
To further refine your results, you can add a final touch to your photo by applying Microcontrast (in our example, we have set the microcontrast slider to +50).
This image also lends itself to being cropped in a panoramic format.
Photos credits : Christophe Gressin, Arnaud Pincemin