DxO PhotoLab

Processing street photos with DxO OpticsPro 10

In collaboration with Christophe Gressin

In this tutorial, we will explain to you how you can best process your black & white and color street photos. You will learn about correcting exposure and adjusting contrast to obtain the rendering you want, and you will learn how to adjust the colors to achieve even more stunning photos.

To follow this tutorial, you will need:

  • DxO OpticsPro 10, Essential or Elite edition
  • Some photos, preferably in RAW format

1- Street photos

Taking street photos is a discipline that requires being discreet, attentive, and ready to shoot at any moment. Perfect shots are often fleeting and rarely repeat themselves.

Generally speaking, there are two main kinds of street photos: photos that capture the ambiance or atmosphere, and photos of people. The first kind often require using a lens with a short focal length (50 mm or less); the second kind is best taken with a small telephoto lens, although they can also be taken with a wide-angle lens as well.

One condition for being able to shoot quickly is to employ predetermined settings. So we will work here in M (manual) mode, with settings that take into account lighting conditions and that help ensure good results “the first time,” in particular with respect to focus and depth of field. The simplest way to start off is by using a 35 mm or 50 mm lens, a not too large aperture, and a focal point that corresponds to the distance from the subject (ideally hyperfocal to achieve a maximum depth of field).

It can sometimes be more complicated to take photos of people when it’s not possible to focus in advance and when you want to end up with a shallower depth of field. You will need to practice adjusting and shooting quickly to capture the scenes you want.

As for your approach, you can choose to be discreet, especially if you want to capture the natural ambiance; in that case, short fixed-length lenses (35 mm or 50 mm) will be your best allies. But don’t hesitate to make contact with people: you will enjoy some amazing encounters and you will be able to more easily photograph people whom you have already met. And you may even be able to get authorization to distribute or broadcast your photos simply by offering your subjects a copy of the image you’ve taken of them.

2- Processing color street photos

Step 1: Apply the basic corrections

When you open your photo in DxO OpticsPro, the correction settings of the DxO Standard default preset are automatically applied, particularly those associated with the DxO Optics Module that corresponds to the camera / lens combination that you used to shoot.

Step 2: Crop the photo

Sometimes the framing of your shot doesn’t match what you intended because you had to take the shot quickly so as not to miss the moment.

To fix this, activate the Crop tool by clicking on the  button in the toolbar. Under the window, you can choose the cropping parameters, in particular the format, in the Aspect ratio drop-down menu.

Crop your image according to the results you want to obtain.

Here we are going to eliminate the doorway on the right as well as its edge: after activating the Crop tool, click on the handle in the middle of the right-hand edge and move the edge toward the left while holding down the mouse button. Then move the frame higher so as not to cut out the windows.

Validate by clicking the Close button under the photo.

Step 3: Adjust the exposure and contrast

You can adjust the contrast by using two tools that work together: Exposure compensation, which has an impact on the overall image, and DxO Smart Lighting, which analyzes the image so as to correct the highlights and lowlights.

In this image, we will notice when looking at the histogram that the parts of the photo inside the windows are too dark (which is confirmed when bringing out these areas by using the corresponding  button).

In this case, it is useless to try to recover more information: it won’t help the photo in any way and risks harming the overall contrast of the photo.

Thus we will not try to change the overall exposure of the image, but instead we will use the Selective tone tool to adjust the white point and to take advantage of the available space on the right side of the histogram.

So set the Highlights slider to +85.

The Contrast palette contains two tools: the Contrast slider, which acts globally, and the Microcontrast slider, which brings out the details in the image by reinforcing the transitions between color pixels and different tones.

Here, give a boost to the image by setting the Contrast slider to 40 and the Microcontrast slider to 30.

Note

We have not used the Fine contrast slider in this tutorial because this tool is available only if you have installed the DxO FilmPack 5 plugin. This slider lets you bring out the medium details in the image while limiting the potentially negative effects on faces.

Step 4: Adjust the colors

Two tool palettes let you correct the colors in your photos when necessary.

The Color accentuation palette contains the Saturation and Vibrancy tools, which affect the overall image; the Vibrancy slider acts progressively by favoring first of all the most cool colors.

In our example in which the colors are varied and mostly warm, the Vibrancy slider will mostly have an impact only on the blue tarp, so simply set the Saturation slider to +40.

The second tool, HSL (Hue – Saturation – Luminance) lets you make finer adjustments by acting on each color channel separately.

In our example, we want to give a bit of life to the entirety of the image, so we will select the Yellows channel. The hue doesn’t need to be changed, so simply set the Saturation slider to +4.

To finish off our photo, we will diminish the blue of the tarp to make it less susceptible to attracting our attention. To do so, select the Blues channel and set the Saturation to –80 and the Luminance to +85.

Attention, all the areas in the photo containing the same colors will be modified in the same way, so be careful when you make your adjustments.

This said, no color is ever pure: sometimes you have to combine several color channels to modify particular areas.

Tip

When you combine the settings of several color channels, you can reset all of them at the same time by clicking on the  button next to the choose color channel drop-down menu.

3- Converting color street photos to black & white

Step 1: Convert your color photo to black & white

When you open your original image in DxO OpticsPro, the DxO Standard preset is applied by default, so long as you haven’t chosen a different default preset in the Preferences section of the software.

We want to convert our example photo to black & white, so we will do so by choosing a specific preset.

To do so, click on the Presets button  (in the upper right-hand part of the screen) and go into category 2 – Black & White; the thumbnails will give you a preview of the effects of each black & white preset on your image.

We will choose here the most dense rendering by selecting 2 – B&W – Dense.

Step 2: Reframe your image

Here again, you will need to crop your photo. We will eliminate the fence on the left side as well as the edge of the door that one can barely see on the right. To do so, activate the Crop tool as previously described and then click im the upper left corner of the image and reduce the dimensions by pulling the handle towards to middle until you have achieved the desired framing. Do the same from the bottom right corner, and then if necessary, adjust the crop slightly until your image is framed the way you want (here, for example, we will give a bit more space above the “Office de Tourisme” sign).

Validate by clicking on the Close button under the photo.

Step 3: Adjust the tone

Converting color photos to black & white can necessitate adjusting the tones, depending on the dynamics of the initial image. To adjust the tones, use the Selective tone tool that lets you fine-tune the brightness by tonal range.

Each of these areas of tone corresponds to an area in the Histogram, and you strengthen the effect as you move the Selective tone sliders from the left to the right:

  • Highlights allows you to adjust the tons in highlights, especially helpful when you need to get information in the « burnt » areas and to set the « whitehead »
  • The Midtones slider acts on the lighter areas
  • The Shadows slider affects the darker hues
  • The Blacks slider lets you set the “black point” and adjusts the tones of the darkest areas, especially those that are underexposed

Use the histogram to identify which areas should be corrected and how much leeway you have for making corrections. It will show you the division of the tonal ranges and will help you to make sensible adjustments to them.

Let’s start by setting the white point, since there is some space between the curve of the histogram and the possible extreme values. To do so, set the Highlights to +30.

While the black point is set properly, we can nevertheless reinforce the contrast by setting the Blacks to –5, after which we can add a bit of overall brightness by setting the Midtones slider to +15.

Step 4: Adjust the contrast and the texture

The Contrast palette lets you adjust the overall contrast in the image by using the Contrast slider, and also lets you manage the details and texture by using the Microcontrast slider.

In our example, the contrast is optimal, having been set to +50 by the initial preset. This said, the Microcontrast can be strengthened in order to give more substance to the stones in the building. The distance of the people in the photo means there’s no fear of their rendering deteriorating, as would be the case if this were a portrait, and in fact the black & white accentuates their presence.

So set the Microcontrast slider to 60.

Photo credits: Christophe Gressin, Hector Martinez