DxO PhotoLab

Reveal the details and colors of your dawn photos with DxO OpticsPro 10 and DxO FilmPack 5

by DxO Image Master Nyght Falcon

Working at dawn, especially when facing the rising sun, can be difficult. Exposing for the highlights can render the image overly dark in other areas. Exposing for the shadows renders most of the highlights blown out. I chose to strike a balance since I knew that with DxO OpticsPro 10, I could easily get detail out of the shadows.

To follow this workflow, you will need:

  • DxO OpticsPro 10 and DxO FilmPack 5 plugin
  • Some photos, preferably in RAW format

Image before / after editing

I use presets extensively, and I have found that they make it easy to recreate a specific “look and feel” across more than one image. The preset I created when I customized this image is called “NF-Damascus-Kodachrome.” I generally use a simple format to name my presets: “NF” means I created it for internal use. “Damascus” was the place where the image was created, and “Kodachrome” refers to the film emulation I used. As the name implies, that preset is based upon DxO FilmPack’s Kodachrome 200 film emulation.

This film was known for its sharp images and natural colors, especially outdoors. I selected this film because I wanted the rich colors and the detail in the grass without the heavy contrast of other films. I especially wanted as much detail in the tractor as I could possibly get.

For this photo, I was shooting into the sun as it rose: if I didn’t underexpose, most of the image would have been “blown out.” While this enabled me to capture areas that would otherwise have been lost, it also meant I would have to work hard in post-processing to get detail out of the dark shadows.

Whenever I create a new preset or work on a new image, I first think about what film emulation I will use. As I noted above, the Kodachrome 200 color positive transparency film was perfectly adapted to this specific photo.

Image before / after applying the DxO FilmPack Kodak Kodachrome 200 film emulation

I always work from general settings to more specific ones. Usually, that means I begin with the film, work on lighting and exposure, and then move to fine contrast and other tools that will bring out the details that will enhance the emotional experience.

Here, I decided to adjust the color temperature first. The sky that morning wasn’t as flat and colorless as it appeared in the raw image. In fact, there was a lot of purple, orange, and other colors that made the sunrise very dramatic. The color temperature was 5400 degrees Kelvin: I changed it to 6242 and the tint to +9, and then used DxO Smart Lighting, changing the setting from Slight to DxO OpticsPro 9. I raised the intensity to 165. This brought out the detail in the tractor and in the grass; however, it caused the sky to lose color and detail.

Lowering the exposure compensation tuning was my next step. I lowered it slowly to -.79, which created a balance between the detail I had been able to recapture and the loss of detail and color in the sky.

At this stage, I focused on the sky using two tools: Selective Tone, and DxO ClearView, lowering the DxO ClearView setting to 18, which seemed to best create the subtle changes I wanted to get.

To give the image a dramatic rendering, I used the Color Accentuation palette, pushing both Vibrancy and Saturation a bit farther than I usually do. The fact that I was using Kodachrome 200 helped: applying a more saturated film would have resulted in losing much more detail while raising the saturation further.

I then used HSL raising Saturation on all channels to +4 to add a bit more drama, especially in the sky.

I then applied the Lens Softness correction as follows: I was concerned about overly sharpening the image unintentionally, so I set Global to -47. I left the other settings at their default values.

One important step of my workflow on this image was noise reduction, using the Prime noise reduction tool, which definitely is one of DxO OpticsPro’s most impressive features.

I enabled Moire and Chromatic Aberration correction tools, leaving them at default values, before working on the overall contrast balance of the image using the Contrast palette, and setting the Style Toning on Landscape mode:

As much as I liked the image, it still wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It lacked some drama and the sky was still too blue. To correct that, I used the Tone Curve, knowing from experience that I could reinforce the drama of the scene using the red and bluechannels.

First I selected the red channel and dragged the upper area until the sky began to change to the color I remembered it, then I dragged the lower area of the curve down in order to darken the range of color. I did the same with the blue channel, and finally saved the setting as a preset, as noted at the beginning of this workflow description.

Take a closer look at Nyght Falcon’s photography work in his DxO gallery

Photos credits : Nyght Falcon