DxO PhotoLab & Adobe Lightroom Workflow
In collaboration with Gilles Theophile
To follow this tutorial, you will need:
- DxO PhotoLab (version 1.0 or higher) : Free trial version : Download
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (version 3 or higher)
Some basic principles
DxO PhotoLab and Lightroom are both applications that use a non-destructive workflow for the demosaicing, development, and processing of RAW files. (Their corrections, saved as instructions, are completely reversible, and the originals are never modified, which is why this is called a non-destructive workflow.)
However, each of these programs is based on its own engine for demosaicing and processing RAW files, and they are not compatible. Indeed, the rendering of a RAW file in DxO PhotoLab will not be the same as in Lightroom and vice-versa; the same is true for corrections.
In concrete terms, if you change, for example, the blue sky in DxO PhotoLab, and then open the same RAW file in Lightroom, you will not see the correction. Similarly, if you apply a black & white conversion in Lightroom, and open the RAW file in DxO PhotoLab, you will not see the image in black and white, but rather in its original colors.
The DxO PhotoLab and Lightroom workflow
How can the two applications be combined to be as productive as possible? First of all, we need to define the exact role of each one:
- DxO PhotoLab: Global and local processing and correction of RAW files.
- Lightroom: Management of images and metadata (cataloguing).
We see here that the two software programs have a distinct approach and role. DxO PhotoLab focuses on image processing, and Lightroom is used for both upstream and downstream operations. This workflow is particularly suitable for photographers who manage their images with Lightroom, but who want to use the image processing qualities of DxO PhotoLab occasionally or permanently, rather than Lightroom’s Development module.
Transferring a RAW file from Lightroom to DxO PhotoLab
By itself, Lightroom does not allow you to send a RAW file to an external editor, including PhotoShop, so you used to have to create a TIFF, JPEG or PSD file first. However, installing the DxO PhotoLab plug-in allows you to bypass this limitation.
Preparing the RAW file
Lightroom allows you to import, sort and catalogue your images. You can also edit the metadata — enter keywords, IPTC fields (description of the image content), assign a star rating or a color label.
However, making corrections at this stage is not necessary, since they will not be visible when you open the file in DxO PhotoLab.
Transferring a RAW file
It is very simple to transfer a RAW file from Lightroom into DxO PhotoLab:
- In Lightroom, select one or more RAW files in the Filmstrip or in the Grid to transfer.
- Go to the File menu and select Plug-in Extras > Transfer to DxO PhotoLab.
Opening and processing a RAW file in DxO PhotoLab
When you transfer a RAW file to DxO PhotoLab, you will not see any Lightroom corrections, but only the basic corrections applied by the default DxO Standard self-adjustment and the DxO optical module associated with the camera-lens combination you used to shoot the image.
Opening the RAW file in DxO PhotoLab
This is what happens when the RAW file from Lightroom opens in DxO PhotoLab:
- DxO PhotoLab displays the image in the Customize tab (if you transferred multiple images, the first one is displayed in the viewer, and the others are accessible in the Image Browser).
- The Export to Lightroom button is automatically displayed at the bottom right in the Image Explorer toolbar.
- In the PhotoLibrary tab, a project named Lightroom 1 (then Lightroom 2, 3, etc.) is automatically created, containing the transferred image(s).
Processing the RAW file in DxO PhotoLab
Correct your images in DxO PhotoLab as you usually do, without restrictions, including using local settings or tools in DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint if you have installed them.
Exporting to Lightroom
After you have corrected your image in DxO PhotoLab, the next step is to send it back into Lightroom. Since your corrections to RAW files in DxO PhotoLab are neither compatible nor visible in Lightroom, you will have to exit the pure RAW stream and export your image in another format:
- TIFF: This universally-used format allows you to make additional corrections, particularly in external editors such as Photoshop or the equivalent, while maintaining maximum quality.
- JPEG: This format offers the advantage of smaller files and universality. You should choose this if you plan to use the image immediately (that is, for sharing, publishing, etc.).
- DNG: This is the linear, less universal, flow-centric DNG with Adobe solutions that is just as suitable as TIFF for further editing and correction.
- Export the selected file without processing: Returns the original file to Lightroom, without applying any modifications or corrections made in DxO PhotoLab.
Caution: the rendering of linear DNGs in DxO PhotoLab is slightly different from that of TIFF.
To export to Lightroom:
1. Select the file or files that you just processed in DxO PhotoLab.
2. Click on Export to Lightroom on the right side of the toolbar in the Image Browser.
3. In the dialogue box that appears, select the output format as well as any associated options (compression, depth, ICC profile, etc.).
4. Click on Export.
In TIFF format, for a coherent flow from the point of view of image appearance, choose the ICC profile “Original,” and for an optimal quality flow, choose 16-bit depth.
For JPEG format, if you are considering immediate use — for example, publishing on the web, or for inkjet or lab printing, choose the ICC sRGB profile.
Linear DNG format does not offer depth or ICC profile options.
Returning an image processed in DxO PhotoLab to Lightroom
Returning a file to Lightroom automatically generates a number of actions:
- When first used, Lightroom will create a Set of collections called “DxO PhotoLab” or “DxO PhotoLab 2.”
- Each subsequent time you return one or more files, Lightroom creates a collection within this Set of collections, with the date and time of the transfer as the name.
- As soon as the image returns to Lightroom, it returns to the foreground, and after a few seconds, it displays the image or images from DxO PhotoLab.
- Lightroom creates a stack with the original image (to view it, right-click on the image, and then in the context menu, choose Show Library Folder).
Note that DxO PhotoLab automatically transfers all the original metadata prepared and edited in Lightroom to the exported files. This metadata includes the star rating, the color label, the information entered in the IPTC fields (for example, Title and Legend), and all keywords.
For metadata to be transffered to the exported files, XMP attachment files must exist next to the original RAW file, as DxO PhotoLab cannot collect this data in the Lightroom catalog. You can generate these files in two ways:
- By activating the automatic writing of XMP files in Lightroom (Catalog settings > Metadata).
- By selecting the files in Lightroom, and saving the metadata there by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+S (PC) or Cmd+S (Mac).
Going further: Modifying corrections after returning to Lightroom
After exporting to Lightroom, if you need to modify or continue with RAW file corrections that you made in DxO PhotoLab, simply repeat the same transfer and correction process (steps 2 and 3), followed by exporting and returning to Lightroom (steps 4 and 5).
- Select the original image in Lightroom.
- Go to the File menu and select Plug-in Extras > Transfer to DxO PhotoLab.
- Modify the corrections in DxO PhotoLab as you wish (the corrections you made previously have of course been saved).
- Click on Export to Lightroom.
- The dialogue box asks if you want to overwrite the existing file or use a unique name. Select Overwrite to replace the earlier version, or select Use unique names to create a new version that will be stacked with the previous and original versions.
- The file opens in Lightroom showing the latest modifications you made in DxO PhotoLab.