After the first phase of your portrait workflow (described here), during which you applied the basic corrections of the DxO Standard preset and DxO Optics Module, adjusted the tone, color, and sharpness, and eliminated small skin flaws, you are now ready to learn how to use the tools available in DxO OpticsPro and DxO FilmPack to give a more aesthetic appearance and nuanced look to your images.
You will see how to use portrait presets to optimize your images and to lend them a particular style. This tutorial, by no means exhaustive, is meant to introduce you to some of the artistic paths you can follow by using DxO Photo Suite.
To follow this tutorial, you will need:
- DxO OpticsPro, Essential or Elite Edition
- DxO FilmPack, Elite Edition (as a plugin for DxO OpticsPro)
- An image in RAW format
If you don’t know where to start, why not try one of DxO OpticsPro’s Portrait presets? The application comes with four presets that can serve as a working basis, among which are Standard Portrait (fairly neutral and not very contrasty), and other presets such as Candy colors, Bright, and High key.
- Perform the basic corrections (see the first part of this tutorial).
- In DxO OpticsPro, click on Apply preset in the upper right corner.
- In the presets window, open the Portrait and landscape section.
- Click on a thumbnail to apply the corresponding preset.
- If you want, make further adjustments and corrections according to your own tastes.
- Save any changes you’ve made as a custom preset (you’ll find more information about this in our dedicated tutorial).
DxO OpticsPro’s Portrait presets.
The DxO Portrait preset is not really a preset per se. It is a rendering that has been optimized to reproduce the most natural skin tones in a neutral and less-contrasty way.
To apply it to your photos, first perform the basic corrections (including white balance), but do not modify any colors by manipulating (for example), the Vibrancy and Saturation sliders.
To apply the DxO Portrait preset:
- Go into the Light and Color – Advanced palette.
- In the Color rendering sub-palette, select Generic renderings in the Category menu.
- In the Rendering menu just below, select DxO Portrait.
The DxO Portrait preset softens the contrast and balances the flesh tones by giving them a more neutral and natural look.
A fairly common technique for softening portraits is to reduce the microcontrast, which has the effect of diffusing the small details, and thus mask imperfections of the skin. You can do this by using the Microcontrast and Fine contrast sliders, which you can also use to create high-contrast portraits (see part 6).
The Soft Focus tool, which is part of DxO FilmPack, has a more radical result because it will apply an aesthetic blur effect to the overall image.
The use and the effects of these two types of tools are completely different, as you will see later on in this tutorial.
The Soft Focus tool is available in the Elite Edition of DxO FilmPack and appears also in DxO OpticsPro, if the two software products have been installed.
Original portrait, enlarged to 100%, DxO Portrait preset.
The Microcontrast slider in the Contrast sub-palette lets you strengthen the small details, and if set on negative values, allows you to attenuate them, thus softening the rendering of the portrait.
Use this slider in the following cases:
- At weaker settings to create, for example “corporate portraits” intended for publication on a web page.
- At stronger settings to create ethereal portraits.
A portrait “cleaned” and softened using the Microcontrast slider set on negative values.
If you have installed the Elite Edition of DxO FilmPack, you can also use the Fine contrast slider, which acts on larger details.
A portrait “cleaned” and softened using the Fine contrast slider set on negative values.
The effect of smoothing on the above image is less pronounced, and does not produce a “wax doll” look./p>
Softening the skin with the above-mentioned tools cannot take the place of full retouching, which requires using special techniques and tools found in such applications as Adobe Photoshop.
The Soft Focus tool in the DxO FilmPack palette, Blur sub-palette, has a completely different effect: it superimposes a more or less blurry veil on the image, which hearkens back to a technique used with taking analog photos in which fog or vaseline is applied to the camera lens, or very thin fabric (such as a nylon stocking) is stretched in front of the lens.
The Intensity slider lets you adjust the level of blurring, while the Diffusion slider will reduce or increase the effect of diffusion on the small details.
Portrait before and after softening with the Soft Focus tool.
These two tools let you add an effect to the perimeter of the image in order to bring out your subject. They come with the DxO FilmPack Elite Edition, and you can also find them in the DxO FilmPack palette in DxO OpticsPro.
Creative vignetting lets you lighten or darken the edges of the image. You can also decenter the effect. This said, the vignetting effect is reminiscent of lens defects, and so consequently shifting the center is better suited to blur vignetting (discussed further below).
The sliders are:
- Intensity: To the left, darkens the vignetting effect; to the right, lightens it.
- Midpoint: Lets you set the size of the effect between the center and edges.
- Transition: Lets you strengthen or soften the transition between the vignetting effect and the rest of the image.
- Roundness: Adjusts the shape of the effect (rectangular toward the left, round toward the right).
The Set center button places a dot on the image that you can move around in order to decenter the vignetting effect (not used in the example below).
Effect of light vignetting applied with different settings for each slider.
Blur vignetting, as its name indicates, lets you apply a blurry effect to the perimeter of the image. This is useful for focusing the viewer’s attention on the eyes or other part of the subject.
The sliders function in the same way as those for Creative vignetting, but here you can make judicious use of the Set center tool to decenter the vignetting effect as appropriate for the image content. As for the Diffusion slider, it lets you accentuate the effects of the blur by acting on the distribution of image details.
Blur vignetting effect. The Set center dot, visible in the middle of the left-hand photo, can be moved around in the image to decenter the effect.
DxO OpticsPro and DxO FilmPack offer you a large number of tools for converting your color photos to black & white, which are described in detail in several tutorials in the DxO Academy.
Of course, you can start with the Black and white presets, which produce excellent results and provide a good base from which to work further. If you want to go further, you will find monochromatic presets in the Color palette, either:
- in Color Rendering > Category > Black and White Film
- or in Style – Toning (Simple toning > Style > B&W).
If DxO FilmPack is installed as a plugin for DxO OpticsPro, you will be utterly spoiled for choices among the presets that simulate a large number of black & white analog films, as well as the Channel mixer that allows you to customize your black & white rendering.
The black & white Masculine portrait.
Two totally different renderings achieved in just one mouse-click: the application of the Kodak T-Max 400 preset to the left, and Ilford HP5 Plus 400 to the right.
High-contrast portraits are all the rage right now, and this style is particularly suited to masculine faces or faces marked by the passage of time. Such portraits are both highly desaturated (that is, the colors of the skin and hair are almost entirely eliminated) and constrasted (facial details are amplified).
High-contrast portraits, which lend a great deal of character to faces, are much in vogue in the media.
To achieve the above effect, follow these steps:
- Perform the basic corrections (white balance, tone, etc.) as needed.
- In the Essential tools > Color accentuation palette, strongly reduce the setting of the Vibrancy slider (from above –50 to –80).
- Change to the Contrast sub-palette and strongly increase the setting of the Microcontrast slider, or if it is available, the Fine contrast slider.
- If necessary, adjust the luminosity with the Midtones slider in the Selective tone sub-palette.
This two-part tutorial has given you a look at the myriad possibilities that DxO OpticsPro and DxO FilmPack can offer you, whether you use them separately or together.
Don’t hesitate to experiment so as to find your own style. Dare to push the settings, but also learn to modulate the corrections according to the subject you’re photographing.
Finally, here are a few more practical tips:
- Work with RAW files to take advantage of greater latitude with corrections.
- Use as many virtual copies as you want to create multiple versions of your portraits.
- Despite the great freedom the correction tools will provide, learn to respect and let the personality of your subjects come through.
- Don’t hesitate to display and share your work to find new subjects.
Photo credit: Julien Cinquin, Sophie Cornillet-Jeannin