There is a new version of PhotoLab available, most of this content applies equally well to version 6. Read my review of PhotoLab 6 here.
Today I’m going to discuss the Local Adjustments in PhotoLab 4, but first a disclaimer – some of the links at the end of this article give you a link to a free trial or purchase page. I get a small reward, you get some great software! Seriously though, DxO is a company I’m very happy to promote.
To the job in hand! Local Adjustments in PhotoLab 4 give us a way of intuitively altering the pixels in a picture at a local level instead of throughout the image.
DxO has used the Nik U-Point technology to implement local adjustments, they work in exactly the same way, by creating a layer and a mask but there are more choices or types of adjustment.
To switch on the local adjustments, either go to the Local Adjustments icon top right in the picture, or the central icons at the top of the interface.
Once turned on, move your cursor into the image and right-click to reveal the Local Adjustments Palette.
Local Adjustments in PhotoLab 4
Starting from the top (blue highlight) we’ll go around the circle describing each tool in turn.
Control Points are an innovation that first appeared in the Nik suite. Drop a control point on the area of the picture you want to alter and a popup menu will appear offering sliders in three categories, Light, Colour and Detail. The same icons are used in the tool section of the interface. You can alter the size of the affected area by dragging the circle in or out. The Control Point samples the luminosity, contrast and colour of the pixels you have dropped it on ie. at the centre of the circle and then applies the adjustment(s) to all the similar pixels within the scope of the circle. You can create a “negative” control point to remove the alterations or exclude certain areas.
Once you have defined a control point you can drop it on other areas of the picture, creating a group with the same settings.
The Auto Mask detects borders using contrast detection (of colour or density). It has two concentric circles in the tool. The size can be adjusted in a pop up at the bottom left. Simply brush the centre circle over the area you want to alter. Then as with the Control Point, choose the alterations you need. As an example, if I choose the horizon, I paint the centre of the tool at the edge of the skyline. It will detect the contrast and omit the land from the selection. This tool is not perfect, but it does a good job in the use case I’ve described.
If I make a mistake with my Auto Mask or it doesn’t exactly get the edge I need, then I can use the eraser to delete the part of the mask that’s causing the problem. The pop up at the bottom left offers size, feathering, flow and opacity.
This switch has the same function as the new mask button at the bottom right – it closes the current live mask.
Rolls back changes you have just made.
The brush applies corrections to an are you brush over. It offers size, feather, flow and opacity controls and sliders affecting various aspects of light, colour and detail. Excellent for reducing the impact of distractions. For example something metallic catching the sun can be desaturated so that it doesn’t catch the eye.
The Graduated Filter works in the same way as a hard glass grad filter on a camera. It sets a gradient across the picture, you can choose the angle by moving the bottom handle. Once you have the gradient in the right place you can alter light, colour and detail using the sliders. Very useful for slightly overexposed skies.
That completes the local adjustment tools that are available from the palette.
Local Adjustments in the Global Tools
In the toolbar at the top of the interface, there are some other adjustments that don’t fall into the category of final tweaks or finessing. These are specific tools that deliver very specific functionality. The toolbar includes, from the left, Hand, Crop, White Balance, Horizon, Force Parallel, Rectangle, Eight Points, Repair, Redeye and Miniature. I’m going to do a new post on the Geometry Tools in PhotoLab 4. For this post, we’ll look at the others…
Nothing says “Snap” better than a wonky horizon! The horizon tool gives you a vertical line that you can adjust to bisect the horizon line at 90°. This then adjusts the whole frame in order to straighten that horizon.
The Repair tool is there for taking out unwanted elements such as sensor spots, stray birds, telegraph wires etc. It works by sampling pixels close to the repair and like all other tools of its type, can get things wrong. Watch out for example trying to remove a telegraph post from the horizon. Because you’re going right down to ground level, you may get unpredictable results. Sometimes these can be resolved by repeating the action. The tool offers a pop-up at the bottom left of the screen giving you a choice between Cloning and AI informed Repair. Also the usual brush adjustments – Size, Feather and Opacity.
The RedEye tool removes the ugly “demon eyes” effect caused by using on-camera flash, usually indoors. Simply activate the tool, draw a square around the eye and voila!
In summary, the local adjustments in PhotoLab 4 provide non-destructive alterations to selected areas of a picture. All of them can be rolled back if you get it wrong. With this proliferation of tools, it’s handy to have a workflow. I usually start with global adjustments, starting with light, correcting exposure, contrast etc throughout the picture and then move onto colour before tweaking the details using local adjustments tools..
If you’ve found this useful, there’s a link to a 14-day trial version here –
Check out my YouTube Channel for other tutorials on DxO Software.
Check out the unofficial Facebook Page for DxO PhotoLab 4 Users.
Check out some of the other articles I’ve written about PhotoLab 4:
and for the latest version: DxO Photolab 5 Review
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