Global Editing vs Local Adjustments in DxO PhotoLab 2

Pretty much every RAW photo needs adjustments; the way a RAW files looks when it comes out of the camera is quite flat and undersaturated, which is by design. The original RAW processing will add contrast and color, but then you’re likely going to do more. Sometimes the default, “auto” adjustments are enough, and sometimes you will manually adjust the sliders to get the image looking its best. But then there are special photos that require extra treatment. A little extra contrast here, some sharpening there, darken that background, brighten that face, make the sky bluer, pump up the saturation on the flowers… all local adjustments. This article shows two examples of where to use global, and where to use local adjustments, using DxO PhotoLab 2 ELITE Edition.

Here are the two photos I’ll be working with:

The first primarily needs exposure adjustment plus brightening on the face, and the second needs noise reduction, cropping, darkening of the big rock in the foreground… and we’ll see what else they need as we go!

I’ll start with the image on the left. It’s very blue, but that’s not incorrect white balance. The worker was resting in the midday heat under a blue tarp, casting a cool blue light over the scene. His dark skin combined with the dim blue light has made him almost disappear though, so that’s something I need to fix without making the whole scene too bright. In fact, let’s start with brightening the whole image (so, a “global” adjustment) until the face looks good.

His face is much more visible, but notice how the background is super bright now. It definitely loses the drama and impact from the original image. 

After reverting the image to the starting point, I decided that the background actually could be darker, so I applied a global exposure adjustment to about –0.25. Then I opened the Local adjustments control and dropped a control point right on his face. I raise the Exposure, which brightened his face nicely but also made it a bit washed out, so I then lowered the Black Point to make the darks darker while maintaining the brightness. 

On its own that may feel like an unnatural brightening of the face, because suddenly this face has a splash of light on it. However, because of the bright white bag next to his face that he’s leaning on you can easily imagine that the brightness on his face is reflected light off that sack. If you wanted to, you could even brighten the sack itself a little bit to really drive the point home — but I don’t think it’s necessary.

And that’s it! That’s all I want to do to this photo. A simple global adjustment (darkening) and a quick local adjustment (brightening his face) are all this photo needed. 

Now let’s move on to the second photo, which is quite a bit more complicated. 

The first thing I noticed is the noise. This was shot in a dark environment at 10K ISO on a micro four-thirds sensor, so it’s a bit noisy. DxO PhotoLab 2 ELITE Edition, of course, offers PRIME noise reduction but that’s applied only on output, so I’ll enable

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