DxO PhotoLab Local Adjustments

In this tutorial I explain and demonstrate how to use the Local Adjustments module in DxO PhotoLab. The ability to make local adjustments to an image is very powerful. By making localised changes affecting only part of an image you can completely transform the feel.

Other than applying the lens correction, all the adjustments used the Local Adjustments in DxO PhotoLab. Towards the end of this tutorial you’ll find a video demonstrating this editing. The rest of the tutorial’s intended as a helpful summary to accompany the video.

Why DxO PhotoLab

If you aren’t familiar with PhotoLab, it’s a well-respected RAW converter with a loyal following. Originally called DxO Optics it’s been around for a long time. It comes in two variants, Essentials and Elite. You can find a list of the differences on the DxO website on the pricing page (https://www.dxo.com/dxo-photolab/pricing/).

The latest version of DxO Photolab at the time of writing is PhotoLab 3. The Essential edition of the previous version (PhotoLab 2) also comes bundled free with the Nik Collection. This provides excellent value, but it doesn’t have a layer’s pane you see used in this tutorial. You can learn about the differences between PhotoLab 2 and 3 in another of my YouTube videos.

PhotoLab Local Adjustment Module

Access the DxO PhotoLab local adjustments module by clicking the button at the top right of the interface.

PhotoLab Local Adjustments button
Until you click this button any adjustments you make are global, affecting the entire image. After clicking the button, you see a message at the top left of the image with the title “Local Adjustments”. To the bottom right of the image you will also see Close and Reset buttons. The Close button closes the local adjustments module but retains any adjustments you made. Clicking reset will reset all the local adjustments.

Adding a Local Adjustment

To add a new local adjustment to an image, right click with your mouse anywhere on the image. This displays a carousel of tools you can select.

PhotoLab local adjustment selection tool
I’ve numbered the different tools in the screenshot to help you identify them in this list:

  1. Gradient– draws a selection with a straight graduated edge between the selected and unselected areas.
  2. Control Point – adds a circular selection with a central point. The central point determines what’s selected within the selection based on colour and tone. If you’re familiar with the Nik Collection Control Points, this works in the same way.
  3. Auto Mask Brush – creates an automatic selection based on the area you paint over. When painting with the brush you see an inner and outer brush. The inner brush determines what’s selected within the area of the outer brush.
  4. Paint Brush – used to paint a selection.
  5. Erase tool – paint over a selection with this to remove part of that selection.
  6. New Mask – creates a new mask layer where you can create a new selection. You can then adjust that selection independently to other selections.

Clicking the central ? button displays a help panel summarising the controls for the adjustment tool you select. It can be helpful but also gets in the way a little.

Applying Local Adjustments

Once you’ve selected a tool to work with, use it to draw out your selection.

PhotoLab Local Adjustment controls
Here you can see the graduated selection. Click at point 1 and then drag up to point 2 before releasing the mouse. The area between points 1 and two is the graduated or gradient area. The blue mask you see below point 1 is the selection at full strength.

Having created a selection, you apply your adjustments using the equaliser. Each slider in the equaliser controls a different adjustment tool. The tools are in three groups, accessed using the three icons down the left side of the first slider. You can see this demonstrated in the video at the end of this tutorial.

Brush Selection Controls

When it comes to using the Paintbrush and Erase tools start by adjusting the brush settings.

PhotoLab Local Adjustment with the Erase Brush
Here you can see the settings for the Erase tool.

  • Size controls the size of the brush allowing you to work in detail or quickly cover large areas.
  • Feather controls the edge of the brush to create a hard or soft edge. This can help you to blend brush strokes and therefore adjustments into the image.
  • Flow is the how fast you apply the selection to an area.
  • Opacity is how strong the finished brush stroke is.

Using these settings, you can create and blend adjustments, so they appear natural. It’s also possible to combine different tools to refine masks.

Combining Tools

When you create an adjustment, you sometimes need to use the selection tools together. For example, the gradient filter has a straight edge and even strength. But suppose you want to use it on a sky where there’s a mountain. Whilst the filter’s perfect for selecting the sky, it will also select and adjust the mountain. But by applying the Erase tool to the selection, we can remove it from the area where it covers the mountain. In another example you might extend a selection made with the gradient filter by using the Paintbrush tool.

You can see this technique used in the video demonstration below.

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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

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In this video we’ve covered the different tools you can in DxO PhotoLab to create and make local selections. The tutorial provided an overview of these whilst the video demonstrated the tools in an actual editing situation.

If you found this video tutorial helpful, please be sure to share it with others.


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