Among many other photographers, I was certainly disappointed to hear the cease of development of Nik Software plugins by Google. There are times when I really like to use the Nik plugins unique tools, and I know many photographers depend on it heavily in their workflow. So it's been a looming question mark as to what happens next and without future development, it seemed the writing was on the wall with some distant Photoshop update, the Nik plugin would eventually not be compatible. Enter the good news! DxO has bought Nik from Google and has already implemented the first of the Nik technology into DxO PhotoLab.
What is DxO PhotoLab
DxO PhotoLab is a photo editing application that most will use for raw workflow.
A useful bridge between typical raw processing like Lightroom or Capture One and some benefits similar to that of Adobe Bridge. It is a welcomed workflow, with file management that has direct access to the images and negating the need to import. It also can seamlessly integrate with Lightroom via a plugin if so desired.
Like most apps, the interface is customizable and I was happy to see it be friendly for my dual screen layout which I feel is a very big thing for an efficient workflow.
DxO PhotoLab also brings in one of my favorite features of exporting from Capture One, and that is the ability to do multiple exports in one click, such as high res and web without having to do multiple steps. You can also directly export to some social media profiles as well, and for some photographers that will be a welcome step. I personally involve Photoshop too much after the initial raw process, so I can't speak to that feature.
A non-destructive editor at raw level which also processes jpg with the same tools and has the ability to copy/paste settings from file to file, the program saves the settings in sidecar files next to the original.
What is New in DxO PhotoLab
The first thing is obviously the introduction of the U-Point technology that has been at the core of the Nik package. It is nice to have this feature at the time of developing your raw files. As of present time, this is the only feature brought in from the Nik software, and not the proprietary filters. However, the PhotoLab software has its own proprietary tools that accomplish similar tasks to many of the Nik presets such as DxO ClearView (local contrast tool) shown below on a jpg of mine. I often test features like this on a jpg as it shows me any possible weaknesses with the filter, it'll only work ever better in raw with the additional data that raw files offer.
Some of DxO's proprietary adjustments are described here:
The most pertinent sliders are also in the selector menu by clicking Local Adjustments and then right click for the menu to choose Control Point, Graduated Filter etc. allowing you to selectively apply the adjustments in whichever way works best for the particular image.
What's really nice about the Control Points is that they work in layer fashion, so if you make a control point and make some adjustments you can just click to add another control point with the same adjustments. This allows you to do the same things to multiple parts of the image even faster than copy/duplicating adjustment points would and it is a welcome feature for an efficiency fanatic like myself.
Basic Editing Tools
The software has some basic editing tools, such as Repair, which is a brush that acts in similar fashion to the content aware healing in Photoshop. This is certainly a useful feature to have at raw level. Also included are tools like straightening the horizon and similar tools that we are so used to as standard across many apps.
Adjustments are available as expected. White balance, tonal adjustments, etc. Some of which are shown here.
What I Like
The ability to jump right in and adjust photos without having to create a catalog.
Control Point technology! Obviously one of the major components of the beloved Nik Collection is available here at the raw level which is excellent and very welcomed.
The program seems to go a great job with quality in raw and jpg alike and produces nice results. The DxO ClearView, in particular, seems to have a way of altering the tonal range in a pleasing way.
What I Don't Like
- Sidecar files. That's just my preference, not necessarily a problem but it can clutter up the folder of images somewhat (I do however realize this is necessary to be able to edit photos without creating a catalog file to store the non-destructive edits, which I do like so it's a double edged sword).
I feel this is a very good program that provides options for people who perhaps want a little more control such as using the Control Points. This program is definitely headed in the right direction and I look forward to its future updates with fingers crossed for a few of the key Nik filters to be added in addition to the control points. I don't know if that's part of the plan, but we can hope! Either way, the program is very capable, and like anything else, once you get used to it and customize the layout to suit your needs, it can become a very efficient part of your workflow.
I highly recommend with any new software to really play with it. In this case get some images in a test folder and run through all the sliders, especially the DxO specific ones for which you may not be familiar, experiment with them and see what they do, and by doing this you'll become more natural and familiar with the program and thus more likely to incorporate it into your workflow.
This program has a free trial, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot.
Trial or purchase is available here.