[MAC] New user to Photolab - underexposure issue

Hi all,

sorry for digging out the old thread, but I’m facing the same issue.
I’m evaluating DXO PL 4 in the 30 days trial and notice that most of the time, the photos are underexposed when opening them without any manual processing. The DXO Standard preset is applied.

I use a Pentax KP and shoot DNG raw.

Since the only thing you mentioned for a solution is the Highlight Tone Prio by Canon, which my Pentax doesn’t have obviously.

Is this normal behavior that DXO underexposes in their standard preset? I really love the corrections being applied (tone, contrast, lens etc). But the underexposure kind of is a show stopper to me. Very often, I don’t want to do detailed editing but simply want to export to jpg directly and quickly. But if I would end up with the majority of photos being underexposed, this wouldn’t be an option to me :frowning:

Hi Jimmy, I have not noticed any (unexpected) underexposure issues with DXO, but there are a number of minor things I don’t like about the DXO Standard preset in the context of “how I like my photos to look”.

Seriously though, this is not an issue, as you can setup your own presets, and configure DXO to use your preset instead of the standard one.

I never use the DXO standard present myself, I have a modified version of it that gets automatically applied to all raw files that I import that provides a better starting point for the kinds of photos that I take.

Thanks for the answer. But to be honest, I find it a little weird that the processing looks like it does. And it lowers my confidence in the software in general unfortunately. As mentioned, I’m evaluating it currently and would love to get a solution without tweaking the preset myself and e.g. apply some default overexposure. Sounds tacky to me.

Turn off smartlighting.
(it flattens the tonallity and supresses highlights in most moments as the ETTR is good.)
Try no corrections preset or optical corrections only.
The dxo standard preset can be to conservative in blacks and highlight’s

My first step is
Use auto exposure centre weighted. See if it’s go minus or plus when activated.
When it goes minus i use smartlighting and boxes to set highlights pinned and push exposurecompensation back up wile watching histogram on the bright side.
Then is centre weighted lumination balanced.
From there i start correction of constrast and color tonality.
Vibrance, saturation, contrast, blacklevel.


Thanks for that. Very useful to know.

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Making a preset suited for your camera (and your own idea of a image) and set this one as default for imported files is a very easy way to create a good base for easy export.
As i said the dxo standard is a middle of the road fits all setting. And the blacks and highlights are compressed by the smartlighting setting.

To understand smartlighting you need to use the box (face reqocnition) modes.
Get an image an make some boxes, move those boxes around to highlights or shadows or points of interrest like a face or your focuspoint.
See what happens with the overall tonality of the histogram and thus image.

I suspect you are used to LightRoom.
They do a lot “under the hood” which makes every image “the same as any other shooter puts in” there auto preset is pritty and neat but it doesn’t show the potential which is in the rawfile.

Give it some time to adjust your point of view.
And ive wrote a contrast how to use all kinds of contrast adjustment. Which shows that knowing how does help alot.


yes, thanks for the details. And yes, I’m used to LR (very old version, but still).
I’ll definitely play around with what you suggest.

@OXiDant Uhm, I struggle to find these boxes you’re referring to :hugs:. Which tool is this and how do I access it?

Go to smartlighting tool and change to spotmeasuring modes and click on the button with a square.
Click and hold left mouse and drag a square. (windows methode)
@Joanna would you be so kind to add some screenshots of the mac methode?

I am on the road, can’t acces PL now.

Hello @tsoumi ,

Some cameras have modes to improve dynamic of images. For example:

  • Auto dynamic range (Sony)
  • Sensitivity priority (Pentax)
  • Highlight or lowlight priority (Canon)
  • Mode bright (Pentax)

Of course auto mode will use that.

To improve dynamic of images these modes apply an over or under exposure at shot and compensate it with a different tone curve of the standard mode.

For example, highlight priority mode of Canon make the camera take an under exposed shot and apply a tone curve to get same light in shadows and mid tones but TC is smoother on highlights to preserve details.

Rawconversion done by PhotoLab doesn’t take these modes into account and so RAW images can be over or under exposed. We will work on it but that’s the way it is now.

If your problem is due to that I suggest you use “Exposure compensation” → “Center weighted average” to correct that effect.


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  • “Active D-Lighting” (Nikon)

A lot of the time, it’s not under-exposing, it’s just that the RAW file can look under-exposed when compared with the (already processed) jpeg preview. You should never expect RAW images to look the same as you see them on the back of the camera, or even in Finder because you are only seeing the preview.

This is the same with all RAW processing software because a user might prefer what you consider under-exposed. Which is why you can setup your preferred options in a custom preset.

Take note of Peter’s post

No problem.

Here’s a screenshot of an image that has a wide dynamic range, as seen in Preview, which shows the internal jpeg preview…

… and here is a screenshot of it opened in PL…

You can see that the darker areas are even darker.

Using the Smart Lighting tool in Spot Weighted mode can really help bring this detail out without making it look too much like an HDR.

Go to the Smart Lighting tool and choose Spot Weighted…

Capture d’écran 2021-09-21 à 09.58.35

Select Medium mode to start with (this can be changed later) and click on the tool…

Capture d’écran 2021-09-21 à 10.01.29

Then draw a rectangle in the darkest area that you want to see detail in…

… followed by another in the brightest area…

This gives you a starting point with the tonal range better distributed and the shadows and highlights brought further into the histogram, which will help when applying a tone curve or other tonal adjustments.


Capture d’écran 2021-09-21 à 10.08.14


Capture d’écran 2021-09-21 à 10.08.24

One tool that does amazing things for shadow detail is the Fine Contrast for shadows…

Capture d’écran 2021-09-21 à 10.11.16

And here is the finished result…

Marie, if I may clarify something? PhotoLab’s RAW processing is excellent and images only appear to be over or under-exposed. That is natural when you are trying to fit a 14-bit image into an 8-bit display.

What PhotoLab gives is a wonderful starting point and the tools for extracting every last bit of detail available. Don’t touch it! :grin:

For the best results, if you are shooting RAW, I have found that you need turn off all “smart” “auto” “dynamic”, etc exposure stuff on the camera because all that is doing most of the time is only affecting the jpeg image the camera generates for the back of the camera or the preview image or if you are shooting jpeg instead of RAW.

Personally, I would never use auto-anything or any of the “shooting modes” when shooting RAW since they only give a false (limited) impression of the amazing depth and richness of detail that you can bring out of the RAW file when processing it in PL.


One eh two, remark (ad on) on your post.
1 placing the boxes is pinning a black and a white reference , (edit: or midtone, like a face.) on the global luminationrange the processed DR. (which most call exposurelevel, shown by the RGBL histogram.)
If you place two boxes and use exposure compensation tool or one of the selective tone sliders in brighten or darken more you wil see that smartlighting is trying to keep the lumination level of the boxes on same level as posible. It alters the tonality curve around those points. That’s why i call them “pins”. They are the same as the curvetone pins in the curvetool (sort off)
So pin first then adjust exposure compensation or selective tone sliders wile moving the boxes a bit around to keep a natural look as possible, use contrast and other tools to fine tune the hole look. Lots of small coreections are much better then one big one.

2 i use idyn for raw to let the camera max -1 stop underexpose on bright high dynamic scenes which i can counter correct with evc on the camera if i need or like.
As we all know blown white is gone and deep dark shadow is recoverable with the help of deepprime.
Which you need to turn of is shadow compensation of the lens that’s burned in the rawfile which dxo pl (optic module) does again which cause over corrected corners, inverted vignetting so to speak.

(Thanks for your post.:slightly_smiling_face:)

(I cleaned the writing a bit to a point it’s better and more detailed explained.)


All good stuff


yes thanks to both of you for the great posts and help. I was able to find the boxes and have the feeling that they’re very helpful when actually editing a photo. It gives you much more control than global smart lighting I like this.

Plus, I saw that I have several compensation settings active on my Pentax. I always thought this would only affect the camera-internal JPG processing and thought this would be nice when shooting Raw+. Anyway. I#ll do some tests with and without these active to see how PL behaves.

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Joanna! Thank you! That is so helpful! I figured out some time ago that it was better to set Picture Control to Neutral on my D750 but have always struggled a bit with controlling highlights and shadow since I shoot a lot into the sun and my work tends to be in the foreground. Dropping two Spot Weight rectangles never occurred to me! I always thought I’d have to choose between one on the sun or one on the shadow and then I had to struggle with gradated masks to rescue the opposite areas. I just tested placing two and I can see already that it’s going to make my life a lot easier. I owe you one!

This is also helpful. Thank you! I’ve often struggled with vignetting control that looks overdone or has saturation that doesn’t match the image.

I found out with panasonic’s version of anti vignetting which i turned on for my jpeg plus raw setup. Shooting flying bird against a bright blue sky. With in this case a lumix 14-140mm f3.5-5.6.
I saw the corners to be over brightend. First i was thinking the optical module was over adjusting but after some web browsing and googling i found out that the shadow compensation is not only applied on the ooc-jpeg but also “burned in” in the raw file data. In the exif you can see the flag on or off so it would be possible for dxo to acknowles the setting and react acordingly. But for now i turned it off and let dxo take care of the problem also for the ooc-jpeg.

If you use an other brand please do some test. And /or google for info.

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I haven’t had a chance to test it yet but I can say that I noticed the difference when I moved from Nikon Capture NX2 to DXO. Capture NX2 allowed control over the RAW in a Camera settings tab and I could adjust vignetting control as I could on the camera but DXO seemed to add a layer of control rather than give you the original control. I was never sure what was going on though, only that the right result was more difficult to achieve.

Hi Andrew. I just noticed this comment and wanted to clarify something, in case you didn’t already know.

The Picture Control only affects a jpeg file (if you shoot jpeg) or the embedded jpeg that you see on the back of the camera. It does nothing at all to the RAW image.

In fact, the “Neutral” preset is not strictly neutral as it contains some sharpening. Possibly me being a bit OCD but I saved a custom preset, based on that, but with no sharpening.

One thing that does affect the RAW image on Nikons is the Active D-Lighting, which I also disable, but, for now, I do leave the Vignette control on Normal and haven’t, so far, notice any problem with PL’s modules. I will have to do some tests.


I just ran a series of tests on my D810 with the Vignetting control set to Off, Low, Normal and High.

If anything, when viewing the thumbnails in PL4, there seems to be a tiny bit too much correction, but it is the same on all camera settings. 80% seems to work better when viewing the thumbnails but, to be honest, I’ve never noticed any over or under-correction in the main image window with the appropriate DxO lens module applied.

I shall leave my camera on Normal.

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