Part 2 - Off-Topic - advice, experiences, and examples for images being processed in DxO Photolab

In November, 2022, I started a new topic here titled "Off Topic - advice, experiences, and examples for images being processed in DxO Photolab. That topic has grown to over 3,000 responses, making it a little unwieldy, and difficult to go back to things that were discussed so long ago.

I’m re-starting that topic here. Most PhotoLab questions should be posted in the existing discussions. This topic is for things that relate to photograph, especially images that will be processed in DxO PhotoLab, but general photography questions are welcome too. If the people who run this forum feel this topic doesn’t belong here, they can kill it. But getting the best results from PhotoLab requires everything else properly. …I don’t think I am the best person to provide answers, but I have always found the answers to the previous topic interesting, and I was constantly learning new things.

I’ll try to start this topic off with a question, to which I think I have been doing many things incorrectly, even though my camera manufacturer encouraged me to do so.


As in the previous thread, it has always been helpful to post an image here, to illustrate your question - and the best way to do that s to post your original image file from the camera, the
.dop file created by PhotoLab, and a copy of your finished, edited, image.

Anyway, moving on, my choice of cameras is usually Nikon, specifically my Nikon D780. In the camera settings, Nikon has pre-set many selections that they feel will help capture the best image. I got curious, went through the list of settings I was concerned about, and posted this:


Since I am processing my images only in PhotoLab, should these settings be turned OFF in the Photo Shooting Menu in my D780?

White Balance - AUTO2 - I selected this, as the most appropriate choice for me

Set Picture Control. SD (Standard)

Active D-Lighting (OFF ?) - I already know this should be OFF

Long exposure NR (OFF ?)

High ISO NR (High, Normal, Low, or Off)

Vignette control (High, Normal, Low, or Off?)

Diffraction compensation (On, or Off)

Auto distortion control (On, or OFF)

I suspect PhotoLab will deal with these better than asking the camera do do so. This probably applies to anyone using a late model Nikon camera. The highlighted settings are what my camera is currently set to. This discussion has me wondering if the camera and PhotoLab are both doing the same thing? …does this even matter?


…to which, @Joanna responded this way:


Set Picture Control -Custom setting with everything set to 0

Active D-Lighting - OFF

Long exposure NR - OFF

High ISO NR - Off

Vignette control - Off

Diffraction compensation - could be useful, try it.

Auto distortion control - OFF


I was very surprised, thinking that Nikon knew best, but apparently “best” is incorrect for PhotoLab, where the PhotoLab software perhaps does this as part of the image processing. This leaves me wondering what other settings on my Nikon should be changed, when I know I will be processing the images in PhotoLab?

Historically, only Active D-Lighting have been a setting which actually manipulates the raw/NEF itself.
All other settings has only been non destructive flags used for the in camera jpeg generation, embedded jpeg preview in the NEF and as indicators or defaults for Nikons own nef editor.

If some of the later settings actually affect the raw data, I can’t say for sure.

(I’m only referring to Nikon, as that’s what I use most of the time. Probably the same thing applies to other brands as well, so maybe that information would be helpful here as well. Why correct something in the camera, when PhotoLab will do the same thing in processing, and do it better.)

While I was going through all my settings, I found a choice of:

  • NEF (RAW) compression or
  • NEF (RAW) bit depth) 14 bit

I had previously accepted the top choice.

While the first choice NEF (RAW) compression is highlighted on my camera,
If I click on it I get:

  • NEF (RAW) recording
  • NEF (RAW) compression

followed by a space, and then:

  • ON Lossless compressed and
  • ON Compressed

On my camera, ON Lossless compressed is highlighted in yellow, so I assume that is what I am using. My question here, is which choice is best for processing the images in PhotoLab? My gut feeling has always been, if there is a choice, use the choice that is NOT compressed. Not sure if these days that is still a good idea.

Anyone here know which is preferable (if either) for PhotoLab? Please explain in plain simple English which might be better, and why. If I avoid compression, that seems like one less thing that PhotoLab needs to deal with.

Compressed raw is destructive.
Lossless compression is to some extent destructive as well but so minor and only in the highlights so for general photography it’s ok to use.

14 bit is worth it if you do low iso photography, deep blacks or large dynamic range and on tripod. The files will be huge but will enable you to get most out if them.
On higher iso like above 800-1000 your camera’s dynamic range will be under 12-bit so shooting at 14-bit will not be worth it. Larger files for no real gain.

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Yes, compressed files are smaller and the lossless compression is what I use presently. It halves the file size from 90+MB to around 45MB on my D850. I haven’t tried a comparison of quality but it might be worthwhile doing that.

In the french Nikon documentation, it is called « Compression sans perte », which means that there is no loss.
In my tests on without nef compression and lossless I could not see visually at high zoom level any differences.
And latest cameras from Nikon do not provide anymore the non compressed nef.


Thanks; until I hear otherwise, I guess I will stick with lossless compression.

I read there is another debate going on regarding the Nikon Z9 and Z8, shooting at a very high burst rate, and the people in the Nikon forums were not too pleased with how DxO handled that, but I don’t expect to change from my D780 anytime soon, nor do I expect to use the ultra-high fps rates now available - but after thinking about this, I probably ought to have shot my boat photos in continuous shooting, as things were changing so quickly.

I think I have all my settings resolved, so I made a settings backup on a separate SD memory card, which I’ll save for the future.

Most of the time, I don’t think it matters very much, but I’ll ask anyway.

Aperture settings are mostly to get the desired depth of field. I’m not very good at this - it seems I almost always want very little, or a lot. This gets considered, and adjusted, as I’m setting up for a photo. Much of the time I either want the subject sharp, contrasting with everything else that is blurry, or I want everything “postcard” sharp.

Shutter settings are often just as easy - do I want things frozen in time, or do I want some motion blur. Most of the time, I have an idea of what I’m after.

Depending on what I do with both of the above, what’s left to get me a good exposure is ISO.

I’m not so sure about this, as the other settings. I figure ISO 100 is probably as good as it gets, but over the past year, ISO hasn’t made much of a difference to me - but if I jack it up way too high, even if I don’t get noise/grain, I’ll lose detail.

I know @Joanna feels I should be “in control” of my settings, but there are so many times when I’m tempted to select AUTO-ISO, to give me some assurance that my images will be exposed properly, even if I don’t think about them so much.

In India, and even here in the US, I’ve selected auto-ISO as I then didn’t need to worry so much about the exposure. Part of me wants to stop doing so, but another part tells me that my brain is a bit more free to think about composition and timing, if I’m not also dealing with ISO. I suppose I could put my camera in (A)perture priority, or (S)hutter priority mode, (or worse yet, (P)rogram mode, but I proved to myself on my last trip that I do best when I use (M)anual mode and set things after thinking about them - when I have time to do so.

All the above depends on what kind of image I’m taking - if I’m slowly setting everything up to get a special photo, then it’s “me” that needs to independently think about all the above, and make the most appropriate compromise. I feel most confident about those photos. But, what to do when I’m pressed for time, and literally don’t have time to consider everything before each shot? (Of course, then, Auto-ISO will usually take care of everything for me.

To anyone who is willing to offer some advice - how do you handle this, when you don’t have the time to analyze everything to your satisfaction before capturing the image?

Example image:
I was in a car, and I saw this scene in front of me. All I had time to do was raise my Df to my eye, press the rear focus button, and make sure what I liked was inside the viewfinder. No time to think about anything.

DF1_4450 | 2023-12-31.nef (33.8 MB)

Thanks to DxO, this is what I got from it, but I now see all the faults (including dirt on the car’s windshield) that bother me. The settings are whatever I had in the Df at the time, no time to think, let alone change anything. …but I’m happy I had pre-set the camera, just in case… Focus was on the lady’s “sari” if that is the correct name.

The same soft image as the other with the same equipment. Seen on the original.
Further a typical situation of aperture priority and fixed iso. Shutter is following. And check the histogram and adjust when needed.


Well, the camera was sitting in my lap, with me taking photos from a moving car of anything that caught my eye. Car was moving, and it was not a smooth ride. Shutter was set to 1/2000th, and the image was shat at f/9, focal length according to the saved info was 175mm. Camera was set to “shutter priority”. I can’t find the ISO that the camera used, maybe because I set auto-iso??

To me, that the image is as sharp as it is, is amazing. Long focal length, in a moving car on a rough road, shooting through a dirty windshield… The only thing “sharp” is her Sari.

Histogram? No time. Raise camera, focus, compose, and shoot.

Can you please explain “shutter is following”? I’m not sure what you mean by that?

I don’t react quickly any more, and I never was especially fast at this anyway. I had a one-track mind, try to capture what I was seeing. In the following photo, her feet are cut off by the hood of the car.

I’m also curious what you mean by “the same soft image as the other, with the same equipment”. The woman and the goats are sharp, and everything else, not. I captured what I hoped to get, far better than what I expected to get. Would you have preferred to have the rest of the image sharper? If so, then it is my fault, as I got exactly what I wanted (excluding a nasty “filter” in front of my lens!!!)

As for the settings, I set all that stuff with the camera in my lap, long before this scene appeared. I’m sure I did NOT hold the camera properly, no time - raise camera to my eye, press the back focus button, and shoot three frames, of which this was the middle. The other two are useless.

Just trying to understand.

It’s calculated by the camera based on the other settings. In M you do it manual, in the half-automatic it’s calculated. If you use the internal lightmeter you’ll get exactly the same result as when shooting in M, only faster.

The histogram on the D750 and maybe also on the D780 you can check afterwards. When I use my Z6II I can see the histogram before shooting. I think that’s the way mirrorless works.

What do you mean with your lap(top)?


If you know how to operate your camera and, above all, have learnt how to meter properly, you should have all the assurance you need.

We have discussed this many times before. Spot meter read the brightest part of the scene and set the meter to between 1 and 3 stops over-exposed. You can recover shadows but not highlights.

Once you have set the exposure for the area and direction you are shooting, you shouldn’t need to keep on adjusting it because the light won’t be changing that rapidly.

Your image was taken with the sun to your left and the brightest part was the white squares on her headscarf, so you you could have spot metered on any white material or a piece of paper in the sun and over-exposed by 2 stops and it would have been fine.

Don’t forget the Sunny 16 rule. It was sunny so, sat here without a meter, I can tell you that, at 1000 ISO, you could have shot at 1/1000 sec @ f/16.

And, if I look at the EXIF for your image, you used 1/2000 sec, so that is 1 stop under-exposed on the speed, but you also used f/9, which is 1⅔ stops over-exposed on the aperture

Cancel out the over and under-exposures and you end up with taking the shot at ⅔ stop over my quick guess, which isn’t worth worrying about in situations like this.

Who needs an exposure meter, let alone auto ISO ? :sunglasses: :wink:

How did you manage when you were shooting film, where you had the same ISO for 24 or 36 images?

By the way @mikemyers , if you want to remove windscreen distortion like you have here, try Topaz Photo AI motion blur removal…

My lap? Exactly that. I was in the left front passenger seat of the car, and I had aimed the camera ahead of my car to get a rough idea for exposure. My hold on the camera was pre-set, just in case. We came around a turn, and there was the lady and goats. I barely had enough time to raise the camera from my lap, make sure what I wanted was enclosed in the frame, try my best to hold the camera still and capture the image by gradually increasing finger pressure on the shutter button. The camera was likely set close enough by my earlier attempt to get a reasonable exposure. I took three images, the first was blurry, the second is what I used, and the third image was awful, by the car cutting off the lady’s feet, and by the lady looking back at us. This brings up a question I will ask later.

Histogram - no time to even try to use it - no time for anything. I’m lucky to have gotten the one shot I like, as the car wasn’t steady, and neither was I - but 1/2000th shutter helped.

Regarding the histogram, how useful is it when I am shooting ‘raw’. I was trusting the exposure meter to get me close enough, along with some earlier photos I had taken. Some of my photos I could carefully compose, check the exposure, check if I was standing in the best spot, and then brace myself so the camera didn’t move. This wasn’t always possible. The more I did it, the “better” I got, but apparently not good enough. Hmm, why do people think this image isn’t “sharp”?

If you were in a moving car, coming around a corner to see this scene, with your camera in your lap, and your driver started to go around them on the right, where would have found time to do any of that? This happens to me a lot in India. I enjoy the boat shots more, because I can set up the picture, practice on several boats, and eventually get better. Hmm, if you were in a car, with Helen driving, and you came up on something photogenic, and all you had was perhaps three seconds to take an image, what would you have done?

What have I learned from this? For starters, use a much higher shutter speed, and clean the car’s windshield ahead of time. My camera was still in single-point focus, and next time I’ll expand that. Hmm, I ought to post an image with which I did have lots of time, and was just waiting for the right moment. If I did anything wrong there, it’s all my fault.

Oh, and thanks for the hint about Topaz - amazing what it did!!!

Either “Sunny 16”, or my “Luna Pro” meter. Film was almost always Plus-X. With my new Nikons, I’m getting lazy!

I wouldn’t need any time because I would have assessed the light to be Sunny 16 and set the camera before setting off.

There is no difference between using an old film camera and a brand new digital in all manual mode. What has changed is the perceived complexity of digital and all the waffle on the internet, trying to convince us we all need masters degrees to use them.

It’s a dark box with something photo-sensitive in the back and a variable sized hole in the front that can be opened for a variable length of time. No more, no less.

Like many, you are over-complicating things

You’d have been fine doing that, but a lot of the time they would be in shadow areas from the trees. But aside from that, why would I want to shoot at f/16, when I wanted the background blurry? Not to mention if I shot at f/16, I likely wouldn’t have used 1/2000th for shutter speed - which probably should have been even faster.

I’m not you, and I doubt my images will ever meet your qualify standards, for many reasons, all me, and not my gear. One last image before I scurry off to work on my car…

This image was shot given all the time and patience in the world. I wanted mama goat and baby to be interacting as, well, as mama and newborn baby. Out of 20 or so images, mostly testing, all but this one are worthless. This one is what I wanted - but I’m sure it leaves room for improvement. I wanted to get down on the ground, but not only was it, well, dirty, then I’d have an ugly background. There are two things I did that I’m not happy with, but I’m not sure how to improve them.

Time to put away my old photos, and look for ways to use my D780 better…but I think you can see why I enjoy my visits to. India so much!

DF1_5027 | 2024-01-11.nef (34.2 MB)
DF1_5027 | 2024-01-11.nef.dop (17.1 KB)

The Sunny 16 rule is only based on f/16 because it allows us to easily remember the exposure combination for a sunny day, which is 15 EV, by using the ISO, the reciprocal of the ISO for the shutter speed and a starting aperture of f/16.

If you want to change the aperture, then you are free to change the aperture to, for example, f/8, then you need to compensate for that by reducing the exposure by 2 stops by either increasing the shutter speed to 1/4000 second or, if that doesn’t suit, by reducing the ISO to 250…

As long as you maIntain that EV of 15 for your sunny day, then any appropriate combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO that gives you that exposure value will do the same job.

Sunny rule applies to clear sky but it was overcast (seen on the horizon and in light softness), which is 1-2 stops less bright. The LightValue in NEF metadata says it was 14.0, with center-weighted metering. But at the same time ADL=Normal was used, which makes the raw data underexposed, as if exposure compensation -1/3 or -2/3 was used. It all adds up quite nicely.

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