PhotoLab made me *love* photography

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, and it may even become a blog post, but I thought I’ll get the basics down here.

I’ve been an enthusiast photographer since Christmas 1986 when I inherited my brother’s Cosina CS-1 SLR with Sigma 70-210 lens, literally in a camera shop in Singapore where he was buying his first Nikon. In true “grandfather’s axe” fashion, I still have the same camera today, though I have replaced the body five times and the lens, errr, a few more times than that.

In the film era (1986-2006 for me) I was happy if any photo “turned out” and very occasionally excited by a particularly good shot. When the digital era dawned for me in 2004 (with a Fuji S3000 all-in-one) not much changed except I started taking more photos. There was still very little that happened between taking the shot and “the result”.

When I first explored RAW photography, things got more interesting as there was a lot more leeway to make photos look “good”, though looking back I seem still to have done very little to the photos apart from fixing exposure and maybe cropping (only ever to the same 3:2 ratio — 4:3 for the Fuji — for many, many years).

I gradually learned more and more. I went through a series of software changes: Nothing → Lightroom → Aperture → Lightroom → Luminar 3/2018. But still all I was doing was basic “fixes” to my photos. Occasionally I would spend more time. Luminar was great for “pushing the envelope” to get some punchy results that weren’t strictly “accurate”. But it was Luminar’s failing — constant course changes in the product roadmap while breaking promises — that led me to look at PhotoLab 3. And that’s when photography began changing for me. It started to become something I love.

PhotoLab’s modules, combined with first PRIME and then DeepPRIME, were showing me photos I did not realise my camera could produce. I had long wondered how expensive a camera I needed to get photos as sharp as those I would see in places like JetPhotos. Getting a Mac with a Retina (high dpi) screen helped a lot. But it turned out I already owned such a camera. New photos were now often delighting me. Then I wound the clock back. I had bought PhotoLab 3 during the launch promo in October, six months after I had been on a long-wished for trip to Singapore. I wondered what would the previously-Luminar-processed photos look like if I put them through PhotoLab. The answer, again, was delightful.

Next I started hanging out in these forums, learning more and more about PhotoLab’s tools. And I started caring more about finsessing many of my photos. Then something special began to happen. It started with those Singapore photos. I began to fall in love with some of them. PhotoLab 4 had me revisiting some again to apply DeepPRIME where it was warranted. Photos that might have been noisy or indistinct had become real candidates for being great.

After PhotoLab 4, I really got the bug for going back to old photos. I’ve re-done over 1,500 photos going as far back as 2008. I haven’t taken that many photos lately — 2021’s total count was 134 published out of 772 taken — but I’m enjoying going back through my old photos and seeing what I can unearth. In addition to the 1,500+ I have re-done, quite a few previously unpublished photos are now seeing the light of day, and the occasional one of these really hits the spot for me…

Perhaps the most telling change is that I no longer use other people’s images for my desktop wallpaper. At home I have two screens and use 3 or 4 virtual desktops across each (‘Spaces’ in Mac parlance) and every one of them has one of my photos. I get to see these photos every day and I do not tire of them at all, because they delight me every time. Or to put it more strongly, I love these photos. These photos made possible, yes, by my camera gear and some knowledge of how to use it, but made loveable by PhotoLab.

Hence the title of this post. PhotoLab really has made me love my photography. Whatever we might think about this feature or that feature what’s wrong, what’s missing, what should be improved… we should give thanks to the best RAW engine on the market. A RAW engine that makes photos their best.

While spending some time in the last couple of days creating Lightroom Classic Collections to take over from my PhotoLab Projects (see my thread about “lost images”) I spotted another Singapore photo that I could not believe I had not processed and published at all. Maybe in mid-2019 I just didn’t see what was lurking in that noisy image…



It’s worth pointing out that this is a big reason why I delete nothing.


I review photos every now an then, but I often remove variants or technically compromised images that I kept while emotions were still hot. With a little bit of distance (or complete disconnection), culling is easier.


Nice story, glad you found love for your own pictures and beautiful fine details in this Calliandra surinamensis (just saw the name on your Flickr :+1:t4:).

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I do feel the same about the improvement dxo’s optical module plus deepprime can do for sensors and camera’s that won’t be top notch.
My digital era is 2005 til now
Canon s45, fuji x70, Panasonic fz200 and now panasonic g80.
Ive tested fz200 high iso images which where a form of better something then nothing kind of captures. And they improved big time. Wile the optical module of v1 already improved the old images. (yes only the rawfiles and most old stored “dng’s” are lineair demosiaced files so deep prime can’t help anymore) So i keep always the rawfiles.
I even run some jpeg and digitalized printed stuff through.

At this moment i am redoing a rawfile xmp and GPS and location info adding.
(This costed me a minor blowout due the fact something didn’t go as i expected.)
And when i am done i think i redo folder by folder and re-cull this throwing away every unsharp dull lame keeper which add nothing to the story.
Add a suffix image_xxxxx_v5 to it so i know it’s updated by my latest app and edit knowledge.
I am not shooting a lot these day’s, (one night 900 files of bursts is not common.

What i like to point out is if you like something you want it to be as good as it possible can. I watched it grow from v1 til now v5 andi grow with it in knowledge and craft and by every door you walk through you see a new one which you want to unlock.
And that’s frustrating, energizing, rewarding kind of feeling. Yes i hate to wait for things i like to have now, wile i know i did my hole life without it…

As one farmer says, you can’t sow new vegetables without first plowing the old soil to pieces and scarring the earth only then it will grow prosperous.
So without our objective critics and idea’s on this forum you can’t expect progres be easy.

Happy New Year!


I feel I could have written something very similar but now I don´t have to :-). Today Photolab truely is a remarkable peace of software you just have to love, despite it still has things that can do with some improvements.

I think most of us will find we have to remake a lot of work we already have been doing in earlier versions of Lightroom especially but that goes even for DXO Optics Pro. I was never a friend of Lightrooms low quality previews that never made me especially happybut it was first with Photolab the real boost came. Before we didn´t even have Local Adjustment and Deep Prime.

I left Lightroom long time for Capture One and DXO Optics Pro. At that time there were no Local Adjustment-tools at all in the DXO converters. Of that reason I still had to use Capture One for more demanding issues where more precise masking tools had to be used or I needed a better color control. Either Lightroom or Optics Pro/Photolab have had a decent tethering support too but now finally I can cut the rope. Photolab is finally mature enough and Sonys formerly not so praised (free) Imaging Edge Remote is finally good enough for wireless tethering so I feel I will never need to upgrade Capture One anymore either.

There is just two things I really miss and it is a “magic intelligent brush” a la CO that instantly can create a precise mask and a color picker that can convert a selected color straight to a precion mask a la CO and I shall really try to be nice this year so Santa don´t forget these features to next years main release in december.

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I had a similar reaction when I first tried Optics Pro 8!