Library Management in DxO Photolab 4
In this post I’ll be looking at Library Management in DxO Photolab 4 in detail. I’ll explain how it works in comparison with Adobe Lightroom and talk about why you might want to have a workflow including both products. For a wider discussion about the merits of DxO PhotoLab 4 check out my post How Good is DxO Photolab 4?
Adobe Lightroom is a closed system, you import pictures from the camera or card into a Library. Add metadata and determine where you want the images to be stored. From that point on, the image exists inside a Lightroom library.
In Photolab 4, an open system, the Library Module is called PhotoLibrary and it simply indexes the files you have in any location you point it at. So a good workflow would involve choosing a dedicated disk or a directory on your computer. Then create a subdirectory and call it something that will resonate when you look back in a year’s time. The way I do this is to have a dedicated disk, subdivided into subject/client folders. Inside those folders I’ll have a year and inside the year a date. I move my images from the disk into the folder for the date they were taken.
You might choose to organise your work differently. Some people will simply have a directory describing the images eg. Landscapes, with subfolders Spain, Lake District etc. That’s fine, the only thing I would say is be consistent.
Search in PhotoLab 4
Searching for images in PhotoLab 4 involves putting a search term into the search field – the popup menu will help so if I type the number 5, it will show me the possible search terms including the number 5.
I can then choose whether I want a Keyword ‘5’, 5 Star selection, an Aperture of f/5, 5mm focal length etc. The autofill shows me how many pictures it will return with this search term.
PhotoLab 4 allows the user to assign keywords in the Customise Module. You can select multiple images in the PhotoLibrary and simply click on Customise to access the metadata tab and keywords there.
Actually I can do my generic tagging this way very easily – so words like “Shropshire”, “Yorkshire”, “Spain” can be assigned to dozens of pictures but if I want to add “Snow” to one picture out of the whole “Spain” set it makes more sense to do that as part of the Customise operation. This may even result in better meta tagging because I rarely think of the detailed tags when I’m importing a careful of images.
Once I’ve decided which of the options I’m going to continue to search on, I click on the option. In this case 5 Star and my next screen shows me all of the 5 Star pictures in that location, directory or disk.
In the picture here, we can see 5 Star images taken on different dates in different parts of the country. Physically they exist in different directories.
Projects in PhotoLab 4
The concept of projects in PhotoLab 4 does not relate to your folders or the way you have organised your pictures. Instead, it gives us a way of grouping pictures together for a different purpose. For example, I can make a project entitled ‘My Post’ by searching in the way I’ve just described for candidate images, selecting them and right-click. Choose Create a Project From Current Selection and this is what will happen.
Now I have an uncluttered view consisting only of the pictures I want to use in my blog post. I could use the same function for an exhibition, website, book or any kind of project where I’m using images.
So what else can I do in PhotoLibrary?
Image Management in the PhotoLibrary
There are some actions I can carry out on the image before I go to the Customise tab and start editing. These are accessed by right-clicking on the individual image.
I can apply a preset in the PhotoLibrary, Create a new Preset from an existing image, Import a new Preset. I can also copy the correction settings (applied in the Customise module) from one image to another.
Export the image to a destination including
- Application (of my choice)
- Lightroom (If you have already installed Lightroom, the PhotoLab 4 installer would have prompted you to install the plug for Lightroom)
- Messages (Mac Only)
- Notes (Mac Only)
- Photos (Mac Only)
- Reminders (Mac Only)
- Airdrop (Mac Only)
I haven’t seen this on Windows, so I can imagine there is a similar range of OS supported applications to export to.
Rotate a picture 90° Left or Right, if necessary repeating the action. Also Reset it if you accidentally go the wrong way.
Rating and Tagging
Rating means applying a star rating to the picture. A word of advice. If you start with Five Stars and work down, you’ll end up with more pictures than you will if you start by rejecting the no hopers. Tagging allows you to quickly assign Picked or Rejected status to a picture. I find it helpful to get rid of my rejects but if you’re uncomfortable with deleting images, PhotoLab 4 gives you a safety net – you can assign Picked or Rejected then later, search on Picked to see only the images that may be useful.
Remove, Rename and Reveal
Remove is context aware – as Projects are virtual, if you click Remove on an image inside a Project it will remove it, but not delete the original. If you click Remove on the original image you will get a stern reminder that it will be gone forever (eat least as far as the Trash.
Rename does exactly what it suggests.
Reveal allows you to reveal the image in the OSX Finder, Reveal the Directory containing the image and Fix the image path if it has been moved.
Create Virtual Copy
This action creates a second copy of the sidecar file. What this means is that the original image stays the same and you can have multiple sidecar files with different treatments of the image. Don’t forget that PhotoLab 4 is non-destructive, all the editing corrections are kept in a sidecar file and applied to the image as required. A Virtual Image is basically the same RAW file with a different set of corrections.
This may be a big enough subject for another post, but here I’ll outline the main features. Library Management in DxO Photolab 4 is not its strongest feature.
Firstly, PhotoLab supports round trip integration with Lightroom by which I mean that you can send an image from Lightroom to PhotoLab 4 (via the Plugin Extras menu), where it will appear in a Project called ‘Lightroom’, work on it in PhotoLab and send it back. It will then appear back in your Lightroom catalogue as a tif file.
Why might you want to do this?
Personally, I have used Lightroom to manage my images for many many years, I have catalogues managing thousands of images. I believe PhotoLab is better at processing RAW images, but not as good at some of the more sophisticated Library functions such as proofing for print. It suits me to use both for the moment. So I maintain most of my pictures in Lightroom and process them in PhotoLab.
Conclusion: Library Management in DxO PhotoLab 4
In conclusion, compared to Lightroom the Library Management is fairly basic. This in some ways is a strength, it means your library is portable, you are not locked into PhotoLab 4 if for example you want to do some work in Photoshop.
As a long term Lightroom user I was initially inclined to base my library in Lightroom, I can do more batch operations such as resizing, proof for print and so on in Lightroom than I can in PhotoLab 4 but the integration between the two is exceptional – I can send an image from Lightroom to PhotoLab, do the Raw processing and send it back again. Star ratings are transportable.
I cannot do HDR in PhotoLab 4, but I can always use the Nik Collection HDR Efex.
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