Using Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting with Landscapes

Before getting into this short article, I’d like to thank one of our readers, William Jones, for sharing his experiences with me and being the creative spark for this article. Using the Spot Weighted tool in DxO Smart Lighting when working with landscape images is something I hadn’t really considered in the past.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Since the Spot Weighted tool was promoted by DxO as something that could enhance facial details in a photograph I didn’t originally give this feature too much thought. It wasn’t until William shared his success using this tool with landscape images that I became intrigued and investigated it further.

This article is just a simple example using one landscape image. I wanted to give readers a quick peek at this tool. After I’m more familiar using it I may write a more detailed follow up article.

First let’s look at an out-of-camera jpeg, complete with the crooked horizon. It was captured hand-held during quite inclement weather at Cape Foulwind on the South Island of New Zealand.

It was captured with a Nikon 1 J5 fitted with a 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens @ 10mm, f/5.6, ISO-160, +0.3 step, 1/640.

You can see the dark shadows on either side of the image and the rather dull, grey sky really make this jpeg look quite flat and lifeless. The out-of-camera jpeg just couldn’t capture the somewhat ominous feeling of the moment, nor the colour details in the vegetation.

The next image was produced from the corresponding RAW file. After exporting the file out of OpticsPro11 into CS6 I used the following slider settings:

Contrast +10
Highlights -100
Shadows +65
Black -20
Saturation +20
Clarity +15

I also used the ‘Enhance Per Channel Contrast’ Curve setting in CS6, After a couple of small tweaks in Nik Suite the image came out as follows…

This was a noticeable improvement over the out-of-camera jpeg and was much closer to the actual moment when the image was captured. It still lacks a bit of pop from the foliage. I could have gone into Hue adjustments into CS6 and worked on those, as well as doing some time consuming spot adjustments to lighten up areas of the images. Instead I wanted to see what the Spot Weighted tool would do in this situation.

I ran the same RAW file through the entire process again, but this time I used the Spot Weighted tool in DxO Smart Lighting. I did this by creating a small box with the tool and placed it over the dark foliage on the right hand side of the image. I then used the ‘Medium’ setting (a custom slider is available to use with this adjustment). I then applied all of the same adjustments in CS6, except the Black slider. I was able to be more aggressive with it and took it to -65 from -20. I used the same Curve adjustment in CS6 and identical tweaks in Nik Suite. Here is the resulting image…

This version of the image is closer to the moment. There is more colour in the foliage and the sky is a bit more ominous and detailed.

I did one final tweak to the image, taking the Brightness to +15 in CS6 which helped give it a bit more life and pop.

Obviously this is just one quick example of using the Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting tool, but I can say that I will be experimenting with this quite a bit more as I really like the additional flexibility that it helps create with high contrast RAW files. Especially since it is so simple and quick to use.

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9 thoughts on “Using Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting with Landscapes”

  1. Sometimes I see a photo online that I like but there is just something missing, and then I think, I bet is photo would be a winner with image editing like Thomas Stirr can do.

  2. Thank you Thomas. I use Dx0 10, so your article on the Spot Weighted tool helps me to evaluate whether to upgrade.
    May I ask why you also used CS6? I think you could get an equivalent result using only Dx0 11

    1. Hi Mike,
      I use three programs in my post process. OpticsPro 11 is my main RAW processor, I then export a DNG file to CS6 for some additional work, then often finish my files off in Nik Suite. I like the added control with CS6 sliders as well as some of the adjustments such as clarity. With my Nikon 1 files I ‘double bump’ the highlights, taking them down initially in OpticsPro, then again in CS6. I do not like the level of control in OpticsPro for these type of fine adjustments. Plus, there are also some functions that I really like in Nik Suite such as the polarization function which works as a plug in to CS6.

      1. Thank you for your reply Thomas. It is interesting to see the many different approaches to post-processing. Keep up the articles on Dx0.

  3. That is one heck of a difference between the out-of-camera JPG and the final product. I like how even the color of the stones is now apparent. I found it easy to be on image 1 and use the back arrow to jump to the final image, and then the forward arrow to go back to image 1, making the comparison of the differences easy to see. Thank you for the inspiration credit. WEJ

    1. Hi William,
      Thank you for the creative spark – much appreciated! I also really like how the details in the rocks came out – they really help to give the image some interest.

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