Is PL3 workflow right for me?

Hi all,

Hoping someone can help. I’m stuck.
Spontaneous person here (yes, I’m a millenial).
I made the mistake (very common) of jumping in something thinking I’d definitely like it.

Right now, I just spent $149 out of FOMO to buy PL3 Elite to take advantage of the promotion, after seeing most of the tutorials and being happy with the TOOLS and FEATURES it offers. But now I am panicking because after exploring for 20 minutes, I am now gravely concerned because the most fundamental DAM portion of it seems to be VERY different from what I’m expecting.

Okay, so I came across PL3 while looking for a viable Aperture 3 alternative, something I’ve been stuck on for years. While officially unsupported, I’ve been clinging on for dear life still, but the killer blow was me getting a new camera which is no longer supported natively by Aperture 3.

My workflow is as follows:

  1. There is a LIBRARY file containing ALL the RAW images, including a record of all the “changes” I’ve applied to each file. Files are categorized/organized in PROJECTS. I IMPORT photos from my camera directly with Aperture 3 onto such projects.
  2. I store this LIBRARY in my NAS. I have Aperture 3 installed on BOTH my desktop and my laptop. In either machine, the Aperture application looks for and access the LIBRARY file in my NAS. I can CONTINUE working on my files regardless of which machine I’m using and which room I’m sitting in. Being able to do this is rather important to me.
  3. I then make any exports into the NAS so I can access it with any machine at home. This point is irrelevant but simply included for the sake of completion of my workflow.

So, to understand if PL3 is right for me, I’m hoping to hear back from experienced users on the following questions:

  1. Where is the PL3 equivalent of the LIBRARY file?
  2. How/where are (non-destructive) changes to the RAW files stored?
  3. Where the heck is the IMPORT button in the first place?! I plug my cameras in and nothing appears under DEVICES!! All it seems to do is BROWSE my local directories!!
  4. Best I can do (following point 3) is to take out my memory cards and plug it into a card reader. THEN I see something under DEVICES. Even then I can’t seem to import ANYTHING!! I try to copy files into a project. They appear rapidly, obviously no data being written/duplicated anywhere. To verify, once I eject the card, the thumbnails go instantly to “?” icon. (BUT WHEN I DRAGGED THE FILES TO THE PROJECT, THERE WAS A BLOODY + ICON ON IT!!! WTF?! AND WHY THE F*** CAN’T IT SHOW ALL FILES WITHIN SUBDIRECTORIES?! ARGH!!!).
    I’m suspecting at this stage that this software does NONE of the organising, NONE of the storage, and is pretty much all about processing, and the asset management component of it is done manually by users. Is this correct?
  5. Did anyone migrate over from Aperture 3, and how did it impact your workflow?

I’m expecting this tool serves as a DAM. In fact, it was one of the strong contenders that came out in my google search. My expectations of this tool is that it helps me STORE all of my RAW files, and organises it accordingly. Meaning it MUST be able to import files from a camera and keep its own copy of things, not asking me to pre-store things on Finder and folders for it. That’s asking me to do half its job, which appear to be

I also realise there are tutorial videos, including one that supposedly talks about “from camera to export”, where it’s some German dude talking about himself, all the cool things he’s done, and BOOM!! Suddenly he’s modifying an image!! Video didn’t live up to its title whatsoever and I’m all the more confused and frustrated.

Please help. I only have 14 days to ask for a refund.


And I can add this is his strong suit :slight_smile:

Are you stuck or do you wish to continue with PhotoLab ?

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Photolab;s DAM processing is very limited and very rudimentary. It is far from a full featured DAM. The Photo Library is primarily a file manager with some search and filtering capability. The newest version also has some keyword functionality, You can’t find the import button because there isn’t any. Image files are not imported into PhotoLab. PhotoLab is primarily a raw converter/processor, not an asset manager. There is a database in addition to the sidecar files, and both are primarily used to store completely non-destructive edits to images. Many folks here use 3rd party asset management systems.


DXO is a raw processor and a VERY good one. It is not a DAM. It has some basic DAM capabilities - and I hope they stay like this and focus their resources on staying the best raw-processor.

What you have to decide now is:

  • Do I want and all-in-one app - then you need to look for something like Lightroom.
  • or you get a dedicated DAM software and use DXO as its raw-processor. This is what I do.



I. like others, use DXO for its outstanding RAW capabilities. After the RAW processing I will occassionally finish up my editing in DXO or export it to Affinity. Needless to say, each one of us has a workflow that suits our style of work. For a DAM I use iMatch and don’t even consider DXO DAM type work.

seem you’re out of luck, the only program I know that does import and do your DAM is Lr, C1 and Aperture.
You can keep using Aperture with Catalina using this but for how long!

Like others as said, PL is a great RAW processor but not a fully functional DAM. Like many other software now, PL use your folder system so you make your own catalog, the advantage is the software most likely won’t loose your files during import or after, because you’re doing it. For culling, you can use photomechanic or fastrawviewer which are both great and fast at what they’re doing, which many PL users already use.

You’re not the first and won’t be last to struggle getting away from Aperture, which had been abandoned for years now.

I pasted my comments into your list of questions below…

  1. Where is the PL3 equivalent of the LIBRARY file?
    a) DPL has no equivalent of Aperture’s library “file”.
    b) DPL accesses your files directly from the file system.

  2. How/where are (non-destructive) changes to the RAW files stored?
    a) Settings and keywords are stored in a “database”, some of its content can be stored into sidecar files, keywords not being one of them at the moment.

  3. Where the heck is the IMPORT button in the first place?! I plug my cameras in and nothing appears under DEVICES!! All it seems to do is BROWSE my local directories!!
    a) Displaying images in DPL needs no import.
    b) You can create an index using the respective function of the library view. Find it near the top end of the lefthand sidebar of DPL’s window. This will read keywords from the image or sidecar files depending on how they were created and where they are stored.

  4. Best I can do (following point 3) is to take out my memory cards and plug it into a card reader. THEN I see something under DEVICES. Even then I can’t seem to import ANYTHING!! I try to copy files into a project. They appear rapidly, obviously no data being written/duplicated anywhere. To verify, once I eject the card, the thumbnails go instantly to “?” icon. (BUT WHEN I DRAGGED THE FILES TO THE PROJECT, THERE WAS A BLOODY + ICON ON IT!!! WTF?! AND WHY THE F*** CAN’T IT SHOW ALL FILES WITHIN SUBDIRECTORIES?! ARGH!!!).
    I’m suspecting at this stage that this software does NONE of the organising, NONE of the storage, and is pretty much all about processing, and the asset management component of it is done manually by users. Is this correct?
    a) Copy your original files from your camera or card with drag and drop.
    b) A “project” is nothing but a collection of links to your original files. Putting an image into a project does therefore not move or copy the image file.

  5. Did anyone migrate over from Aperture 3, and how did it impact your workflow?
    a) I did NOT use Aperture because it was a power hog and too expensive when I looked at it. I’m on Lightroom since version 1 and quite happy with it.

Summary: Is it right for you?
a) If DPL is to replace all your Aperture services, the answer is a CLEAR NO.
b) Can you live with a paradigm shift?

  • If not, migrate from Aperture to Apple Fotos (and live with limited functionality/complex workflow)
  • If yes, search the internet for how to get out of Aperture and into something else. There are many entries on how to go to Lightroom and some for Capture One. If you have none of these, be prepared for rough terrain… What I’d want is to get images (and edit recipes if possible) out of Aperture’s “library file” into a structure of folders that also make sense to a human being.

THANK YOU all for the wonderful support and advice!

After some thought, at the end of the day, I’m still looking for an all-in-one software that provides both DAM functionality and RAW processing. Sounds like I’ve been spoiled with Aperture thus far, and it’s an incredible shame that Apple stopped its development.

I’ve contacted DxO support staff to request a refund. Hopefully I can find something viable.
I briefly tried Capture ONE last night and even this option is not perfect, being that it also doesn’t have a Library file containing everything to enable me to pick up where I’ve left off from my desktop to laptop (and vice versa).

Thanks once again!

– stamp

@stamp PhotoLab certainly allows you to share your images amongst computers; all you need is to put your library on a shared external disk.

I use Mac computers and don’t find I miss that much of the DAM functionality that some do.

I start off by placing all my files in a hierarchy under the Pictures folder. Then I organise them :


It’s a crude system but I find I remember photos by place/subject, rather than dates.

Keywording is simple - I can use the tags feature provided in Finder to add as many keywords as I want, allowing me to use Spotlight to search for them later.

To allow me to browse all my photos as preview icons, I have setup a “saved search” for all Nikon RAW files, which I have added to the sidebar; the files are shown as icons and I can resize the icons to give me a reasonable sized preview of the files. Double-clicking on any image opens it immediately in PhotoLab.

Such saved searches are for the whole hierarchy starting at a given folder, not just for the immediate folder and they can be sorted and grouped as well.

If I were to want to, I can also use Exif Editor to add IPTC keywords, which are also searchable by Spotlight.

As to the idea of projects, being able to tag files with keywords, either with Finder tags or EXIF IPTC keywords, means I can setup one saved search per keyword/project and place them in the sidebar of Finder; I can even copy the saved searches from one computer to another.

So, instead of complaining about a lack of DAM, I already use what comes as part of the operating system, provided, for free by Apple.

I am working on writing my own DAM software but actually find myself not using it as much as I use the inbuilt Finder functionality.

As others have said, DxO is not a DAM, it is, first and foremost, the best RAW processing software out there. I would rather have the best single purpose tool than a compromise multi-tool.


Hi Joanna,

Thank you for sharing your experience.
Interesting on your take regarding sharing amongst computers.

In your example, if you have made some [non-destructive] modifications on a RAW image on your external hard disk, and you plug in this hard disk on another computer, does this other computer see all the changes that were supposedly made? In other words, if you started modifying photos for a project half way on one machine, can you “pick up where you left off” and finish the rest of the job including all the exporting using another machine?

To be able to do this, there obviously has to be some sort of file stored in this external hard disk (since changes aren’t amended to the RAW file directly) that keeps a record of all the changes ever made to the collection of images. I’m interested to know what this file is, since there’s no library file keeping integrity of all the data.


– stamp

Certainly. All changes in DxO are non-destructive, regardless of whether the file is RAW or not. Once you have edited a photo in PhotoLab, a sidecar file (.dop) is created in the same folder as the original file. It is this file that contains all changes made, including those for several versions of the same image. You just need to make sure that PhotoLab is set to work with sidecars rather than only with the internal database.

You can freely move/copy images from any location to any other location, as long as you take care to move move/copy both the original file and its accompanying sidecar at the same time.

Personally I never rely on the internal database as, if it were to corrupt, I would lose, not only all my edits but, also all my projects and keywords - which is another reason why I do most of my DAM work in Finder rather than risking the very limited DAM that PhotoLab provides.

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You can also use Apple’s “Automator” app to add keywords into the document’s “File info” section - and more! Here is a post describing this process using “Automator” (and “Spotlight”) to create a DAM like structure using the Mac’s native file system.

“Automator” is incredibly powerful tool that is amazingly easy to create~script.

Below is a screen shot of a sample “Automator workflow” (that You create) to insert keywords into files (images in this case). Here we are inserting a general description into each of the selected files.


Thanks Joanna,

The sidecar thing eases it up a little but still feeling extremely uncomfortable with the workflow.
It’s amazing that despite my age-group, it’s still so uneasy learning or changing methodologies.
I can’t put my finger on it, but it just feels so… difficult and sluggish based on my recent encounter! Scrolling a large folder of raw images is extremely choppy and unsmooth. I scroll 3 clicks and the browser maybe moves up a few pixels after a 3 second lag. It just get really bad vibes overall.

Anyway, let’s talk more about workflow.
Let’s say I just shot a wedding and have a roll of around 3000 images from two cameras.
I’ll import the images using Image Capture (actually I haven’t tried this one yet) and because I work on a session basis, I prefer to keep my files organised based on a “Project Folder”.
So I import ALL 3000 images into a project folder called “Wedding”. Now I browse to it with PL3.
Sluggishness aside, I go through all 3000 images in a culling process and flag only 300 of them in my shortlist. Now I have 2700 images to delete to save on storage and hopefully make things a little less sluggish.

How do you delete these 2700 images? Can I delete the images from PL3? If so, does it delete the actual master file, or just remove it from the view?


do not use DPL for culling. DPL is way too slow for that. It was not built for that. Use your DAM application for culling, or i.e a lot of people use FastRawViewer. Do the culling there.
When finished add your metadata in your DAM, select all the files you want to edit and open them in DPL. DPL will then create a project and you are good to go.

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Not knowing your past photographic experience but… my father taught me about photography when I was 11 years old (54 years ago); back then, things were certainly sluggish :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

First of all, we would never have thought of taking 3000 photos at a wedding, as that would have involved the purchase of 84 rolls of 36 exposure film. If you were shooting in B&W, you would develop the film yourself and print contact sheets from each film to use for culling. “Zooming in” to an image involved the use a magnifying glass but that didn’t always show as much detail as you would like.

If you used colour film, you would go through the same culling process but you would send the film to a lab to get it developed and contact sheets made.

All this didn’t just take time, it also cost “loadsamoney”!

Before tackling a digital workflow, I would seriously suggest that you look at your picture taking. Instead of thrashing away 3000 pictures and culling 2700, why not try being more selective and aim for 300 in the first place? :nerd_face:

Anyhow, we are where we are with digital photography - it doesn’t cost anything to “burn film” like it used to so we tend not to think about what we are taking; instead relying on the machine gun approach. Even I sometimes do that, but mainly for things like catching the perfect shot of fast aircraft at an air show.

Now to looking at improving the management of large numbers of images (apart from not taking so many)

The main problem with any software that is showing RAW images is that a RAW file doesn’t contain a “visible” image, it contains data that is interpreted as an image, as and when you want to look at it. On my Nikon D810, that means that every file is around 75MB, which is quite a lot of data to process just to glimpse what the picture looks like. Hence the time it can take to show even one image, let alone a screenful.

Fortunately (at least with Nikon NEF files) the file does contain several jpeg versions of the image, to help speed up the process of previewing them on the camera as well as on a computer.

  1. A full size jpeg - around 1.5MB
  2. A 640 x 424 miniature - around 127KB
  3. Another low-res version 1620 x 1080) - around 677KB

If you use PhotoLab to cull your images, my educated guesses, it starts by showing you one of the smaller jpegs in the filmstrip and the full-size jpeg in the editing panel. Then, as you see the spinning circular arrows stop, it loads and renders the RAW data into a visible image. As you can imagine, all this takes time.

Some other software constructs a database and keeps hold of a jpeg copy of every image to make it appear that it works faster the next time you open the same library. However, all this takes up disk space and makes it difficult to move/copy partially developed images from one disk to another, since the previews and corrections are stored in a database on one computer. This then means that it is impossible to move/copy images the you are in the process of editing - you are limited to exporting either the (partially) processed images or the original (unprocessed) RAW file. Apples’s Photos works like this and is one of the reasons I was so delighted to find PhotoLab. That and the fact that Apple Photos really doesn’t like playing with 75MB files.

My recommendation to doing a rapid first cull is to use Finder, in icon view, with the size slider set to maximum, sorted by filename; on my setup, this gives me 433px x 288px thumbnails.

Culling is easy - all you do is select unwanted files and delete them.

You can also use Finder tags to add either a coloured dot to the icon or keywords, both of which are searchable in Spotlight.

If you want to examine the images more closely, for example to see if the bride’s dress is really blown or recoverable, then I would concur with @Sigi’s advice to use FastRawViewer. In fact, you might like to look at the docs on FastRawViewer as they outline a very good culling workflow, which you could use instead of using just Finder.

Deleting from PL3 either deletes a version’s adjustments from the sidecar file or, if you select the master, it deletes the master file plus the sidecar (both of which can be recovered from the recycle bin in Finder)

OK. I’m off to cull the possible one or two worthwhile images from the 200 that I took of breaking waves on the beach the other day :sunglasses:


Well, that was quick. I used FastRawViewer and deleted all 200 deleted in less than five minutes :crazy_face:

:flushed: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :crazy_face:
Here is a quick and effective inventory.


Thanks Joanna,

Definitely get what you’re saying about the machine-gun approach, but we are definitely in a different era and as ironic as this sounds given my original post and the whole “I hate change” rant, this is part of the digital revolution that we can certainly take advantage of (i.e. get with the times lol!)

Thanks for your explanation of how RAWs work. I never knew they stored a copy of the jpg in there - I’ve always assumed that my mac processes them natively given how smooth the default app Preview opens up the RAW cr2 files from my 5D2. It can open up a bunch of cr2 files and it feels as light as though they were all 1MB jpegs.

As to what Sigi mentioned, sounds like DPL really isn’t ideal as a DAM for that purpose. I get what you’re saying about the 3000 images (it’s actually more like 2000; 1700 from my EOS R and around 200 ish from my 5D2), and admittedly I did get a little carried away. Moving on from a 5D2 (3.9fps) to a new EOS R (8fps, WITH silent shutter!!), it was certainly fun just machine-gunning away. Most of the intentional rapid-fire being for the kiss and dance (this is where most of the photos are), with the unintentional ones due to me not coming off the shutter release quickly enough so there will be a few duplicates there also.

Looks like after my explanation to DxO support, they are finally happy to talk about refunds but I’ll have to arrange a remote desktop session with them so that they can be satisfied that the program is completely uninstalled on my computer. Fair enough I suppose; thought just invalidating the license should be adequate.

Hopefully someone out there will make the perfect tool. The contenders I’ve looked at so far are:

  • Capture ONE (expensive, but I WILL buy it if perfect)
  • PhotoLab
  • AfterShot
  • Luminar

Who knows, maybe if DxO ends up doing what Aperture did, our paths will cross again very soon.

Currently, they all talk about “Library” but like PhotoLabs, none of them do DAM like Aperture did, and they all just end up doing nothing but show existing filesystem folders in a slightly fancier way. So one accidental removal or relocation of something, and things can go missing (I don’t usually tag metadata in my workflow; never had to). A serious blow to data integrity - right now I have a big (200GB) library file stored on a RAID1 server. Seems to work like a charm so far.

Anyway, I thank you all once again for your fantastic efforts and bid you all a pleasant farewell for now.


There’s a comparison here:

Did he forgotten one ?