My requests for PhotoLab 7 and beyond

It’s that time of the year again, I am going to write-up all the things that annoy me about this lovely app (which overall is absolutely fantastic) and which I hope to see addressed in DxO PhotoLab 7 and beyond.

  1. Keyboard shortcuts wildly inconsistent and not very functional [NOTE: even between Win and Mac already tons of inconsistency]
  2. No keyboard shortcut editor (see FCP and CO for great examples)
  3. No tokens for renaming (see CO for how it is done well) [NOTE: batch renaming in this app is totally worthless bare the simplest use cases)
  4. Noise reduction should have parameters (e.g. Camera A, ISO B = setting). [NOTE: this would lead to a preset system aka Lightroom and CO]
  5. No AUTO/AI White Balance. [NOTE: this should be there in 2022]
  6. UPoint interface still confusing
  7. General UI looks a bit outdated and is not clearly expressed like in other apps
  8. Mac and Windows app have different look and feel (square vs rounded)
  9. No way to quickly compare 2 images
  10. No stacking of virtual copies
  11. No HEIC/HEIF support
  12. Interface should be more customisable where to put what
  13. Basic AI recognition should be there: e.g. find photos based on auto keywords (not written to image metadata), find photos with 1,2,3,4,5 people, group portraits… all based on basic image analysis. See Excire, Final Cut Pro for implementations of this. Again, not to automate tagging but to make it easer to find stuff without any work form the user. Especially because a lot of people use DxO for processing and not for their full end-to-end editing workflow.

Any additions?

Can I cut short this request with one simple replacement request? Fix all the little niggles and bugs that have built up in PL3, PL4, PL5 and worst of all, PL6.

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@florisvaneck and @Joanna don’t forget to vote before the FR goes into the darkness like some other FR’s
7…and better contrast of the UI so you can also work without setting the brightness of my screen to max

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CleanShot 2022-11-18 at 08.54.28

Here’s how the auto people tagging works in Final Cut Pro. It analyses the footage, and then indicates if there is one or more persons, and if it’s a close-up, medium or wide shot. This would be super useful for quickly going through my photos as well.

Adding this old one (4 years old) to the list :

I agree with some of this but there are requests here which are absolutely toxic:

The PhotoLab interface is elegant and very usable and highly customisable. The only downside is the very low contrast iin recent versions (has it been addressed in the latest PL5/PL6 versions?).

You always seem devoted to destroying PhotoLab to save it (“burn the village to save it”), Florian.

Please no. DxO has so many other pokers in the fire. Getting on the AI bandwagon to slow down our RAW development software and waste oodles of disk space is an awful, awful idea. If you’d like to do AI analysis of your photos, for heaven’s sake do it in a dedicated app.

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Above all else, fix the mess that is their new wide gamut colour space.

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I’ll mention it at every opportunity … license management.

I’m sick of having to contact Support every time I need/want to move an activation to another computer, and having them question it. Is DxO so unsure of themselves that they have to make this difficult for paying customers?

Add to that the poor license terms; in particular, losing the ability to use PL5 as I wish once I purchase a PL6 upgrade. Upgrading with DxO is a one-way street, no going back, which makes purchasing an upgrade a bigger deal.

Neither of these is a problem with other applications I use, like Capture One, Exposure or Affinity Photo. I can manage my activations in software and/or on the web (no need at all with Serif, who don’t care how many devices I use) and decide to activate an older version if I so desire. And these versions don’t step on one another the way PL versions do.

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No kidding. The rude questioning attitude astonishes. Often feels like an intelligence officer’s interview with a potential terrorist, or at least a shoplifter questioned by the store gumshoe.

I’m starting to get very worried about how to maintain PhotoLab installations on older versions or if PhotoLab disappears into the sands of time (the bad commercial policies and support attitude puts the future of the company back at stake, despite the quality of the flagship program).

There should be a fully automated way to reset a license online even if the computer is sold and hard drive wiped. Of course some kinds of reasonable limits could be imposed (more than five authorisations per year would require human intervention).

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Nothing toxic about it. Maybe your mind is like that, and you feel the need to project?

If I compare PhotoLab to Lightroom (Cloud), Capture One, Affinity Photo 2 and Pixelmator Photo, Resolve etc. I don’t think the interface is very elegant. Simple as that. Also the interface has barely progressed in the last 3-4 releases, also indicating that the design language and UI frameworks are stale. Of the 30+ apps I am using, PhotoLab just feels like one of the older ones (PureRaw, Viewpoint and Filmpack as well… there is also no consistency between all of those). That’s an observation, and it’s a verifiable one as well by anyone else. NOTE: on the Mac I think it’s worse, I actually much prefer the Windows UI which is square and has no rounded corners. Also there is not a lot of UI consistency between Windows and Mac, also bad.

Priority? NO. Should it be on the backlog and done… YES!

Should it (and proper keyboard shortcut functionality) have been done before exotic niche features like localized image warping? Hell yes!

In regard to the AI functionality, it is very clear that you failed the test in comprehensive reading and let your emotions run wild once more. AI functionality is basically available “in a box”. No development is needed for that (only implementation). You analyze the images (already happening, otherwise it wouldn’t be able to adjust exposure to faces in my images), build an index, and make it searchable. No advanced functionality, just basic stuff to make life better and get to images faster.

I am already using and testing quite a bunch of AI apps actually. One I really like is Narrative Select, nothing works faster for culling then that app and it’s free to use. I fully agree with you that all this advanced functionality shouldn’t end up in the main PhotoLab app.

Please stay civil and don’t attack people. No need for that.

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I vote for #9.

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This I don’t understand. I still have licenses going back to PL2 and can use them if necessary.
A new PL version does not delete the older one (different with the Nik collection, where it’s wise to keep the old installable files …).

Say you replace your computer or it dies on you, then try to get your old installations up and running again. You can’t since DxO won’t let you activate them.

You can use your old versions on your current computer(s) since DxO doesn’t currently prevent you from that (although they could since you’re no longer licensed to use them), but after that you’re out of luck.

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Ah ok – talking about license management, not just upgrading.

Well, no idea. I haven’t been in that situtation.

It’s a problem for upgrading as well. You can discover new problems that make the new version more trouble than it’s worth (changing the rendering of edits performed in earlier versions of PL is a thick line in the sand for me), but the upgrade version is the only one you have a license for and can activate where you want (modulo Support’s inquisition when you request that they free up an activation) so you’re stuck with it.

It’s very restrictive, more so than other applications.

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I would add longer OS support for Mac to the list.

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Greater control over radial masks would be welcome.

I was pleased to find that you could ‘create’ a radial gradient mask by creating a Control Point and then dropping Chroma and Luma sensitivity to ‘zero’.

However this only allows for a circle. The ability to create custom oval shapes (ala Lightroom) would be beneficial.

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I’d like to see the licensing become automated or controlled via the web, and / or user portal. While not the absolute end of the world, I would appreciate the ability to freely disable unused / unneeded activations on devices no longer in service, upgraded or needed.

I loved it when builds were coming out with release numbers as well, but this is no longer happening (again).

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Others knows how to do this in a for the users very convenient matter - saving themselves a lot of bad will, inconveniences and totally unnecessary supporter costs they could use better - for example for the needed R&D.

In this case you see how it looks now in the new version (version 23) of Capture One. This funktion is easily accessible via the Help-menu under the “License”-menu.

How hard can it be to solve this problem?

Maybe I was lucky avoiding this license counter problem with Photolab when my old machine was destroyed by the movers who moved our stuff to our new flat. I then had to install the version 6 instead of version 5 and I had no problems with that.

Well, DXO is not alone :-). The Chinese company making the backup program EaseUS Todo is forcing you to contact them if you have to install the software again, despite you try to install it even on the same machine.

So imaging, if it had been a critical system and you were trying to restore as quick as possible and the software refuses to install because your activation code is “already used”. How fun is that when you want to restore as fast as possible? Then as customer services nowadays often works, and make everything they can to avoid telephone calls by forcing you to mail them or so it´s not all that fun.

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I would not like to have any AI handling at all of the metadata markup on my data. The wish for that I think might arise from the fact that the metadata editing tools are so poor in many converters.

Background
I use booth Capture One and Photolab now and used Lightroom maybe eight nine years ago. I tried to use Lightrooms readymade templates then but I felt it was really ineffective and cumbersome and gave up. The metadata editing in Capture One isn´t good at all even today in version 23, which is the latest one. In Photolab there are some possibilities to paste copied metadata from one master and also control what to paste and what not to paste on a selected number of images. It works pretty well and I prefer that to the earlier Lightroom as I remember it. I hope Adobe has made at least some improvements since then.

We also have to consider that all these three metadata aware applications can be used with third party applications specialized in effective metadata editing and strangely enough even Photolab has been used as a plugin to Lightroom despite that really is to put “one cake on top of another”.

Our RAW-converters and their image libraries are generalized tools and generalized tools are generally cheaper but they are always inferior when it comes to efficiency. So, that’s the real price to use them.

The real strength of Photolab plus Photo Mechanic as a pre step metadata editor and DAM - the workflow

Now to the very good Photolab 6 news:

Since not very long I decided to give Capture One a new try as my main converter but I found it much inferior to Photolab when it came to the integration with my highly effective specialized metadata editor Photo Mechanic Plus. I tried to switch completely because I think C1 has a lot more effective and precise layer- and masking tools these days and also because C1 has a much more consistent way of working when using local editing tools. All these tools are accessible in the same consistent way including the common background layer or any other layer. In C1 everything is layers. A few years ago when I still used version 20 I thought that it was pretty cumbersome and inefficient but the last two or three years Capture One has solved these problems very well with their new Style Brush-tools, so it is very much more streamlined these days than it ever was before.

… but I found soon enough that C1 was a lot inferior to Photolab as an XMP-metadata tool and especially when integrating with Photo Mechanic and especially when it came to the workflow. In version 6 DXO has also broadened the IPTC- and EXIF-support
and straightened out a few very irritating problems, much discussed when we were using version 5.

**… still the best is the now beautifully functioning live update through “synchronizing” between Photo Mechanic Plus and Photolab. No need any more for manual import of metadata via the File menu!

Now I always start in PMPlus and applies all the metadata to all files in a folder before doing anything else at all in Photolab. If Photolab is open the metadata changes made in Photo Mechanic will immediately appear in Photolab and if it is closed it will appear when Photob is active and that same folder is opened again, since Photolab now always will synch with the metadata in the files automatically if the “Synchronization” is on. Earlier it only synched the first time the image folder was opened in Photolab**

The reason not to start developing the images first is to avoid having problems when eventually creating virtual copies of RAW-files lacking metadata because then you will end up with metadata later on the masters but not on the virtual copies and since it’s more likely you will export JPEG-derivates from the virtual copy these will also be missing out on the metadata despite it is present on the master RAW. You can transfer that metadata later from master to copy but it will be a very inefficient copy/paste job, so it´s better doing it right from the beginning. Bevare though never to update anything from the Photolab side. It’s never a good practise to use two-way flows. That is to ask for problems

The Edit-integration between PMPlus and Photolab
I have said it before but I don´t want you to miss this:
If you configure Photolab in PM as an external Editor and also add Photolab as associated editor to your RAW-file file endings and as well for JPEG, TIFF and DNG it will help a lot. The first is to keep both my ARW, the DOT-files and the XMP-files together when moving them or copying them.

External Selections
There is also a very nice and I think pretty unique integration feature in Photolab called "External Selections. After configuring PMPlus to use Photolab.exe as an external editor you just need to select the images you want to edit in Photolab and right click the selection of images in and choose Photolab.exe as the editor for the selection. Then these images will get opened immediately in Photolabs “filmstrip”. This isn´t possible in the same manner with C1 because just Photolab has the unique feature of working direct against the file system folders without using any import procedures. So that is the main reason for me still using Photolab because the work flow for me gets so much better ha with the alternatives.

The integration and work flow in Photolab is just so much better

To the left in the image below you can see this unique “external selection list” with the last import marked in grey. You can anytime go back to that bunch of images just by clicking on that row in the “external selection”.

**Is there anything that is better in C1 when it comes to metadata? **
Yes!!! Of some reason I can´t find any feature in Photolab that gives the users a possibility to import and export keyword-lists in TXT ot TAB-format and that is a shame but this is where Capture One shines.

Since my old computer was crashed by my movers, I was not able to recreate a keyword list from my PM-backups but Capture One was, so it saved me. To be able export and import keywords is a key migration feature (sorry for that unintended joke) that has to be there because sooner or later you will find yourselves migrating, like me. This is as important as being able to migrate the imagedata itself in a controlled, efficient and secure way.

My main request for version 7 is that DXO focuses in making a consistent layer and masking interface where all adjustment tools get available even including the color wheel. … and don´t forget to fix the keyword export problem too.

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