One of DxO Optics Pro’s trademark features is its Smart Lighting technology. DxO Smart Lighting works on your RAW files to bring out shadow detail without compromising your midtones or highlights. You can use it to recover far greater dynamic (brightness) range from your RAW files.

But it’s not always been easy to figure out. Early versions of Optics Pro came with a fearsome array of Smart Lighting options – if the off-the-peg results didn’t work, you faced a steep learning curve before you could take control yourself.

DxO Optics Pro 11 review

This has been fixed. DxO Optics Pro 9 offers a simple Intensity slider linked to Slight, Medium and Strong settings. You use this, along with the the Exposure Compensation slider to control both the highlights and the shadow details in your pictures.

Or you can simply leave it to DxO Optics Pro. The default profile will use ‘Smart’ exposure compensation based on the tones in your image and apply a default ‘Slight’ Smart Lighting adjustment.

But just when you thought it was all getting quite straightforward… there’s another panel called ‘Selective tone’ just a little further down the list of tools, and this has sliders for adjusting the Highlights, Midtones, Shadows and Blacks in your picture.

That’s a bit bothersome, because the last thing you want is two sets of controls for the same thing, with no clear idea which you’re supposed to use, and when.

At first I assumed these were simpler tonal adjustments to be applied after the Smart Lighting tools had done their work, but after some careful comparisons I’m not so sure. I started to think the Selective tone sliders did the same job, and then I wondered if they were actually the same thing, but with a manual front end rather than the ‘automagic’ Smart Lighting tools.

DxO Optics Pro Selective tone

To try this out I’ve used this shot (above) of a backlit statue against a blue sky. The original shows almost no detail in the statue and not that much in the sky either, so if DxO can fix this, it can fix anything.

It would also be a good test of the Selective tone tools to see if they could get close to the results from Smart Lighting… or even if they amounted to the same thing.

01 Smart Lighting

DxO Optics Pro Selective tone

The default DxO Optics Pro conversion applies a Smart exposure compensation adjustment and ‘Slight’ Smart Lighting. That didn’t reveal any useful detail in the statue at all, so I’ve pushed the Smart Lighting ‘Intensity’ slider right up to 200, the maximum value.

This result’s not bad. It needs a little more work to make it look realistic, but what I really want to know is whether the Selective tone tools can match this result.