06 Stronger colours
There’s a limit to how far you can increase the contrast in a situation like this, but there is another way to disguise the tonal compression – add more saturation.
You do this with the Colour Accentuation panel, circled here. In fact there are two sliders: one for Vibrancy and one for Saturation. You can push the Vibrancy value way up because it has the strongest effect on the weakest colours. Treat the Saturation slider as a kind of ‘baseline’ saturation increase which affects all colours equally – so you need to use this with a little more care.
I generally find it takes both to achieve a balanced-looking colour boost, but with a Vibrancy setting 2-4 times higher than the Saturation setting.
07 Edge artefacts
Now the one thing to be aware of with these sophisticated tonal compression tools is that you often get edge artefacts where two areas of different tone meet – and you can see these edge effects here around the outline of the statue. There’s no fix that I know of, but they’re not obtrusive at normal viewing distances, and it’s the price you pay for radical tonal rescues like this. Lightroom is much the same.
Incidentally, the Smart Lighting tool also produces these edge effects, and they look very similar – another reason why I think these may be the same tools in a different guise.
08 Cleaning up with Curves
I can tell from the histogram that the image I’m left with after my work so far doesn’t quite make full use of the available tonal range. The Selective tone tools aren’t very well suited to overall contrast adjustments, so I’m switching to the Tone Curve panel in the Light and Colour – Advanced section.
I’ve added a control point near the base of the curve and dragged it downwards to make the blacks just a tiny bit stronger, then added another control point near the top and dragged it upwards to lighten the brightest highlights and the image generally.
09 The finished result
I think the amount of shadow detail DxO Optics Pro 9 has managed to recover from this shot is quite amazing, and it’s good-quality detail too, and not just full of noise and smudged textures.
What’s especially interesting for this experiment, though, is that the results came from the Selective tone tools, and the DxO Smart Lighting system had nothing to do with it.
I still think Smart Lighting and the Selective tone tools might be the same thing, but I’m always willing to be proved wrong if anyone else – or someone from DxO – can tell me otherwise!