Capture One Pro has been my go-to editing software for a long while now (since version 6). Over that time, the way I edit has gotten simpler and simpler. Today, 99.9% of photos take only 4 easy steps to edit. Some photos get more attention, but most are straight forward. This is Capture One Editing in 4 Easy Steps.
Capture One Editing in 4 Easy Steps
Let’s look at the evolution of one photo. Here is the “Straight Out of Camera” (really, the imported to Capture One with no adjustments) photo:
Step 1: White Balance
The first step in the adjustment process is to make sure the white balance is right. I try to shoot the photos on the correct white balance, but sometimes I forget or some tweaking may be required because of mixed light color. White balance is one of the first steps in most raw processing pipelines (i.e. it is one of the first things Capture One and other raw processors does to the raw data), so I start with it. It is hard to judge things like proper exposure if the white balance is dramatically wrong.
For this photo I shot with the camera set to daylight (I had just walked in from an outside location and didn’t think about it). The room was lit by a lot of very warm old-school light bulbs. I wanted to keep the warm feeling but without the overall photo being orange. My resulting white balance is 3349K with a tint of -1.4 (add a little magenta). I adjusted it by eye. There is no white or grey reference in this photo so the eye dropper wasn’t really useful.
Step 2: Auto Adjust
Capture One has a flexible auto adjust system. You can configure what gets auto adjusted under the Adjustment menu. I have Capture One set to auto adjust only Exposure and Levels. Auto adjusting exposure centers the histogram and is a good starting point. The level auto adjust will find a reasonable black and white point in the levels tool (you can configure how aggressive this is in the preferences). Most photos should have at least a few pixels that are full white and full black and this handles that automatically.
You can trigger an auto adjust a number of way. There is a icon on the tool bar (assuming you haven’t removed it). You can also hit Command-L (mac) or Control-L (pc).
Many of the tool panels have an icon along their top that allows for auto adjustment of only that tool.
Auto adjusting the exposure and levels of this photo added .86 stops of exposure. I intentionally shoot a little underexposed on my D810 to protect highlights. The levels changed very little since this photo has a lot of range in it from full black in the shadows under the tables to full white in the center of the up-light spot on the wall.
Step 3: Tweaking the Levels Mid Point
The levels tool is one of my favorite things about Capture One. It provides a simple way to set white and black points if the auto adjust didn’t find them correctly.
In this step, I adjust the mid point. Moving it to the right (towards white) pushes more of the histogram to the left of the mid point, making the photo feel darker. Moving the mid point to the left (towards black) pushes move the histogram to the right making the photo feel brighter. The mid point is a simple way to control mood of the photo.
For this photo I moved the levels mid point slightly to the left (to 0.18) making the photo slightly brighter.
Step 4: Crop/Level/Dust Spot
The final step is to crop and level the photo if needed, which it often isn’t. I also include dealing with any dust spots or other blemishes that need to be removed here. For many photos, step 4 can be skipped.
This photo was composed in camera pretty well. However, the table number hangs down into the very top center of the frame. A slight crop eliminates it and doesn’t otherwise alter the image. There were no obvious dust spots or other things to be cloned out.
Don’t repeat the same edit over and over. If you have a sequence of images that are all similar in terms of exposure, white balance, and content, edit one and then sync the settings. Like most things in Capture One, you can sync settings a number of ways. The way I use most often are the shortcut keys. Select your source edit and press Command-Shift-C (mac) or Control-Shift-C (pc). Then, select all the images you want to apply the settings too and press Command-Shift-V (mac) or Control-Shift-V (pc).
You can copy the settings from individual tool panels, or individual settings in a tool panel using the icon on the tool panel.
You can control which settings are copied by the shortcut keys using the Adjustment Clipboard tool panel normally found on the tool tab.
Keep It Simple
Capture One has a ton of tools. I’m using only a few here. I like to keep my edits simple. Some photos might receive slight tweaks to other settings such as highlight and shadow recovery. Of course, there are photos that need or deserve more. 1 out of a 1000 photos gets a lot more attention. Those photos take much longer than the vast majority of the edits I complete. For most photos, I use my Capture One editing in 4 easy steps process.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.