Capture One on Antarctica
September 14, 2010 4 Comments
Let’s face it, processing raw files is a burden. It’s a job to be done quickly and accurately, so any tools or features than can reduce the time sitting in front of our computers are to be applauded.
Capture One 5 works as a filing cabinet and sorting table as well, allowing you to rate and flag your files in many different ways.
While Capture One allows you to operate many cameras tethered (Phase One, Mamiya, Canon and Nikon), my workflow for landscape photography means I’m slipping a memory card into the computer and letting Capture One copy the files to my main drive as well as a back-up folder. When on the road, such as my recent trip to Antarctica, I save my files to my laptop and to an external back-up drive simultaneously. Then, as my laptop fills up (a month in Antarctica will do this to you), I back up manually to a second external drive before clearing the laptop, so I always maintain at least two copies of the files.
When copying the files (or working tethered), Capture One lets you work with ‘sessions’. A session is simply a way of saving and storing all your files quickly in an ordered way. For instance, once I’ve created a session (let’s call it Antarctica), I can then save individual shoots to sub-folders that will sit within the Antarctica session folder. Similarly, when I process my files, the results are stored in logical folders so I can easily find any file that has to do with a particular session. It makes the process of transferring files quick and foolproof – it’s a useful workflow tool.
There are several tabs in Capture One which give you access to different tools. All the tabs can be customised – this is the author’s Quick tab which has his most used tools gathered together.
Possibly the best thing about Capture One is the way you can customise the workspace to suit how you process your files. I populate the ‘Quick’ tab with the processing tools I use the most and, by running down the tools in order, I create a mini checklist for what has to be done.
At the top of my workspace is the Histogram display. Just as I use the histogram to check my exposures on the camera, so I keep an eye on it when processing my files.
Next are the three tabs I use the most: White Balance, Exposure, and High Dynamic Range. Depending on the nature of the job and its purpose, most of my work can be done with these tools. I really like the sliders in the Exposure menu – Exposure, Contrast, Brightness and Saturation – as they provide a really quick way to work.
However, there are files (especially with landscape work) where I need to bring out the big guns because the sliders are not extreme enough in their effect. Capture One 5.0 now offers Curve and Levels dialogs with access to the red, green and blue channels separately. This gives me complete and absolute control for files that are a little more demanding.
Next I include Lens Correction, Focus Tool, Noise Reduction and Sharpening. I also keep Styles (a quick way to apply a series of changes to a photo or series of photos) and the Process Summary dialog here, so essentially I can process most of my work from just one screen.
Of course, to use any raw processing software you need to have an accurate colour monitor which has been correctly profiled and calibrated, otherwise the changes you make on screen (especially to colour and contrast) can be meaningless.
In addition to the Quick Tab, Capture One has another ten tabs which give you access to the raw processing engine with even more control. For instance, the Colour tab not only gives you control over colour temperature, but over individual colours as well. The system is very intuitive: using a colour picker tool, you click on the colour you want to adjust, and then you can adjust the hue, saturation and lightness of just that colour alone. A similar process is followed to set a neutral colour balance automatically – just click on a neutral area in the image and watch the colour balance pop to a neutral, correct state.
Each tab has a comprehensive set of tools controlling different aspects of image quality. The Colour tab allows you to neutralise the colour balance or creatively enhance a single colour.
Of particular interest for portrait photographers is a Skin Tone Enhancer menu, designed to quickly set natural-looking skin tones. You can choose an existing skin tone from a drop down menu, or create your own presets.
Once you’ve made these colour changes, you can quickly copy and paste the adjustments to another image or to a whole folder of images. In fact, the copying of image adjustments from all tabs from one image to another is simply a mouse click or two (depending on how you set it up).
The Lens Correction tab is designed to correct a range of lens issues, including spherical and chromatic aberrations, plus vignetting. It’s quite amazing how software is able to make final corrections to any number of different lenses and you can see the image change shape on screen, especially with wide-angle lenses.
Capture One lets you crop and rotate your images, helping to fix any lilting horizons, while the Details tab lets you sharpen, reduce noise and increase clarity (a local contrast adjustment). Capture One also includes a Spot Removal feature, allowing you to clean up the file and, even better, copy the fixes to all the other files that are similarly afflicted.
There are many other features tucked away inside Capture One, including a creative vignetting tool, the ability to save your changes as ‘styles’ which can be quickly applied to your files, and a sophisticated processing system that lets you output to any number of different sizes, formats and locations. You can even create internet web pages automatically.
Capture One can be used in a semi-automatic manner, or opened up and worked with manually. The degree of control is remarkable.
Capture One is a raw processing program that will grow with you as your needs expand. It can be used with several ‘auto’ buttons and just a few steps to make marked improvements to your images, or you can agonise over every possible aspect of your file, extracting every gram of quality possible. The choice is yours.
But don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself. You can download a free 30-day trial from the Phase One website (www.phaseone.com/download) and test it out yourself. Not only is raw processing incredibly more powerful than shooting with JPEGs, using Capture One 5 will harness that power with industry leading technology that makes the most of your raw files – no matter what type of camera you use.