Capture One Pro 7: Impressions from a First-Time User
Until recently, my only experience with Capture One was using it for shooting tethered on photo assignments. Every pro that I’ve assisted has used it during their shoots so that art directors, assistants, and anyone else who needed to, could review images while they were being made. Capture One is definitely the industry standard when it comes to shooting tethered, but as I have recently learned, it does so much more.
Let’s start with the tethering capabilities of Capture One, since that is what I knew the software for, and what most photographers I know think of when Capture One is mentioned. With this software, you can instantly import and view your photos as you shoot them, and best of all, you can make adjustments to the camera’s settings, and even trip the shutter right from your computer. You can also use Capture Pilot to send the images to a tablet or smartphone, so that multiple people on a shoot can review the images in real time. This is something I have seen implemented in studio shoots, has been incredibly important when attempting to please clients, and has helped make photo sessions go extremely smoothly.
Capture One supports more than 250 RAW formats, so most cameras on the market today can seamlessly fit into the software’s workflow. Files are supported from camera manufacturers such as Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Ricoh, Sony, and others, as well as Phase One's own digital backs and some Leaf and Mamiya digital backs.
This is the first time I’ve used Capture One to edit a photo, so for my first image, I chose one that I knew would be a challenge both for the software and me. We’ll start at the beginning, importing the image, and then move on to some of the features that make Capture One a great choice for post processing.
I imported a pretty useless image of a sunset in St. Thomas, just to see if I could get anything nice from the file. It was a good thing that I shot in RAW, because RAW image processing is where Capture One Pro 7 really shines. If you’re not shooting RAW files, the before and after images below should help convince you to start.
Sunset in St. Thomas: Before Capture Pro 7.
Capture One Pro 7 has a new RAW processing engine that interpolates the RAW data into your full-color image with pretty amazing results. Specially tailored camera profiles for many individual DSLR cameras mean better overall images with improved color rendition, noise reduction, and detail in your images. This is where my eyes really began to be opened to the power of Capture One. In the image above, you can see the original, unedited file, and the processed file below. Capture One makes it very simple, through the use of intuitive menus and sliders, to quickly turn an underexposed and otherwise throw-away photo into something I can actually use. The amount of detail that came through in the black areas of this image simply by moving the “shadow” slider up really blew me away.
After I adjusted the shadows, the image still looked too purple, so I went to the white balance tab and selected “Cloudy,” which almost magically rendered the colors so they looked natural—and just as I remember seeing the scene with my eyes.
So far, pretty simple adjustments right? Nothing but sliders and pull-down menus, and already my enhanced image was looking worlds better than the initial image. Because I brightened the overall image, I knew I had to bring the sky back down a little, so I had to make a local adjustment to the sky. Since this was my first time using the software, I had no idea where to look for a gradient mask, but once again I was impressed with the intuitive layout of the software. After only a minute of poking around I found the tool, and drew a line from the sky downward, lowered the exposure, and presto!
Sunset in St. Thomas: After using Capture Pro 7.
Because the image was so underexposed, I was expecting the noise to be unfixable. I zoomed into the image, and as expected, the noise was pretty heavy, but yet again, Capture One shone when I slid the luminance and color noise reduction sliders over to the right. The last thing I needed to do was straighten the horizon a bit, which is easily done by choosing the straighten tool and drawing a line across the horizon and cropping the image. All of this took about five minutes of work—and remember, this was my first time ever using Capture One to edit a photo. I can’t stress enough how simple and intuitive the interface makes it to successfully edit a photo. But this was all simple stuff. Now it was time for me to look at some of the more in-depth features of the software.
One important factor that's applicable to any photo software is image management. Organizing, tagging, and filtering are invaluable keys to helping your workflow go more smoothly, therefore saving you time, and we all know that time is money. Capture One Pro 7 uses catalogs to organize and display your images. A catalog is a shareable file that contains all of the information needed to find and view any image in the catalog. Sessions are another way to organize your files, and they allow you to store all of your files as a complete project, including RAW files, setting files, library files, and output files.
As I wrote earlier, the things that impressed me the most were the easy-to-use features that are used for editing photos, what Capture One calls “Intelligent Corrections,” and they definitely are just that. For example, the automated lens correction recognizes what lens you shot an image with, and automatically corrects distortion, light falloff, fringing, and other lens issues. It uses lens profiles for the most popular medium format, DSLR, and mirrorless camera lenses.
Local adjustments were also available, as I mentioned above, when I applied the gradient mask to my image. You can also use a brush tool to paint in the areas to which you want to apply a mask, and then make changes just for that area. All of the local adjustments are non-destructive, so you can always undo them and restore your original file. The most impressive tool, to me, is the auto mask tool. I haven’t seen any other software that can so easily find the edges of an object in your image, and mask only that area. For example, if you have a person standing with a bright sky behind them, you can draw around the edges with the auto mask tool, it will find the edges, and only mask the person. You can then bring up the exposure on the person, while keeping the same values in the sky.
In my short time using Capture One Pro 7, I have found it to be not only simple and intuitive post-processing software, but extremely capable as well. I have only begun to scratch the surface of what it can do, and I am extremely excited to continue to explore and learn more, so that I can use Capture One Pro 7 in my day-to-day workflow. Something worth mentioning, and something I plan to take full advantage of, is the Phase One webpage that has dozens of Capture One video tutorials, as well as forums where you can get answers to frequently asked questions.
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