15 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Capture One

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With no regard as to what software you use for your post-processing, you’d always want to get the most out of it. Capture One has been improving over the years and today it competes with the best on the market for cataloging, shooting tethered, post-processing and being a home for your image collection overall. In this article, I’d like to pay attention to some of the features that shine: some you know, some you’ll get familiar with in the lines below.

# 1: Starting an Adjustment at 80% Opacity or Lower

First, we start with layers. I know they’re not something you’ve never seen before, but having layers in a RAW converter/cataloging piece of software is relatively new. Introduced with Capture One 11, layers’ opacity is a thing now and they keep improving the layers functionality with each release. Something I, personally, found super useful is to start making adjustments in a new layer with 70-80% opacity. That way, when finished I can either move the slider up to make my adjustment stronger or decrease the percentage and dial it down. I strongly recommend you try it!

# 2: Make Your Life Easier by Checking The Orange Line

Let’s talk curves. More specifically, have you noticed the orange line in the curves tool when you hover over parts of your image? That’s right, this orange line represents the luma value on the curve. So if you’re looking to brighten or darken a certain part of your picture with the curve tool, it would be useful to first hover over that part – to see where to manipulate the curve.

Capture One interface of the Curve Tool.
The orange line on the curve tool represents the value on the picture. In this example, it was the skin tones.

# 3: Tethered Shooting!

Not everyone finds the need to shoot tethered, but for the ones that do, I’m pleased to let you know that Capture One is one of the most advanced, user-friendly tethering pieces of software out there. With not only the ability to adjust all camera settings, focus, get previews with styles on spot, and rate, arrange and store in a catalog or in a session, but also the ability to sync with the Capture Pilot app on a mobile device and review, rate and/or make adjustments in real-time.

# 4: Export All Types of File Formats You Need – At Once

Capture One was the first application to offer multiple options to export your work simultaneously. Now, this is also a part of Lightroom’s quiver, but I think Capture One still offers more in terms of exporting. By the use of Process Recipes, you can choose to export your images in as many output file types as you need. For example, you can export a full-size JPEG, a social media optimized JPEG, and a tiff – all at the same time, if that’s what you want. This is further amplified by the clever use of tokens that Capture One offers. That way, you can name, sort by dates, folders and what not by adding tokens to your recipes, so it’s all automated.

Capture One Process Recipes Tool
Exporting as many recipes you need.

# 5: Working With Colors in Capture One is the Easiest Thing

One of the most valuable tools, and maybe the best tool I’ve seen across all image editing applications, is the Color Editor. The Color Editor is really powerful when it comes to selecting and manipulating the colors in your images. It has three separate modes: Basic, Advanced and Skin Tones.

Basic

Basic is where you’ll have all the major colors pre-selected for you. There you can choose and manipulate the hue, saturation, and lightness. The new addition, since Capture One 20, is the Direct Color Editor which you can find by clicking on the color picker or pressing “D” on your keyboard. With it, you can manipulate colors by selecting them over the image itself.

Advanced

Advanced is where you’ll have the most precise color work done. There you can select colors with the color picker and adjust the selection softness, then adjust all color parameters just like in Basic. You can have up to 30 individual color selections, you also have the ability to see only the selected color and you can make a new layer directly from that selection.

Skin Tones

Skin Tones is the absolute beast when it comes to working with people. It has the uniformity sliders which can help you even out skin tones, but more on that – later.

# 6: Several methods to add clarity

Capture One clarity options

Capture One has been exploring clarity for years now. And the way clarity works is it applies contrast to the luma range only, rather than the colors, so it does not ruin your tones. Not only it offers a negative clarity slider, but it does have 4 different clarity modes that you can take advantage of.

Starting with the Classic mode, which is the oldest, it does darken the darkest tones and it’s pretty good when applied with a negative value for skin tones.

Then we have the Natural clarity, which is set by default and it is pretty subtle when adding contrast to the mid-tones, pretty good for all-around use.

Neutral darken the darkest tones and brightens the brightest and can help you even out your image, again – without messing with your colors.

Last but not least is the Punch, which pretty much speaks for itself. It is harsher than the natural and it adds some color contrast on top. All these four modes combined with the structure slider will give you excellent results, so go experiment with those and find what you like the most.

Capture One UI Interface screenshot with applied adjustments
In the image below, I have applied a touch of negative clarity on a layer that has only the skin of the talent masked in. That way I create an artificial softer look helps to smooth out the skin soften any imperfections.

Capture One UI Screenshot of the Clarity Tool
The different clarity methods

# 7: Using Other Devices Can Speed Up Your Edits

When looking at how to make the most out of your software, it’s worth having a look at 3rd Party options, too. Sadly, Capture still has just a few plugins that are only useful for super-specific things, therefore will have a look at some of the hardware options out there

Wacom tablets

Wacom Intuos S Bluetooth model picture
Wacom Intuos S Bluetooth

There are actually other tablets out there, but the most renowned ones are manufactured by Wacom. I currently own the Wacom Intuos S with Bluetooth connectivity and it’s one of the most useful things I’ve ever owned. Yeah, it is kind of small, but for a price of $80, it is totally worth it. It takes a while to get used to the pen when navigating menus, but you’ll be amazed how much it helps for selections and masks.

Loupe Deck

Loupe Deck picture
Loupe Deck

The Loupe Deck is a keyboard-like device that has different buttons and knobs for each slider/setting inside Capture One. There are also physical sliders, buttons for undo/redo, before and after toggle and many more. I’ve been very interested in this device, although I haven’t used one, yet, however, I think it could come as a great speed boost for edits with the added bonus of physically dialing the adjustments for really fine-tuning.

Palette Gear

Palette Gear picture
Palette Gear

This device’s functionality is similar to Loupe Deck, however everything there is completely customizable. They offer a few complete setups in different price ranges, but the best thing about them is that you can buy separate add-on blocks with knobs, buttons or sliders to expand your set up. They are a bit pricier than Loupe Deck, but you can create your dream set up with having as many modules as you want.

Tangent Panels

Tangent Panels picture
Tangent Panels

Perhaps the most expensive hardware you can get from this list is the tangent panels. They were introduced originally for video editing, especially when color grading your footage, however, they do work with Phase One’s Capture One, too. They also are equipped with all the buttons and knobs one might need, but a big difference here is that they also have an actual ball incorporated into the design. I imagine this is pretty useful when working with colors!

So these are the most popular options you can find online. Not only can these come in handy when editing with Capture One, but they also work with all other software for photo and video editing, so if you have other apps in your workflow chances are you can use the devices with them, too.

# 8: Luma Range Tool

Something Capture One introduced with the 12th version is the Luma Range tool. With the help of it, you can make smooth selections of parts of the luma range which you can convert to masks and make edits on. This tool is extremely helpful in almost every scenario and can greatly help your workflow. With it, you can easily isolate dark, bright or mid-tone parts of your image which you can then work on and the best part of it is that it works really well when you’re making batch edits. You can read more on this topic in our Luma Range Article.

# 9: Focus Mask Can Help You Cull Images

Focus Mask. Yes, it’s that simple. If you haven’t included the Focus Mask as part of your culling process, I think it’s about time. It’s a great tool to help you cull through similar images, because of it you will be able to tell apart straight away the images with no focus, even if you just use the browser. By using the method I described in my workflow start to finish article, I mark all the sharp ones green, the ones with no focus red and if I have any doubts that the Focus Mask didn’t scan the image correctly, I mark it in yellow. Then I go back and review the yellow marks in detail and I decide whether to keep them or not.

Capture One UI Screenshot of the Focus Mask in the browser
The green highlights represent the contrast pixels on the image. i.e the Focus Mask

# 10: Always Make Your Work Environment Comfortable

I am sure you’ve already heard of the customizable interface that Capture One offers. It must have been one of your considerations when you bought the software. To make the most of it you should know that you can get multiple windows of the same kind opened, like curves, levels or color balance. This will help you monitor the values and get more precise adjustment with easier navigation. Moreover, those window tools are scalable, so you can make them any size you want. You can also add those as separate workspaces and create as many workspaces as you need to best suit your workflow. If you combine that with the shortcuts for C1 (which are also customizable, by the way) you can have a work environment completely customized for your style.

# 11: Now Let’s Talk About Skin Tone Tool

A really neat tool that I’ve seen only in C1 so far, is the Skin Tone tool. It’s part of the Color Editor tool and it’s a very useful and powerful tool to get your subjects’ skin tones to pop. With the eyedropper tool you can select the perfect skin tone and with the use of the Uniformity sliders for hue, saturation and lightness you can have the skin of your model look way better by removing spots and color imperfections. Additionally, there are separate hue, saturation and lightness sliders to further tweak the skin tone to your liking.

# 12: The Magic Wand in Capture One

Capture One Levels Tool
By pressing the magic wand in the top right corner you automatically set the darkest and the brightest points of your image

Capture One Preference Menu
If you go to the preference menu, then Exposure tab – you can choose which method to have active for the Levels Tool

The Auto-adjust Levels tool is pretty useful and accurate when setting your darkest and your lightest part of an image. After using it your image automatically gains some contrast. By default Capture One Levels tool is set to auto adjust the RGB channels at once and therefore if your image has a color cast it will be preserved after the auto adjustment. If you’d like to be able to control that, you can go to the preferences menu and change it so it treats the R, G and B channels separately. That way it will auto-clear any color casts in your image and help you get a cleaner base look which you can build upon after. You’ll find you’ll need to toggle between those two settings more often than not, so the only downside of it all is that you need to go to preferences to change it (for now!).

# 13: Presets, Styles and How to Apply Them Correctly

Capture One "Apply to New Layer" menu option in Styles Tool
Make this your habit

Okay, I’ll just throw this one here quickly. In my opinion, Phase One has not made it really easy to find this one out. But you’ll surely look for it. Since you’re working with a raw converting software, at some point you’ll start working with styles/presets for your own convenience. More often than not some of those “looks” will be too hard on your image and you’ll want to dial them back. In Capture One, this can be done by going to the Styles and Presets tab, clicking with the right mouse button and choosing the Apply to New Layer option. And since layers in Capture One have opacity, just like PS, you can choose how much of the style to introduce.

Capture One UI Screenshot of Styles Tool
It’s always smart to apply a style to a new layer instead of the background. That way you can control the opacity of the style over your image.

# 14: Always be organized

Something unique for Capture One is the ability to work in Sessions or Catalogues. Or both. I really find it useful that you can start your workflow in Sessions and have a default folder structure made for you. Moreover, when you import, your pictures are directly copied to the destination of your session file and there’s no need to do that manually.
Once done with the session, you can import the whole thing in your catalog. I find this very convenient because all the folders and smart folders you’ve created in the session, all your folder structure, is then imported into the catalog and your smart folders only work within this project.

# 15: Capture One makes everything convenient

Capture One UI screenshot of Files menu
File -> Export Web Contact Sheet…

When working on a commercial project or portraits and you’d like to give your client the opportunity to choose which images to go into the final selection, you might want to show them the so-called contact sheet. This can be done in C1, too and can be found by going to File and choosing the “Export Web Contact Sheet”. In most cases, the client will end up sending you a list of names of the images they want you to edit.

Now, if that’s just 4-5 images – that’s great. But if the project is big and the list is way longer than that, the last thing you’d want to do is going back and selecting those images one by one. Luckily for you Capture One has a cool feature that allows you to select those images by filename list. So if you go to Select and scroll down, choose Select By and then filename list, you can just copy and paste the list sent by your client and Capture One will round up the selection automatically.

An example here would be the following: I like my images to be sorted by dates, so I have a token for Year (YY) then underscore, then Month (MM)… you get the idea. The important thing is that then I add a token for Project Name – and whatever I name the project I’m working on, that will be the name of the pic.

To wrap this up…

At the end of the day, all types of editing software are created to make our lives easier. Help us work faster, get better results in a smarter way. Knowing and finding a way to use those little tips in your workflow might just do the trick. Hopefully, by applying some of those techniques you will improve your post-processing and get the most out of Capture One.

Author Details

Hey, my name is Krassy Dimitrov. I’m a commercial photographer based in Bulgaria. Among the things I like shooting you’ll see a lot of travel, product, wedding and portrait photography. I’m also an author and contributor to the ever-growing Photography-RAW website here. 

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Hey, my name is Krassy Dimitrov. I’m a commercial photographer based in Bulgaria. Among the things I like shooting you’ll see a lot of travel, product, wedding and portrait photography. I’m also an author and contributor to the ever-growing Photography-RAW website here. 

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