Capture One Image Workflow

XPRO3853-C1-Stacked v2-JPEG-blog

A simple Capture One Pro workflow

I originally setup this blog to share travel information and images, but 3/4 of the emails I receive from readers is on the topic of image taking and image processing, so I thought I’d share a few answers to common questions here.

By far, the three most common questions I get are:

  1. What camera do you use?
  2. What software do you use to edit the images?
  3. How does camera A compare to camera B and how does software A compare to software B?

Given the recent major announcement from Fujifilm that they’ll be partnering with PhaseOne to offer Capture One (C1) software with their new cameras, I thought I can answer question 2 above, and also provide some tips that I’ve learned along the way. This post is based on one that I made some time ago that received a positive reception on the Fujifilm forum on DPReview.

I’ve invested an enormous amount of time into learning C1 and am hoping that this post can save you some time in learning this fantastic software.

Summary:

  • C1 is awesome and fast.
  • Detail extraction is top-tier, matching or exceeding software such as Iridient Transformer and Lightroom (LR), and newcomers like ON1 and Alien Exposure.
  • Colour profiles for Fujifilm* and other camera makers are available online, made by individuals; they do a great job replicating the factory film simulations (from modern digital cameras as well as from simulated films); PhaseOne has said that a future version of C1 will soon have Fujifilm* endorsed film simulations within the software.
    *Updated: Please note that as of November, 2018, Capture One Pro 12 and Capture One Pro 12 Fujifilm now includes Fujifilm Film Simulations in the official software package. They can be found in the “Color” tab, in the “Base Characteristics” panel, under “Curve”. 
  • The workflow presented below will get you to 90% of the final image with just a few clicks, making this a fast and efficient workflow to use when travelling and going through hundreds or thousands of images.
X-Pro2 59.6mm ISO-200 1/1sec f/6.4 – Used the masking and layers capability in C1 to selectively brighten the temple to give it some pop, while not disturbing the beautiful sunset colours.

Background:

With PhaseOne’s recent commitment to Fujifilm in their software, I wanted to give C1 a shot and see how it stacks up against the venerable LR.

I’ve been a huge Adobe fan for decades (and still am). Pagemaker and Photoshop were game-changers for my work and I often used it in the workplace to convey information in a different way than typical PowerPoint presentations. Adobe has been a mainstay for me for the past two decades.

I have no issues with one-time licensing models or monthly subscription models. Businesses and their staff need to get paid for their work and the value of their work does not have to be linked to the cost of producing that output. I totally understand the need for a stable revenue model to help manage cashflow.

Photography is a hobby for me, and the main goal is to capture lifelong memories in images. I regularly print photos in A3+ and A2 sizes. I also regularly print photo books for my bigger trips.

X-Pro2 23mm ISO-800 1/1800sec f/4 – This started as two ETTR images that were edited in C1, then stacked in Affinity to reduce noise because I wanted to print it in a large format. The print turned out spectacular on paper and metal and is hanging in a number of homes and workplaces.

My simple workflow:

  1. Create a “Session” for the trip or shoot on an external SSD connected to a laptop (I use a 2017 MacBook 12 with 8GB ram and 512GB SSD; I would recommend getting 16GB now that cameras are getting more and more pixels to process).
  2. Import or drag-and-drop the images into the “Capture” folder in the session.
  3. Turn on the “Focus Mask” to see if any images should be scrapped (I use this at a high level for totally out of focus shots).
  4. Select the images I really like by giving it a “Green” colour flag (+ key shortcut).
  5. For images that are grossly out of focus or are poor images, I use the “Red” colour flag (- key shortcut).
  6. Filter by “Green” images and show JPEG and RAW (Fujifilm and Leica JPEGS are often excellent so it’s worth it to keep them alongside to see if any editing is required to begin with).
  7. If the image requires editing, I use this process in C1:
    1. Colour tab > Select ICC profile (I have mine set to automatically apply Provia for my Fujifilm cameras and the default C1 profiles for my other cameras).
    2. Exposure tab > Exposure Tool > Click A.
    3. Exposure tab > High Dynamic Range Tool > Click A.
    4. Exposure tab > Levels tool > Click A (I sometimes find the images too high contrast so I back down the black point or move the mid point a tiny amount; this is especially required when the image has moody lighting or a hazy landscape).

That’s it! That gets me to 90% of the final image, and often 100% of the final image. If required, I’ll do some local adjustments (similar to layers in Photoshop).

You can actually automate steps 2-4 using Command-L or Control-L if you’re using a mac or pc, but I prefer to see the effect each step has on the image. For example, in step 3, I find the shadow recovery a bit too much and often back it down a bit to keep more contrast.

X-Pro2 107.3mm ISO-800 1/420sec f/6.4 – In the original, the foreground is completely black; the shadow recovery in C1 with Fujifilm cameras is impressive.

Thoughts on C1:

Initially, C1 is difficult to use because they’ve taken a different approach to the layout of the controls as compared to LR, however there is a “workspace” available called “Migration” that will make any LR user feel at home.

There are very, very good webinars for C1 on youtube. I’ve watched every single one and they’re engaging and informative. The fellow that leads the webinars is really classy. He never disparages his competitors and is willing to highlight areas where C1 can improve.

Where I feel C1 really shines is in its ability to get great images in a very short period of time. When you’re travelling and want to be out enjoying the new city rather than editing, this speed really is a huge plus.

X-Pro2 35mm ISO-200 1/110sec f/2.8 – There was immense haze in the original which was reduced significantly by using Clarity, Contrast and adjusting the black and mid points in the levels tool.

Colours:

C1 provides a colour calibrated “Base Characteristic” that you can work from or you can download the Fujifilm film simulations* that a kind user produced. I personally love the film simulations and have tested them against SOOC JPEGS; they’re remarkably similar. I think PhaseOne should pay that individual to use his film simulation profiles. You can find the film simulations by googling, with instructions to install them (they’re sometimes updated which is why I didn’t put a link).

*Updated: Please note that as of November, 2018, Capture One Pro 12 and Capture One Pro 12 Fujifilm now includes Fujifilm Film Simulations in the official software package. They can be found in the “Color” tab, in the “Base Characteristics” panel, under “Curve”. Upon import, the curve applied will be “FUJIFILM Provia (STANDARD)”.

I love the way C1 allows you to manipulate the black and white points. It uses a levels diagram that you can quickly move a point over and set the black and white points. You can then also set the mid point in the same way. I think Photoshop was the first to have levels shown this way, and I find it more intuitive than LR’s method.

Beautiful image from the start:

C1 uses a “Base Characteristic Curve” which I believe is just a luminance curve applied to images; the standard “Base characteristic” curve for all cameras that I’ve used is “Film Standard”, which produces an image that looks like a typical S curve. None of this needs to be understood or known to the user. It just works. The images come out of the gate looking great. If you want to start at the same baseline as LR, you can select a “Linear Curve” “Base Characteristic”.

X-Pro2 16mm ISO-400 1/500sec f/8 – In the original image, the sky was completely blown out and appeared white; I used this as an example to show how much highlight recovery is possible.

Detail extraction:

C1 is on par with Iridient X-Transformer + LR, and because it’s an all-in-one software package, it’s easier to manage and a better user experience. You also save some disk space because you don’t need the large DNG files that IXT produces. I do however want to make it clear that I am no way disparaging the great work that the Iridient has done. The person that created that software is a genius and has out-developed Adobe at demosaicing the Fujifilm raw files.

The starting point for sharpness in C1 depends on the ISO and likely other factors. I find that at low ISO, the sharpening usually starts at 140. This level of sharpness is already more than enough and sometimes, I even back it down. I haven’t seen any worm artifacts or other sharpening issues. Grass blades and foliage look great on C1.

C1 does not have a “Dehaze” tool, but you can get pretty close using the “Clarity” and “Structure” tools depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Initially I couldn’t match LR “Dehaze”, but as I’ve gotten better with C1, I can now manipulate “Clarity” to get close to LR. For really difficult dehaze situations, I “edit with” to Affinity Photo which has an excellent dehaze tool.

X-Pro2 16mm ISO-800 1/200sec f/3.2 – In the original image, there is extensive purple fringing in the high contrast areas near the branches; using the advanced colour tool, I was able to reduce it to the extent it’s no longer visible at A2 or A3+ size.

File management:

I hate catalogues. Somehow I always make a mess of them and I hate their lack of portability. When I travel, I take the MacBook with me and an external drive. Ideally, I want to work on the images on the external drive, and then come home and plug them into the iMac and review the images on its glorious 27″ screen. C1 has a workflow called “Sessions” that works perfectly for my workflow requirements. Once I edit the images, I prune them down to the “Selects”, export them to JPEG and archive them on the Synology NAS*. If you prefer to have cataloguing, C1 allows you to import your session into a catalogue, retaining all the edits and information.

*Since the time of publishing this article, I have now started to backup the NAS to BackBlaze B2 and have been very happy with the process; I recently had a near catastrophe and was able to get a USB key of my images backup sent from BackBlaze for a small fee and was able to restore all the lost images.

LEICA M10 35mm ISO-200 1.5sec f/6.8 – This was taken on the same day as the HK image above and it was a very hazy day; I removed most, but left some because I didn’t want to take away the reality of the situation.

Things that are amazing in C1:

  1. Sharpening: The default setting is clever and adapts to ISO and other factors. It’s almost always sharp enough and sometimes even too sharp. It cleverly adds computed “film grain” to high ISO shots to make them appear sharper.
  2. Sessions workflow: I love the way “Sessions” work. I can use an external drive and seamlessly move between a coffee shop with the laptop and back to home on the desktop. Just plug the external SSD in and edit away on any computer.
  3. Focus mask: I use a lot of manual focus lenses on the Fuji and Leica so this is a real time saver. It’s basically focus peaking but on a static image. Turn on the focus mask, and it tells you where it sees high contrast edges. This works amazingly well, especially when you’ve taken 100’s of images of a person and want to see which ones are perfectly focused on the eyes.
LEICA Q (Typ 116) 28mm ISO-100 20sec f/16 – For some reason, many RAW editors struggle with the red taillights in this image; they become strange colours like orange; I think the Q blew the red channel, but C1 is smart enough to make it the right red when pulling the channel back within range.

Things I miss from LR:

  1. Sharpening mask. C1 has the ability to not sharpen skies, etc. but it’s a bit clumsy. You have to zoom in, set the mask to 0, crank sharpening to the max, then dial in masking until the sky is clear of artifacts. Then you go back to the sharpening tool and dial in the real sharpening you wanted. Fortunately, I’ve found that masking of “1.0” seems to almost always be where I end up, so maybe it’s got some algorithm that does the analysis for us.
  2. Dehaze in one tool. In C1, you have to manipulate “Clarity”, “Structure” and sometimes the black and mid points to get to the same results as LR can achieve in one slider. I’ll admit that I’ve occasionally had to go to Affinity Photo for tough dehaze situations.
  3. Guided upright. C1 has a keystone tool that lets you enter four points to straighten vertical and horizontal lines, but I can’t consistently get the perfect results that I get with LR. I also miss the auto-align features of LR that seem to get horizons or buildings bang-on every time.

Conclusion:

All in all, now that I’ve moved over to C1, I find LR to be a clunky old thing that needs a revamp. It looks like Adobe agrees with their recent announcement relegating the current LR to “classic” status.

If you found the above useful, please leave a comment below. If you have any questions, I’m also happy to provide the answer or find someone who can provide the answer. If you see any errors or ways that I could edit more efficiently, I’m always open to hearing your thoughts.

X-Pro2 56mm ISO-200 1/320sec f/11 – C1 has a diffraction correction that can make even F11 or smaller apertures on a crop sensor look very sharp; it needs the lens data however, which Fujifilm provides in their RAW file metadata.

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Comments (12)

[…] you go down the RAW path, I would suggest reading an earlier post where I shared a simple workflow on getting images to 90% of the final version with almost no time […]

Thank you for all that information. In regards to Acros,a good trick that I found is that you first select Classic Chrome and then Acros and play a little bit with the blue and red channels and that should get you a much closer look to the in-camera jpeg. I would like to get some clarifications about color chrome. Did you mean classic chrome? If I understand well you feel that the classic chrome in Lightroom and Capture One are not replicating the in camera classic chrome? Are they that much different? My workflow in Lightroom is fairly simple because I basically just pick up a camera profile, click auto-tone, and then I have some shortcut keys to save highlights, quashhighs, boost lows and save shadows (2 or 3 levels available for each). And that’s pretty much all I do. It sounds like your workflow in capture one is very similar. The only selective adjustments I may do is maybeplay with the shadows and exposure on my subject a little bit. My concern with capture one is if I went that route I would start with the free versionl only. And two of the things it does not have (neither the full version) is the auto level and auto transform tools (auto level, auto vertical, etc) but also the ability to scale to 150 which is something that I often do. Some would argue if you use the electronic level than you shouldn’t need to level your pictures but when you shoot street photography you don’t necessarily have time to do that. So I rely on those tools and I very often crop in at 150 using the transform scale slider. Would you have any suggestions because based on what I saw on capture one, there is no auto keystone similar. I don’t shoot architecture so the capture one keystone tool is not helpful to me. My goal ultimately is to keep my workflow exactly the same but I don’t have shortcut keys in Capture One the way that I do in Lightroom. I had gotten these shortcut keys for highlights, highs, shadows and lows through VSCO. I find them extremely useful. 4 clicks and done. My ultimate goal is to keep my workflow simple like that. Although yours sounds pretty simple as well. My other goal is to have the closest film simulations available to replicatethe in-camera jpeg. I would prefer to use classic chrome more often without having to mess around wity colours to match it. My other concern is color replication. You seem to think that Capture One manages colors a little bit better. You mentioned adjusting highlights in the color channels but my concern with that is thatwith the free version of capture one I would not be able to do that. But in any case I am colour blind (deficient is more accurate) so I prefer not to mess around with colours at all because I will get in wrong. So I’m trying to find an in-between solution. I’m not too concerned about storage because I just keep everything on hard drives but I am concerned about being able to simply click the film simulation that I want and I know for sure that it’s accurate in replicating what’s in camera. In particular classic Chrome. I cannot rely on my eyes to know if I’m getting the right colors. I need to trust the software for classic chrome. I have an xe3 btw. Anysuggestions?

I’m considering changing from lightroom to capture one because I just purchased a Fuji but I’m not sure that I really want to learn a new software. So I was thinking going the iridient x transform route combined with lightroom because I’m accustomed to lightroom. However you have confirmed that Capture One does not have auto keystone and auto-align tools that I’ve become so dependent on in lr. What about scaling to 150?? Are the Fuji simulation camera profiles in Lightroom the same quality than those in capture one? Because I wonder if Fujifilm revealed its secret sauce to capture one but not to Adobe. Does Lightroom simply mimic what Fuji film simulations are whereas capture one has the actual Fuji approval. In other words would I get better results applying Chrome through Capture One rather than through Lightroom? Are the raw files from X Transforme and capture one so similar that it doesn’t really make a difference or are the Capture One developed raws that much better than those of X Transformer? If you have a chance to let me know that would be great.

Hi Paul, thanks for your note. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let me try my best to answer where I have definitive information.

Way back in the past, when I didn’t know about Capture One, I used the Iridient X-Transformer and Lightroom combination. It works exceptionally well at extracting the maximum detail from the RAF files, however I found the whole process too cumbersome; in addition, the files created by Iridient are very large, which increases storage requirements. I store everything on a NAS and then cloud backup to B2, so larger files have a cost to me. If you’re absolutely set on staying with Lightroom, then using Iridient for those special images that you want to enlarge to >A3+, it is worthwhile to put the effort in.

I would however recommend taking the time to invest in learning Capture One. I find the processing time and the general flow to be faster than Lightroom. Adobe has made big improvements to RAF processing over the years, so while Capture One certainly has better overall quality, the differences are now quite small. Where I continue to see the most difference is in images with foliage; Capture One renders that fine detail better.

I haven’t noticed any major difference in the film simulations between the two applications. When I compared in-camera JPEG to both Lightroom and Capture One, they are fairly similar. Having said that, there are some simulations and modes which neither software replicates perfectly. The special grain that Acros adds in camera is not duplicated in either application; the same goes for the Colour Chrome effect in the GFX and XTrans4 cameras. Neither application has that as an automatic setting, however it’s pretty easy to replicate it by pulling the highlights down in the colour channels that are blown out.

If I were to rank the detail extracted from the RAF files by application, on a scale of 0-100 with 100 being the absolute highest level of detail, I would say it’s X-Transformer at 100, Capture One at 95, Lightroom at 80, and depending on your JPEG settings, the in-camera can be anywhere from 80-90. There are trade-offs to higher detail extraction, typically in noise being more visible, so you have to judge what your priorities are and the target medium. Personally, I find Capture One to be efficient, excellent with detail extraction, and the way the application manages colours is excellent.

Hope the above helps. Let me know if you have more questions. It’s daunting to think about moving away from Lightroom, but once you do it, I think you’ll be happy with the move.

My routine is similar, though I’ve not yet learned how to do the local editing (I export to TIFF, for photoshopping). Also, I usually use the Structure and Clarity sliders in C1.

Do we still need ICC profiles for Fuji as they are embedded in C1 V12

Hi Abdul. Thanks for writing. With the latest Capture One 12, you no longer require these ICC profiles. It’s now built into C1 12 in the Base Characteristics panel.

If you’re using other cameras, it’s still worthwhile to load the ICC profiles so you can use the Fujifilm film profiles for your other camera. I sometimes like to apply Acros or Velvia to my Leica M10 files. It doesn’t always look good, but it’s nice to have more options.

Great post and well designed site. Thanks for taking the time to share all your knowledge gained while enjoying your hobby. As a frequent traveler and photography hobbyist (Fuji X-T20), I appreciated your in-depth review of C1 with a focus on speeding up processing while on the road. Also, nice to see a review that can make technical comparisons without being overly critical of other technologies. I’ve never used C1 or LR but knew I needed to start with one of these to improve my processing and your article convinced me to start with C1. I tried your quick processing suggestions, and while I still have much to learn and practice with C1, it helped me at least navigate some quick fixes without getting overwhelmed by all the interface options. I still need to figure out the ICC install but I’m sure I’ll get there. Thanks again for sharing and helping the community.

mosty525

Ps. Your pics look great too!

Hi Mosty525,

Thanks for the kind words and the feedback. I’m so glad to hear that the post helped you with C1. It really is great software with incredibly powerful capabilities.

What issue did you have with the ICC profiles? If it’s too complicated to setup the profiles, you may want to hang on for a bit longer as C1 has publicly promised they will soon release official profiles, built into the C1 software.

Thanks again for writing in! I appreciate it.

Cheers!

Nice write up.

I made the jump from LR about 4 years ago and what has impressed me, as much as anything else, is how they’ve improved it feature-wise year over year.

The Fuji “profiles” you talk about, are they ICC profiles? I ask because I don’t think PhaseOne has released their Fuji “film simulations” yet. My hope is that they release them as “Styles” rather than ICC profiles because Styles can be added on their own layer in C1 then adjusted using the opacity slider. It’s really slick (and you can’t do that with ICC profiles). Anyway, if you have an knowledge on that I’m all ears.

Regards,
Peter Guyton

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment and kind words. You make a good point about PhaseOne’s continuous improvements. A year ago, I almost felt like they were making too many changes too fast, but they managed to get the software stability under control very quickly and we now have a very powerful and stable tool.

For the Fujifilm profiles, they are indeed ICC (unofficial ones) that a fellow named Scotty Wang created. I’ve found two versions of them online and will link to them below. One is for X-Trans 2 and 3, and the other is for X-Trans 3. I haven’t seen anything for X-Trans 4, but I’d assume the X-Trans 3 will work fine.

To install these profiles, make sure that C1 is closed and then: 1. Download the appropriate one for your camera: X-Trans 3 V1 or X-Trans 2/3 V2. 2. Rename them to match your camera (i.e., “FujiXPRO2-“, “FujiXT2-“, etc.). 3. Copy them to the “~/Library/Colorsync/Profiles” directory for MacOS and “Users/UserX/AppData/CaptureOne/Color Profiles” in Windows. 4. Re-open C1 and you’ll find the profiles in the “Base Characteristics” tool.

I would also love for them to implement the official profiles as a style, however I doubt they will do that. The reason is because that would give away all of Fujifilm’s colour science; their colour science is something that they are rightfully very proud of and something they should not give away. By implementing it as a “Base Characteristic”, they control the end-to-end colour; yes, while you can apply a different camera’s “Base Characteristic” to another manufacturers’ camera in C1, the colours won’t be accurate because of differences in sensors.

Since C1 uses a consistent and sophisticated default profile that is carefully created for each camera, applying styles across different cameras is consistent. If C1 implements Fujifilm film simulations as a style, it would enable users to apply those film simulations to any camera which takes away one of the most compelling differentiating factors of Fujifilm cameras. As mentioned above, you can do this currently to some extent with “Base Characteristics”, but my experience is that the colours don’t match when sensors are different (i.e., Fujifilm X-Pro2 vs. Leica M10 produce different colours when using Velvia).

I hope the above has helped in some way. If not, please let me know and I’ll be happy to conduct further research. A blog that helped me a lot in the past was from Thomas Fitzgerald, who happens to write excellent books as well.

Please note that as of November, 2018, Capture One Pro 12 and Capture One Pro 12 Fujifilm now include Fujifilm Film Simulations built into the official software package. They can be found in the “Color” tab, in the “Base Characteristics” panel, under “Curve”. Upon import, the curve applied will be “FUJIFILM Provia (STANDARD)”. There is no longer a requirement to install your own ICC profiles. 

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