Supreme Quality

Talking about Capture One is synonymous of talking about quality regarding RAW editing. But before addressing this feature inherent to the program I want to make a statement: I was “forced” to work with Capture One. This was not my first choice to edit RAW files but although it seems a bit of a silly statement, the impact this change had on my workflow was one of the best things that happened to my work so I believe is worth of being shared.

I have always searched for the best quality, not only in terms of photography but also in the simple things of life. Doing things well was and is something that is part of me. Because of that and since I’m a Nikon user, I found it natural to go with  Capture NX   as my primary RAW editing software. Although it needed some improvements, what I was looking for was there, quality. The photos edited in this program were simply different and although not everyone agrees with me, for a Nikon user it was the right choice for those who wanted the best.

But time changes and for a long time Nikon left his program in an apparent abandonment, at least that was what I and others thought. In this period of uncertainties, many photographers like me turned to other solutions that could give us guarantees of support. After some research and testing I ended up choosing Apple Aperture. I cannot say the quality that could be extracted from a Nikon RAW file was the same as in Capture NX but it was very close. However it had a great advantage, everything seemed more simple and intuitive, something that Apple had already been given us.

During the period I was a faithful Aperture user Nikon released a redesigned Capture NX calling it Capture NX-D. However I was never convinced to go back. In this upgrade they also lost another of his great features, the edition with U-Point technology (Nik Software, Google Nik and now DXO Photo Lab – more about this program at the end of the article). During this time I never stopped to see other options and tested apps like Lightroom (I simply never liked it, the results, how to work, etc. It could be my fault but it didn’t fit my workflow. Today and with the actual Adobe policy I do not even consider it despite it’s getting better over time.), DXO Optics Pro/DXO Photo Lab (I was convinced from day one so it became part of my workflow specially for images with specific needs. In certain aspects is the best out there.), Capture One (The best RAW editor along side with Capture NX. I never compared them side by side because I never thought it would be a relevant comparison but I was convinced by the results. The only problem was the workflow/workspace approach, it was not better or worse, just different from mine and to which I was already familiarised with. So I created some resistance to go back and start everything all over again.) and OnOne (At that time I thought it missed a good foundation to edit RAW files, something very important to me. Besides that I can only say good things about it. With the latest upgrades many things have changed for better and now I consider it a great contender – On1 Photo Raw.).

But time changes again and I just didn’t wanted to believe when I found out Apple decided to abandon Aperture. Once again many others like me had to find other solutions, but this time I knew already the way to go. My choice went for the program that best met my primary requirement, quality. I’ve been working with Capture One since then and never looked back. The resistance I mentioned earlier turned out to be irrelevant, even because for someone with experience in editing, finding is way on how to do things in Capture One is an easy task.

But apart from the quality, Capture One has a series of features that makes it one of the best options for editing RAW files. With the recent update to version 11 we saw many features improved and others added. Based on this latest update I would like to share the seven features I like the most about Capture One.

01. Quality
I know I’ve mentioned before in this article but it’s never too much to point out that the quality we get by editing a RAW file in Capture One is amazing. Of course other programs can also achieve great results but the idea we get is that the starting point in Capture One is ahead of the others which often means less editing work.

02. Customizable UI
The ability to customize the workspace of Capture One to fit your needs is something that not always get the attention it deserves. But this is a feature that greatly enhances the way we work. Having the workspace tailored to your preferences, from the toolbar, tool tabs, panels, shortcuts among others, makes all the difference when we count the time we spend editing images in hours a day. In the future I’ll share a tutorial on how to get the most of this feature.

03. Color Adjustments
This is perhaps the most evidenced feature of Capture One and it’s easy to understand why. The options available allow us to use them for creative and correction adjustments. From “Curves” to “Levels” to “Color Balance” and “Color Editor”  that have the option to work with skin tones, they all give us the necessary solutions to get the best and most creative results.

04. Layers
Capture One had for some time a feature called “Local Adjustments”. Basically it allowed certain localized corrections with the use of masks. In the last update this option was renamed Layers and this change is not only at the nomenclature level. From now on this option is available for almost all the tools/adjustments, it allows us to adjust the opacity which gives us a greater control over the corrections we make and allows a better organization in terms of workflow, since we can organize in separate layers the adjustments regarding color, exposure, etc.

05. Masking
Usually the ability to create complicated masks is restricted to some specialized applications. With version 11 of Capture One that reality has changed. Within the program itself we now have the option to create elaborate masks using the previously existing “Brush”, “Erase” and “Gradient” tools but with the possibility of using the new “Feather Mask” and “Refine Mask”. The results are excellent. We can also see the masks in black and white, an option that allows a better adjustment of them.

06. Annotations
This is a new feature. Personally and since I edit my own images, I began to use Annotations to create and store information about the aspects of an image that needed to be corrected or adjustments I intend to make in the future. Even when I finish editing an image I keep these notes to have a reference of the decisions and creative process I made at that time. For photographers who trust their images to professional retouchers, this functionality may be even more important because it allows them to give those same informations in the image itself without having to write a text document or create something more graphic in another program.

07. Compatibility
We do not live in isolation so the compatibility of Capture One with other programs or files is worth of being mentioned. I believe this is the best policy. So, and although we are talking about a pure RAW editor, it can edit TIFF, JPEG and PNG files. It’s also fully compatible with PSD files allowing to change between both applications based on the editing needs we have. However I would like to see in the future this compatibility with files from Affinity Photo, the app I consider a game changer for every digital artist.

Conclusion
Despite so many good things there are some aspects to consider. Let’s not forget that we are dealing with a RAW editor and there are things beyond the goals for which Capture One was created. But within it’s range we are possibly before one of the best RAW editors if not the best. Congratulations to the team behind this program for the dedication and innovation they bring upgrade after upgrade. As an alternative I want to leave the indication that if I were “forced” to change again, I would go entirely to DXO Photo Lab. It continues to be part of my workflow because it has some unique features and with the recent inclusion of U-Point technology is an option that simply cannot be discarded.

Note:
The opinion I share is based on my personal experience. It may be different from most of the users but nevertheless it’s sincere and based on my own workflow. No one pays me to say good things (or bad) of the application A or B. I just believe that my vision and experience can help others on a path I’ve did before. I hope this is a reality for you.