7 Essential Foundations

Having a solid base for knowing how to judge where we are and for where we are going is critical not only to reach our destiny successfully, but also to do it efficiently. In this article I intend to help you lay the foundations for a better and faster workflow,  improving the decisions you make and consequently in the way you work. I will not address retouching in particular as this is a subject requiring a separate article. I’ll just suggest 7 practical tips covering the different stages of the creative process and its execution.

Rembrandt van Rijn: Evangelist Mathaus and Angel, 1661

01. Know your art
It may seems basic but the truth is that we do not always have the knowledge that should be present when we begin to define ourselves as artists. It’s also true that sometimes we go on our own path but for the most part there is already an artistic, historical and cultural route that can help us build our own style. Even when we want to be different from the rest, to know the work of those who have been before us and of those who are our contemporaries can only be seen as a good thing. Let me give two examples. I like particularly of Rembrandt’s lighting and it’s something I use a few times in my portrait work. Knowing the techniques behind this style not only facilitates my work but also makes it more fluid and creative. I also like black and white photography so I believe I should know some of the greatest masters of this art or know what the Zone System is. It’s impossible to know everything but this basic knowledge can help a lot in making the right decisions to achieve things faster.

Comandos personalizados

02. Know your tools
This is another aspect that may seem essential but is often neglected. Back in the 90’s when I started taking the first steps in image editing I heard the opinion of a “teacher” saying it was impossible to know and use all the features of Photoshop. He was right because each artist has his own needs and uses his tools in a particular way. In the case of Photoshop you also have lots of features to satisfy the needs of different artists, so each one uses it differently. So you can say that multiple paths can lead to the same result. However, when I choose Capture One as my RAW editor, I’d better learn how it works and how I can get the most out of it in my work context. Knowing our tools also allows us to shape them to the way we work, which also makes us more efficient.

Wacom Tablet Intuos Pro

03. Choose the right tools
Not always we have the opportunity to have the tools we would like. But when that’s possible we must choose them properly. This principle applies to both photographic equipment and accessories as well as to the software we use (in the context of this blog). Regarding the equipment, this is a delicate subject because of the amount of tools we can find, the difference between photographers and personal styles and also by the diversity of jobs and their own requirements. While suggestions may be given, it is up to each one to assess which tools suit them best. In terms of software nowadays we can test almost everyone before choosing what is best for us. Features, ways of working and results are conditions to take into account. Finally, I want to share a personal example regarding this topic. One of the tools that influenced my work in recent years was/is a Wacom tablet. For some time it was part of my list of priorities, I knew well the impact it could have on my workflow, but for various reasons I was delaying the acquisition of it. Today I can only recommend over and over to consider using one for the entire image editing process. I chose the medium size because I think it’s the best compromise.

04. Judge correctly
I have a characteristic that occasionally can become a problem, being a perfectionist. I say this because many times what happens to those who spend a lot of time editing images is to edit more than necessary. How? It’s easy to understand when we know that the retouching needs of a photograph is different when its going to be used in a social network, magazine or billboard. A correct evaluation of the purpose for which an image is intended can save us a lot of time. Being a perfectionist sometimes causes me to forget this rule and edit to the smallest detail when no one will see that stray hair. Here comes an important tip, always edit non-destructively. More on this in an upcoming article.

Painéis Macro e Library com diversas acções gravadas.

05. Automatisation
When we work on a regular basis in a certain type of work, we see ourselves doing systematic tasks repetitively. This is specially truth when it comes to editing and retouching images. Nowadays a good part of the programs give us the possibility to automate several of these processes. In Capture One I like to save styles and presets to use countless times even when they are just a starting point for a totally different result. In Affinity Photo I use Macros (actions) where the range of possibilities is much greater. From the simplest functions to the most complex effects and styles, whenever it’s possible I save a Macro for later use. What sometimes took a long time to create is now a click away. Use and abuse this feature.

06. Take a break
Overwork is not a good friend of perfection. When we spend too much time working on an image, normally one of two things happen, or we begin to edit details that didn’t needed to be edited, or we lose our way and we go over the ones that needed to be corrected. Ideally, we should take short breaks of time or interpose what we are doing with other tasks. The time between periods of work and rest depends but normally after an hour we begin to loose focus. This suggestion seems counterproductive but believe me that it’s a principle worth putting into practice.

07. Organization
One of the ways to be more efficient is to maintain a working methodology for all stages of our project. The consistency and repetition of procedures makes us faster and more objective. From the renaming of the photographs to the attribution of keywords and their classification, to the way how we edit them, everything helps to create a routine. Let me  give you another example, in Capture One I have the tools on the workspace organized in the order in which I edit an image. This way its an automated process allowing me to stay free for more creative issues.

Conclusion
Simple procedures and decisions can make a big difference, in this case time. Usually it’s the little things that contribute to great results. I hope some of these tips can be useful in the same way they are for me.
Some points discussed in this article will be the subject of further development in upcoming articles.
See you.

 

References:
Rembrandt
Zone System
Photoshop
Capture One
Affinity Photo
Intuos Pro (Wacom)

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.