Tool Basics Part 1
So, we need to look first of all at white balance and levels, which is pretty easy to understand. Let's move white balance up, so we're just concentrating on that. So, the Levels tool in Capture One is often sort of bypassed or missed, but it's actually a really powerful tool, and it's something you should always take a quick look at, to see if you can make some improvement to the image. Before sort of doing any of that then, or really any sort of path of image adjustment, there is no kind of steps that you have to take. You must do white balance first, then you must do exposure, then you must do this. Of course it doesn't make sense to start trying to adjust an image, if it's two stops underexposed, then the white balance is totally wrong. But other than that, there is no hard and fast rules. So really when we're looking at an image, the first thing we probably wanna look at, is a combination of white balance, exposure, and the Levels tool. So, looking at these sort of various images,...
if we just pick up a couple, they all have kind of relatively similar histograms going on and levels like so. So if we just open up our exposure tool, sorry let's just finish with white balance. So white balance, it's dead simple. I'm sure I don't really need to teach anyone too much about how it works, but you have different presets in the drop down menu. So if you knew this was shot under cloudy skies, we could choose cloudy, and then it would pick that preset for you. Of course any preset we can manually adjust the Kelvin and Tint sliders. If we have a possibility of a neutral tone, we can grab the picker, and then we can find a neutral part of our image, and click around until we find something that we think looks about right. Later lessons, when we shoot tethered, we can use tools like gray cards for example, to capture a gray card, make a gray balance, and then continue on with that. But in general day to day photography, you can either click around until you find a good one, manually adjust it with the sliders, or use a preset. All of those work quite nicely. Now with our, let's just collapse white balance, now with our exposure, and levels, these kind of work in a combination together, at least. So, looking at this image, and looking at our histogram and levels, kind of our top tools up here, we can tell we're probably a bit underexposed. Now maybe if I draw just another one of my fantastic sketches. So if we have a histogram, we've got zero at this end, and 255 at this end. So zero is blacks. 255 is white. And what generally we want on a histogram, is a nice kind of spread from zero to 255. That gives us nice contrast range, good exposure, and so on. If we just clear that. If we have a histogram that kind of looks like this. Remember this is blacks, this is whites, then we can probably guess it's pretty underexposed and dingy. If we have a histogram that looks, zero, 255, if we have a histogram that kind of looks like this, then we can pretty much guess it's overexposed. So we kind of want something in the middle. But what is often disregarded, is actually setting the levels points. So, if we kind of don't even look at the image, and we just look at the histogram, we can probably think that an exposure adjustment is something like that, is kind of a better place to be, because our histogram's sitting nicely in the middle, but the problem with the histogram or, not necessarily a problem, but some way we can improve it, is that we don't have any information at the end of the graph here, and very little information at the end of the graph here as well. So that means our image can look a little flat, and a little bit dull. So what we generally need to do, is grab the bottom levels points, and just pull them into the edge like so. And you can see what happens to your output histogram at the top, so this is how your histogram will look if we exported this image, and put it into Photoshop, for example. So this is how you're export histogram is looking. So you can see, what we're asking Capture One to do is take the value at the bottom, so this is 230 on my histogram, and remap it to the value at the top, 255. So by dragging this in, that basically stretches that histogram out, over that whole range. Which is exactly what we want it to do. If we go too far, of course, let's do that, then we start clipping and chopping off data, which we don't want to do. And if we turn on our exposure warnings, which is the warning triangle up in the top right, then we can see we're starting to lose data in this highlight area like so. So you can leave your exposure warnings on, and then do a nice job with dialing in exactly where levels should be. Now where this warning pops in, you can also control in the preferences. So if we go to preferences, and look at exposure, we can say, I wanna see my exposure start popping in here, and I wanna see my shadows start popping in here like so. And the colors that it's gonna display. So as I start to clip, we can see it there, if I start to clip in the shadows, then you'll start to see it jump up in there as well. So that gives us a pretty accurate way to set our levels. The middle slider adjusts, if you like the brightness of our mid tones, so if we drag this to the right, we can darken our midtones, and we can brighten our midtones. So really, by just kind of playing with the exposure and levels, you can bring an image a really long way, with just those two tools. And if we take this one, and let's just reset that one, bring them up side by side. So that's how it came out of camera, this is how it looks with just a little bit of exposure tweak. I'd probably do it more, closer to that, I would say. Turn those off. So that's just tiny exposure tweak. Adjust the levels, and already we've got a much brighter, nicer image, without really getting into anything more complicated. So really, the lesson here is, get the right shortcut, is to make sure that you always have a quick look at the levels tool. If your levels and histogram, it's already spread across the whole range, then there's really no adjustment to make. You might wanna play with the midrange to some extent, but always worth having a look. Like our iceberg that we did right at the start, it's pretty easy to see, that's a good example of it being underexposed. But we can just do a few simple tweaks. And white balance, or we could just take a pick, like so, play with our levels, grab the shadow and highlights, have a look at the midtones. So it's a bit of a juggling act between these two, and what a difference with just two tools. If we reset that, again, what a big difference. So, always have a look at your levels, and histogram as such. Any questions on sort of basic, basic stuff?
Yes. I wanted to know about compatibility with the X-Rite Passport.
Yeah, good question. X-Rite Passport, if you didn't know, a little kind of color chart, 16 color patches, which traditionally can be used for making color profiles, and so on and so forth. Capture One is fully, kind of ICC compliant workflow, so there's nothing actually to stop you shooting a color target like that, using another application to build an ICC profile, and then using that in Capture One. Generally I would argue, it's pretty hard to better the color profiles that we've made in Capture One, for general photography. I think there's a good argument for situations where you have a locked down system, like if you're copying artwork, any sort of artifacts like that, where you have controlled lighting, everything in the system is kind of like a closed loop, then it makes sense to do color profiling for that integrity. But for general photography, shooting a 16 patch color target is very, very unlikely to do better than what the profiles we've made. And don't take my word for it. Actually, if you're not using Capture One, try it, look at your images, see how they come out on the default color profile, and see what you think. If you're not happy with a color, we'd actually prefer to know about it, and improve on it, than expect you to then have to kind of fix color profiles. That's not what Capture One is about. It's about delivering you good color from the outset. Anything else?
Good to go.
Okay. So, going back to this one here. So let's just check I'm on the right selection of images. Let's just have a think. Okay, so we're happy with our levels tool. One thing I should add, actually. Backtrack. That we didn't think about, or I didn't think about. If we go back to our levels, you can also adjust the top of the levels tool. So, your output levels you can adjust. So remember, as I said, when you move this point into the right, you're asking Capture One to remap this histogram to the level at the top. So if you don't want to map anything to 255, you can actually bring that in, if you watch what's happening to the histogram, it's starting to move back left again. That's sometimes useful if you're, say, going to print, and you don't want a maximum value of anywhere in the image, then you can limit it by bringing that output slider back in. So, just thought it's worth mentioning that. Okay, so let's go to talking about the rest of the stuff in the exposure tool. Okay, so we saw that we can adjust exposure, of course. Very useful. Let's just reset this one. And we've got three other sliders, contrast, brightness, and saturation. So let's just do a quick basic adjust of this one. And contrast you can probably guess what contrast does, it increases or reduces the contrast of the image, just by dragging the slider like so. But it's worth noting, that there's quite a lot of intelligence built into that contrast slider. It's not just a simple beef up the contrast. There's some protection into the shadows. There's some protection into the highlights. There's also some protection in stabilizing the color as well. So traditionally, contrast slider you kind of mock, because it's not professional to use a slider, but what the contrast slider does, is something quite interesting that when we look at the curve tool shortly, we compare it to something called a luminosity curve, and a RGB curve. So, even though the purpose of the contrast slider you think is fairly rudimentary, don't be afraid to use it. It does a really nice job of applying contrast to an image, keeping the color stable, not blocking out the shadows too much, and not ruining the highlights too much. So worth using it. Don't shy away from it just because it's a slider. Brightness is very simple. That's just kind of like a midtone bump, so just for boosting the midtones of the image. Again that has some intelligence built in. It tries to preserve the highlights to some extent as well. Saturation is an interesting one, because that also has some intelligence built in. So lets grab this image. Adjustment's pretty good. So, saturation, again is not just a blanket more or less. What the saturation slider tries to do, is when you increase saturation, it looks at colors that are already well saturated, and gives them less treatment than colors that are not well saturated. So if we think about the red chilies here, if I drag this slider to the right, we can see our image gets more saturated, but it doesn't go completely haywire. If we take the same, you got a sneak preview of the color editor, if we sample the same color in the color editor, you can see that little dot is where that red belongs in the color spectrum. You see it's right at the end of that saturation range. So when we increase the saturation slider, Capture One recognizes that, and really lays off on the saturation so it doesn't go berserk. If we do the same thing here, you can see it goes pretty ugly, pretty fast. So, again, don't be afraid to push the saturation slider hard. It does have that intelligence built into it. Okay, so just be aware of that. Don't be afraid to use these sliders. If you're using sliders, it doesn't mean you're not professional as such. We've spent a lot of time, especially in Capture One nine updates, and Capture One ten, to actually make these work in a really intelligent way. So, don't be afraid to use them. You don't have to think that, I need to use curves because I'm a pro. That's really simply not the case. Okay, so moving on, we've got the next one popping up here is high dynamic range. So let's just open an image which has a fair amount of shadows and highlights in it. It's pretty easy to understand what goes on with this tool. It's basically highlight recovery, and shadow recovery. If you watch what happens to the histogram, if we grab the highlight slider and move that to the right, you can pretty much see it only affects this end of the histogram. So as we drag highlights across, you can see we improve, or reduce the exposure of the highlights. If we just preview before and after. Actually, pretty nice recovery of what was going on at the back here with no highlight recovery. No data, to actually some pretty good data. And also shadow recovery. That of course is just lifting the shadows, and then we can really compress the dynamic range down. Again, if we look at the histogram, when we bring the shadows up, then it's only affecting that lower kind of three quarters. So they're very targeted sliders. So again, you shouldn't expect to see too much movement on midtones, for example, when you're using those sliders. The good thing is, if you run out of high dynamic range adjustment, in a later lesson, when we look at local adjustments, you can also locally add high dynamic range. So if you think you need even more highlight recovery, you can just simply keep piling it on, within the limits of the raw file, of course, in the local adjustment too. So hold that thought for later lessons. Again, that's pretty simple to use, so you can see any shot like this, where we've got sort of the compressed tones, we can easily lift the shadows. We can easily bring the highlights down. And what's more really, sometimes when you're playing with exposure, you might think, well I'm just gonna lift the exposure, but that's harmed my highlights a bit, so I just bring those highlights back, or should I have less exposure, more shadow recovery, and so on. Sort of a juggling act between all of them. Again, there's no right or wrong kind of rules to it. If you like the result, you're the only person you have to satisfy, really. Curve now is where it kind of gets interesting. And let's go back to this one. Gonna reset that. Let's collapse that one down. And then what we will do, I don't know if I have enough screen space, let's see. Let's add another curve. You might say why on earth would you want to have, oops, two curves? So lets bring this one up, make it smaller. See if we can squeeze them both in. We might struggle, I think. Not enough space for two curves, nevermind. Let's just get rid of one then. And look at our curve on its own. So, we have five different tabs across the top, which kind of might sound excessive, but they all perform different jobs. The main two that you're gonna use is RGB and luma. And we also have the ability to affect the color channels in the curve as well. That used to be kind of useful, if you wanted to do color grading to an image, but as you'll see in later lessons, we have a much better tool for that, which is the color balance tool. So, generally in the curve, you're probably only gonna be playing with RGB and luma. So what's the difference? So if we take this image here, for example. Let's reset, so this is how it came out of camera. And let's just throw in an RGB curve, for example. So let's say we wanna make it more contrasty, so I'm gonna draw a pretty standard S curve. So, I'm kind of exaggerating, so you can see online and onscreen better. But the problem is with an RGB curve, when you increase contrast in such effect, it also affects the color hue and saturation, which could be seen as a negative effect. So let's make another variant of that same image. And we do the same thing with the luminosity curve. So let's just do a similar thing. Now if we whip between the two, so this is our RGB curve, remember, and this is our luma curve. So if I go back and forth, you can see there's quite a distinct change between the color in RGB, and the color in luma. Because even if we really kind of exaggerate that, you'll see that even though I've added more contrast, the actual color tone, my blue sky if you like, remains stable. So a luma curve is pure luminosity, so it's great for people, because it doesn't screw up skin tones. It's great for shots like this, where you've got strong colors, because it keeps them stable. And it also means that you're not fighting adjustments against each other. Because let's say you'd made this adjustment, thought yeah, I like the contrast, but you know what? I now need to correct something by perhaps reducing saturation. Whereas the luminosity curve gives you that control. It splits those two things apart from each other. So the luma curve is really a wonderful adjustment, pretty much for all kinds of photography. When you first start using it, you might think, this looks weird. Because it behaves in a way that you're not really used to. If you think about, if you go outside on a nice sunny day, blue skies, strong sunlight, everything looks more punchy, more contrasty, more saturation and so on. If you're outside on a cloudy day, everything looks kind of lower and flatter, and less colorful. So when we add contrast to an image, we often expect visually in our brains for the saturation to go up a bit as well. So when you first start using luma, you might think, well this looks weird, because it hasn't behaved how I would expect. But it allows you to think of contrast as one adjustment, and then if you want a little bit of saturation, you can then play with that, with the saturation slider. Now, going back to what I said about the contrast slider, if we make another variant, and instead of using curves we use contrast, so let's just throw in some contrast, and see if we can bring up, so this one, this one, and this one. Let's hide my tools. So this one was our RGB. This one was luma. And this one is contrast. Contrast is somewhere in between the two. It's a really nice balance and compromise. So if you wanna add contrast, and just give the colors a bit of that natural nudge, that you visually expect, then the contrast slider does a really nice job. If you want the full precision and control, then go for luma. If you want a good old fashioned RGB curve, then it's there for use as well. But that's why I said, don't be shy or bashful about using the contrast slider. It does a really, really super nice job. Any other questions on that, Jim?
Stephon wanted to know, what is the difference between a slider for brightness in the exposure tool, and the shadow slider in high dynamic range?
Okay, so, let's just backtrack a little. What can we pick? Let's pick one of those. Let's just go back to some mountains. So, the brightness tool, you can kind of, you can equate it better to the levels tool. So remember, the high dynamic range is particularly targeted to shadows and highlights. So either end, so we could bring, if we look at the bonnet of the car, is that hood in the US? Sorry, the hood of the car, that obviously does a good job of bringing that down. Shadow would lift that mountain range in the background. So you can't really link brightness to those two, but you can link brightness to the midtone adjustment on the levels tool. So, really what brightness does, is just bump up the midtones. It's also similar to, if we were in a curve, let's get the curve open, to doing this. So the brightness tool is basically doing this, with a little bit of care to not mess up the highlights. So it's like a clever midtone curve. So I hope that answers his question.