We’re back – and I’m developing images. A lot.

Mini-TMB-Sep-2008-12-small

Well we came back from Iceland. And then LB’s folks were over for a few days for her graduation from her Master’s Degree (Distinction – well done LB!) in Scandinavian Translation from UCL.

Then we were off again for a very few days on part of the TMB that LB hadn’t done. Where I did the whole one-knee-with-a-ring thing on a snowy balcony of my favourite Alpine hut – the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. It came as no surprise to her, we’ve been planning the party for months (and the honeymoon for longer – the GR5). And she didn’t even want a ring. But I thought what the heck…

And then we were back again to more work (it does rather get in the way doesn’t it?) and trying to get all the gear packed away at last – before going off for a weekend in my old friend and ex-business partner’s huge house and swimming pool. Which always has me grinning because we met as a couple of sixteen year-olds on the Royal Park’s Apprenticeship scheme. Who then would have guessed where we’d end up?

Well – we did guess to be honest but only he was completely right. It didn’t just “happen” though. It took a lot of work to get there. We started out in business together but after a few years I chose the more standard university/career route whilst he continued the running-a-firm route. We both have our regrets but at the same time are also both happy.

And then – there was still no time for blog entries as I had thousands (literally) of images to sort through and develop. And that really does take time!

But I will write up the Iceland trip (and in fact have started) – I promise!

But with all the time I’ve spent developing the RAW files, I’ve created a nice “workflow” (as the pro’s call it). So I thought I’d write it down. And then I found myself wishing that someone else had written it down as they would have saved me hours of working it out. Sure, there’s a manual that describes all the tools in Capture One but I wanted a quick recipe.

UPDATE: I no longer use Capture One – Adobe Lightroom 2 has completely out-classed it. There’s no contest between them for me!

So, for anyone who’s using Capture One 4 this might be helpful (and I’d very much welcome comments from anyone that is). But for anyone else, I’m quite sure this will be of no interest – sorry!

Note that if I wasn’t taking RAW, I’d only be using Picasa. In fact I do use Picasa as my “photo library” tool for all the results of my developing and all the images LB takes. She doesn’t take RAW. She has better things to do with her time.

So RAW development in Capture One 4: This is the way I work. There may be better ways, I may yet find them, but as of today this is it.

Although the following looks very long winded when written out, it’s far faster in reality!

One of my must-have features in an image editor is the ability to “clone” images, leaving the changes as they are in one and continuing them in another. That lets you compare them and decide if your new changes have actually improved the image. In Capture One you just right-click a thumbnail and select Clone Variant.


Initial Set-up

This section you should only ever need to do once!

Quick Tab

Basic Characteristics -> ICC Profile

Set this to your camera if it’s listed.

Output Tab

Quality
I find that “95%” gives me a reasonable file size and almost no JPEG compression degradation even when zoomed way, way in.

ICC Profile
I use “sRGB IEC-61966-2.1” – to be honest I can’t recall the reasoning though I can recall researching it!

Format
I use Image Name since that means the output images match the RAW files (until I rename them with Picasa).


Developing

Library Tab

Find your RAW files, right click and select the correct Output Folder (where the JPEGs will go).

Broad-Brush Adjustments

Before starting to look at any images, make any broad-brush adjustments that you need. I find that I like to increase the saturation and slightly adjust the colour of the images to remove a hint of sepia that all Canon EOS cameras appear to me to have.

Exposure Tab

Select the first image and set Saturation to 32 or, of course, whatever suits your taste.

Color Tab

Set Color Balance to remove the slight sepia that I perceive in all Canon EOS images: 150 Hue, 2% Saturation

Select the drop down arrow in the top right corner of the Color Balance tool and select Add Preset… Add the above as something like “Hue 150 – Saturation 2%

Now your broad-brush settings are done for one image, copy them to the others:

Click Copy Adjustments at the top.

Select all images (Ctrl+A).

Click the Apply Adjustments button at the top.

(Note also the Adjustments tab that lets you select which adjustments to apply if you want to take only some from an image)

Delete all the duds

Run through all the images without adjusting any, deleting any that aren’t up to the mark. Be ruthless. “Less is more” with this.

Hit Ctrl+T to toggle the tools view and Ctrl+B to toggle the thumbnails view.

If you think an image is borderline but might be rescuable by developing it, clone it (right-click and select Clone Variant). Use Ctrl+F to do a basic Auto-Adjust on the clone. That way you can delete the clone and come back to work on the image later (thereby not keeping the slightly poor guess that the global Auto-Adjust makes or losing your broad-brush changes).

I then make a second pass, and usually a third, before deleting even more as I make adjustments. I typically keep between 10 and 20 percent of what I’ve taken.


Individual Adjustments

Exposure Tab

Although selecting Auto-Adjust individually on each group of controls (as I suggest below) usually takes a pretty reasonable guess, you quite often need to manually adjust further based on how you want the image to look.

You’d expect that selecting Auto-Adjust (Ctrl+F) for the whole image should give the same set of adjustments as selecting Auto-Adjust (A) on each tool in turn – but for some reason it doesn’t. The end result is not even as good as blindly auto-adjusting each tool in turn and it’s certainly not as good as auto-adjusting each tool and then manually adjusting that tool before moving on to the next.

Note that changing the order that you select the groups of controls and click Auto-Adjust (A) will give you different results since each one bases its adjustments on what the image currently looks like, not on the base image.

Click Auto-Adjust (A) on the following groups of controls (the little A in the top right corner – or click the little arrow next to the A to reset to the original values).

Exposure

Click Auto-Adjust (A). You might come back here once you’ve done the others to fine tune but leave it for now.

High Dynamic Range

Click Auto-Adjust (A) but then adjust the Shadow and Highlight back if they get over 25 (they often do) since more than 30 gives a strange grainy appearance. In fact, I usually avoid using this tool very much and rarely use above 20 for either setting even then.

Levels

Click Auto-Adjust (A) and then slide the middle slider (at the bottom) to increase or decrease the mid-tones in the image (for example to tone down bounce-highlights from a flash without greatly affecting the overall image).

Curves

Not all images benefit from this tool but for some, nothing else can finish them off properly. It’s also the tool that takes the most trial-and-error to learn. The easiest way to start is to see the shapes produced by the presets (drop-down in the top right hand corner).

For slightly finer control you’ll need to pick the points on the curve for yourself. A quick glance at the grey graph behind the curve tool (a histogram of the brightness of the image) usually shows a couple of peaks. Set two points on the curve at those peaks. Use those points to make your adjustments. Or, if there aren’t two obvious points, just set one low and one high – it’s not hugely important.

Try dropping both the points and then putting a third mid-way between them and raising it. I can’t explain what that does technically – it’s just handy with some images!

Sometimes you need to create another “anchor” point above or below one of your first two points to stop part of the light space from changing whilst you change another area.

Very, very rarely should the curve be anything more than very slightly off the diagonal.

Rotate and Crop Tools

Select the Rotate or Crop tools at the top (rotate first if you need it). (Note the Composition tab where you can get fine grained control of these tools).

Of course this could be done before the Exposure but quite often at that stage I just decide against an image and delete it so doing this adjustment later saves making adjustments on an image that you’ll delete anyway.

Color Tab

The manual recommends setting this first. But since this is something I don’t do to all images I’d rather only do it once I’m sure I’ve deleted all the duds. Note what the White Balance is set to currently (assuming that you’ve taken using “Auto” white balance to get the camera’s best guess – which is usually pretty good).

Click Auto-Adjust (A) on White Balance

Adjust it back towards what the camera had it set to if needed (click the little reset arrow next to Auto-Adjust if you want to swap between the two quickly).

Details Tab

Sharpening

Use a small amount of sharpening if needed but he default is usually fine.

Pre sharpening for not much effect – Soft image sharpening 1 or 2 for softer images but 3 is almost invariably too harsh.

Noise Reduction

Usually I use the default values but the following I also occasionally find useful. They weren’t very scientifically arrived at, just trial and error. To check the effect, Zoom (top right of the image) to 50% to get an idea what a print should look like and 100% to get an idea what it might look like on the monitor.

10 10 If the image has lots of noise (usually because it’s very dark) but you still want lots of detail. With such images even the default Noise Reduction settings can blur things. I very rarely use this though.

35 43 For slightly stronger than normal noise reduction on images with a good amount of light. Remember to check the results at at 100% resolution.

65 50 For just about as much noise reduction as it’s possible to get away with on images with a great deal of light! Be very careful with this and check it at 100% resolution.

Finally select all the images (Crtl+A) and develop them all Ctrl+Shift+D

Then upload them somewhere using Picasa for all to see!

9 Replies to “We’re back – and I’m developing images. A lot.”

  1. Congratulations on your up coming nuptials. The one knee in the snowy thing sounds great and it is those moments that you both will always remember.
    Looking forward to the Iceland report.

  2. Thank you! :)

    Life is “made up of moments” they say.

    The Iceland report is in the making… It won’t be huge, or even of a diary format. But it will just be some information on the place for anyone that might fancy a trip!

  3. Congratulations, and what a great place to have bent the knee at! May you have many happy years together.

    My wife and I just did our 10th anniversary at the top of Mt Fuji. So many mountains, so little time!

  4. Thanks Chris! :)

    Mt Fuji? Fantastic. That’s the way to do it.

    And yes; so little time. Hey – I can’t even fit in the blog entries.

    Just have to keep eating healthily to ensure long life, to fit as much in as possible.

    (S)He who dies with the greatest total hill-days – wins ;)

  5. Thanks Philip! (Nearly missed your comment – you fell in the Akismet filter again…)

    Most people stay in refuges but most refuges allow camping outside them.

    Generally wild-camping is not allowed along the route. You could climb high – and then of course who would know? But that isn’t always easy or perhaps even practical given the immense valleys with 3000+ meter sides to them!

    Besides, the refuges are amazingly cheap. Typically around 35 euros for bed breakfast and evening meal (shared at a table – but that’s half the fun!). Even the huts with mule or helicopter access only.

    If you’re considering it – all you need in the way of guidebooks is the Cicerone, Kev Reynolds, Tour of Mont Blanc

    And I have gone on at length about how to have a comfortable time when travelling hut to hut in the Alps in my Haute Route posts of course!

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