Layer centric: Capture One 11 review
Many portrait, wedding, and commercial professionals who require the highest quality and most precise range of adjustments in their raw conversions look to Phase One’s Capture One software. With the latest updates, even advanced amateurs are looking closely at Capture One to increase the quality of their image processing. With an abundance of new features, Capture One 11 is the most significant update in recent years.
Notable new features
- Enhanced layers functionality
- Improved masking tools
- Increased compatibility with Adobe Photoshop
Support for new features
- Increased speed for importing files and making editing adjustments
- Reengineered color tools to ensure smooth transitions between layers
- Incorporation of LAB color space readouts
- Duplicate checking import from a camera card
Version 11 does away with the familiar brush icon to indicate the Local Adjustment tool tab in favor of a renamed Layers tab. All adjustment tools are now compatible with Layers, and more tools are compatible with adjustment layers, including Styles as layers, an opacity slider, and other features.
In each of the tool tabs you can apply any of the adjustments available globally, as in previous versions, or locally as a local adjustment layer.
Want to sharpen the subject’s eyes in a portrait?
1. Select the Details tool tab.
2. Create a new filled adjustment layer.
3. Paint a mask over the eyes.
4. Press the M key to show or hide your mask.
5. Adjust the sharpening slider.
6. If it’s too sharp, highlight the layer and adjust the layer opacity down from 100%.
This layers functionality is identical in each of the available tool tabs, and all of the layers you create are visible in all of the tool tabs that include Layers. For example, if you’re photographing in areas of mixed lighting, you can mask each area in the Color tool tab and adjust the white balance of each area independently. Every image can contain a maximum of 16 adjustment, clone, and healing layers. A tiny brush icon next to the tool name in each tool tab indicates individual tools that work on layers.
You can also use Layers to dodge and burn.
1. Create a new adjustment layer of the entire image.
2. Apply an exposure adjustment to the entire image that corrects the area of interest.
3. Invert the mask, which removes it from the image.
4. Use the brush cursor tool to paint in the adjustment with a low flow where you want it.
5. If you paint outside the area of interest, you can delete the adjustment with the Erase Mask brush.
6. Clicking the checkmark next to the layer name allows you to see before and after views of the adjustment.
As you can see, masking is an integral part of the new layers functionality. The masking tools have been improved in Capture One 11 to increase the precision of masks for local adjustments. New options are added to the Layers drop-down menu, including clear mask, invert mask, feather mask, and refine mask.
The Refine Mask option lacks the complexity and sophistication of the Photoshop Select and Mask tool, but it does an excellent job blending adjustments made to the masked area into the unmasked areas. With the Invert Mask option it’s easy to apply a global adjustment to the entire image to preview the effect, then apply a mask to the entire image, invert it, and paint in the adjustment only where you want it, as described above.
All the layers and masks created for each image are saved in the Capture One catalog or session in which you are working and are available when you next open the image. Unfortunately, they’re not carried over as Photoshop layers even if you export the image in the Photoshop PSD file format available as an output option. However, with increased Photoshop compatibility, Capture One 11 does allow you to export some new functions as layers to Photoshop.
New in version 11 are Annotations, the ability to add notes to images. Annotations can be notes to yourself, your client, or a retoucher. The Annotations tool, available in the Metadata tool tab, includes a draw and erase option and color selection for your notes. It could use an optional text editor for photographers who don’t have a Wacom pen tablet as writing with a mouse can be an exercise in frustration. In the Output tool tab you can choose to add your annotations as a separate layer in files output in PSD format.
There are additional options available to output as layers in PSD files. If you created an image to fit within a graphic, you can export the graphic as an overlay on a separate layer. You can also export your cropping as a path in the uncropped image in a PSD file. And you can add a watermark to the PSD output as a separate layer. Any or all of these are included when you package your image in Capture One’s proprietary EIP format.
Although introduced in version 10, also worthy of mention is the emphasis on Presets and Styles. These are found in the Adjustment tool tab. Presets are adjustments from individual tools that you can quickly apply, while styles can include as many tools as required to create a certain effect. Sets of each are included in the program, more are available free or at low cost online, and you can create your own.
Styles in particular are finding their way into many imaging programs as a quick way to start the image adjustment process. Hovering over a style in Capture One 11 previews it on your image. Clicking on the style applies it to an image, and you can add multiple styles to an image by checking the Stack Style option in the Styles and Presets dropdown menu. Version 11 makes it possible to add presets and styles as layers and thereby adjust their opacity and settings, although you need to find the adjustment changes in the Color and Exposure tool tabs for the Style.
Users moving to Capture One from other programs have the benefit of a superb set of tutorials, available from the Help menu, to get started with the program. The pricing of Capture One 11 remains $299 for new users, which includes a perpetual license to all upgrades to this version. Upgrade pricing has increased to $119. And Capture One Pro subscribers, who pay $20 per month for a 12-month plan, can download the new version at no cost. Style packs are available on the Phase One website for $49 to $69.
I encourage new and existing users to make use of the extensive set of video tutorials to quickly get up to speed on the program and the latest features in version 11.
- Enhanced layers
- Improved masking
- Well designed built-in and online Styles
- Improved responsiveness
- Adjusting Presets and Styles is overly complex
- Takes time to get up to speed for new users
- Price is higher than other imaging programs
Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, California.