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Capture One 12: A Study In Contrast Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

20 December 2018

Wandering around the other day, we walked through a public park and stopped in front of a very bright bush set in front of a dark hedge. We were struck by the contrast in tone.

We've noticed landscape designers work hard to create this effect. You won't have to look far to find one near you.

As we admired the design, we wondered how this almost monochromatic scene would render as a black-and-white image.

So we pulled out the camera, focused on the lighter bush leaving the darker one blurred in the background and took the shot with a generous crop we fully expected to narrow in post processing.

We edited this image in Capture One 12. The new version features a reworked interface to all the power we've become accustomed to and we wanted to take it for a spin. Several spins, as you'll see in upcoming articles.

But for this spin, we particularly wanted to use Capture One's BW-03 Style to tweak the contrast after we had set the Highlight and Shadow sliders in the High Dynamic Range panel.

This image, after all, is all about contrast.


But first we dealt with that crop. We wanted to draw the viewer into the scene with the dancing bright leaves that seemed to skip across the stage.

Histograms. The highlights, full tonal map and shadows show where the tones fall in each section of the image and in the whole image. The more compact the histogram, the lower the contrast (as the shadows histogram shows).

So we moved in (virtually) cropping half the image out. That focused the image on the bright edge of leaves in the middle of the composition.

Then it was just a matter of getting as much detail as we could in the highlights and darkening those shadows without blackening them to emphasize the contrast between the two tone maps.

We used the Clarity panel to boost the Clarity or microcontrast and Structure. We used Capture One's Natural method over the Punch, Neutral and Classic options.

Clarity and Structure both affect microcontrast, or the transition between light and dark areas, sharpening edges. But Clarity affects more pronounced contrast transitions while Structure addresses areas where the difference between light and dark is not as great.

As for the four Clarity options, Phase one says this:

Natural: This method applies milder local contrast than either the Punch or Neutral options and avoids false colors and clipped highlights. Low negative values may be used for softening portraits.

Punch: Adds higher values of local contrast than Natural or Classic methods and increases saturation slightly, however if applied heavily some highlight clipping may occur. Positive values using this method work well with landscapes.

Neutral: This method adds the same level of local contrast as Punch, however saturation remains unaltered. When applying heavy contrast corrections the Neutral method usually works best, resulting in a more realistic and pleasing effect.

Classic: The Classic option introduced in Capture One Pro 6 applies the mildest local contrast without increasing saturation. This method preserves highlight detail better than the Punch and Neutral options. Positive values using the Classic setting work well with architecture and on images with a degree of haze. Low negative values of Clarity may be used for softening portraits.

Nice options to have. We picked vanilla Natural.

There was one bright spot in the dark bush from a budding flower that we found distracting. So we created an Adjustment layer, which we named "Spot Healing," and used the Heal tool to make it disappear.

Nothing ever seems quite as natural to us as Photoshop's Healing Brush but Capture One's healing tool did do the job.

Quick work, really. It takes longer to read about it.


The interface in 12 is improved over 11, we can confirm. You still walk through the panels left to right but they seem a little more approachable than they have in the past.

There are, however, still Capture One-isms that continue to aggravate us.


Take that crop, for example. It's no trouble to find the crop tool and make your crop. But how do you apply that crop?

Hitting Return, which is the natural thing to do, does nothing. A trip to the Help menu takes you to the Web site article on cropping, almost all of which you don't need to be told.

But buried in there is the answer: pick any other tool to apply the crop.

That just isn't good design. We had no intention of moving on before we had applied our crop, of course. But there was no obvious way to apply it. No button (which should respond to a Return anyway), no clue.

Fortunately, Capture One does have excellent online help documentation no further away than the question mark in each panel.

Active Layer

We ran into another puzzle when we revisited our image to capture a screen shot of the Clarity panel above. Our settings were lost, the panel showing only the defaults.

What happened?

Nothing really. We didn't realize at first that we had selected the Adjustment layer where those settings are not relevant. Capture One had correctly disabled the panel.

When we selected the Background layer with our image data (as in the screen shot above), the panel lit up with our adjustments just they way we left them.

We do like the orange highlight in the Capture One interface. It's very effective and easy on the eyes.

In Photoshop you have to activate the Camera Raw filter to see those adjustments. And in Lightroom, you can see the adjustments but don't have layers at all.

So it's easy to get lost, as we did, but in this case Capture One had it right.


Capture One 12 handled our Raw conversion to black and white easily.

We didn't need to adjust hue conversion (making the yellows lighter, for example) because the original file didn't have much color to begin with. But you can do that in Capture One and it's an essential tool for black and white conversions.

We particularly liked the microcontrast options Capture One provides, too.

But what we really liked was the sense that Capture One 12 was easier to drive that any of its predecessors. And that's worth a four corners rating.

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