The landscape of the portrait photographer has certainly been in flux over the last decade, in which time we’ve seen photos of people go from unreal alabaster-like skin to something much more real, color grading become prominent, and image resolution grow, even though the consumption of images has moved largely to smaller screens.
Then, of course, there’s the sheer volume of images demanded by today’s clients — driven by consumer habits — and the need to output for a myriad of media platforms with different size, color, and crop factor parameters, all making the case for greater efficiency in one’s workflow. Capture One is uniquely able to address all of this, and here’s a look at how.
The workflow for everyone will always be at least slightly different, and even for one person, it can and often depend on the nature of a shoot, so here, we’ll address benefits, whether you’re a studio photographer or lifestyle shooter, or anything in-between.
*If you don’t already own Capture One, this is the perfect time to download a free 30-day trial of Capture One Pro (no strings attached).
Skin Tone Tool
Making skin tones match throughout the body without affecting texture is a hallmark of a good portrait edit and a necessary ability for a portrait photographer. In fact, being able to fix skin tone is essential for professional images whether you shoot portraits, headshots, weddings, swimwear, dancers, or frankly, anything else, and Capture One’s dedicated Skin Tone Tool makes easy work of it.
The goal is to harmonize all the skin to be more even, but not exactly the same, while still retaining skin texture and not making the image look flat. The Skin Tone Tool allows you to mask the skin using the brush tools and masking refinements and make a selection of the tone you want, and then, you can drag simple sliders until you’ve reached harmony throughout.
With Capture One’s layer functionality, opacity options for layers and brushes, and the easy sliders of the tool, there may be no simpler way to correct and even out skin tones than with this tool. Click here for a more detailed explanation of how to use it.
The rabbit hole of raw file handling can go to the center of the Earth, so we’ll stick to the upper mantle here, but there are a few things about raw file handling some of you may not know that you might find helpful.
First off, a raw file is simply an unaltered data packet from the sensor, and your choice of raw processor has to interpret that ingredient list of data for it to show you the image. And by the time you see the image, the software has not only interpreted the data, but applied a few alterations to it. So, the raw file you look at in your viewer isn’t quite as "raw" as it could be. For instance, raw files are actually significantly darker than what you see, and the colors look different, but your software has applied some type of brightness/exposure compensation by way of something like a gamma curve as well as an ICC profile to deal with color. Here’s a quick look at a raw file upon import and the same with "Linear Response" curve applied to show you a truer look at the actual raw file:
This all happens before you touch an adjustment tool, and all raw processors do it, but it’s how that makes the difference. Capture One engineers test thousands of images per camera model to figure out a profile that’s best for your camera model, and compared to Lightroom, you’ll notice there seem to be more shades of the same color, which results in smoother color gradients, more flexibility, and a more natural look. For the purpose of portraiture, this is important, as you’ll have more natural-looking colors, better gradients, better-looking skin, and so on. Here’s a quick look at the same file opened with default settings in Capture One and Lightroom:
(Lightroom on the right, Capture One on the left)
Working With Sessions
In Capture One, users have the ability to organize their work with Catalogs, Sessions, or a Hybrid of the two. Catalogs are more monolithic in nature, fit for keeping large collections of images from many shoots or even all your images with a centralized database. Sessions are smaller and typically used to manage images from a single shoot, event, or perhaps a date or location.
When you create a Session, say "Rebecca’s Headshots 2020," a simple folder structure is created for you. There’s the parent Session folder, which would bear the name of your shoot, and then within, you’ll find Capture (which stores all your image files), Output (images you’ve exported), Selects, Trash, and the actual Session database file, which will have the Session name with file extension ".cosessiondb." You can change these as you like, but at least there’s a consistent structure to all Sessions, and having each organized this way allows you to cleanly manage separate shoots, clients, and move around with those files much more easily than with Catalogs.
For portrait photographers who will typically shoot many different clients and who don’t need to see or access other images from other shoots, this is a great way to keep everything really well organized.
Fast Tethered Capture
Not everyone shoots tethered, and not everyone who does shoots tethered all the time, but for those who are working in a studio environment or on location for commercial work, it is a necessity, and Capture One is the gold standard for tethered capture.
In Capture One tethered shooting, you can import images as you shoot, set a base image to look just how you like, and have the following shots have the same adjustments applied at speed, control the camera settings from within Capture One Pro, use autofocus, and of course, see the Live View to get your framing and composition and all just right.
Then, there’s the overlay function, which inserts a graphic file as an overlay on the feed or an image as you shoot. This image could be a logo, text, or a design for a magazine cover, or any number of other things, and allows for just the right composition.
Anyone coming from other processing software will be immediately impressed with how well tethering works with C1. It’s fast, simple to set up, and offers a level of control you just don’t find elsewhere.
Bonus: You can download the Capture Pilot iOS app, which can stream the images live to a mobile device, perfect for allows clients or collaborators to see a larger image and without standing in your way. It’s also useful to have facing the subject, so they can see what’s going on in real-time and adjust accordingly.
Layers in Capture One are immensely powerful and totally change the game in terms of flexibility. From high-quality healing and cloning to fine-masking, layer-stacking, and layer opacity control, Capture One has a broad range of local adjustments, powerful layers, and layer-masking tools that allow you to maximize the flexibility of your raw files. That means you can get the most out of each shot and do more with a raw processor than previously possible, all while saving time.
Each file in Capture One can have layer upon layer of local and global adjustments and the ability to make local adjustment masks from Color Editor selections. This functionality allows users to easily and quickly create more complicated masks and is a huge help when editing any and everything from landscapes to skin tone.
In contrast, Lightroom’s adjustment layer capabilities are almost nonexistent, and they are limited to just a single layer for all adjustments. While Capture One’s layers aren’t as robust as those in Photoshop, the power Capture One provides through layers covers the lion’s share of what the vast majority of photographers need. For portrait work, having healing and cloning layers, layers with full opacity control, local adjustments with further opacity control, and a wide spread of easy masking tools are huge benefits.
There's a lot more nuance to the benefits of Capture One for portrait photography than can be demonstrated here, but if you want to jump-start and learn immediately, there is already a bevy of tutorials on Capture One’s YouTube channel, and you can download Capture One here with a 30-day free trial.