I was impressed by Capture One’s rendering of Fuji’s RAW files in my previous post. Since I had 60 days to try it out, I decided to put it through the paces with my recent shoot.
Obviously, since this is my first time with Capture One, there will be a lot of growing pains. There will be some getting used to with UI and its quirks. Maybe after my 60 day trial runs out, I’ll do my final thoughts on Capture One and see if I want to buy it.
Session vs Catalogue
Capture One has both sessions and catalogues. Lightroom only has a catalogue. If I’m understanding them correctly, sessions are contained in its own box. So you can move sessions around from computer to computer if you wish. So each shoot can be a session where you can edit in different computers if you wish. Catalogue will just keep your entire photos in one place. I do like the session concept.
As expected, my workflow was slower in Capture One. My Lightroom workflow was so fast. And that’s just me being unfamiliar with Capture One.
One of my main gripes was the Photoshop workflow. Lightroom and Photoshop were best buddies, since Adobe created both. But It’s not in Capture One.
I had export my files as PSD (or TIFF) and then open them up in Photoshop. After I make my edits in Photoshop, the PSDs don’t show up in Capture One! Is it suppose to? So it’s not part of my session. I had to create a batch action in Photoshop to get my photos processed to JPEG to publish. I need to figure this out.
My Favorite Feature Not on Lightroom
It’s the keystone feature. Man this is the best feature ever. Lightroom should add this in instead of trying to do it automatically. This makes straightening images better.
Other Quirks I noticed
I can’t pull up the darkest shadows in the curves function. That is weird. I had to use levels to do it. Maybe that’s the intended use.
I also miss my black slider and the white slider in Lightroom.
I’m not sure what the brightness slider does. I guess it’s decoupled with Exposure somehow.
I wish I can read tutorials about Capture One instead of watching videos. I know watching someone do it can be more helpful, but sometimes I don’t want to watch a video to learn how to do something.
It’s weird. But it’s only because I’m not used to it. I think after 60 days, I should have a better idea and can make an informed decision.
We know that everyone complains about how Adobe handles Fuji RAF files. There has been alternatives such as PhotoNinja, Iridient, and Capture One. So I decided to try them and see how they handle RAF files for portraiture. Why portraiture? Because that’s the style of photography I do. I want the best RAW processor to get the best out of the X-Trans sensor.
This isn’t just a pixel peeping exercise. Sure, certain software can bring out details better. They also render colors differently. So you have to figure out what gives you the best possible look that you’re going for.
Sample Images 1
The samples are straight out of the camera with no adjustments. These are at its default settings. Sure, maybe if we fiddle with stuff, we can get almost identical outputs. But I want to see what gives me the best starting point.
Since my trial license for PhotoNinja expired, I had to take a screen shot. So keep that in mind.
The following images are shot at f/4.0, 1/125 sec, at 200 ISO with my Fuji X-E1.
Right away, you can tell these are different. They all have different tones to the image.
Let’s See These at 100%
These are screen grabs from each software. You can click on them to get a bigger size. For PhotoNinja, I had to take a screen shot again. Hopefully, you can still tell the difference.
It looks like Iridient captures the details better. The other three are about the same at its default settings. I can’t get over PhotoNinja’s weird colors though.
The settings for these are f/4.0, 1/250 sec at 800 ISO using my Fuji X100s. This is lit using a flash. Once again, these are straight out of the camera using the software’s default settings.
Once again, you can click on them to get a better view.
Wow, for these images, Iridient looks the worst. It looks weird. Is it the noise reduction that Iridient tried to give? I like Capture One’s output the best. It looks the most natural.
PhotoNinja’s version looks pretty good too. But I still can’t get over that weird tint the image has.
What Is My Favorite?
Capture One wins. The skin tone looks better compared to the other software. Detail wise, Iridient seem to pull more out. But Capture One does a great job.
I like the look of Lightroom as well. But I think that’s because I’m so used to seeing Lightroom’s renderings. It looks “normal” to me.
PhotoNinja’s output looks okay. The screen-grabs are accurate. There is no funny business going on. I just don’t like the weird tint in the images, especially in the first image.
Iridient is funny. For the first set of images, Irident seems to have the best output. For the second set, it gave the worst output. I’m thinking it’s the noise reduction since the second image is at ISO 800. I can’t believe it makes that much difference. Or maybe Iridient can’t handle the X-Trans II sensor of the X100s.
In the end, Capture One is my choice. It’s better than Lightroom for sure. Too bad it’s so expensive though.
It’s all personal preference. For Web viewing, all four softwares can give you a decent image. You need to do your own investigation on which look you like better.
What do you guys think? Which software gives the best look for your Fuji cameras?
I have learned several ways to retouch skin. Some are good and some are bad. I’m going to retouch the same image and describe each one.
The Original Image
This is the original image I’m going to use. The hardest part was finding a picture of a model that had skin that can be retouched for this exercise. Most of my models had great skin.
Sorry LaCole for using your un-retouched pic. Fortunately, I don’t think she will even see this blog.
Here is the un-retouched photo. I shot this with my Fuji X100s. I cropped to her face to get a better look at her blemishes. I also fixed the exposure. Other than that, it’s straight RAW out of the camera converted using Lightroom.
Before I begin, I didn’t put too much effort into this. I hate retouching. It feels tedious to me. I rather be shooting than retouching.
Therefore, these might not look good and sloppily done. It’s because they are. Also, I was doing these on my laptop with a dirty screen, using my touchpad. Those are my excuses if these don’t look good. Anyway, let’s get started.
Blur Skin + Healing Brush
This is probably the worst method ever. I learned this method early on from one of Scott Kelby’s youtube videos. I can’t believe he suggests this method. It is one of the worst methods ever.
Having said that, it is the fastest method. This took me less that 5 minutes to do. The only problem is that it destroys skin texture. It gives the porcelain doll look. I do not like it. It makes it look unnatural.
Also, some people abuse this technique so they blur the skin even more. It makes the image look ridiculous.
How do you use this?
Copy to new layer.
Use surface blur in Photoshop. Scott actually says to use Gaussian Blur. I think surface blur makes a “cleaner” blur. So use that instead. You need to mess with the slider to get enough blur to clear away most imperfections while trying to keep things looking natural.
Drop the opacity down in the blurred layer until it looks natural.
Mask away the eyes, lips, and hair. That way, those will look sharp and natural.
Heal away the rest of imperfections.
This is where you create 2 layers. One is the tone layer. The other is the texture layer. You “separate” those frequencies.
That way, when you heal the skin, you don’t have to worry about the skin tone. You just have to make sure the textures match. So you can go to any place in the skin to get the sample for your skin to heal from.
This preserves skin tone and texture much better than blurring skin method or straight healing brush method. This takes a long time to do though. My image took about 15-20 minutes to complete. And I wasn’t even putting much effort into it.
Also, you can get a bad texture and screw it up. Also, when you have skin as bad as hers, it’s hard to find a good texture to start from. So it can look “patterned.” You would need to get into 200% zoom and do it more meticulously.
But if the model has good skin in most places, this is one of the best ways to retouch skin.
How do you do this? It’s too complicated to explain. Search “frequency separation” on Youtube and you can find a ton of videos from there.
Dodge and Burning
Dodging and Burning is what the best retouchers use in the industry. It completely preserves all skin textures. It is the most natural method.
The only problem: it takes freaking too long. Also, there is no way to do this with a mouse or touchpad. I had to bust out my Wacom tablet. If you hate retouching like me, this will test your patience.
However, I do use this method more often these days since it makes people look more natural. I don’t do it at a micro level too much though. I do it on a macro level.
If you want to do this properly, you need to zoom in to 300-400%. This is also the hardest method since you need patience and artistic talent. When you dodge and burn away the skin, you can lose tonality. But you can add tonality as well afterwards. Therefore, it helps if you know how to paint in shadows and light.
If you overdo this and make the skin super smooth, the skin will look blurred. So you have to be careful not to spend 8 hours chugging away with this method and have it look like something you could’ve done in 5 min. However at 100% zoom, you’ll be able to see each texture of the skin.
So how do you do this? This is also complicated to explain. Create a 50% gray, soft light layer (search for this method on the Internets). Then you zoom in 300%, dodge dark spots, and burn light spots in the skin. Repeat until everything looks even.
This can get complicated. Like I mentioned earlier you may lose tonality. So you have to paint those back in. You may also lose skin color as well (like in my pic). So you would also need to paint those back in. It’s just too tedious and painful to do it correctly.
You should, however, do D&B on a macro level for all your images. It can help the image.
100% Zoom Of Each Method
Here are the 100% zoom of each method.
2. Frequency Separation
3. Dodging and Burning
There are other methods I haven’t shown.
Lowering clarity slider in Lightroom. This can look horrible if you’re not careful. But it can lighten up some blemishes if used well.
Going crazy with clone stamp on a new layer and dropping opacity.
Using portraiture and other insta-retouching software.
Many others I’ve forgotten about or not know about.
You wouldn’t use these methods exclusively. You would combine these methods to get the best possible results.
Honestly, I like the Blur method out of all 3 with this particular image. Yeah I know I wrote it’s the worst method. But it looks the best to me. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t look sloppy. I just can’t stand the over-smoothness of the skin though. Oh well. Maybe if I spent more time on the other methods.
Each technique can be used depending on where the image will be shown. If you need to show images to a client quickly at a small resolution, the blur method might be good enough. If you’re going to print big, perhaps the other methods can be good.
Besides using software, having someone with good skin, getting a good makeup artist, having good lighting, and other factors can help as well.
Other sneaky ways you can try is soft-focusing and/or using a high ISO can help make the skin look smoother–whatever you can do to lose the details.
A model once said she liked my pictures because I don’t process them. I wasn’t sure if I should be proud or insulted by that. I spend a lot of time thinking about my post-processing and applying them. It could mean she couldn’t tell if I processed my photos. Or it could mean I’m awesome because my photos look natural.
I’ve pondered at my post processing. I noticed it goes through cycles from doing too little to too much to doing too little again. It depends on what new techniques I learn and what other photographers do with their photos.
When I first started getting into photography, I was an in-camera only guy. I thought using photoshop or lightroom was cheating. I had to get it perfect in camera. And I still believe that.
The photo below is one of my earlier shots. I just crushed the shadows and applied some split toning (and boy can you tell). That’s all. I didn’t even retouch her face nor touch any other sliders. Luckily she has good skin. People wondered how I posted my pics so fast. It’s because I just did split toning, synced all photos, and posted it it.
Then I got into post processing heavily. I learned some retouching techniques (both good and bad techniques, but that’s a future post). I loved using Lightroom and Photoshop. I believed post-processing was an essential part of the finished photo. And I still believe that.
I did a lot of stuff to my photos during this phase. Luckily, I never got into the horrible HDR phase.
Here is one of my more processed photos. Man, did it look overprocessed. It did give a distinct flavor to my photo. You know, the flavor of sunburnt skin.
Later on, I hated my post-processing on that photo. So I redid it. It looks smoother and more elegant. I made things subtler. The skin tone looks more natural. I even retouched her skin. Is this one better? To me it is.
Then I went to this. I used the radial filter heavily to get rid of the distracting elements in the background. Heck, I probably even used the brush tool to darken big areas as well. I was going to town on my Lightroom, using everything it has.
It almost looked like I used a softbox on camera left and hair light on a boom on top of her. In fact, this was all ambient light. She was sitting on a pool table with the lamp above her. That’s it. I also cleaned up her face using frequency separation.
I also went through a phase of trying to save bad photos using post. I won’t be trying that again. The image below is heavily cropped and processed. It’s an okay photo. Nothing can save a bad photo.
Here is where I am now. I dodged and burned her skin to lighten up the bags under her eyes and to eliminate a few imperfections. I also messed with the curves, saturation, and contrast a bit. That’s about it.
My Opinions On What Post Processing Should Be
So now I’m back at trying to get everything in camera again. But when I look back at my photos, they haven’t changed much, no matter how much post-processing I used.
One reason is my philosophy of keeping things as subtle as possible. I try not to max out, or even go past 25, on my sliders.
Also, I believe the first thing you notice in photos CANNOT be the post processing. The processing should fit and become seamless with the photo. It has to match the mood, story, and feeling of the photo.
Later on, I’ll go over many different ways to retouch skin.