Capture One Pro Workflow – A Landscape Example

I use Phase One’s Capture One Pro 12 for all my image post-processing and after transitioning to this from Apple’s Aperture a year or so ago I have been very pleased with the peformance and functionality of Capture One Pro. I am particularly impressed by the colour renditioning and the layering, masking and Luma Range functionalities to fine tune your finished image.

This is an example image taken recently at Kinney Lake, Mount Robson National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I thought I would detail here in this article the process I go through in taking an original RAW image to a finished image inCapture One Pro.

Original RAW image

The original RAW image was shot on my Canon 5D MkIV and a 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. The image is perhaps on the dark side but given the bright sky is reasonably exposed overall. We would hope to recover a lot more detail and information from the dark shadow areas in the lake and mountains and also pull out some more information from the bright sky.

Base Style Characteristics

The first thing I do when importing any RAW image into Capture One Pro is to do an automatic adjustment of some base characteristics. As a default I apply a linear response curve under the Base Characteristics menu rather than the default auto curve. This means a little more work but I feel the results can be more superior than simply using the auto function.

For further information and explanation about using the linear response curve in the Base Characteristics refer to this great YouTube video : Capture One Pro 10 Webinar | Landscape Photography with Drew J. Altdoerffer

Additionally to adjust for this linear response I increase exposure, contrast and brightness as the linear response is somewhat flat.

I add in a Luma Curve under the Curve menu and also increase clarity to 20% under Clarity.

I use a User Style I have set up to do all of these Base Style characteristics automatically on import. This generally gives me a good starting point for my image.

The image now looks like this.

Straightening & Cropping

Now that we have the base characteristics set we can get down to working on this imge. One of the first things I do is to ensure that my horizon is level and the image is cropped to how I want. I simply use the straightening tool and in this case align it with the horizontal level of the lake. In this case there is a slight horizon adjustment needed of 0.79 deg but I did not crop the image.

Main Background Adjustments

For the main background I now make adjustments to Exposure, High Dynamic Range and Levels.

I would do the auto Level on RGB first and then adjust Exposure and High Dynamic Range sliders accordingly to bring out the shadows and control the highlights. It’s usually a balance between these 3 components which may need some small adjustments incrementally as you progress through the post-processing. In this case I have reduced the overall Exposure but increased the brightness (which brightens the image without affecting the highlights or shadows) and I have given the saturation a boost to bring out some of the wonderful Autumn colours in the trees.

Now the resulting image looks like this.

Sky Highlights

Now we need to tackle the bright sky and try to pull some information out of those clouds which will add some detail and atmosphere to the image. My usual approach to skies in my landscapes is to apply a filled layer to the image as shown below.

After applying a filled layer (and call it “sky” for reference) I use the Luma Range function to restrict the mask to the very bright parts of the image, which in this case covers much of the sky areas. Once this mask is applied you can then make adjustments just to that masked area to bring out the details of the sky.

I simply then make an adjustment on the Highlights slider under High Dynamic Range just for the masked sky and the image now looks like this with more detail in the sky and adds some atmosphere to the image.

Similarly you can also use a graduated mask on the sky portion and use the Luma Range function over that mask in much the same way. If you have a sky with a large change in brightness from top to bottom this is probably the preferred option. In this case the sky was all much the same brightness so I just simple used a filled layer for the complete image.

Shadow Details

Now to finish off the image we can look at some specific areas to enhance to bring out more details. In this example I would like to highlight the log in the lake at the foreground to emphasise that a bit more.

So I add in another layer and name that “log” then simply use a masking brush to add in a mask directly over the parts of the log we wish to create a mask on. The red coloured areas are the mask on the log. Then we can increase Exposure, Clarity and add in some additional Structure to enhance the log and bring out the detail of this important foreground focal point.

It’s usually a good idea to zoom in to the portion of the image you are working on to do this masking and adjustment.

After the individual layers have been adjusted it is a good idea then to go back to the overall Exposure, High Dynamic Range and Levels tools of the background image again to make some final small adjustments to the overall image.

So the finished image now looks so much better as shown here. We have taken a rather dark and flat image and brought out all the important details, textures and colours

I sometimes then output the finished image to Color Efex Pro 4 for some minor adjustments. This final adjustment in Color Efex Pro 4 adds a little bit more contrast and detail and also adds in a skylight filter which again can help in blown out areas of the sky. The image then has much more of a “glossy” finish as shown below.

A comparison of the original RAW image and the finished post-processed image highlights just what you can bring out in an image using some simple techniques within Capture One Pro.


Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia

Stuart Taylor of HighlanderImages Photography has been making images for over 30 years and can offer a diverse range of photo imaging services with a focus on Asia and a documentary/photojournalistic style. These services include planning and executing a photo shoot on location but importantly all the post-processing and image preparation needed for the specific finished media format required by the customer. Stuart’s experience and knowledge in all of these aspects make HighlanderImages Photography a one-stop-shop for a comprehensive and professional image production service.

Stuart can be available for a variety individual assignments or projects and he specialises in areas such as photojournalism, commercial, architectural, real estate, industrial, interior design, corporate, urbex, adventure, wilderness, and travel photography. 

Final image products can be delivered as high resolution images, prints, books, multimedia slideshows, videos, and DVDs. Images from this website can be purchased as prints in a variety of sizes and media, as gift items or as digital downloads.

E-Mail : staylor@highlanderimages.com


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