Should you use Capture One or Lightroom for your black and white edits? PLUS where does Photoshop for black and white fit in?
We’re going to test that in today’s video with direct comparisons. Taking the sale filed and editing them in each to see what gives us the best black and white in the least time. I’ll give you tips for all of them along the way.
Also, see my Lightroom vs Capture on 2022 video here for a general overview of these two great apps. For now, let’s watch today’s video and do some black and white tests.
Since I started digital photography 20 years I’ve seen just about every technique for Black and White in digital Some needless complex. some are just ugly. Simplifying that process led me to bypass plugins and create tools Like Silver 4 presets and Blackroom BW Actions.
Honestly we B&W lovers occasionally get a little snobby, so this question can be complex. But since we no longer have the chemicals we used to use in the darkroom the traditional color filters do not have the same effect. Today to take the same principle and make it work digital.
The best black and white conversions usually start for a color photo because with those color channels we can convert and extract the colors, much like we did with filters in the film days but with more detail. Darkroom like green filter, lighter reds, etc. If you bake black and white in camera, you lose all that power. That’s not to say your BW photos are wrong. Just that they are not as flexible.
So I usually convert on the raw file. In LR or C1. I use my SIlver 4 presets if Filmist. But whether you use creative presets to go further, or all manual. You don’t want to supply desaturate. Use those channels and the power of your RAW.
Watch today’s video above, because we’re looking at Lightroom VS Capture ON in a side-by-side level. Does one give you a better black and white conversion than the other and what are the advantages between Lightroom and C1.
After that, you can go deeper into your black and white edits..
If I’m going to edit my best work. I go beyond RAW. I’ll restore the color channels before going into Photoshop, leaving my other edits in place. Then I can go deeper with my black and white edits. But they are also more complex in Photoshop.
Sometimes it’s not even clear how you can make a better black and white in Photoshop. I use Blackroom to convert to a more complex BW because it always helps me find a way to improve the edit without stumbling around. That’s what it was built for.
When it comes to Lightroom VS Capture One for black and white. I think Lightroom has the edge for ease of use and results that just work. Capture One with its other available tools can perhaps give you more options but with more work. Both are going to work great if you save presets or styles or Have a pack like Silver 4 or Filmsist on hand.
In the end, both are good and the results will be good.
But comparing both to Photoshop. Photoshop offers more options, but with a lot more time spent. Even if you use Photoshop actions to vastly speed up these more advanced edits, Photoshop should probably not be where you start.
Edit normally in Lightroom or in Capture one or another RAW-type editor. Then take the very best images you want to showcase to Photoshop to give them that edge that makes them win.
Lastly, plugins for black and white are heavily hyped. I used them when I all this starting out but native tools have improved a LOT since those days. As I mentioned in the video, a plugin adds another step and takes away control.
Yes, using presets and styles and actions help a lot because they make hard tasks fast. But they use the native app tools in Lightroom, Capture One, and Photoshop. So instead of a new file or a flat image. You just highly refined sliders, adjustable layers, and a totally transparent process. To be that’s a huger win.
Let me know if the comments what you think is the best black and white tool.
In today’s video, I’m going to show you how to un-clip any photo.
Fixing a photo at this level may seem difficult at a glance but it’s actually not hard and we’re going to make short work of this. I’m going to show you what to do when NON of that is enough and you have an image so clipped that it seems like it’s useless. This is how you can fix ANY clipped photo.
If you expose well you can usually get rid of clipping and have stunning dynamic range using simple sliders, presets like Natural HDR or Filmist presets with a few of its dynamic chemical mods.
So for me there are 3 levels of clipping. Here’s why it happens and how to fix it every time.
I always shoot RAW because JPEG means data is thrown out and the more data you have the more dynamic range and color gradients and detail you get. In post that’s important. Don’t ever let someone tell you that JPEG is the same as RAW. Mexico is forgiving, JPEG is not. It has it’s place, but no software or wishing will restore information that has been thrown away.
This week we took a drive in the van up into the high mountains of La Huasteca Mexico. It’s a magical place in many ways but this time we headed up Hwy 120 towards the tree-line and the jungle of Pinal de Amoles, which sits at about 8000 ft. I took my new Fuji XT3 and a few compact prime lenses. In this case the 35mm f2. We headed up the San Juan side of the mountain which is a but dry dusty side this time of year leading to some dusty long distance views. But when the sun sets behind those, it’s impressive.
That sun was setting as we wound up the hairpins toward the jungle treeline and looking back over the valley above a small town called Carmango was the purest high gradient color sunset I could hope for. It actually reminded me a bit of the smokies back in the USA, but the color was stunning and alive. Just like Mexico.
I got the shot, but I found out after returning home that I accidentally switched the menus of my Fuji XT3 to JPEG. My editing flexibility was now limited and I was kicking myself. Sure the built in profiles from the Fuji look good, but it’s still a JPEG and especially in high dynamic range scenes like this, I want every ounce. With subtle smooth color gradients like this you have to be careful or you will get artifacts. The more you edit the more that can be a problem. Especially if you’re not in 16 bit.
So I started with the original untouched JPEG filer in Capture 1 (LR would also have worked fine). If you look at my our of camera file it’s nice but check out the tonal map from Lumist. It’s already pure clipping. Before anything else I did some brushing to recover a bit of shadow detail on the left foreground. Fully black there will be too much negative tone. After that I opened the file as a 16 bit TIFF in Photoshop. I can’t create more range out of nothing but by switching to 16 bit we get smoother colors and less artifacts as we edit. Here’s what I has our of camera. Not bad. But can we edit it.
The good thing was that I had a few image to choose from. I had taken a few frames and then realized it was beautiful and I should NOT be hand-holding at a higher ISO to make it fast. So I got the tripod and ended up at 1/2 sec, ISO400 f4. I did a bit of bracketing since I had little time to micro analyze the tone. This yielded me a sharp image in with balances zones. Even though I thought I was shooting RAW I kept the highlights down on this, not to compensate, I expose where I want. But because it was more about the color and contrast in the hills. I did not want a washed out sky. That paid off because had I needed to recover highlight from the JPEG, it would have been tough.
Here’s the tone values of that I took into PS and you can see those shadows really were lifted after that first shadow edit keeping some detail in my black. I didn’t want a lot of detail there so even on the JPEG, this did not introduce a lot of artifacts.
Looks decent. Now into Photoshop.
I used Lumist to examine the tones and see what to change. I wanted to boost thing a little but keep editing to a minimum. The next thing I did was some sky work using selection from Lumist, including a fire paint overlay. I enhanced the natural purple and the oranges of the sky and mountains a little using these. I finished by watching my tones and doing some burn and dodge. A little shadow burning in particulate helped me define the lines between the mountains.
Below you can see the tonal map of the fished image that’s at the top. I kept my sky fiery but with no tones above Zone 8, which is pretty dark for a sunset sky, at least for me. But because the shadows of the image go all the way to Zone 1, we still have rich contrast and a full 8 stops being in the tonal range of the image from Z0-Z8. No muddy crushing of everything into mid tones here.
So Can JPEG Work?
Yes the JPEG worked out and I have a printable image, this time. But this is a good lesson in paying attention. Images minutes before were in RAW and tinkering around in menus I switched over and din’t realize it. I exposed well, but had I shot like this all day at an important event I would have lost images due to highlight and shadows being thrown out. Even here a raw would have given me a tad more subtle quality and that does matter when printing.
Always shoot RAW for art images. The fact that the image was exposed well in camera like we talk about in the EXposed Workshop and processed carefully in post kept it looking good. JPEG’S can look great, but they can also fall apart when you push them hard and while I don’t always push a file hard. I always recommend the extra latitude of a RAW.
It’s too busy, it’s too flat and that’s not the color I saw!
Light does not always work the way we expect, especially in the season of color. In today’s video, we head to the autumn woods of Washington and talk about how to get better images of fall color.
In the end, knowing the tactics of good light like we talk about in Exposed and taking the time to just experiment and study your scene will make all the difference. Then comes the processing. If you crave great color don’t miss this month’s Photo Kit workshop on fall color science that’s coming out in a few days. If you’re not a member you can join for free here.
Ever said to yourself… “What is the bleep wrong with my details.” — I sure have. So here’s what 20 years as a photographer has taught me about how to fix that annoying feeling of failure.
Detail comes in different ways; often combining sharpness and softness to get an image that brings everyone’s eyes to your subject. I trained in large wall prints and which meant people will see every detail when I screw up. I’ve written about image quality in articles like 5 Tips to Razor Sharp Images and the 6 Keys to Great Image Quality. Today we’re going a little deeper down this rabbit hole and look at what makes detail perfect.
1: 5 Detail Essentials: When neglected, these produce terrible results for even the most experienced photographers. They sometimes haunt me more when I’m in a hurry because of a hectic session, or light that is running away. But the more I think about what went wrong, the less I repeat those mistakes. My first 5 rules are Camera Stability, Optical Quality, Aperture, Sensor and Post Production. These always will be critical. A camera on a tripod, a stabilized lens, a firm hold when you make the shot.
Lens quality, many new photographers get images with fuzzy detail not realizing that they need better glass. Ditto for aperture. Too shallow and your scene and things you want sharp get blurry. Stop down too much however and diffraction will reduce the quality of your glass. Sensor settings and knowing what your gear can handle, how you post process and manage those details. All of these things are important. But there’s more.
Let’s go deeper.
2: Motion or Not: Stability is always critical. Movement ties directly into shutter speed in order to overcome that movement. But sometimes we want the movement. Blurred water, a running horse or amber waves of grain streaking across the frame. The key is to remember that we need zero motion on subjects we want sharp. I know you’re thinking, “hey captain obvious, we know.” But consider this. In traditional images, you want the whole frame frozen. A tripod offers the most freeze, Camera or lens image stabilization can help a lot. Even pressing the camera against your cheek. It’s a question of shutter speed vs motion. If the shutter is fast enough, it freezes everything.
There’s more too this. If you handhold a landscape at 100mm the rule of them says you should be at least 1/100 of a second (a tripod still gives you a better result). But what if that’s a portrait? I can end up with more blur because of the micro-movements of a living subject. Sexy people waving in the breeze as they pose or a wild kid who can’t hold still. Not only might my camera be moving, but so is my subject as they shift weight, change poses or their hair blows. I see that extra blur in portraits a lot because of body movement. We’re talking deep details, sharp eyes, beautiful skin and in focus parts. In reality, I should double my shutter for a living subject. I tripod eliminates one movement, but my subject is alive and the most natural poses don’t come from telling them to stand stiff. So in a lot of cases by doubling the ISO, I can double the shutter speed and the pay off is more detail.
I also want detailed motion. The slow shutter is amazing but tricky and tripod is the key to winning here. Maybe I want blurry water like in this image of Thors Well on Oregon. Slow shutter does not excuse poor detail so if I’m hand holding, those barnacles will be soft. If I make my camera rock solid, my the water is detailed even in motion and the rest is as if we used fast shutter speed. Look at the geysers in my image Yellowstone and detail front to back while the steam turns to silk in the 10-second exposure. Motion is a kind of detail and how much motion is now a question of me using as slow a shutter as I need, using ND filters if needed to slow it further. I’ve done exposures over 2 hours this way and still had sharp details in the stationary objects of the scene.
3: Light and lens: A quality lens is a give. But that does not always mean sharpness. There are many factors affecting how much detail a lens can capture and you want to know them. The depth of field is important and that means knowing aperture you need to keep everything you want in focus. But don’t hop on a tripod go down to f22 and think everything will be sharp. Each lens has ideal settings. For most 35mm lenses the sharpest point will be f8 to f11. That’s not to say you can’t go past that, but doing so will often start to cost you detail. Take your favorite lens and shoot a photo at F8. Then do the same at f22 and compare the detail. The same goes the other way. Most lenses are not quite as sharp wide open as they are stopped down. Everything is a trade-off. Don’t push the limit just because you can. Learn the limits and use only what you need.
The same goes for how light is hitting our lens. If you’re getting a flare or haze fee, that means a loss of detail in that area. Sometimes is beautiful and it can look great; just remember you can’t restore detail that was never there. If you don’t want a hazey flare, then use your hood, your hand or change positions relative to incoming light. How the light strike the lens effects how an image passes thru it. In this portrait, we see a natural haze created by the light hitting the lens. Notice how the detail is softened. It works great here, but not everywhere.
4: Getting Perfect Focus: AF has become amazing in recent years, but only you can truly know what your focus is. Sime camera focus on eyes, this is usually good for portrait. But what about that wide open aperture for a great bokeh. This means SHALLOW depth of field. So who’s eye is in focus. Say I you a couples portrait or a family, even an inch or two can change your focus. I just had this happen recently at the bus stop shoot. 90mm, f3.5, autofocus. It looks like our focus gravitated towards the overhang on the bus stop. On the left, our man still has usable detail, though not perfect. Notice how his head is further forward. Our lady is a tad further back and that’s all it took. The lack of detail on her face makes the image trash for any serious presentation.
I should have watched closer what I was focusing on. It was dark, I was losing light, I didn’t stop to examine it. Thankfully I nailed other great images for this session. How do we avoid this?
I love switching to manual focus and zooming in the live view to check that my focus is just right. I usually do this with landscapes and sometimes with portraits. But the bottom line is we have to watch for what could go wrong. It does not take much to throw the eyes or face our of focus or to have the camera see the rock instead of the tree in our landscape. Take as much time as you can to check every detail and take a few test frames to review on the screen at full zoom before you walk away. That’s the beauty of digital. It prompts us to rush, but it’s amazing if we slow down.
5: Framing Details: In the end detail is more than pixels. You can get all the above right and still have a bad photo. Great detail also tells a story. Its sharpness is mixed with bokeh or how tones are used to highlight or subdue parts of the image. It’s whether you frame the shot with the foliage sharp in the foreground os bowing in the breeze. It’s whether you took the time to move the dead cat from the frame and straight a girls hair. It’s the art of details that’s the hardest. Detail and sharpness are not simply about focus and noise. When you think about detail, think about what you want in the photo and what you don’t. Think about how using details (or lack of them) can draw your viewers eye and tell a story. Make the technical aspects a natural response so that the artistic concepts can drive your image making. See my recent video about where the frame stops.
6: Process more Detail: You can’t restore information that was never there, but you can use your tools better. All digital images have noise, this changes from camera to camera and with different settings. Most RAW processors remove some noise by default. Sometimes your camera removes noise as well and has settings you can play with. Defaults usually work well but don’t be afraid to experiment. Think about when you apply settings too. If I have a RAW file I’ll start with a basic noise reduction as needed; just don’t turn it into pasty smoothness.
I usually leave sharpness low or default on a RAW file if going into Photoshop. Too much can grow into messy artifacts. Process your details in a balanced way and then apply more at as the last step if needed. That way you’re not creating detail artifacts as you apply other looks, layers, actions etc. At the end I’ll usually apply a final sharpening and a little grain for a natural filmic look. We have some presets for this in PW6 and as well as actions for more advanced retouching and sharpening.
Let me know in the comments what you think.
A great image is about balance and it’s freaking hard sometimes. But that’s what makes it so fun. These more advanced tips go beyond the fundamentals we talked about in step one and are here to make us think harder about what’s in our image and visualize how we want it to look so we can nail it in the camera. I hope this gives you some things to think about. The more our skills become second nature, the less of a burden they become. Exercise yourself in the details and soon you will apply them easily.
Never stop asking yourself. How can this be better?
Here are some things we make to help you master what we talked about today…