It’s been a while since I wrote a technical article on photography but I’ve been doing so much RAW processing with the Fuji X-E1 recently that I felt compelled to share some of my experiences. Basically, this past week I’ve been experimenting with RAW converters and had some interesting findings which may be of use. I’ll give an example photo below, processed in both Lightroom and Capture One, and then explain a little about how I’ve modified my workflow to have these two apps play together nicely.
First, I’ll provide a bit of context and say that I adore Lightroom. I recently upgraded to Lightroom 5 (mostly for the selective editing) and until this article, had been performing 95%+ of my editing with Lightroom. I have Photoshop too but since Lightroom has just kept getting better and better, I’ve ended up using it using LR5 for almost everything from workflow to post processing. I also print a fair amount and love it’s integration with Blurb.
However, the one drawback with LR5 is that while it’s an excellent RAW converter, it occasionally struggles with Fuji’s RAF format. In the past week or so of fairly extensive testing, I’ve found LR5 to be lacking compared to Capture One. The difference in the vast majority of cases is only minor, with just a little loss of sharpness. However, in some cases there is a fairly noticeable difference in fairly random ways ,such as a substantial loss in color. Here’s an example shot of the Seattle skyline taken a few weeks ago. This is opened in Capture One without any processing applied. Technical details are;
- Fuji X-E1 + Fuji 18-55 f2.8-4 lens with a B+W ND 110 filter
- Focal length: 18mm
- Exposure time: 2 mins 40s
- Aperture: f7.1
- ISO 320
Here’s a 100% crop (again unprocessed):
Now, here’s the same file opened in LR5 and zoomed to 100% (again, no processing applied):
This is one of those cases where there is a difference, it’s minor. Both apps are doing a great job.
However, there is a difference. It might be hard to tell from the above due to the resizing that’s prob happening on Tumblr but the edges from Capture One are a sharper as well as the noise being slightly cleaner. And as I mentioned earlier, under some conditions it’s v noticeable (particularly with certain colors). So when I considered all the other steps / expense I go thru to preserve image quality, I made the decision to modify my workflow and add Capture One into the mix.
So, here’s how my workflow now looks like with both Capture One and Lightroom.
The Basics - Importing images into C1
- Using C1, select Import Images
- Set the “Import From” to the right place on your SD Card
- Set the “Import to” a local folder. In my case, I use the following naming convention: YYYY-MM-DD-CameraName-Keyword e.g. 2013-05-30-Fuji XE1-Alki Sunset
- I also apply a filter so I only import RAW files (filter by extension RAF). This is necessary because I shoot in RAW+JPG
Prepping Adobe Lightroom for importing
I now setup LR by making use of Auto Import. I do this by selecting “Auto Import Settings” and keeping the Watched folder to be a constant folder (in my case it’s always something like C:\import).
For destination, I choose the folder name created above (in my case 2013-05-30-Fuji XE1-Alki Sunset) with a subfolder name (In my case “Lightroom”). This is how my settings look:
This means that when a file is processed in Capture One, it’ll be imported into Lightroom while being copied to the a sub folder called Lightroom in the same directory. To do this successfully, there’s another couple of steps. But first processing.
Processing in Capture One
I perform basic adjustments in Capture One. This took a bit of getting used to as I was so used to LR5, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. . In this image’s case, I performed:
Rate the image (using star ratings)
Slight tint adjustment (to enhance those purple tones)
Increase exposure (by nearly 1 stop)
Increase contrast +20
Increase Highlight recovery (+90)
Increase Shadow recovery (+20)
Slight addition of clarity (+5)
Exporting from Capture One / Importing to Lightroom
Now it’s time to export the image from Capture One. Here I export to a constant folder (in my case c:\import which I used above). I use the following settings:
Format: TIFF (I usually choose 8 bit color)
Everything else standard
The file dialog looks something like this:
Now this is where the previous setup in Lightroom really helps. As soon as the image has finished processing on the Capture One side, it’ll be exported to your named directory (in my case, c:\import) where Adobe will be monitoring and import it into Lightroom, and copy the original TIF into the sub directory. Without doing anything, it suddenly appears in Lightroom where you’re now you’re free to finish any other processing in Lightroom. For me, in this image’s case, it just meant some basic sharpening and luminance Noise reduction (as well as assigning a keyword for more effective organization).
Finally, I then export a web resolution sized version to a folder containing all my 2013 images which is synced with Skydrive (Microsoft’s version of Dropbox, except with 7GB for free).
This was my final output (click the image for a larger version):
So, a little complicated to get it right at first, but once I got used to it, it’s really not a big deal. In the end, I find it more satisfying to have the greater control that Capture One affords.