Capture One Pro – Low Key


Continuing my learning curve with Capture One Pro I am amazed at the amount of control over an image I have available. Now at version 11 of this software from Phase One, the software become better with each release while still maintaining incredible speed on my 5-year-old mac.

A quick capture of some images of Tulips bought from the supermarket. Using only window light from the right-hand side and a plain ‘Mocha Brown’ wall with poor light shadows.

The light hitting the background looked wrong, with window light coming in from the right, the background was set back a couple of feet causing the right-hand side of the background to be much darker than the left-hand side. The Tulip was receiving a good light from the window and lit well on the right-hand side. My other problem was the light itself, a cloudy day, but late afternoon and had a yellow tinge.

The images looked ok(ish) in live view and I knew how I wanted the final images to look and knew I would be doing the post-processing to get what I wanted.

Firstly was to correct the white balance, and also reduce the vibrancy of the colours, The greens and pinks were separately lowered in saturation. An adjustment layer was added with a left to right gradient mask, and the exposure lowered to make the left-hand side darker, the colour saturation was also lowered.

A further adjustment layer was added this time with a short gradient from the bottom, to fade out the stem of the tulip by reducing the exposure.

The overall exposure of the image was taken down a touch and an adjustment to the curve to render the background to near black. Finally, a little clarity was added and a further adjustment layer with some slight highlights increased on the tulip.

The before and after images can be seen below.



Capture One Pro – Getting the look you want

Capture One Pro - Start Image - Andy Sears

Start Image – Unprocessed

Getting the look that you want for your images can be time-consuming with large image files and required processing power often dragging software down to a crawl. This was the main reason for the switch to Capture One Pro.

Processing multiple files and exporting images is fast with Capture One Pro, there appears to be no drag on the system and very little in the way of freezes and crashes. Cataloguing is fast and relatively simple (after the initial learning curve which actually isn’t that bad).

With you images captured you set about tweaking, getting the best out of your image. The first step after importing is getting rid of any junk, a quick flick through the images and I can easily see what to keep and what to get rid of, again this is quick with no lag.

For the adjustments, you can manually adjust exposure, clarity, shadows, brightness etc as well as a mass of other delicate settings. Cropping is easy and can be to a set constrained ratios or free. Adjusting colours, the temperature etc again is with a phenomenal amount of settings, some self-explanatory and some take a bit of working out. From the colour adjustment panel, you can also switch to black and white.

You can also add layers, to process local areas of an image using selection brushes and gradients to create masks.

You also have pre-defined styles which with a single click can create the entire look of your image including black and white, retro looks, portraiture and selective colours amongst the offerings. Other style packs are also available to suit various needs, some free and other to purchase.

Once you have your start image, you can process your basic settings and then clone as a variant so not having to start all over again for different looks. The variants can also be viewed side by side


Capture One Pro - Multiple image selection


As can be seen above multiple image variants can be viewed side by side to see the differences between your processes, with all your available imported files and variants on the right-hand side. The final images can be seen below.

So whether you want to give an image some punch, convert it to black and white or just do some subtle colour correction, it is worth giving Capture One Pro a try with the 30 day free trial.

Download Capture One Pro 10 here

Cosmos in vase - Andy Sears Garden Photography

Capture One Pro - Image Variants

Capture One Pro 10


Capture One Pro 10 by PhaseOne After many years using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom the Capture One Pro software from PhaseOne caught my eye. I had used programs on both mac and pc for tethered capturing and most programs were at best ‘flakey’ with lost connections, or connections to my Nikon cameras just not happening at all.

I downloaded the trial of Capture One Pro 10 and on first looks, it appeared daunting, confusing and with a steep learning curve that could easily scare users off.  The options and menus in this program are enormous, the file management features different but it does have a look of professionalism that made me persist.

On a test tethered shoot, this program came into its own, fast, reliable connection to my Nikon D7200, total control of my camera from the user interface and a stable usable live view.

I next spent some time setting up the image catalogue, export folders and general where to put my images. This was not the easiest of tasks, but again once done was good to work with. Importing images from cards is quick, I can get rid of any junk during the workflow, leaving me with my ‘clean’ images.

Processing images is again quick with everything you need to process raw files and more. The colour options alone are just huge. You also have the option of layers and selection brushes to work on smaller defined areas with the ability to ckeck back and re-adjust as required. I found a lot of the processing changes delicate and soft allowing the smallest of tweaks to an annoying element of images. You can also copy adjustments and apply to many images which again is a massive time saver.

Exporting images allows you to export both the original RAW file or a processed file ‘Variant’ in various formats, again I found this very easy to use with a great option for saving filenames and image sizes, particularly useful for creating images for social media.  Where I have cropped heaving and wanted a bigger output file, the upscaling also produces decent images.

Capture One Pro - User Interface

There is much more to Capture One Pro 10 to explore including preset styles, black and white conversions and those colour tools to name but a few.

Overall I would not look back to Lightroom, I now find Capture One Pro easier to work with, my images are catalogued and organised and ‘in my view’ my images are that much cleaner. I still use Adobe Photoshop especially for spotting and clone tools and it is quite noticeable the speed and sluggishness of Photoshop compared to Capture One Pro when switching between the two.

The Old Lamp

Still Life – The Old Lamp

Creating a scene for still life photography can be easier and cheaper than you think. The props here consisted of:

  • Candle Garden Lamp – Bought from local garden centre (Could just use a candle).
  • Brick Background – Amazon £15.32 – Click here
  • Old set of keys bought from charity shop  £3.00 – Also available on Amazon
  • An old dictionary I had lying around.
  • Piece of paper with rough cut-out
  • Torch

The setup can be seen below, prior to lighting the candle. The only lighting used was the ambient lighting of the room, the candle in the lamp and a torch to create the bars effect on the background.

Behind the scenes - old lamp


Initial setting for the camera were ISO400, f6.3 and 1.6 seconds using a Niklon D7200 and 50mm f1.8 lens. Once the image was captured, camera raw was used in Photoshop to correct the colour of the lighting to give it more of a glow, add some vignetting, dehaze and lowering the highlights helped enhance the camera flame, and also the lighting for the bars on the back drop.

Lastly any visible creases in the background were cleaned up using the spot healing tool in Photoshop. Two images were produced, one colour and one black and white conversion using Google Nik Silver Efex Pro.

The Old Lamp

The Old Lamp in Black and white

As you can see the two images offer a completely different feel to the scene and with some simple props it is easy to create an atmospheric still life.

360 Degrees with Google Street View


Looking all around

360 degree views are becoming more and more popular and are in widespread use particularly within the Google and Street View offerings.

The Google Street View App for Android, not only allows you to explore the various 360 views available, but also make it possible to take your own 360 view and publish them up to Google Street View.

Once you download the app, you need to give the app permission to access the camera on your phone and also the image. From there it is easy to create your first 360 view.

When taking the images the app gives you a circle and a dot which when aligned the image is automatically taken as you move around in a circle your gather the images, making sure you look down and up to get the complete view. Once finished the image are processed and saved as the 360 degree panorama with a resulting image like the one below.


Next the app can publish the captured panorama up to the Google Street View systems and at the same time turning your capture into a complete 360 degree view that you can move around and zoom into as you wish.

For the test image above the whole process took less than 20 minutes, to download the app, capture the images and publish to street view. Which although the images I captured for test were not the greatest, it does show you what is possible with a free app and a phone camera. The Google Street View App also allow images to be uploaded that have been created via other 360 degree cameras.

To show you the final 360 VR image with WordPress I have used the ‘WP VR View Plugin‘ which again is simplicity itself to use and allow an easy way to show off your 360 degree panoramas.

The end result, although not perfect for the time taken and the dullest weather prove to be of an acceptable quality (with just a couple of glitches), and showing my garden in its autumnal state.



Passport Photos to Success


You may only need to renew a passport once every ten years, but when renewal is required or indeed your first passport, you  have that dreaded ‘Passport Photo’ to contend with.

It is pretty fair to say that photography and photo technology moves on at a fair pace and in ten years things change quite a bit. A recent article by Amateur Photographer Magazine even tells you have to take and make perfect your own Passport Photos. While this does make things a little easier, you still have to make sure you get the right size, make sure the background is neutral, and get a decent print. There are still stringent rules if going down this route. See Passport Photo Rules

With an upcoming trip to make and an expired passport, it was time to make my own renewal application. Once on the Gov website I started the process and noticed a link to an online service that allowed the uploading of digital photographs which you can take yourself and even use a mobile phone to take the image. There was certain criteria attached, i.e. You should be recognisable form your previous photo, and you passport had to have expired after 2012, which meant it would have had the digital signature on previously and chipped.

I got the image taken on a mobile and followed the upload procedure,  the system advises no cropping or alteration of the image. They gov system run some checks on the image and came back with the image cropped correctly. (The first image failed as too dark).

On completing the rest of the form, I was instructed it would take up to three weeks and I should send back my old passport to the address given.

I was kept up to date through the process with email and sms updates, and just 7 days later received my new passport. No photo booths involved, no photoshop and printing involved. What can I say a fantastic service and a great move forward.

One thing that has not changed and that it passport photos still seem to be the most hideous ever.


Chopped and Sliced Fruit


I had seen various images of chopped and sliced fruit and re-assembled in a way to make them look like they were floating in mid-air.

Deciding to give it a go, I first tried with a banana, peeling and slicing, then re-assembling with the aid of cocktail sticks. This had to be done quite quickly as the banana degrades quite quickly. I also set the lighting 1 x softbox and reflector up before attacking the fruit.

With several images captured, it was into Adobe Photoshop to remove the cocktail sticks, using spot healing brush, content aware fills, and clone stamp to tidy up some areas. The tricky part was not the cocktail sticks but the shadows these left behind, which were quite distinctive. The end result is below.

Floating sliced banana

Result was not perfect but better than expected, with the banana peel looking like it is providing the support.

Next up was an orange, I had in my mind what I wanted to do with the peel and an orange segment, due to the softness of the fruit this was a little trickier, you can see below the results and also the amount of cocktail sticks to hold it all in place, again the shadows proved to be the tricky part. A two flash setup, one with brolly and one with softbox. Although the shadows prove troublesome, they are required in the image to give the feeling of levitation.

Holding up a dismantled orange

A few different shots were taken, and the end result is below. (Note the extra bit of orange peel to mask some of the shadows). The drip of orange juice emerging from the bottom of the orange was purely unintentional, but does add to the floating feeling.

Orange A peel


Equipment Used: Nikon D5300, Sigma 105mm Macro Lens, two off Neewer Flashguns, brolly, Manfrotto softbox.

Trying Out Helicon Focus


Focus Stacking with Helicon Focus

I have had a few half hearted attempts at focus stocking using Adobe Photoshop, the results pretty poor. I decided to try out Helicon Softs – Helicon Focus. I purchased the Helicon Focus Lite version for approximately £22.00.

I took some test images and did not use any focusing rail,  instead  I adjusted the focus at small increments, giving me 10 images to play with.
Helicon Focus Screen Shot
After launching the software, it was a simple case of opening up the images, (Helicon Focus lets you open raw files direct). I set view to vertical split view so I could see what was happening during the process. Opting for Method A, I pressed Render and set Helicon doing its stuff.

Purple Lilly - Visart - Helicon Focus Stack

A couple of minutes later and I had my first stacked image, I was not hoping for much but was pleasantly surprised at the quality and depth of the resulting image. The result was not perfect, but considering this was a quick out of the box try out of the software, the image was acceptable, actually more than acceptable.

I had also taken a couple of images, where the focusing on each was not great, but stacking just two images in Helicon actually improved the image, and rescued the focus of the image.

You can export the stack into a 3D model.  The Helicon 3D viewer in the lite version has some text over the image, but still gives a good idea of what can be achieved.

You can try out Helicon Focus for free, with a 30 day trial available form the HeliconSoft website.

The software interface is basic, and east to use without having to know too much about what the software is doing. I look forward to experimenting more with this software and putting in some time and effort with some better imagery, and maybe also trying out the Helicon Remote to give me a live view on a laptop to help with somoe of those focusing issues.

Revisit your RAW files


Revisit your RAW files

When I first started to shoot using RAW format for the photo files, the processing of the files was daunting, I could get near the results I wanted but a lot of the files were saved to archive never to see the light of day again.

As I have learnt more and become more confident in all the adjustments I can make, Exposure, White Balance, Clarity, Sharpness, Cropping and much much more. Add together RAW processing and the multitude of options in photoshop, you can soon see that that discarded files can often be saved.

rawThe options of converting to black and white with an adjustment layer, can change a poor colour balanced file, in a dramatic mono one. Crop and Rotate allow you to be more selective on the final view. The possibilities are endless.

Of course the final image still needs to look good and be believable, trust you instinct, most of the time it is quite obvious when the processing has overstepped the mark.

Drag out some of your older files and give it a go, after a few months learning RAW processing, you will now know how to lift them colours, make your blacks black and your whites white. Crop out the bits you do not want.

Spending  little time on some past images that you thought were not good enough, may surprise you, and will add to your learning of RAW processing.