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Author Topic: People photography workflow in Capture One  (Read 435 times)

HywelPhillips

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People photography workflow in Capture One
« on: January 24, 2019, 08:04:33 AM »

Hi Everyone,

I've just spent the last week or so trying to assemble a new workflow. I'm posting this in the C1 forum, but it touches on a few other things and I hope it may be of interest.

I photograph people, specifically beautiful girls in (and sometimes out of) various elegant outfits. This is my day job. I shoot and need to process a few thousand photos a month. They are typically shot in "sets" of 100-200 images for my website. I reject technically bad images, but anything which is in focus, well-exposed and the model isn't doing something horrible like blinking is retained. So I need to process these thousands of photos efficiently, because 90% of them will end up in the final product.

I have been using Aperture for years, allied with Hasselblad Phocus (to do the raw conversion step for Hassy shots) and Imagenomic Portraiture, an invaluable plug in which, when dialled down from its over-agressive default setting, does a really nice job of skin smoothing with automated skin colour masking.

But Aperture is dying, and doesn't run 100% reliably in High Sierra, and I can't leave all my production machines in old versions of MacOS forever. Hence, a new iMac to develop a replacement workflow without touching my production machines.


I started with Lightroom, because everyone seems to use it, and it is the only raw processor which can currently host Portraiture. Doing everything in one program is appealing. It supports both Sony and Hasselblad raw files, too.

I've used earlier versions (v1 and v5 IIRC) and have never got on with it, but I figured by version 8 they've surely got rid of those crazy UI features like keyboard shortcuts doing different things depending on what panel or mode or tool you've currently got selected. Ah. No. I bought a Loupedeck, which helps (I like it a lot!) but it still can't overcome LR's inherent modal mindset.

Anyway, after persevering I did manage to edit a few complete sets in Lightroom, but it still doesn't suit my workflow. It's slow by comparison with other programs in my testing of getting finished sets from the pipeline.

But the real killer for me is the lack of a local skin smoothing tool comparable with that in Aperture. Brushing in local negative clarity (which is what it does have as a preset) might work, but Lightroom'd default -100 clarity produces unacceptable luma shifts, which means the smoothed area doesn't blend with the unretouched areas well enough for me. The healing brush is OK, but feels clumsy - for example, there's no ability to control brush size or opacity via Wacom pressure sensitive tablet. (This is possible with the masking-related brush tool, but not the healing ones).

It took about four times as long for me to complete my real production sets in LR as in my old workflow. Even allowing for unfamiliarity, there's flat out no way it is going to get to within a factor of two. This is not workable for me, especially as I found the final results of marginally acceptable quality. I will release them, but I almost feel the need to apologise for quality of the retouching when I put them up. (My customers may not notice. I do.)


I investigated a few other options. Luminar is a possible alternative host for Portraiture plugins, I believe, but is set up for lots of effects on single images, not batch processing hundreds. I use it for individual landscape pics, but it soon became clear it wasn't the right tool for my production workflow.

Picktorial looks great - in spirit and implementation very close to a real Aperture successor. It has both skin smoothing and retouch tools in a relatively streamlined workflow. Unfortunately it is currently too buggy for me to adopt for production workflow- especially when editing 42 megapixel 16 bit Tiffs (which are my usual output from Portraiture). It might be possible in the future, but isn't now.

ON1 RAW looks interesting but playing with the trail version I found it always tends to give exaggerated results- it's hard to dial it back to give subtle enough results for my tastes on things like skin smoothing. I might get it for more experimentation thought because it does look like it has potential, and internally has a replacement for Portraiture with semi-automated skin smoothing and masking.


So what is the workflow I've actually settled on? It's multi-step

1a) Capture One (for Sony files) as raw convertor. Adjust all global colour etc. plus metadata.
1b) Phocus (for Hasselblad files) as raw convertor. Adjust all global colour etc. plus metadata.

2)  Export tiffs

3) "Nuke" tiffs in Portraiture via Photoshop droplet. I can fine tune for individual sets if I need to, I never need to for individual photos. But I've got a default set for Sony files and another for Hassy files and that deals with 80% of cases; I can assemble more droplets for edge cases (exceptionally good skin in soft lighting, exceptionally hard lighting, etc). as I go along.

4) Import "nuked" tiffs into something else for individual retouch, and export with watermark in multiple formats.

While it is still alive I will use Aperture for step 4. It crashes a bit, but that's not so much of an issue for the retouch pass (it was unsustainable in the bulk processing steps of raw processing and applying Portraiture plugin because jobs would die when I set them to process 1000 pics overnight).

Lightroom is completely unsuitable for step 4 (in the past I assumed because Adobe was protecting photoshop, but now maybe just because they don't want to do that sort of thing in their raw processor).

Photoshop is a possibility, but it is really set up to do very extensive work on single images, not hammer through the maximum number of retouches you can do in a day doing just the minimum to make an acceptable image quickly.

So my fallback is Capture One. Creating a layer with strong -ve opacity and weaker -ve detail, then brushing that layer in as required is a nice substitute for Aperture's skin retouch brush. You can create the layer on the first image, then copy and paste it onto all the images in the set (well, almost- it doesn't seem to be smart enough to rotate the layer for landscape format images. But doing it twice per set is not a heavy overhead). Set the layer opacity to 70% (so you can fine tune for individual images) and brush in the effect. Unlike LR's -ve clarity with the right settings (I use Natural) it doesn't produce undue luma or hue shifts.

Unfortunately the healing brush isn't as nice as Aperture's.
It works, but for me at least it always seems to pick a comedy bad origin point for the retouch, and furthermore it's almost always off screen (because I'm zoomed right in to do the retouch). So I have to + new layer, + brush, zoom out, move anchor point, zoom in. Unlike Aperture, you can't place the origin before you brush. And unlike Aperture, you have to add a new layer for each different source anchor point, which is a pain.

It's workable, and better than LR which just plain lacks an acceptable fundamental local-skin-smooth brush (as I said it has one, but it makes luma shifts for me at least). It's maybe half the speed of doing it in Aperture if there's a lot of heal brush retouch to do, the same speed if it is mostly a bit of extra skin smooth brush to do. So that's not ideal, but it works.

C1 11 (which I am on) also lacks a gamma or highlight-priority vignette, but C1 12 has that (local tone curve adjustment, keep shadows and highlights the same but dip the mid-tones, apply with a radial gradient mask). So I'll upgrade just for that as I use that on at least 50% of my sets!

I have yet to do serious work with the C1 skin tone tab. I've played with it, but most of what I'd use it for I think Portraiture has covered. But for sure it is nice to have it there ready to be played with.

I'm using the beta of Loupedeck with Capture One and it is lovely. I really like physical controls and it's even better than a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. Kudos to the Loupedeck guys for this, and hopefully they'll find ways to implement more functionality (I'm missing a button to push that's the equivalent of space bar, to temporarily turn cursor into the grab hand to move around the image when I'm zoomed right in, for example). I'd really like to be able to use just Loupedeck and graphics tablet to pilot, but right now there's some stuff like that which still requires the keyboard as well.


The main surprises for me were how much more efficient it was to export from raw convertor to tif, process via photoshop droplet in Portraiture, then reimport the tiffs. The key thing being that this can offload a bunch of CPU time to overnight, and it's not actually any different from what I used to do internally in Aperture or LR using the plugin.

I was very surprised how lack-lustre the retouch tools in LR are, still.

And I'm surprised how well Aperture's design and output hold up even years after the other processors have remained in development. Sure, there is nothing in Aperture to touch C1 Pro's raw processing and (especially) layers. Those aspects of C1 are so superior it's just awesome.

But Aperture's retouch tools remain superior for my actual use case, and after a solid week of working this way I know that's not just me being nostalgic. Demonstrably, for the work I am doing, Aperture requires fewer mouse clicks to achieve the same results. 

I now have a new workflow, and I'll keep my eye in with C1 for the final retouch step so when Aperture finally dies I can let it go. But for now, offloading the bits of the job Aperture can no longer do well (raw processing, prep for Portraiture) and keep it for the final retouch step. I really wasn't expecting to conclude that this was my best option, or to allow photoshop back into my workflow for the first time in more than a decade!

I hope my experience is of some interest to others.

  Cheers, Hywel
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DP

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Re: People photography workflow in Capture One
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2019, 09:04:42 PM »

how about PortraitPro (also dialed down) - https://www.portraitprofessional.com/  ?
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HywelPhillips

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Re: People photography workflow in Capture One
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2019, 03:27:44 PM »

how about PortraitPro (also dialed down) - https://www.portraitprofessional.com/  ?

I haven't looked at that for a while. It used to be insanely over the top with its smoothing, and require a lot of adjustments per pic. Maybe that's improved in later versions but what I've seen of new features in more and more ability to add cheesy backgrounds and lighting and fake computer makeup and turn eyes from brown to purple - none of what is even vaguely what I need.

What I need is the ability to quickly and efficiently get rid of a zit, mosquito bites, bruise, tiny areas of dry skin etc. on professional models, and put some very mild skin softening on to offset the undue harshness of a camera without AA filter. I prefer to do that digitally under my control than do it with diffusion in front of the lens, these days.

I'm just trying to make them look like themselves on a good day- not turn them into something else entirely!  ;)  ;)  ;)

But it looks like some of their higher-end versions might be customisable for batch processing very subtle adjustments; I'll check out a trial version, thanks.

Cheers, Hywel
« Last Edit: January 25, 2019, 03:56:25 PM by HywelPhillips »
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Rado

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Re: People photography workflow in Capture One
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2019, 04:30:13 PM »

CO12 also introduced 3rd party plugins, so maybe these photoshop hosted tools start to trickle into CO too (you could suggest that to the developers).
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DP

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Re: People photography workflow in Capture One
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2019, 09:27:11 PM »

I haven't looked at that for a while. It used to be insanely over the top with its smoothing

just as Portraiture it simply needs to be dialed down (some might say - dial down a lot) and a lot of things simply switched off - it is just because it has way more options...

granted if you want batch the proper edition with full batch support is STUDIO MAX @ $140... I use STUDIO, but then I don't batch

The key thing is to create a proper preset that only deals with skin in a gentle manner
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32BT

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Re: People photography workflow in Capture One
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2019, 03:59:20 AM »

Is RAW Power 2.0 a potential alternative? They keep touting it as an Aperture alternative, has batch processing, but I don't know about retouching. My mac is too ancient to run it, so I have no idea about the suitability for any of your needs, just wondered if you perhaps tried it.
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