You can’t keep every picture you shoot – but how do you know you’re keeping the right ones? We all shoot more than we keep, and the obvious thing to do is make a first pass of your images and delete the ones that look wrongly exposed, flat or lacking in colour. Obvious, yes, but smart?
Technical problems are relatively easy to fix, but bad composition, awkward expressions and poor timing are not. You can end up keeping technically perfect duds and throwing away easily-rescued masterpieces.
The problem is you can’t see the wood for the trees; a picture that looks bad is hard to judge properly. That’s why tools like Capture One’s Auto Adjust feature should be taken seriously. It’s a mistake to think it’s just an instant fix for novices who don’t know how to work the controls – it’s a way of seeing how good your images can be once any technical faults are fixed.
Here’s an example. I took this picture for a tutorial in N-Photo magazine on using stockings as a home-made soft-focus filter. It worked pretty well, but it left many of the images overexposed and lacking in contrast and colour. This is one that I initially rejected… but then I ran it through Capture One’s Auto Adjust tool and changed my mind.
01 Capture One Auto Adjust options
The Auto Adjust button is on the top toolbar near the right-hand end. There’s an arrow in the bottom right corner, and you press this to reveal a drop-down menu of the settings the button will adjust.
I’ve got White Balance, Exposure, High Dynamic Range and Levels checked. The other two – Rotation and Keystone – won’t do anything unless you’re using a Phase One digital back.
02 Capture One Auto Adjust results
With one click, my portrait is transformed. I’ve still got my soft-focus effect, but the contrast and colours are so much better.
Over in the tools panel on the left you can see what Capture One has done, with new White Balance settings, Exposure adjustments and changes to the Levels (it hasn’t changed the High Dynamic Range sliders because the tones in the image were well within the normal range.
03 Can I improve the white balance?
You can change any of these automatic adjustments to see if you can do better, so they’re a great starting point for image enhancements generally.
So has Capture One really improved the white balance? I can click the tiny Rest button at the top of the panel (circled) to find out.
The image on the left shows Capture One’s auto white balance adjustment, while the one on the right shows the original setting. The original looks a little green and the adjusted version is more natural-looking – so that’s a definite improvement.
04 Are the levels better?
I’ll try the same trick with the Levels adjustment. If I use the Reset button in the Levels panel, I can see that the image loses much of its contrast and impact, so that’s another automatic adjustment that Capture One has got exactly right.
This was made possible by the Exposure adjustment – by reducing the Exposure value, Capture One has made the other adjustments more effective.
05 The finished picture
The original picture looked like it should be rejected, but Capture One has turned it into one of the best shots of the sessions.
That’s why I think the Auto Adjust tool is so valuable. It won’t always give the best results possible, but it will get your image to a level of technical quality where you can judge it properly instead of – mistakenly, perhaps – rejecting it.
It gets better. You don’t have to apply automatic adjustments to images manually one by one, easy though it is. Instead, you can set it up as an option in the Import dialog, so that your pictures are adjusted before you even go through them.