Professor Tips

Few layers short of perfection?

In Capture One Pro it’s possible to fine-tune your images by using Local Adjustments layers.

With 10 layers at your disposal you can do quite a few of changes to an image, but you often find that you need just a few more layers.

In Capture One Pro 8.1, which is now available for download, the maximum number of Local Adjustments layers has been increased from 10 to 16.

tip804 - Img2

The image to the left is straight out of the camera. The image to the right has been adjusted in Capture One Pro 8.1 using more than 10 Local Adjustments layers.

By using multiple Local Adjustments layers I have been able to control the color and brightness of different areas in the image in order to bring focus on the story of the cozy shopping street in the old center of Copenhagen on a late cold December afternoon.

Below is a step-by-step walkthrough of how I optimized this image in Capture One Pro 8.1

1) First level of tone adjustments:

As I had to lean out of a tower to capture this image, I used ISO 6400, which is about the upper limit for the camera in order to produce a fine result. The image has been exposed with a bit of clipping in the brightest areas of the street lamps in order to minimize noise in the rest of the image.


My first adjustments will be a first level of tone adjustments just to bring the image a little closer to where I want it. As I already know that I will be doing many other corrections to the image, this first level of adjustments doesn’t need to be that precise.

Tip804 Img3

With the High Dynamic Range tool I open up the shadows and bring back some of the details in the highlights. On top of this I add a Curve to brighten the image in general.

2) Setting the overall color tone of the image by adjusting the White Balance in different areas of the image:

I would like to get a general more bluish tone to the image in order to focus more on the theme of a cold winter and cozy shopping. I will now divide the image into three major zones: the sky, the snow-covered rooftops and the lit shopping street.

In the Local Adjustments tool I create two new Adjustments layers one for the street lights and one for the rooftops. The sky will be controlled by the background layer. When drawing the masks I use a brush with hardness “0” to ensure that the different areas blend smoothly into each other.

Tip804 Img5



Tip804 Img4              Background                                  The street lights                              The Rooftops


For drawing the masks for the rooftops I start drawing the edge of the mask and then use the “Fill Mask” option.

Tip804 Img6

When using the “Fill Mask” option I only need to draw the edges of the mask.

Now it is time to set the overall color tone in the image by setting an individual White Balance for the three areas. I use the Kelvin and Tint sliders. I start with the Kelvin slider and fine-tune with the Tint slider.

Tip804 Img7The image with individual White Balance adjusted for the shopping street, the sky and snow-covered rooftops.

3) Adjusting individual buildings in the image

There are a number of buildings I would like to work on now. First of all the church at the end of the shopping street needs to be brightened up a bit in order for the viewer of the image to be attracted to this part of the image but a few other buildings need a little work too. I create Local Adjustments layers for each of them.

Tip804 Img8The five different buildings that need to be adjusted

Tip804 Img9With the five buildings adjusted

4) Getting rid of distracting elements

Now looking at the image above I find a number of distracting elements. First of all the three windows in the lower left corner are way to bright and draw unnecessary attention to them and therefore need to be fixed.

Close to the tower with lights in the background there is a very bright lamp that needs to be removed and finally I would like to draw more attention to the shopping street and the church tower by adding a mask that darkens everything but this path of the image. Right now the brightest part of the image is close to the light-covered tower.

For the three windows I make an adjustment mask and use a combination of the highlight slider in the High Dynamic Range tool and the Exposure tool.

The bright lamp in the background I remove by using a Clone layer and clone in a building close by.

The mask for drawing attention I create by using a very wide brush with hardness “0” painting over the area I want most attention to. I then invert the mask to darken the surroundings.

Tip804 Img10The attention mask before I invert it

Tip804 Img11                               Before                                                                         After

Before and after fixing the distracting elements in the image.

5) Fixing the red hearts in the street decoration

The last thing that needs to be fixed is the color of the red hearts hanging over the shopping street. If you look at the reflection on the street is obvious that the hearts were red, but because of the over-exposure of the highlights, the red hearts have turned yellow. To bring back the color of the hearts I create a mask for the hearts and use the Color Editor and the Highlight slider in the High Dynamic Range tool.

Tip804 Img12Before and after fixing the color of the red hearts in the street decoration.

The example above could only have been made with the same degree of optimizations by utilizing the extra number of Adjustments Layers now available in Capture One Pro 8.1

Download Capture One Pro 8.1 here

All the best,


The Image Quality Professor
The Image Quality Professor

The digital pioneer, Niels V. Knudsen, is Phase One’s Image Quality Professor and founder of the IQP blog. Moreover, he is responsible for breakthrough advancements in image quality both in Phase One’s medium format camera systems and in Capture One Pro.

Comments (18)

Do not use more than 3 or 4 layers generally but the added six will prove handy at some time!

The Image Quality Professor

Hi Kodiak,

Good to hear!

All the best,

William Waddell

I follow your blog regularly and am usually in agreement with your results using software to post-produce, however, your comparison of the two images – the left being straight from the camera and the right one after ten layers – left me bewildered, and by that I mean the final altered image has a horrendous overly-blue colour cast and frankly looks… how can I put it succinctly… wrong.

Nice possibilities – though the blue on the rooftop snow is too much – somewhere between “as shot” and the final version would have been better. That “warm” perception of the shopping street is there from the beginning – so no need to overdo it.

selçuk emden

thank you so much

yours sincerely

Normally, I find your corrections to be right on. But in this case I feel the original is better in some ways than the altered image. The adjustment of many shadow areas is too extreme, giving it a phony HDR like look which many photographers object to. Sorry to be so critical, but I think that when something needs to be critiqued on a technical level, it should be.

Just because you can does not mean that you should.

I prefer the straight shot this time. Sorry but I do not like your choices.

New-ish to C1Pro. I have been having a hard time getting clean selections in tight corners. Is there any tools with C1Pro that seeks the boundaries of objects akin to some of the smart selection tools in The Evil Empire. For example, how did you get the precise boundaries of the side of the building in the foreground, magic tool or careful handwork?

BTW the blue cast to the roofs, etc. creates — at least for me — a dramatic, although “not accurate”, counterpoint to the street warmth. The bipolar contrast was wonderfully highlighted. I doubt you were seeing verisimilitude as your aesthetic objective.



The Image Quality Professor

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your feedback. I have only used a soft brush, which I do most of the time.
My approach is often to start doing a very simple selection to see if that works.

All the best,

If you like the very cold blue or not is, I guess, a matter of taste. To me it does give the impression of a very cold and frosty winter night. (The one thing I would object to is the qualification of shopping as being “cozy”. 😉 )

The Image Quality Professor

Hi all,

Thanks for your comments.

When you haven’t seen the sun for several weeks, you need some color in images.

All the best,

Erik Wetter


Is it possible to make level adjustments within an adjustment layer? A typical example would be the blue cast you often get when photographing mountains under a blue sky. Typically you want to adjust the blue cast in the shadows of the mountains without affecting the blues in the sky. I usually make an adjustment layer and adjust the White balance but it’s often not enough or it gives the wrong result so I also make small adjustments in the blue channel. But of course this is allied to the whole image and I then have to readjust the sky, etc.



The Image Quality Professor

Hi Erik,

It’s not possible to do any level adjustments in an local adjustment layer, but I can see your point.

Thanks for your input.

All the best,

Erik Wetter


Thanks for your confirmation. Maybe something for next release? Keep those blogs going – I find them invaluable.

All the best,


Hello…is there any potential for a quick article on how to use external editors as introduced in 8.1? I found out how to launch the program from inside CO8.1, however I cannot figure out how to save the edits and have them display back inside the catalog for final touching and file management inside CO8. I can save the file, but the preview inside CO8 did not regenerate to display the changes. This way I can save my CO8 layers for what it does best, and use the other programs for what they do best. I am happy to see that if you keep moving CO in the direction you’re going those round trips will become fewer and fewer.

David Grover

Hey Eric,

Yes, I will be writing about that soon!


Good technical exercise. But the result is a question of personal taste.
“de gustibus non disputandum est…”

Oliver Watts

I have found these posts to be very helpful in using Capture One.
A few months ago you published a post on copying and correcting color negatives. It had a bit on using the LCC tool. I have not been able to find this on the blog. Can you help?