Four ways to increase the sharpness of our photos in Capture One

Do we really need to sharpen our photos in the development programs? Many people still confuse it with sharpening the image, which can only be done at the moment of shooting. Sharpening consists of adjusting the contrast of the image so that we perceive it with more detail. Let’s get to know the four ways to adjust the acuity (that’s what it’s called) with Capture One Pro.

It is sometimes mistakenly said that developing programs help us to sharpen the image. All they can do is increase the sense of sharpness. And how do they do that? Simply by increasing the contrast in a controlled way in the mid-tones. And depending on the method chosen, with more or less precision.

The only way to focus a photograph is to be careful when taking it, choosing a good lens, placing the camera on a tripod and focusing correctly automatically or manually. On the computer we can only work with the focus we have and try to take advantage of all the information it has generated. Where there is nothing you can’t get anything out of.

In Capture One we have up to four ways to increase the sharpness of our photographs. As Kasia Zmokla reminds us in one of her interesting videos we have four possibilities to increase the sharpness depending on the photograph. And these methods can practically be easily transferred to Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop, as well as any other program that has as many functions as the ones mentioned above.

The four ways to increase sharpness

I’m sure many of you already know the possibilities we are going to explain here. But we thought it would be very useful for everyone to have them grouped together, to solve doubts for those who are just starting and to have a little reminder for those who have been working with Capture One for a while.

We will go from the simplest to the most complex. It will depend mainly on us, but also on the photograph. It is not the same to increase the sharpness of a photograph full of details than of a slightly shaky one. So let’s get to work.

To judge whether we are giving the necessary sharpness to our photograph, it is essential to zoom in to 100% to be able to judge the result properly.

And most importantly, to judge if we are giving the necessary sharpness to our photograph it is essential to increase the zoom to 100% to be able to judge the result well. And if we have a 4K screen we can go up to 200%.

Contrast

Just by increasing the contrast of our photographs we will gain detail in the areas where the separation of lights and shadows is more evident. We can use the Contrast parameter of the Exposure tool or go directly to the Curves tool and make an s-curve.

It will affect the whole picture. The effect of acutance is especially noticeable when the contrast is high by default. Sometimes it is very effective to create a Luma range so that contrast is only applied to the midtones.

We create a full Adjustment Layer, give it a curve and with Luma Interval we select only the middle tones. As simple as it is effective. In fact this is what I always do with my files when I develop them in Adobe Photoshop with Tony Kuyper’s panel.

2. Clarity

The Clarity tool is my favorite tool for adding clarity to photos. It has four different methods and two adjustment parameters: Clarity and Structure. And now let’s look at the first one.

To achieve what we are looking for in this article I always raise the Clarity value by 20 points. Its function is to modify the appearance of the transition between light and dark. And Clarity affects mostly larger scale transitions.

That is, it affects the contrast of large areas of the photograph. It would be suitable for a portrait, where we don’t want to increase the contrast in the skin. But I think it’s effective for getting that overall increase in sharpness we’re looking for.

3. Structure

This is the second parameter found in the Clarity tool. Its function is the same but instead of affecting a higher frequency like Clarity, it affects the lower frequencies of contrast. It is very useful to increase the acutance of detailed images.

These two parameters should be used with caution. High values are not advisable in most cases and negative values achieve the opposite effect we are looking for here.

We can also choose four different methods to modify the behavior of both parameters, as we discussed earlier:

  • Natural: applies a very soft local contrast and avoids the appearance of false colors.
  • Intensity: gives a stronger contrast and also increases the saturation of the picture in a very soft way.
  • Neutral: exactly the same as Intensity but avoids increasing saturation.
  • Classic: the first method of Clarity that achieves, despite its years, a soft contrast and a slight increase in saturation.

4. Sharpen tool

I mentioned earlier that I always use the Clarity parameter to increase the sharpness of my photos. Why? Because by default Capture One always automatically applies a focus mask based on the camera it detects in the metadata.

It’s a bit of a cheat and why I think it’s enough and sufficient to raise the Clarity to 20. But if we want to get the maximum sharpness in our photographs the best we can do is to use the Focus tool manually. The only problem is that it is much slower than any of the other options and depends a lot on the output of the file.

It is not the same to adjust an image that is going to go to social networks than one that is going to be printed at a large size. This is something we should take into account and so it may be interesting to try to adjust in a new layer to be able to change the parameters of this tool. In fact the tool is layer compatible.

We have four parameters in the tool that we find inside the Details panel (although you already know that we can place it wherever we want):

  • Amount
  • Radius
  • Threshold
  • Halo Suppression

Let’s see the steps to get the best result:

  1. Enlarge the photo to 100%.
  2. Create a new full layer in the menu Layer>Add full adjustment layer.
  3. Go to the Details>Focus panel.
  4. All parameters are set by default according to the camera. Set them all to 0 (Radius always stays at 0.2).
  5. Raise Amount to 600-800 to fine tune Radius.
  6. We go down to Radius and raise it, with the mouse wheel, tenth by tenth until the halos begin to appear in the areas of higher contrast.
  7. In the example picture I leave it at 0.5.
  8. We lower Amount to 0 to begin to raise it little by little until we see the photograph sharp (according to our taste). I recommend to raise and lower the slider quickly and to go delimiting until we find the exact point. We have set 400 on this occasion.
  9. The Threshold helps to control the presence of noise in areas without detail. That is, it eliminates the contrast in these areas. If we do not observe any problem it is better not to touch it.
  10. Halo Suppression should only be used if we notice that despite the care we have taken in all the other steps we see that there are halos in the contrast areas.

And these are the four options we have to focus a photograph in Capture One. If I had to choose one method or another I would choose Clarity without a doubt. The result is perfect in most cases and allows us to work in a chain. But if we want the highest precision we have no choice but to use the Sharpen tool.

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