Sharpening / Noise reduction / Grain / High ISO

Check focus and apply sharpening to enhance the image.

Overview of sharpening workflow

To accommodate various workflows, Capture One’s Sharpening tool in the Details Tool Tab is very flexible and can be used for a wide range of capture-sharpening or creative sharpening techniques prior to additional localized creative sharpening and output sharpening. As a part of the default settings applied to image variants, Capture One adds sharpening according to the camera model used. This step is intended to counteract the inherent softness of digital capture, including anti-aliasing, diffraction, and the subsequent interpolation or demosaicing process in Capture One.

Like the optional Diffraction Correction (deconvolution sharpening) and Sharpness Falloff available in the Lens Correction tool, the default sharpening settings can be considered an optional component within the first of a typical three-stage sharpening workflow. Capture sharpening of some form is required for virtually every image, so if you don’t use deconvolution sharpening or the sharpness falloff tool, Capture One’s Sharpening tool should be used instead. It can be left to the defaults, of course, or fine-tuned manually using the sliders (and saved as a preset or as new default setting), prior to further sharpening later.

The second stage of the sharpening workflow, known as creative sharpening, depends on the image content, and intended use. When you want to apply global sharpening, for example to rescue a soft or slightly mis-focused image, use the Sharpening tool in the Details Tool Tab (this effectively overrides the default capture sharpening settings). Applying sharpening usually increases the visibility of noise, so you will likely have to adjust the noise reduction settings while sharpening the image. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter in which order you make the adjustments as, when processing the images for export, Capture One will apply all the settings in the optimal order. When you want to apply sharpening selectively to areas in an image, for example the eyes in a portrait, use the Sharpening tool in the Local Adjustments Tool Tab.

This multi-stage sharpening workflow allows image variants to exist close to an output-ready state, with the third and final stage, Output Sharpening, only being required when printing or sharing images. The settings for output sharpening can be customized (and saved as part of a recipe or preset), taking into account any influence on the final image by the intended output device. Consider the implications to your workflow if just one stage of sharpening is used - you will have to adjust the image variant each time you want to change the output device. For more information on Output Sharpening, please see the section on Export and Processing.

Check focus in the viewer (without using zoom) Pro

The Focus Mask tool is intended as a means of evaluating the sharpness of an image at the time of capture, particularly when working tethered. However, it is also useful when identifying and selecting properly focused images and attendant depth of field, prior to adding sharpening.

  1. Press the Focus Mask icon (circled). Sharp areas will be highlighted in a (default) green marking. 
  2. Go to Capture One>Preferences to adjust the Focus Mask settings. For more information on the settings, please see the Preferences section.

Check focus and sharpness (without zooming into the viewer)

Capture One’s Focus tool has a preview window that can be used to examine a part of an image in detail at up to 400% magnification, without zooming into the Viewer. The Focus tool can also be undocked from the toolbar and placed to float anywhere in the Viewer. For added convenience when sharpening, you can also undock the Sharpening tool from the toolbar and dock-it beneath the floating Focus window.

  1. Go to the Details Tool Tab.
  2. The Focus tool shows a section of the image that can be magnified up to 400%.
  3. Use the Pick Focus Point icon to select a desired area (in the Viewer) to inspect in detail.
  4. Adjust the magnification on the slider below the window, or click on the icons either side to alter the magnification in steps. Sharpness should be assessed at 50% and at 100%.
  5. To resize the preview window, click on an edge or corner and drag. Alternatively, click on the Action menu icon (…) and select a sizing option (Medium or Auto Size) from the list.

Adjust sharpening

As a part of the capture sharpening stage, Capture One applies pre-sharpening to images based on the camera model. The default settings are a good place to start when enhancing an image. Note, of course, that adjustments are global and override the default settings. To alter the sharpening parameters using the keyboard as a shortcut, click on the values to highlight the box, then use the up/down arrows to increase/decrease the values by a set amount. To increase by a larger amount, select the shift key first.

  1. Go to the Details Tool Tab.
  2. Either set the Viewer to 100% and use the Pan cursor tool (H) to navigate to an area in the image, or select an area with the picker in the Focus tool.
  3. From the Sharpening tool, first set the Amount. This slider lets you specify how much brightening and darkening you want to apply to the edges.  Higher settings apply more contrast. The majority of the sharpening adjustment is performed using this and the radius slider.
  4. The Radius slider adjusts the width of the brightened and darkened areas at the edges. Typically the radius can be set low at first and increased in combination with the amount, while observing the effect on the edges.
  5. The Threshold slider controls the difference in brightness between adjacent edge pixels, in effect where the sharpening effect will take place. When set to zero (0), sharpening will be applied to all the edge pixels in an image. High values affect high tonal differences between edge pixels. Typically the threshold is set low, between 0-1.0 is common. However, the threshold can be increased to mitigate sharpened noise (i.e., after adjusting the amount and radius).
  6. Adjust the Halo Suppression slider when halo artifacts are noticeable, particularly after aggressive sharpening has been applied (i.e., after high values of amount and radius have been applied). Check images on high contrast edges for halos (dark and bright-lines) in the Focus window or Viewer at 100% or more, and drag the slider to the right to reduce or eliminate them.
  7. Use the Pan cursor tool to check other areas of the image at both 50% and 100%.    

Save settings as new defaults

After adjusting the sharpening sliders, you can save the adjustments as a new default setting for you particular camera. Existing image variants in Capture One will not be affected, however every time you import new images from that camera the new settings will be applied. In addition, you can manually apply the adjustments to existing variants if you want to update them. Note the sharpening settings are global.

  1. Select a variant and fine tune the default sharpening settings as desired (as described above).
  2. From the Sharpening tool’s Action menu (…), select Save as Defaults for [camera model]. A dialog will open reminding you that the default adjustments for all new variants will be changed, and existing variants will not.
  3. Click Apply to save the adjustments to the selected variant (and any new image variants from that camera in the future).
  4. To apply the new default adjustments to existing variants, select them in the browser and choose Apply Defaults from the Action menu (…).

Save settings as user presets

In addition to saving the sharpening adjustments as new defaults, Capture One allows you to save the adjustments as a user preset. The distinction between the two being that user presets are not automatically applied when importing, and are more likely to be used to apply different sharpening adjustments depending on content and intent. 

  1. Select a variant and fine tune the default sharpening settings as desired (as described above).
  2. From the Sharpening tool’s Manage menu (three bar icon), select Save User Preset… A Save Preset dialog opens.
  3. Verify that the parameters you would like saved are check-marked and click Save
  4. You will now be prompted to name the preset. Choose a meaningful name and click Save.
  5. If you create a lot of sharpening presets, you can create a dedicated folder for them. First, select New Folder, choose a meaningful name and click Save, then name the preset and save it to that folder.

Sharpen an image using presets

Capture One has a number of built-in sharpening presets that can be applied to images. Alternatively, if you’ve previously saved a sharpening user preset, you can select that and apply the settings instead.

  1. Go to the Details Tool Tab.
  2. Either set Viewer to 100% and use the Pan tool (H) to navigate to an area of interest, or select an area with the picker in the Focus tool.
  3. Press the Manage Presets icon to access a variety of sharpening settings. Select a setting from the list.
  4. Fine-tune the desired setting using the sliders.
  5. Use the Pan tool (hand icon) to check other areas of the image at both 50% and 100%.
  6. To remove a built-in preset, return to the manage presets menu and re-select the active preset from the list (indicated by a checkmark). Reselecting will disable the preset (and remove the checkmark). 
  7. When removing a user-preset, select the preset from the list under Applied Preset, and click on Remove from the menu.

Switch between global and selective sharpening

If you’ve created a layer for selective sharpening in the Layers tool, you can quickly switch between that and global sharpening. Simply select the background layer for global sharpening, or create a new filled layer and apply the sharpening to that instead. For extra flexibility when using adjustment layers, you can slightly over-sharpen as an option, then adjust the opacity of the layer afterwards if necessary.

  1. Go the Layers tool and select the layer used to apply localized sharpening. A small brush icon next the Sharpening tool’s name is displayed in the title bar.
  2. Select Background, or click-on the Create New Layer button (+ icon) in the foot-bar, select New Filled Layer, and apply or adjust sharpening as desired.
  3. If either adjustment layer was over-sharpened as an option, adjust the Opacity slider to fade the effect.