Working with the Normalize tool

White balance / Exposure

You can use the Normalize tool to quickly set a working baseline for both Exposure and White Balance between two images. In addition, when light levels are controlled and consistent between captures, it can be used to make very precise adjustments.

An overview of the Normalize tool

Capture One Pro’s Normalize tool is a highly versatile addition that can be used to make easier baseline corrections in any number of commonly occurring scenarios, as well as some highly specific use cases, such as flat-art reproduction and certain scientific applications, where accurate color matching is essential.

In general, it is intended to be used early in the workflow to quickly establish a combined, base exposure and white balance setting for a region of interest. Once selected, the values are then applied to a second image, or a number of images in a sequence, for consistent exposure and color. For example, you can make a selection from a skin-tone or a reference patch in one image, and apply it to another image in the same or similar region of color with a similar tonal scale, using an eyedropper that can be quickly toggled between pick and apply. 

The tool can also be used in the same way to normalize only the white balance (i.e., hue and saturation), where light levels are consistent between images, such as those captured in the studio under controlled-lighting. You can use this option when you want an object to have a specific color, for example, to match a particular color associated with a well-known brand.

When used in that way, an optional Color Selector dialog enables you to input RGB/HSB values directly to proof a different color space to your working color space. A separate color patch is displayed in the chosen color space, prior to updating the Apply Normalization eyedropper with the same values. 

The Normalize tool can be used to match exposure and colors in the same image, or between two images in one or more open documents (i.e., between Catalogs and/or Sessions). Note that both Exposure and White Balance can be normalized together or separately, and that the Normalize tool replaces the previous Skin Tone option in the White Balance tool of Capture One 11.0 and earlier versions.

Normalizing images

In most cases, both exposure and white balance can be selected together when the objective is to normalize another image, or set of images, against a source image that contains, for example, a bright white area with detail (i.e., that's not clipped), gray-card or has a skin-tone, under similar or mildly varying light on location.

When normalizing against a color patch on a reference chart under consistent lighting conditions where color accuracy is crucial, it may be beneficial to disable the exposure option. 

Note although the tool is intended to provide a baseline between images, you can also use the tool on the same image where conditions allow.

RGB values chosen with the eyedropper (N) are available to all open Catalogs or Sessions, so you can, for example, select a color and brightness value in a Session and apply it to an image in a Catalog, or vice versa.

  1. Select the source image (e.g., one with a gray-card taken under specific lighting conditions).
  2. Open the Color Inspector, and go to the Normalize tool.
  3. Enable White Balance, and Exposure if not already, by adding a check-mark to the corresponding box.
  4. Click-on the Pick Normalize Color eyedropper (N) in the tool, or from the cursor tools, and select an area you want to match (e.g., a bright white area, or gray card, or when matching color only; a color patch on a reference chart).
  5. The Pick field is updated with the selected color and the corresponding RGB values are listed alongside for the selected color space. (This is determined by the nominated ICC Profile in the selected Process Recipe.)
  6. Select the destination image, that is the one you want to make the correction to (ideally under similar or identical lighting).
  7. Select the Apply Normalization eyedropper, or toggle between the pickers using (Alt+N), and click on the area in the image to apply the correction to (e.g., if both exposure and white balance are enabled; a neutral area with slight color cast, or with exposure disabled, the subject you want to color match, etc.).
  8. The image will be updated in the Viewer with the adjustment(s) applied. If the result is unexpected, continue to re-apply the eyedropper to another, more suitable area with similar tone. The image will be updated with the new correction. 

Normalizing between documents

The procedure for applying a normalization correction is practically identical between images in two open documents (e.g., a Catalog and a Session, or between two Catalogs) as it is in the same document. Note Capture One automatically converts the color values between spaces if the two documents have different output profiles selected. Note also that the option to open more than document at time must be enabled in the Application Preferences (Capture One/Edit (macOS/Windows) > Preferences > General tab > Catalog and Session > Open in new window).

  1. Select the image in the Browser.
  2. Open the Output Inspector and verify the color space in the ICC Profile field of the chosen Process Recipe.
  3. Open the Color Inspector and go to the Normalize tool.
  4. Enable the White Balance and/or Exposure options with a check-mark.
  5. Click-on the Pick Normalize Color eyedropper (N) in one document and select the reference area (e.g., a color patch, skin-tone or gray card, etc) in the image in the Viewer.
  6. The Pick field is updated with the selected color and the corresponding RGB values are listed alongside for the selected ICC Color Space Profile.
  7. Click-on the Apply Normalization eyedropper, or toggle between the pickers using (Alt+N). This eyedropper will now be enabled in your second, open document.
  8. From the second, open document, click on the area in the destination image (i.e., that you want to apply the normalization correction to) with that document’s Apply Normalization eyedropper. The correction is applied and the destination image is updated in the Viewer.

Normalizing skin tones

When normalizing skin tones it is of course essential to select the most appropriate area or region for a successful result. For corrections, avoid areas with dominant color such as blusher or eye-shadow and select the forehead, neck or forearm, for example. It's helpful to open the reference and destination image side by side, using, for example, the Set as Compare Variant option available from the Edit menu. 

  1. Go to the Normalize tool.
  2. Open the reference image and the destination image side by side.
  3. Enable both Exposure and White Balance by adding a check-mark to the corresponding box.
  4. Click-on the Pick Normalize Color eyedropper (N) in the tool or from the cursor tools, and from the reference image, select an area of your model’s skin that you want to match (e.g., a particular area from the model’s neck).
  5. Click-on the Apply Normalization eyedropper, or toggle between the pickers using (Alt+N), and in the destination image, click on the same area and similar tone of the model’s skin that you want to apply the normalization correction to (e.g., a particular area from the model’s neck). (You will not be asked to name the target value or “pick”, as in previous versions of Capture One.)
  6. The image will be updated in the Viewer with the correction applied.
  7. You can use this adjustment to copy and apply to other images in the same Session or Catalog, as well as between other open Sessions or Catalogs.

Resetting the color values

Capture One doesn’t clear the values for the Pick Normalize Color and Apply Normalization eyedroppers, or the Color Selector, even after closing and restarting the application, and unlike the majority of tools it doesn’t have a reset option that’s usually accessed from the Action menu (…). Therefore, if you make a mistake, simply return to the Pick Normalize Color eyedropper and re-select a new color from the image in the Viewer. If you’ve manually set the wrong RGB/HSB values in the Color Selector, either re-enter the correct values, or click on Cancel to close the dialog and either re-open it, or select Pick Normalize Color eyedropper and start over.

Saving a preset

The Normalize tool allows you to save the various pick exposure and color (i.e., brightness, color hue and saturation) values as a User Preset. Under varying lighting conditions the tool provides a useful baseline. However, a preset is particularly useful when you repeatedly photograph subjects under the same lighting conditions or illuminants, and require the exposure and color to precisely match the reference values. Therefore, both the Pick and the Adjust values can be saved separately.

  1. Make a normalization correction for exposure or color (white balance), or both, as your workflow demands (see above for details).
  2. From the Normalize tool’s title bar, click-on the Manage Presets icon (three-horizontal bars). The Manage Presets menu opens.
  3. Select Save User Preset… from the list. A Save User Preset dialog opens.
  4. Give the preset a descriptive name, and select Save.
  5. The User Preset is saved under the Manage Presets menu.

Applying a User Preset

After saving a User Preset you will find it listed in the Manage Presets drop-down menu of the Normalize tool. A normalization preset works slightly differently to other presets in Capture One, as it's not immediately applied upon selection, instead you must proceed with a normalization correction using the Apply Normalization eyedropper. Note User Presets cannot be stacked, nor does the menu show which preset is currently selected, however, once selected it's displayed in the Pick field.

Note that User Presets saved using the earlier Skin Tone tool option of the White Balance tool in version 11.0 and earlier are migrated automatically to the new Normalize tool’s Manage Preset menu. That tool’s built-in presets are no longer available and, therefore, have not been migrated.

  1. Select the image in the Browser that you want to apply the normalization correction to.
  2. Go to the Normalize tool, and click on the Manage Presets menu icon (three horizontal bars) in the title-bar. The Manage Presets menu opens.
  3. Select the relevant User Preset from the drop-down list.
  4. The User Preset is selected as the chosen values and both the color patch and preset name is displayed in the Normalize panel in the Pick field.
  5. Select the Apply Normalization eyedropper and click on an image in the same area, or area with a similar tone that was used to create the preset, if possible.
  6. The adjustment is applied and the image is updated in the Viewer.

Selecting and applying skin tone presets

Previous versions of Capture One's White Balance panel had the option to select from a number of built-in skin tone presets and to create custom presets. Although that tool’s built-in presets are no longer available, any custom presets that may have been created are migrated automatically to the new Normalize tool’s preset menu. 

The process of selecting and applying migrated presets is the same as applying a User Preset. In general, though, you should only apply Skin Tone Presets to the same person, ideally selecting the same area and tonal region that was used to create it. For example, if the preset's pick or adjust was made in a highlight area on the forehead, it should be applied to the same or similar region.

  1. Select the image from the Browser that you want to apply the Normalization correction to.
  2. Go to the Normalize tool, and click on the Manage Presets menu icon in the title-bar. The Manage Presets menu opens.
  3. Select the relevant skin tone preset from the drop-down list. The migrated preset is selected and both the color patch and values are updated, and the preset name is displayed in the Normalize tool adjacent to the Pick field.
  4. Select the Apply Normalization eyedropper and click on the same area that was used to create the preset (e.g., the forehead, forearm, or leg, etc., taking note to avoid tonal variations between the original and the destination image, if possible).
  5. The adjustment is applied and the image is updated in the Viewer.

Deleting a User Preset

When you want to tidy-up the Manage Presets menu and no longer require a User Preset, you can remove it. An option also enables you to delete all of the presets. Note that these actions are permanent, so if you’ve invested some time in acquiring these then deleting them may not be appropriate. If you still have the source images, you can of course recreate the Presets.

  1. Open the Color Inspector and go to the Normalize tool.
  2. Click on the Manage Presets menu icon (three horizontal bars) in the title-bar. The Manage Presets menu opens.
  3. Select Delete User Presets from the Manage folder menu and, from the drop-down list, select the Preset you want to delete. Alternatively, select Delete All User Presets to remove them all.
  4. A warning dialog opens asking you to confirm your choice.
  5. Select Cancel to abandon and return or Delete to continue. Warning! Deleting is permanent.

About the Color Selector

The Normalize tool has a Color Selector dialog that enables you to manually override or fine-tune the picked reference color.

A Profile drop-down menu allows you to specify a particular color space and evaluate the RGB/HSB values, that's independent of the output color space profile used for the picked color, which in turn is determined by the selected Process Recipe.

The drop-down allows you to select between two common color space profiles bundled with Capture One; Adobe RGB and sRGB, with the further option; Show All, enabling you to access and to select from all of your system profiles.

The color window to the right initially displays the picked color and color values based on the currently selected recipe’s output color space profile, shown above the color window. Selecting a new color space profile using the Profile menu fly-out allows you to proof the converted color in the palette and displays the corresponding color values beneath.

Text fields are provided for RGB/HSB values if you want to fine-tune the values or manually enter them to match a reference target’s values. The window will be immediately updated with the new color.

When selecting OK, those new values are used to update the Apply Normalization eyedropper in Normalize tool.

Specifying color values by number

The Normalize tool has a custom color picker dialog that enables the user to add custom RGB/HSB values for a selected color space. This is useful when you're working in a specific color space and you want to apply certain values to the image using a different space, or even fine tune them in the same color space.

For example, if you're working on an image with consistent lighting between captures in Adobe RGB and want to apply specific color values to an near white area to neutralize the highlights, you can specify 230, 230, 230, for instance, and apply those values directly.

  1. Open the Color inspector, and go to the Normalize tool.
  2. Click on the color patch or Action (...) icon, adjacent to the Pick field. The Color Selector dialog opens.
  3. Click-on the Profile field and select a profile from the list. Adobe RGB and sRGB are the defaults, however, you can select from any of the profiles on your system. (If not listed, select Show All, to display the system profiles.)
  4. In the RGB or HSB fields, add the relevant color value numbers.
  5. Click-on OK to select and update the color values.
  6. Click-on the Apply Normalization eyedropper, or toggle between the pickers using (Alt+N), and click on the area in the image to apply the correction to (e.g., the white patch in the reference chart).
  7. When processing the image for output, remember to select the color space profile as chosen in the Color Selector (i.e., select the same color space profile in the Process Recipe).