Basic Adjustments

Capture One has a number of intelligent, slider-based tools for correcting and adjusting the basics such as Exposure, Contrast, Brightness, and Saturation.


Capture One’s Exposure panel comprises of four separate tools controlled by sliders (or optional text boxes) to make tonal adjustments and correct common mistakes such as over- and under-exposure. Even if substantial or complex corrections aren’t required, practically every image can benefit from a few minor adjustments using one or more of the sliders in this panel. In many cases the adjustments made here and together with the HDR panel can replace those made with the Levels and Curves tool.

Apply Auto exposure

The Exposure panel includes an Auto exposure icon (A) icon in the title bar. The exposure correction is based partly on the original meter reading in the Exposure Evaluation panel and an average exposure based on the 18% reflectance of a middle gray card or mid-tone surface. It also adopts smart-tech to prevent color casts or hue shifts. While it’s useful as a starting point, exposure may be subject to creative intent and there are certain scenarios that it isn’t suitable for, such as preserving high or low key scenes.

Managing exposure

The Exposure tool will change the appearance of colors. Tones will often appear over-saturated but this can be remedied by reducing the Saturation, edging the slider to the left.

  1. Press the Exposure Warning icon (see circled, or View > Show Exposure Warnings) to highlight areas of an image that may be overexposed. A (default) red color mask will fill the areas that may be "burned out" and no longer display any detail. (Find out how to change the Exposure warning settings). Optional. Enable the Shadow Warning to display potentially underexposed areas, or shadow areas that may be "blocked" or "crushed", and similarly can no longer display tones or detail. 
  2. If you are new to Capture One, press the A icon in the Exposure tool's title bar to apply an Auto-Exposure adjustment. 
  3. Use the High Dynamic Range tool to help recover loss of detail in highlights and shadow areas. The Highlight and Shadow slider will also affect all colors and shades. Start by trying to carefully recover the information hidden in the highlights by adjusting the slider to the right while watching the Highlight Warning on-screen. Aim to leave specular highlights (light sources, including reflections). Then gently adjust the Shadow slider while observing the blue-colored Shadow Warning on-screen. Alternatively, adjust the Exposure slider, while watching the on-screen warnings. 
  4. Use Layer Adjustments such as the brush or gradient, to alter the exposure if there are specific areas of an image that are overexposed.


Adjust exposure

The Exposure slider works like the camera’s exposure compensation dial, lightening or darkening the image and shifting the color and luminance values in the histogram to the left or right.

It is particularly efficient at recovering highlight or shadow detail from RAW files without introducing color casts or hue shifts over a range of -1.5 to +2 steps. However, adjustment can change the appearance of colors by altering the saturation.

The slider is continuously adjustable over a range of ±4 steps however exposure can be adjusted in regular values of 0.1 steps using the up/down keys, or whole steps using the Shift modifier with the up/down keys. 

A special algorithm is adopted to prevent clipping when making extreme adjustments to previously processed files such as JPEGs, providing new black and white points haven’t already been set using the Levels tool.

  1. Select the image or images to be adjusted.
  2. Go to the Exposure Inspector.
  3. From the Exposure panel, move the Exposure slider to left to decrease exposure and darken images, or to the right to increase exposure and lighten images.

Adjust brightness

  1. Go to the Exposure Tool Tab.
  2. In the Exposure tool, adjust the Brightness slider that will primarily affect the mid-tones of an image. Move the slider to the left to increase mid-tone contrast or to the right to lighten shadow areas and reduce contrast.

Adjust Contrast

  1. Go to the Exposure Tool Tab.
  2. In the Exposure tool, adjust the Contrast slider to the right to increase contrast throughout the image. Move it to the left to decrease contrast.

You can control the contrast of the image in much greater control with the Curve tool, but that doesn’t mean there is no use for the Contrast slider. It is faster and easier to use than working with curves for most people, and it also affects the colors in a slightly different way than the Curve tool does.

Adjust saturation

 This tool uses "intelligent saturation" so it does more than simply affect normal saturation values. The positive values (attained when the slider is moved to the right) are comparable to what third-party software often refers to as Vibrance. Vibrance is gentler to the skin tones and will be able to enhance, for instance, a blue sky without over-saturating the rest of the image. The negative values represent regular saturation settings. Decreasing the saturation will ultimately turn an image black and white. This in turn will change the histogram from RGB to monochrome, although the image will remain in a RGB color space as chosen by the output color space.