Exporting and Printing Images in Capture One Pro (Podcast 538)

Exporting and Printing Images in Capture One Pro (Podcast 538)

Capture One Pro is a very powerful raw image processing application, that supports the photographer’s digital workflow from importing through to exporting, in a number of formats. Today we’re going to look at the many ways in which you can export your images from Capture One Pro, including printing.

Last week, we covered importing and organizing images and catalogs in Capture One Pro. Right now, I’m in Greenland and next week I’ll be in Iceland, photographing some of the planets most beautiful and striking landscapes, so I’m going to save a tutorial on processing images until after I get back.

As I’m still relatively new to Capture One, that will give me more time to practice my own various processing techniques, so the discussion will be more valuable for you, and I’ll hopefully have some nice photos from Greenland and Iceland to share with you as well. This week, let’s concentrate on getting your processed images back out of Capture One Pro in a number of different formats.

Exporting Original Format Images

Export Originals to Finals Folder

Export Originals to Finals Folder.

If you simply need to export your original raw files, or any other format of image that you might have in your catalog, you can simply export the original file, as I do to make a copy of my final selects to my Finals folder, as I mentioned last week.

To do this, select the images you want to export, and right click one of the thumbnails, and from the shortcut menu, select Export, then select Originals. You can also get to this option from the File menu.

I don’t change the image name on export, because I changed on import. After checking the destination etc. click the Export button, as you see in this screenshot (right).

Output – Process Recipes

For most other file export operations, you’ll first jump to the Output tab in Capture One Pro, which is the single cogwheel icon, that you can see in orange in the top left corner of the screenshot here (below). If you can’t see the detail, click on the image to view it larger.

Capture One Pro Output Process Recipes

Capture One Pro Output Process Recipes

In the Output screen you can create and select Process Recipes, which are used to export your images into various formats and sizes. There are a number of Recipes already in this view when you first install Capture One Pro, but I think almost all of the one’s you can see in this screenshot are Recipes that I’ve created myself.

Export Formats

Capture One Pro supports exporting images in JPEG, JPEG QuickProof, JPEG XR, JPEG 2000, TIFF, DNG, PNG and PSD file formats. If you intend to import your images back into Capture One, avoid using Photoshop PSD files, because they aren’t supported. I’m now using the lossless TIFF format for all images that I will bring back into Capture One to continue to work on, say for example, if I need to go into Photoshop to do some extensive cloning.

You can change the file format from the Format pulldown under the Process Recipe > Basic section, but if you are going to output in that format more than once or twice, save yourself some time by creating a Process Recipe preset.

Process Recipe Presets

To create a new Recipe, click the + button at the bottom of the Process Recipes panel, and an Untitled Recipe will be added to the list, with the name selected ready for you to change it to something meaningful. You might enter something like “TIFF 16 Bit Full Size (ProPhoto RGB)” which would be good for exporting images to edit in Photoshop.

Export for Web Process Recipe

Export for Web Process Recipe

Export for Web

You can resize images during export as well, and add watermarks, so let’s look at how you might create an Export for Web Process Recipe.

Note that if you start changing the settings under the Process Recipe section before creating a new Recipe, it will just change the Recipe that you currently have selected, so let’s hit the + button at the bottom of the Process Recipes section first, and give our Recipe a name, like “Export for Web”.

Although you can export as PNG, the JPEG format is more suitable for photographs for the Web, so select JPEG from the format pulldown. I usually select 92 for the Quality, because it halves the size of the file but leaves no visible artifacts in the image.

Resolution is good at 72 pixels per inch for the Web, and I’m going to set the Height of my image to 960 pixels. I like my landscape orientation images to be 1440 pixels wide and 960 pixels high, but to stop my portrait orientation images getting too tall, I also resize those to 960 pixels high, so just selecting 960 pixels high resizes both orientations correctly.

I’d like to be able to open my images in Finder after they are all created, but Finder isn’t actually listed as an Application on the Mac OS so I leave Open With set to None.

Select an Output location, and if you want to change the name of your files on output, create or select a preset for that too. You can see a summary of your settings in the Process Summary area, but for before we click the Process button, let’s check a few other things. Under the Adjustments tab, uncheck Disable Sharpening, because you generally want your resized Web images to be sharpened a little.

Under Metadata, select your required options. It’s best to keep your Copyright information intact, but you may want to remove GPS coordinates, especially if you are going to share images from your home. Including Camera Metadata is usually OK, and actually better if you are sharing your images in an education-centric environment, and including Keywords is usually a good idea too.

Watermarking Images

Add a Watermark

Add a Watermark

If you like to watermark your images for the Web, you can do that under the Watermark tab, as you can see in this screenshot (right).

I just use my logo in black with a white drop shadow, and reduce the Opacity to 77%, and this makes it somewhat transparent, but can be seen on most colored backgrounds, so I don’t have to mess around selecting a different colored logo depending on the background.

The Horizontal and Vertical positions shown here will place the watermark in the bottom left hand corner of the image. If you want to just position the logo with your mouse, click the little hand icon at the top right corner of the Watermark panel.

Once you’ve set that up, just click the Process button, and your select image or images will be output to the Output folder you specified, resized and watermarked and ready for the Web.

Export to Multiple Formats Simultaneously

One of the other great things about the Capture One Pro Output tab, is that you can turn on the checkbox for multiple Process Recipes, and once you press the Process button, you’ll get a copy in all of the selected file formats and sizes.

If you want to specify a specific output location for certain image types, so that they don’t all get put into the same Output location, you can select a different location under the File tab too, and this is saved in your Process Recipe, which is very useful.

Round Trip Editing

To send a selected photograph to a third party application for editing, you can right click a thumbnail and select Open With, and select the third party application, such as Photoshop, from the submenu. Keep in mind though that this method will open the original file without any of the changes that you’ve made in Capture One, and that may not be what you want to do.

A better option if you want to keep your changes, yet send the image straight to a program such as Photoshop, is to right click the image and select Edit With, which opens a dialog for you to select the format and color space etc. as you can see in this screenshot (below). Note also that this will create a copy of the image that it sends to Photoshop.

Edit With Dialog

Edit With Dialog

Also, note that under the Adjustments tab of this dialog, there is a Disable Sharpening option. Most of the time raw files need a little bit of sharpening to make them look normal again, as raw files can be a little bit soft. Keep this option in mind, and uncheck it, to enable sharpening as necessary.

The great thing about using this Edit With method, is that the copy that is created is added to your Catalog automatically, so when you’ve finished editing in the third party program and save your image, when you come back into Capture One Pro, it’s right there waiting for you.

Always Soft Proofing

One of the coolest things about Capture One Pro is that you are pretty much always in soft proof mode, which means you get to see the affect that the selected Color Space or ICC Profile has on your images as you edit and output them.

In the earlier screenshots, with the Himba Girl, I had a 16 bit TIFF Process Recipe selected, and it was using the ProPhoto RGB color space. This gives me the most wiggle room when editing my images. I also have an Adobe RGB and an sRGB color space TIFF Process Recipe, so that I can easily compare all three color spaces.

Most of the time, as I switch between these various color spaces, the software does what it’s supposed to do, and correctly converts between these larger and smaller color spaces, so it’s difficult to impossible to see any difference.

I have a few black and white images that I have processed in Capture One Pro, that do change slightly in the Capture One Pro interface, but when I export them, they all look the same, so I actually think that’s a problem with the software rendition of the image on screen.

A very import application of this soft proofing feature, is that you can choose to view your images using either a specific profile, or always use the profile that you have selected from the Process Recipes list, regardless of where you are in the user interface. To make Capture One always use the selected Process Recipe ICC profile, under the View menu, choose Selected Recipe from the Proof Profile submenu.

Soft Proofing for Print

With Capture One set up to always use the Selected Recipe’s ICC profile when creating your preview, you can create a Recipe and select one of your print ICC profiles, and select that to get a soft proofing view of your images before printing them. I selected a 16 bit TIFF, and selected my printer ICC profile while creating a number of printer soft proofing profiles, as you can see in this screenshot (below).

Soft Proofing for Print

Soft Proofing for Print

Also note that when soft proofing for print, it’s generally a good idea to change the background to white, to simulate the white borders or matte around your print. If you view the print with a dark background, it makes the paper simulation look too harsh, and it’s difficult to really gauge what your printed image will look like.

To change the background color, go to your Capture One Preferences, and change the Color for the Viewer under the Appearance tab. Also, while you are in the preferences, set a widish Proof Margin, say of around 30 pixels. With that set you can easily turn on the Proof Margin with the button at the top left corner of the viewing area, next to where it says Background in this screenshot.

Finally, if you have Viewer Labels turned on, showing shooting information and the filename below the large preview of your photo, turn that off by selecting Hide Viewer Labels, under the View menu. By this point, you’ll have a photo totally surrounded by white.

Adjusting for Print

You can see in this screenshot (above) that when selecting a matte media type, like Breathing Color’s Pura Bagasse Smooth, the image can look a little bit pale and lack contrast. I find that the reality is a little bit better than this in the print, but it’s a good guide, as matte prints are never as punchy as gloss prints.

If you want to make some changes to your image, just for print, it’s a good idea to make a Variant, which is a virtual copy of the original image. In Capture One Pro, when you right click a thumbnail and select New Variant, you get a copy of your image without any of the changes you’ve made to the image. Assuming you want to keep those changes and make further adjustments for your print, select Clone Variant from the shortcut menu.

Using Color Readouts

Another very useful feature in Capture One, especially when it comes to preparing to print, is the Color Readouts. Generally, when printing, you want to avoid total black and total white. I often don’t head this advice myself when it comes to blacks. I’ll go to 100% black and my printers usually handle it fine, but it’s worth understanding this theory, and generally worth trying to avoid pure white.

Select Add Color Readout from the bottom of the Picker tools, which is second from the right in the toolbar above the viewer in this screenshot (below). Then, click on some of the key areas of your photograph. I like to check the darkest area, the brightest highlight, and a mid tone.

Using Color Readouts

Using Color Readouts

When I placed these Color Readouts on my original image, the background was 0, total black, and the shell was 255, which is pure white, so I created a Clone Variant, and adjusted my Levels, to bring these values in just a little, which would be good printing practice. You can see that now in my resulting image, my darkest background has a luminance of 2, and my brightest highlight, the shells on this Himba Girls traditional necklace is 253. Her face is 111.

Exposure Warnings

Another option for checking the darkest and brightest areas of your image for print, are the Exposure Warnings, which you can turn on with the warning triangle icon in the toolbar. I set my highlight warnings at 253 and my shadow warning at 2. As you can see from this screenshot (below), the background is mostly 2 or darker, but I intentionally darkened that, and I’m fine with printing this image as it is, with just a little tweak.

Exposure Warnings

Exposure Warnings

Of course, if you want to make any other modifications for print, increasing contrast, changing the colors to stop them going out of gamut, now would be the time to do it. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to display gamut warnings in Capture One Pro, so unless it’s really well hidden, I don’t think it supports it. I’m hoping that is something that will change at some point though.


Once you have your soft proofing done, and are ready to print, you could of course just send the photo to Photoshop and print from there, but just as I always printed from Lightroom, I love to be able to print right in my processing and workflow tool. Plus, I hate printing from Photoshop, so I’ve been printing quite happily from Capture One Pro for the last few weeks.

Unlike Lightroom where you go to the Print module to print, in Capture One Pro, you can hit the Print button from the top menu at any time, regardless of where you are in the program. The print window opens, and you get to select your settings.

We can create templates in Capture One to save margin and layout information, but it forgets about page size and ICC profiles whenever you close the program. Fortunately, these are quick settings to change, so select your paper size, and the ICC profile for your printer and media combination from the Color Profile menu.

Printing from Capture One

Printing from Capture One

From what I’ve seen so far, the print Sharpening that is done by Capture One when set at 25 is enough for my own images. You may need to change this depending on how sharp your original image is, and also it may need to be increased for larger prints too, but for now, I’ve been leaving this at 25.

You can set your margins depending on how much border you want. I use my 7:13% offset border, to raise the image up slightly, and you can see the dimensions I use in my Print Borders spreadsheet that you can download here. Once you have entered your border dimensions, click the Templates pulldown, and select Save User Template. In this screenshot (above) you can see that I called this one 18 x 24 inches 7-13 borders.

So, once that’s set up, I can quickly recall my margin sizes and I’m ready to hit the Print button. Another very cool thing about printing from Capture One Pro, is that when I switch from Landscape to Portrait orientation, it automatically switches the borders around for me, so I no longer have to save a separate template for each orientation.

No File Names!

The only thing that I don’t like about printing from Capture One Pro, and I’m hoping this will be changed very soon, is that it does not pass the filename to the printer. It prints everything as Untitled, and that renders the Accounting Manager with my Canon large format printer pretty much useless.

I need to be able to identify the files printed to find the print costs, and when they all say Untitled, that becomes a pain, especially when I sometimes have to show the costs to customers via email, because without their filename in the accounting information, I could be charging them for any old print.

See You on the Flip-side!

OK, so we’ll wrap it up there for this week. As I said, I’ll be in Greenland when this is released, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to record an extra episode or two while I’m in Reykjavik, before I start my Iceland tour, so there may be a bit of a blank before I get caught up again at the end of September. Do stay with me though, because I’ll be back, and I’m looking forward to sharing my new work with you and putting together a tutorial on how I’m processing my images in Capture One Pro 9 as well.

Capture One Pro 10% Discount

Please note that due to changes in Phase One, the discount code that I mentioned in the Podcast is no longer valid. 

Also, note that you can download a fully working trial version of Capture One Pro from the Phase One Web site, and try it out for a full 30 days before you buy. See if you love it as much as I do.

Show Notes

Download Capture One Pro here: https://mbp.ac/c1download

Music by Martin Bailey


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The Zone System and Light Meters in Digital Photography (Podcast 503)

The Zone System and Light Meters in Digital Photography (Podcast 503)

The Zone System has kind of fallen into the shadows as digital enables us to see our images instantly, and view information like the invaluable histogram even before we release the shutter, but The Zone System is still a useful tool, and something worth taking the time to understand whether you use Ansel Adams’ original exposure techniques or not.

I’m sure most of you have heard of The Zone System, and some of you will already have a good understanding of what it means and how to use it, so this might not be new to you, but it’s a great topic to explore, and I find it totally relevant as a follow up to my recent episode about creating camera profiles for the Sekonic L-758D Digital Master light meter.

First, I’m going to explain what The Zone System is all about and intersperse my own take on its applications within digital imaging. We’ll also take a look at how you can use a light meter to evaluate your options in the field as you create your images and evaluate your images on the computer, both of which can be invaluable to help you understand exposure.

The Zone System

The Zone System was developed by Ansel Adams with Fred Archer way back in 1940. It is a system to map the various tonal regions or luminance of objects in any given scene to enable the photographer to reach the optimal exposure during the capture of the image, and the developing and printing of the negative.

OK, so in the last paragraph the word optimal is my take on this, but Adams’ goals were the same. It’s not so much about accurate exposure, because there really isn’t one. Adams phrases this as photographs being interpretations of the original subject values and subjective departures from reality.

The Zone System was most useful as initially intended, to control the exposure of individual sheets of film, rather than rolls of film, because the development and print process could be adjusted for each negative based on shifts applied during the initial exposure of each sheet of film. There are of course limitations on the developing process when using roll film, as all images on each roll are developed in exactly the same way.

Ironically, in the digital age, one could argue that the Zone System is more applicable again, as we go back to being able to adjust our processing of each frame individually, including during the digital printing process.

The Zone System basically maps tones into eleven ranges of values from pure black to pure white. How people associate these tonal ranges to numerical values seems to vary, but I’ve split two ranges into equal parts, as Adams did, and created a reference chart on which we’ll base parts of this discussion, including a slightly modified description of what each zone meant within The Zone System (below).

The Zone System

The Zone System

As you can see (above) the eleven zones are marked in roman numerals, from 0 (zero) to X (10). The reason for the roman numerals was to differentiate the zone values from exposure values (EV) or any other arbitrary numerical scale on the light meter which are usually written in regular Arabic numerals. I’ve added the two scales, from 0 to 255 for RGB color values, and 0 to 100 for Lightness values, and I’ll talk about how to use these ranges to evaluate your images in Photoshop later.

Definition of the Zones

Adams further defined groups of zones in the follow ways. Zones 0 through to X (10) represents the entire range of tones, from “full black to pure white”. Zones I (1) through IX (9) are what Adams referred to as the “dynamic range”, and this represents the darkest to lightest tones that can be considered “useful”. Zones II (2) through VIII (8) were referred to as the “textural range” which represents tones that convey a sense of texture and recognizable substance.

Although I’ve seen heated arguments as to whether or not a Zone is equal to one stop of EV or Exposure Value, Adams himself clearly states that this is how he intended the zones to be used in his book The Negative in which he fully describes The Zone System in glorious detail. If you still want to know more about this subject after today’s post, I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. In fact, it’s just a great read for any photographer, so I highly recommend it either way.

Now, in practice, we’ll find that as the dynamic range that our cameras can record increases, strict use of The Zone System requires that we will have to move away from thinking of each zone as one stop of exposure, or, simply use more zones, keeping the zone to EV stop relationship. But, as of 2015, most cameras have a dynamic range of about 12 stops.

As we found in my recent discussion about creating profiles for the Sekonic L-758D light meter, I actually have a measured range of 11.9 stops on my Canon EOS 5Ds R, and DxO Mark have it at 12.4 stops, so we’re at around 12 stops of dynamic range in digital terms. This is the full range from full black to pure white, and I consider almost that entire range to be useful, so it’s a bit wider than Adams’ definition, but in practice I’ve found that even now, thinking of each zone as a stop of exposure works fine.

Exposure “Stops”

Just in case this talk of “stops” has you scratching your head, this is how we talk about steps of exposure, controlled by three main camera settings, the aperture, shutter speed and ISO. We can also change exposure with filters such as neutral density filters, which we talked about in episode 391.

Modifying your camera’s exposure by one stop you could for example change your aperture from f/5.6 to f/8, or from f/11 to f/16, with some of the main full stops of aperture being f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22 and f/32.

Because the aperture value represents the area of a circle, they are approximations of a sequence of numbers that are the power of the square route of 2. Although it can be confusing at first, this means that the smaller the number, the larger the area of the circle, and therefore the more light passes through the aperture and onto our camera’s sensor, increasing the exposure. Less is more.

This also has the effect of increasing or decreasing the depth of field of the scene or subject being photographed. For more information on how that works, check out episode 132 or episode 437 in which we discussed hyperfocal distance.

Shutter speeds are easier to grasp, because you simply halve or double the time to change up or down by a stop. One stop faster than 1/500 of a second is 1/1000 of a second and one stop slower is 1/250 of a second. A stop slower again is 1/125 but then the next stop slower is 1/60, so it’s not exactly half. In fact, the real shutter speed for 1/125 of a second is 1/128, and a stop slower should be 1/64. They are mostly adjusted slightly, but there’s no reason to be concerned about this. You get used to the actual numbers used.

The ISO range can also seem a little confusing, but again you get used to it. Film years ago was much slower, or less sensitive to light, but these days, although some digital cameras start at the expanded ISO 50, most start from ISO 100. To increase the ISO in full stops, you just double the value for each subsequent ISO, so one stop more sensitive than ISO 100 is 200. The next full stop is ISO 400, then 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 and so on.

A full “stop” increase or decrease in aperture, shutter speed or ISO will have the same effect on your exposure. For example, an exposure of f/8 for 1/250 of a second at ISO 200 can be made one stop brighter by changing our aperture from f/8 to f/5.6, one stop larger, or we could make our shutter speed twice as long by changing it from 1/250 of a second to 1/125 of a second, or we could make our ISO one stop more sensitive by changing from 200 to 400.

Identify Your Mid-Tone

OK, so back to The Zone System; Ansel Adams wanted a way to evaluate the exposure levels of a scene, so that he could place certain tones at certain places and calculate from that exposure whether or not the other tones in his scene would be too dark or too bright, and adjust the exposure if necessary to protect those extremes in contrast.

As I said, this also carried over into the development process, which was adjusted as necessary as well, but we won’t go into detail on that here as it’s not relevant for digital. Again, if you want to understand this more Ansel Adams’ The Negative should be your first stop (no pun intended).

You would start metering your scene by identifying the tone that you would place in Zone V (5). In black and white terms this is called the mid-gray or middle-gray, but in color photography, let’s call it the mid-tone, as it’s referred to on my light meter. The beauty of this first step is that if you can’t easily identify what in your scene is a mid-tone, if you are outdoors with the same light falling on your scene as where you are, you can simply take a meter reading of an 18% gray card to get this exposure value.

There are lots of conversations around the web regarding whether cameras are calibrated to 18% gray, 12% gray, or 12.5, 13% or 14% etc. During the creation of my camera profile using my Sekonic L-758D light meter and the Sekonic (X-Rite Munsell Color) Exposure Profile Target II, I first took meter readings with both incident and reflected light from the 18% gray side of the target.

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile - Metering the Light - Incident

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile – Metering the Light – Incident

I then set my Canon EOS 5Ds R camera to the exact same settings that my Sekonic L-758D light meter measured and the exposure scale on the camera indicated that there was zero discrepancy from what the camera’s spot meter measured. The meter reading was exactly the same, and this tells me that Canon is using 18% gray.

This can vary depending on the light source, but this result is enough for me to proceed with this article using 18% gray as the middle-gray, and you’ll also learn why I don’t think this is totally important in the age of digital, and with the understanding that Ansel Adams adjusted exposure as necessary, we also know that it wasn’t something to get too bent out of shape about, even during Ansel Adams’ day.

Start With Your Mid-Tone

So, the starting point for setting your exposure with The Zone System was to identify your mid-tone or middle-gray. You can do this by viewing your scene, and taking meter readings from a number of subjects that you think would be close. Adams would look for something that he felt would spoil the photograph if it was allowed to become too dark, although he does talk about using an 18% gray card in The Negative as well, as a way to get an accurate exposure, if that is what you require.

When you first take a meter reading from your scene, the light meter will interpret the luminance value as though the substance being measured was a middle-gray. Although you can change this functionality, the meter will often assume that the first reading you take is the mid-tone, and start to record subsequent measurements in relation to this mid-tone, or middle gray.

I generally like to start my metering with an incident light measurement when I’m outdoors, assuming I’m in the same lighting conditions as the scene I’m photographing. This of course would not work if I was in shadow photographing a brighter area not under the same cover.

The Beauty of the Light Meter

The thing that I absolutely love about using a light meter though is, because they are measuring the luminance of a subject, unlike a camera’s built in metering system, they don’t try to convert everything to a mid-gray. If I take an incident meter reading of the light falling on a snow scene, then take a reflective meter reading of the snow itself, the snow will be around two stops brighter than the incident meter reading. I’d get the same two stop difference by taking a reflective meter reading from an 18% gray card as the base.

If this isn’t making much sense, get a piece of white paper and a piece of black paper, or anything that is black, but both need to be big enough to fill the frame of your camera. Put the camera in Aperture Priority mode an set the aperture to say f/5.6 and ensure that exposure compensation is at zero.

Fill the frame with the white paper, and take one photograph. Then, put the black object in the same place as the white one, under exactly the same light, and take a second photograph without changing the camera settings. Then, on the back of your camera, flick between the two images that you just shot. You’ll most likely find that they are both exactly the same. They’ll be a mid-gray. To actually make them black and white, you’d need to add +2 stops of exposure compensation when shooting the white paper, and -2 stops of exposure compensation when shooting the black paper.

Play the Metering Game

As another learning exercise with my light meter, I like to play a game where I measure the light falling on a scene with the incident meter, which is the method using the white dome on the light meter, and then press the Memory button on the meter to record that base measurement, and then try to meter something else in the scene that is as close to this incident meter reading as possible. You can do this in your living room, or outside, it doesn’t matter.

This helps to train your eye to find the mid-tones in your scene, and can actually be quite satisfying when, for example, you meter the light source, then find something that is within just a third or two thirds of a stop brighter or darker than the incident light measurement. A little geeky, maybe, but this is the sort of thing that I’ve done over the years to hone my skill in estimating exposure, and that is a big part of what this is all about.

Find Your Extreme Luminance Values

Back to metering your scene in the field now, it’s not important that your metered mid-tone is absolutely the middle-gray, as we’ll adjust this anyway, based on the following part of the exercise. You now need to identify and measure the lightest and darkest parts of your scene. If you are following along with me here with your own light meter, figure out how to memorize the tones that you are measuring.

The Sekonic L-758D can memorize up to 9 meter readings, by pressing the Memory button on the left side, underneath the spot metering lens. Once I have my incident light measurement saved, and probably one or two reflective measurements from what I thought were the mid-tones in the scene, I’ll start to measure and save the luminance values for the lightest and darkest parts of the scene.

If the sun is in your scene, there isn’t much point in taking a meter reading from the sun’s disk itself, and you also need to be careful not to look directly at the sun through the light meter’s spot meter viewfinder, as many of these are magnified so you could damage your eyes. In The Zone System, the sun would also be considered a specular highlight, falling in zone X (10), so we wouldn’t try to prevent it from over-exposing anyway.

Do take a reading though, for example, of bright cloud near to the sun, especially if it is important that there is some detail recorded in these areas. The same goes for the darkest parts of the scene. Record some values from foreground rocks for example, that might have their shadow side facing you. These might be very dark.

Protect Your Shadows?

If you find that the shadow areas in your scene are very dark, you have to make a decision as to whether or not the detail and texture in the rock is important. In the original Zone System, if your shadow areas were more than three stops darker than your mid-tone, you would start to lose the appearance of substance or texture in these areas.

This means for example, if your mid-tone Zone V (5) with the aperture set to f/8 was metered to give you a shutter speed of say 1/125 of a second, and your dark foreground rocks were metering at 1/8 of a second, that’s four stops darker, putting the rocks in Zone I (1), and that’s where The Zone System is defined to have slight tonality but no texture. If you were to go to 1/4 of a second that would put your rocks in zone 0 (zero) so they’d be completely black, with no visible texture.

As we’ll see later, this is one key area where modern digital imaging has exceeded the boundaries of The Zone System as defined by Ansel Adams, because it was based on old film, which had a much smaller dynamic range. This means that now we would need to either remap the zones to not mean one stop of EV per zone, or do what I do, which is to learn how far I can push my exposure, and work to new boundaries, but still keeping the Zone System in mind.

So, if you do need to protect your shadow areas for some reason, say they are even darker and you feel that there will be no detail there, even with the dynamic range of your camera, which we’ll talk about shortly, then you have to consider brightening up your image.

Protect Your Highlights for Digital

The major difference with the film based Zone System and how it is applied to digital imaging, is that in the film days, it was much easier recover detail in bright or over-exposed highlights than it was to recover lost shadow detail. In The Negative, Adams says “The low values (shadow areas) are controlled primarily by exposure, while the high values (light areas) are controlled by both exposure and development.

In digital imaging, once we’ve over-exposed our highlights, there is no way to get any detail back, so we have to do the reverse, and protect our highlights when shooting digital. If we look again at the graph showing data from my 5Ds R during the creation of my camera profile (below) we can see that the drop-off of information in my shadows is a much shallower curve than my highlights, so there is a much better chance of me saving my shadows, than salvaging detail from blown highlights.

Sekonic DTS Adjusted Profile Graph

Sekonic DTS Adjusted Profile Graph

Digital Place and Fall

If, like me, you use a technique called ETTR or Expose To The Right, this means that you set your exposure so that your highlights are almost or even just touching the right side of the histogram, and then let the mid-tones and shadows fall where they will. Adams uses the term Place and Fall when describing the Zone System, meaning that you find your mid-tone or Zone V (5) exposure tones, and then let the shadow and highlight detail fall where they will, unless you have to adjust exposure to protect either of the extremes.

You can do exactly this in digital as well, and with today’s image quality, your images won’t suffer much for this, but because of the way digital images are recorded, we get more and more grain as the mid-tones and shadow areas get darker and darker, so you will get better image quality by recording your image as brightly as possible, and this is exactly what ETTR does.

Even if my darkest shadows are only in Zone V (5) I still exposure for the highlights, and if necessary, I can darken the image down in post, getting the same exposure that I would have if I’d exposed with those mid-tones in the middle of the histogram, but I have much cleaner shadow areas using this technique. I place my highlights as close to the right as possible, and let the rest of the image fall where it will.

I use this technique pretty much across all of my photography, and I love the results I’m getting. Note too that even when my shadow areas seem incredibly dark, I am still getting detail from these areas, fully utilizing my 12 stops of dynamic range, as we’ll see in a moment. We can consider this digital place and fall.

In Meter Dynamic Range

If you recall from episode 501 in which we created the camera profile for my Canon EOS 5Ds R and transferred it to the Sekonic L-758D light meter, the reason I was so excited about this is because it enables me to show the dynamic range of my camera right there on the meter, so I can see if the luminance values in my scene fall inside the capability of my camera to record without over or underexposing my highlights and shadow areas.

In practice, because I’ve been using a meter for around 15 years, mostly as a learning and teaching tool, I don’t meter my scenes in the field all that often, especially as we can see the information we are capturing right there in the histogram, but I am really excited about having my dynamic range displayed right there on the L-758D light meters exposure scale, both to work with students, but also just to easily check the extremes of contrast in my scenes as I evaluate my options.

Evaluating Your Scene

Let’s now jump into Photoshop and evaluate a photograph that I made on my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure Tour in January 2015. We’ll open the original photograph, straight out of the camera, and then I’ll show you the final image after converting it to black and white, and bringing out all the lovely detail from the tetra pods in the foreground, that I knew would be recorded, but really could not see in the image as I viewed it through the viewfinder or on the LCD display on my camera.

Photoshop Info Panel Options

Photoshop Info Panel Options

If you don’t have your Info panel displayed in Photoshop, hit the F8 key or click Info under the Window menu. Then click the button in the top right of the Info panel and select Panel Options… and you’ll see this dialog. I have my First Color Readout set to RGB Color and my Second Color Readout set to Lab color. Then, from the Photoshop tool bar select the Color Sampler Tool, which you’ll see when you click the Eyedropper Tool.

Now, as you roll your mouse over the image, you’ll see the numbers in the Info Panel change, showing you the values of the tones that you are rolling over. These numbers correspond to the ranges of numbers that I added to The Zone System chart that we looked at above, so you if you click on that image, then drag it to your desktop, you can open it as a reference.

The other cool thing about the Color Sampler Tool, is that when you click it, it adds a little marker to the image and you can see all of the Lightness values of the tones you click on. The L in Lab, as in the Lab Color that we selected earlier stands for Lightness, and ranges from 0 to 100.

Once you are at zero, you are recording pure black and at 100, you are recording pure white. These are the absolute extremes of The Zone System. After you’ve clicked to record a sample, if you right click it, you can change it to Lab if you prefer to reference the 0 to 100 scale, which I personally prefer for this exercise. Before you start to sample tones, change the Sample Size to 31 by 31 Average in the top toolbar, so that you aren’t sampling too small an area.

You’ll need to click on the below image to see these sample marks, and maybe even drag it to your desktop and open it on your computer to see, but in the middle of the image, you’ll find my first sample, which we can see in the top right has a Lightness of exactly 50, which is smack in the middle of Zone V (5). This is my mid-tone for this scene.

Photoshop Lab Samples

Photoshop Lab Samples

If you look at the second easier to see Sample 2 (above) you’ll see that this Lightness value is 99. It’s just a hair under 100, where all detail is lost. That’s the brightest part of the scene, and very close to being totally blown out. Down in the bottom left corner, you’ll see Sample 3 (above) which has a Lightness value of 1. This is the darkest shadows I can record and still have a chance of recovering any information.

Looking at this image, if you have your display calibrated and the correct Brightness, you really shouldn’t be able to see much, down there in the bottom left corner. That’s how it looked through the viewfinder and on my LCD display in the field as well. I went ahead and made this exposure though, because I knew that these values were close, but not totally out of my dynamic range.

Converting to Black and White

If you know my work, you’ll probably know that I’m a huge fan of black and white photographs, and even as I shot this image, I knew that I would take it into Silver Efex Pro 2 and convert it to black and white as my final image. I’ve done tutorials on Silver Efex Pro in the past, so we won’t look at that today, but I wanted to point out one important feature of Silver Efex Pro that I use before saving every image I convert to black and white with it.

You’ll need to click on the image (below) and open up your browser window as wide as possible to see this full size, but if you look down in the bottom right corner, you’ll see 11 small boxes, ranging from black to white, numbered 0 to 10. You’ve guessed it. This is a dynamic indication of The Zone System, right there in Silver Efex Pro. (Remember that once you’ve clicked the image to view it larger, you’ll need to place your mouse over the image to stop it advancing to the next image automatically.)

Zone X (10) Indication

Zone X (10) Indication

As you can see (above) when I roll over Zone 10, there are some diagonal lines that have appeared over the brightest part of the sky where the sun’s rays are radiating from. If I wanted to I could have brought these down a little in my final image, but I actually consider these silver linings on the clouds as specular highlights, and decided to leave them this bright.

As long as I know which areas are very bright, I can make the decision as to whether or not I will change the image, and that is the beauty of these Zone System displays. I am though less likely to allow shadows to totally plug up, because blacks tend to print really dark anyway. For this image, when I rolled my mouse over Zone 0 (zero) there were no areas that are totally black. This screenshot shows areas in Zone 1, and they are basically limited to areas of deep shadow, which is exactly how I planned this photo.

Zone I (1) Indication

Zone I (1) Indication

Finally, once I saved the image and return to Photoshop (below), we can now see the new values from the black and white image, as the Color Sample markers are still in place. My darkest shadows have increased from 1 to 5, my brightest highlights have come down from 99 to 98, and my mid-tone has become very slightly brighter at 53.

Lab Samples from Black and White Image

Lab Samples from Black and White Image

The important thing to note here as well is that what appeared to be very deep shadows in my original image actually contained a lot more texture and detail that you might have thought, especially if you’d seen this on the back of the camera as I shot this image. It’s at times like this that many people start to think of HDR to increase the dynamic range, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I rarely do HDR, as I don’t believe it’s necessary.

If HDR is a creative avenue for you, then that’s fine, but if you don’t particular enjoy the process, then hopefully some of what we’ve covered here will help you to rely a little more on your cameras ability to capture a full range of tones.

Just to clarify as well, before we finish, the image I’ve used in this example was shot with my 5D Mark III, not the 5Ds R. The 5D Mark III actually had very slightly less dynamic range than the 5Ds R, so we’d be looking at a very similar example anyway.


OK, so to wrap this up, I’d like to reiterate that you don’t necessarily need a light meter to make great photographs. I didn’t meter the above scene in the field. I relied totally on the histogram, which I do believe is an essential tool, especially when we are pushing the extremes of our cameras’ dynamic range.

I also find it very important to turn on highlight warnings on my camera. The highlight warnings are based on the in camera JPEG, so I tend to keep my Picture Style set to Neutral or Faithful, so as not to change this much, but it’s still an 8 bit JPEG and there is much more detail and information captured in the raw file.

I use the preview as a guide, and sometimes set the exposure so that I’m just starting to blow out my highlights, and then I find that the resulting images are actually just inside the limits, and very usable, right up to a point that would probably have had Ansel Adams rethinking his Zone System as well. If he was still with us though, he would have embraced digital with open arms, and I’m sure he’d be pushing exposure to extremes like this, pulling as much out of the technology as possible.

If you are thinking of buying a light meter, although it’s been on the market for a while now, I can’t recommend the Sekonic-L-758DR Digital Master light meter enough. The ability to create those camera profiles using the Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II takes it’s usefulness to a whole new level, as you can see right there on the meter exactly how your scene maps to your own camera’s dynamic range. If you haven’t already, check out episode 501 for more on that.

The other important feature of the Sekonic L-758D or DR in the US, is that it has a 1° spot meter, which is vitally important for taking accurate readings from your scene. Many other meters have 5° spot meters, which are too wide to really pick out and meter fine details in your scene.

Although the light meter is not 100% necessary today, as I’ve mentioned, I do find them very valuable as a way to learn about exposure, and light, and how it affects our images both in the field and in post processing. I also find the light meter to be a very useful teaching tool, so if you teach photography yourself, it’s also definitely worth considering, and I’ve included a number of exercises today that you can do yourself, so I hope that this whole post has been useful for you.

Show Notes

Ansel Adams’ The Negative on Amazon: https://mbp.ac/TheNegative

Sekonic L-758DR : https://mbp.ac/Sekonic-L-758DR

Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II: https://mbp.ac/ept2

Music by Martin Bailey


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Podcast 286 : Camera Review – Canon PowerShot S95

Podcast 286 : Camera Review – Canon PowerShot S95

About six months ago, I decided that it was time to make my compact digital camera really compact. I traded in my Canon PowerShot G10 for a PowerShot S95. The G10 was a nice camera, but it’s not really all that compact. It certainly isn’t small enough to just stuff in your pocket. Also, although when I first got it, I was happy with the image quality, the more I used it, the less satisfied I became.

There was a noisiness about the images that started to stand out more and more as time went by. One of the appealing things about the S95 though, is that Canon dropped the megapixels from 15 in the G10 to 10 in the S95, and it’s big brother, the G11. They obviously realized that it was time to listen to their customers, and give us cleaner images rather than megapixels. Don’t get me wrong I’ll take the megapixels in the full sized sensor cameras. I’ll take as much as I can get as long as it isn’t at the expense of image quality or high ISO performance, but that wasn’t the case with the tiny sensors that they put into the compact digital range. They just couldn’t take 15 megapixels, at least not with the technology of a couple of years ago.

Canon PowerShot S95

Canon PowerShot S95

I’m not going to go into great detail on the full spec of the Canon PowerShot S95. If you want to check out the full specs, you can see them on the Canon Web site, or DPReview. What I do want to do though, is talk first about the features that I found attractive enough to trade in my G10 for.

The Polar Pioneer

The Polar Pioneer

First and foremost, as I just mentioned, is the improved image quality. A friend had bought an S95 and showed me some of his pics, and I was really impressed with the quality for a compact digital. Although the S95 produces smaller files or lower resolution images than my high-end Digital SLR cameras, the quality really is exceptional. Of course, you end up with only half the pixels, so you can’t print as big at the same quality, but for general use and reasonably big prints, 10 megapixels is plenty.

To illustrate my point, first, here’s a shot of the Polar Pioneer (right), the ship that we were on in Antarctica recently, with a Magellan Penguin in the foreground, and a beautiful sky and sunset behind. The story behind this is that we’d walked to the other side of Barren Island in the Falklands to shoot the Sea Lions and Elephant Seals, and we were on our way back to the base when I shot this. Walking through the long grass and tussock grass was hard work, and we didn’t have a lot of time left to get to our base, where the Zodiacs would come to pick us up. As I saw this scene, I thought for a second about changing my lens and using the 16-35, or 24-70mm for this, but then recalled the S95 in my pocket, and figured that would be fine. I actually had a moment when it wasn’t in the pocket that I’d expected it to be. I thought I’d dropped it, but I found it, and shot this image.

You can see here in this 100% crop of the ship, that there is plenty of detail in there, although it is very dark, as I pretty much shot this as a silhouette, to show those beautiful rays of light from the sun coming through the cloud. There’s a tiny bit of grain, and it’s not quite as sharp as you’d get from a high-end digital SLR, but hey, it’s a $399 compact digital camera that fits in your pocket. I have no complaints, that’s for sure.

The Polar Pioneer 100% crop

The Polar Pioneer 100% crop

Look here too at a 100% crop of a section of the sky. You can see that although I’ve blown out some areas of the cloud for the sake of the rest of the photo, it’s blown out in a very pleasing way, with plenty of detail in the cloud around it that isn’t blown out. We’ve even captured some of those very subtle rainbow colored cloud edges, which is quite impressive.

Sky 100% Crop

Sky 100% Crop

It goes without saying that I want even a compact digital camera to shoot RAW images, and have a Manual mode. I’m more likely to use Aperture Priority in a compact digital, but I simply feel more comfortable in Manual mode, and there are times when I want total control over the exposure. One thing that always annoyed me with compact digital cameras though, is that because you only have limited space for dials and buttons, you often have to jump through hoops to use them in Manual mode. Canon solved this on the S95 though, by adding what they called the Control Ring. This is a ring around the base of the lens that can be easily turned easily with your fingers as you compose your shot. You can see the ring, which is the largest ring around the lens in this photo of my S95.

Canon PowerShot S95

Canon PowerShot S95

Control Ring – Totally Awesome!

What makes this Control Ring totally awesome though, is that you can change which setting on the camera the Control Ring changes very easily. Even more useful though, is that Canon assigned a different standard function to the Control Ring depending on what mode you are in. For example, if you are Manual or Aperture Priority mode for example, the standard function for the Control Ring is to adjust the Aperture. If I switch to Shutter Priority, the Control Ring adjusts the Shutter Speed.

There is another dial on the camera, on the back between four other buttons, as you can see in this photo (below), and the other cool thing about how Canon designed this little beauty, is that as you select different shooting modes, this second dial also changes its function. So, when I’m in Manual Mode, with the Control Ring changing the Aperture, the dial on the back changes the Shutter Speed. If I’m in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode, the dial on the back of the camera adjusts Exposure Compensation.

Canon PowerShot S95

Canon PowerShot S95

The other setting that affects exposure of course is the ISO. This is usually at least one button press then a dial on digital SLR cameras, so I’m not necessarily concerned about having this as a dial for direct access, but if you want that, you can change the operation of the Control Ring to change the ISO if you feel that works better for you.

If you press the Function Set button in the middle of the back dial the first setting to appear is the ISO, and you change it with the back dial, so this is very much like how you change the ISO on a digital SLR. You can also move up and down in this menu by pressing the top and bottom of the back dial, and that give you instant access to White Balance, Bracketing, Drive mode, which is, whether you shoot one shot, continuous frames or continuous AF shooting. You can also change the Image type, as in RAW, JPEG or RAW + JPEG. These settings are almost easier to access than they are on a digital SLR body, which is great!

Getting back to the Control Ring briefly though before we move on, I generally leave it in the standard function mode, and use what Canon decided to assign to the Ring on a per mode basis, but there’s a button on top of the camera to change the function assigned to the Control Ring. One press of the Ring Function button gives you a list containing Standard, to assign the Default function, ISO, Exposure Compensation, Manual Focus, White Balance, Zoom, i-Contrast, Aspect Ratio and Custom. I’ve not used this yet, but I can imagine that being able to use the Control Ring to manually focus would be great for macro work, and zoom might be more intuitive with a turning ring like a standard lens, so it’s nice to be able to assign these settings to the Ring.

The lens on the S95 is the 35mm equivalent of 28-105mm, which is a nice range.



The S95 understands and allows you to change the time zone, so it was easy to set the time to Buenos Aires as I headed out there to start our Antarctica trip. This is something that Canon SLRs have been missing, and I hope they get soon, if the recent models don’t already have time zones.

In the camera settings, you can superimpose a Histogram over the image on the LCD as well as a grid, to aid in composition. You can create two settings actually, and then when you press the Display button on the back of the camera, it toggles between the two settings. So, for example, you can have one setting that shows all of your shooting information, the histogram and a grid, but then have a second setting that only shows the grid. Then, when you press the Display button, you can remove the histogram and shooting information, just leaving the grid, so that there’s nothing on the screen to get in the way while composing your shot.

The S95 has built in Image Stabilization, which is nice, especially as light drops. I was able to hand hold for a 1/4 of a second exposure for this shot (right) in the National Cathedral in Buenos Aires.

The larger pixels, or photo sites provides us with the ability to use relatively high ISOs without reducing the image to a piece of total crap, as with earlier compact digitals. Here’s another image that I shot inside the National Cathedral, but this time, I chose ISO 1600, which I would simply not have selected with my G10, but the image quality is incredible.

Beam of Light

Beam of Light

Here’s a 100% crop of a section of the image for you to see, that the grain is really very acceptable for an ISO 1600 image from a compact digital.

Beam of Light 100% Crop

Great Video Too!

I was also attracted to this little camera because it shoots 1280 x 720 video at 24fps. This is not full High Definition video, but the majority of the video that I release, even though I shoot it in full HD quality, for the Web, I generally encode it at 720p, so I could use footage shot with the S95 too. I actually shot some video with the S95 at my Exhibition last Dec, and was surprised by how well it could be hand-held, helped of course by the built in Image Stabilization. What shakiness is left could probably be easily removed by the new Warp Stabilizer feature in Adobe After Effects CS5.5, which I’m really looking forward to trying out.

Some things like the quality of the video, and the low noise at high ISOs were really added bonuses after I bought the S95. I had held the S95 before I bought one, but as I use it more, I’m really happy with the form factor too. It feels solid and high quality in the hand, and the size is perfect. I carry my iPhone with me everywhere, but I really want a little more control and larger resolution images if I’m going to use those resulting images as art pieces reproduced at a decent size.

With my Canon Case

With my Canon Case

Although there’s a dust cover that automatically protects the lens when the camera is turned off, you don’t really want to be putting the camera into your pocket or bag unprotected, so I bought the Canon branded case that is available here in Japan. Here’s a photo of the camera half in the case (above), and you can see that it’s really low profile. It’s a leather case, so it feels nice to touch too. There’s a magnetic clasp to keep the cover closed too, but it requires just the right amount of pressure to open the case. This protects the camera while in my back pocket, or thrown into my bag, so whenever I’m heading out without my SLR, this is now with me, so I don’t miss a photo opportunity.

In the Canon Case

Case Closed

Now, of course, if I’m going out to photograph something where I’m going to need very shallow depth of field, or high-resolution images etc. or if I’m going out to do a commercial shoot, I’m going to reach for my digital SLR cameras, but being able to get images this good when necessary, without carrying all the gear, is nice.

The reason I shot in Buenos Aires is another good example of when a nondescript compact digital camera can make sense. When we were heading into town from the airport, the person that met us at the airport to take us to our hotel told us “Buenos Aires is a safe place, but sometimes people get robbed with a gun or a knife, so be careful”. This was enough for me to go with the S95 when I didn’t have any serious photographic objectives. Of course, I carried my gear when necessary, but just for a walk around town, when we ended up going into the National Cathedral, the a PowerShot S95 was camera enough.


If you are looking for a small carry-around camera, that you really can just put into your back pocket, but also one that will shoot RAW images, and has Manual Mode to give you full control, then I can highly recommend the Canon PowerShot S95. It’s helping me to get some shots when the full kit just doesn’t make sense, so I’m very happy that I picked up my S95.

Podcast show-notes:

Buy the a Canon PowerShot S95 from B&H

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


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