Working With Capture One’s Exposure Warnings Feature

Hi Folks:

Before I get started I wanted to add a shout out to two people: David Grover (Capture One) and Paul Reiffer, both of whom know much more about Capture One than I do, and from whom I’ve learned most of what I do know. Thanks!

Okay. This post is going to assume two things. The first is that you know what a photographic histogram is, and the second is that you’re familiar with Capture One’s editing software. If you need help with the first, we have a (very old) post here on the Essentials of Digital Photography. If you need help learning Capture One, check out the links above or leave a comment here.

I’m using Capture One 21 (14.2) but if I remember correctly this should work back to at least version 12 if not before.

Now, no matter what sensor your camera has, you’re going to have a certain amount of dynamic range to work with. My Sony a7r III has 14 stops of dynamic range (at base ISO!) but depending on the lighting and contrast in the scene you may have to make choices about exposing for the highlights, shadows or making multiple exposures and creating an HDR composite. The Exposure Warning tool in Capture One is to show you which areas of your image are either severely underexposed or severely overexposed.

We’ll start with the Exposure tab in the Preferences (click on any image to see it larger):Here you can see that the default settings for Capture One are to show clipped (overexposed) highlights in red, with anything over 250/255 considered clipped. The clipped shadows are off by default. I agree with Paul Reiffer when he said that he doesn’t want to know if something is almost clipped. He wants to know when something is actually clipped. Also, since the three primary colour channels for digital photography are Red, Green and Blue, to me it doesn’t make sense to have a clipping indicator I might not be able to see. I made the following changes:
I set the highlight clipping indicator to 254 and I set the shadows clipping indicator to 1. I also changed the colour of the highlight clipping to fuchsia rather than red (click on the colour box to change it).

We’ll start with this image:
Here we have intrepid cell phone photographer, Marcia Nelson Pedde on assignment. The scene is backlit and much of the sky is over exposed. If we turn on the Exposure Warning you can see more clearly.
As you can see from the fuchsia warning there’s a lot of clipped area, and the Colour Readouts are showing all three RGB channels are washed out. However, all is not completely lost, as this is an 80MB raw file. A little clipping in a scene like this is expected, and if you try to deal with things too harshly your image will end up looking flat and muddy. By pushing the sliders around a bit we get here:
There’s still a little clipping and I can live with that. Unfortunately, while we have a beautiful model, the image itself isn’t that good, so let’s move on.
This is a six-image panorama from Tofino, BC and if you look at the area above the trees in the background in the middle of the frame you can see that it looks a little, well, burnt. Turning on the Exposure Warning gives us this result:
Yup. There’s quite a bit of fuchsia there. There’s also a little bit of shadow clipping in the rocks on the lower left, but I can live with that. However, when we look at the Colour Readouts for the fuchsia area  we see that only the RED channel is clipping here. The Green channel and the Blue Channel are well within tolerance, and the overall luminance for that zone is only at 200. Now, I’ll save you a lot of time and effort and tell you that trying to adjust the Exposure, Brightness, Highlights and Whites sliders will not help you, even if you were to create a new layer and carefully mask out only the clipped area. The results won’t look right. Believe me, I’ve tried. What to do? Fortunately, Capture One has a very powerful Advanced Colour Editor. This tool is your friend in this situation.
Using the Colour Picker tool I sampled an area from within the clipped zone, and set a fairly broad colour range, as can be seen from the colour wheel. Lowering the Saturation of that colour range won’t help you, but lowering the luminance value (Lightness) will. By dropping the Lightness to -15.5 I removed most of the clipped area.
In this case I made two more selections from the remaining clipped area and made much smaller Lightness adjustments each time. As you can see, the highlight clipping has been virtually eliminated. The image still shows the depth of colour of the sunset behind the trees and it doesn’t look as if I’ve obviously tried to change the exposure. Here’s a Before/ After Comparison:



So there you go… One more tool for your creative toolbox. If you have clipping in all three channels, exposure tools are the way to go. Depending on the situation you may need to use masked layers and/or the Luma Range tool to bring the exposure into line, but if only one channel is clipped try using the Advanced Colour Editor. I find on my images that anything more than about -15 Lightness starts to look forced, and you’re better off using multiple colour range selections instead.

Okay, that’s it. Now go out and make some photographs!!


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