Photography

My Go-To Sharpening and Noise Reduction Starting Point Settings in Capture One for any Camera’s Raw Files

My reason behind these are as follows:

  • The sharpening amount is often too high depending on the camera. This is particularly true of older camera. For my Nikon D700 this is the setting I use. However, I also find this works well with other newer cameras. My recently purchased Sony ZV-1 for example. It also seems to work well with some other Sony Cameras for some reason. You can always use this as a starting point and raise the settings if you thin it’s too low. For example, when working with my Sony A6000 Images I often use a value of 140.
  • I use a radius of 1 as it leads to more natural looking details in some cameras. However, depending non the camera, a value of 0.8 might work better. For 24 and 26mp Fuji X-Trans cameras for example I recommend a value of 0.8. The same with some higher megapixel Sony cameras. Try the different values and see the difference it makes.
  • For me, I don’t like the look that a threshold of 1 makes. Because threshold is a hard cut-off, rather than a soft fall-off, it can lead to some artefacting and processed looking images. The sacrifice is a little noise. If you’re using higher ISO images with a lot of noise, then bringing it back to a value of 1 might be necessary, but for “normal range” low ISO photos, my recommendation is to turn it down. Some of this is subtle, and you may not notice it. I think part of the reason that the default “Amount” is so high is to compensate for the effects of a higher threshold value, so when lowering or turning off the threshold, you generally need a smaller amount.
  • You shouldn’t need the Halo Reduction if your sharpening isn’t too high, but if you do need to turn it up, then a little Halo Reduction can help with edge problems. However, this can be abused too, and too high a setting will lead to artefacts.

Noise Reduction

The Noise Reduction settings in Capture One go hand in hand with the sharpening settings. I used to recommend turning it off completely in Capture One, but the software actually changed its noise reduction technology a while ago, and so my recommendations changed because they improved it so much.

You can leave most settings the same as the defaults, but I do recommend turning the Luminance amount down. If you’re shooting with a APSC or Full Frame camera and you’re shooting at a low to medium ISO setting, you can probably turn this off altogether. Personally, I prefer a small amount of Luminance noise to a processed looking, completely clean image. You can however raise not back to a value of 20 or so if you still find the amount of noise reduction insufficient. On smaller 1 inch type sensors, I use a value of 25 for normal ISO images.

For higher ISO images (ISO 1000 and above) you can leave it at the default settings of 50, and for very high ISO images, you can turn it up further, but it will result in a loss of detail. For very noisy high ISO images, you should check out DXO Pure Raw if you’re having trouble balancing the settings, as it does an amazing job with noise reduction.

Conclusion

Every time I post an article on sharpening, I get a range of responses from people, some of which are angry “You don’t know what you’re talking about” comments form people who use crazy high settings or turn sharpening off completely. Some people prefer different looks and there is absolutely a degree of personal preference in settings. I personally prefer my images to look as natural and as un-processed as possible, while still being crisp. Some people will prefer a slightly more processed look (that the defaults give). My preference comes from having images rejected by clients and agencies for either too much or too little processing, and from years of working with clients, and their clients.

While there are personal preferences, some things are also just wrong, so be careful not to over-sharpen your image. Someone once wrote to me that I was full of it, because they said that anything less than a value of 400 in Capture One isn’t sharpened enough. If you’re using a value this high in Capture One, you’re doing something fundamentally wrong. Unfortunately this knowledge is getting lost in an internet where strong opinions are more valuable than experience, and I’m seeing more and more publications putting out hideously over-sharpened and over-processed images.

There is a lot more to sharpening than I’ve covered here, and I have lots of other articles on it. I’m always refining and changing my techniques, and learning the best methods. There are additional ways to add detail, and additional creative sharpening methods, such as high pass sharpening, structure, and clarity, but thats kind of a different topic. Similarly there are things like output sharpening, and print sharpening, but again thats a more complex topic. For now, if you find that your details look pixelated, or over-sharpened in Capture One try changing the defaults to the settings mentioned here, and see if you prefer the results.

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