Jeff Ascough is one of the world’s top wedding photographers. Based in the UK, Jeff shoots approximately 30 weddings per year across the UK and Europe, and his work has been featured in all major photographic publications on five continents.
Recently we had the pleasure to speak with Jeff Ascough, one of the world’s top wedding photographers who is based in the UK. Jeff shoots approximately 30 weddings per year across the UK and Europe, and his work has been featured in all major photographic publications on five continents. He is also an international Ambassador for Canon cameras and travels all over Europe educating and inspiring photographers on behalf of Canon.
When we had spoken last, six years ago, Jeff was an enthusiastic Capture One Pro user. He had told us then that Capture One Pro’s ability to convert to black and white files was “quite simply, the best I’ve seen in a RAW converter.” So we asked him why in the interim had he decided to start using Adobe Lightroom?
“The main reason I moved to Lightroom was for its adjustment brushes, something which Capture One didn’t have five years ago. The brushes gave me the option to go back to processing images just as I had done in the old darkroom. The brushes allowed me to dodge and burn the highlights and shadows and gave me more control over the image while it was still in its RAW format, and I liked that. I’ve used Lightroom for several years now.
Back to Capture One Pro
“Recently I was looking for viable alternatives to Lightroom, and I decided to try version 7 of Capture One Pro. It was like, ‘Wow -- this is what I wished Capture One Pro had been like five years ago!’”
Jeff downloaded the 60-day free trial and found the black and white presets that he’d loved before were even better -- “plus it has great noise reduction, a fantastic customizable user interface, and best of all, new layers with which you can use the new adjustment tools and brushes. The software just fitted perfectly into the way that I like to work.
“One of the things that most raw converters don’t do well is convert images to black and white. When you see a film-based black and white print, the tonal range is always smooth with a good but not excessive amount of tone. But when it comes to digital, there is so much tonal range available, especially in the midtones which, while great for colour, can make black and whites look very flat and muddy if not handled properly. A lot of RAW software presets simply strip the colour away rather than alter the tonal range, which means you end up with a flat looking image.
No Need for Plug-ins
“When I used Lightroom, I needed plug-ins like Nik’s Silver Efex to get my black and whites looking good. The downside to plug-ins is that you always end up taking the image outside of the RAW software, editing it in the plug-in, and then bringing it back into the software just to get the results that you want. Plug-ins are popular because they are designed to solve the problems with getting RAW software to handle black and white properly. However, the process of editing images then becomes bloated and time consuming as a result. It’s a solution, but not ideal.
“The really cool thing with Capture One Pro 7 is that the black and white presets are exceptional -- easily as good as any third party plug-in I’ve used. This allows me to stay in the software during the whole editing process. I can do my conversion, dodge and burn, alter contrast and add grain all in one place. I can also do variants on an image and compare different conversions if I need to. The RAW image remains untouched until I export it, so I’m also achieving maximum image quality, which is important.
“The purchase price is higher than Lightroom but, in my opinion, Capture One Pro 7 is also a far superior piece of software. The output quality looks better to my eyes than what I was getting before. Add that to the quality of the black and white output and the fact that you won’t have to pay for expensive plug-ins -- it’s actually really good value for the money. The updating process is good and it always feels like I’m using a premium product designed for professionals, rather than a piece of software trying to be all things to everyone, pro and amateur alike.
Learning Capture One Pro 7
“I think the biggest problem with Capture One Pro 7 is that when you first open it up the interface looks daunting -- a bit like learning to fly in a Boeing 747 with all those dials and panels. To get to grips with it, I just switched everything off to start with and then added tools as I needed them. The fact that you can properly customize the interface is a breath of fresh air.
“I have my workspace divided into different sections, so if I’m working in color all the tools are there in one screen. If I’m working in monochrome, all the tools I need for black and white are right there ready to be used. There isn’t any jumping between modules to do different things to the image.”
Like many other photographers, Jeff was disappointed with Adobe’s decision to move its customers to a subscription-based model. Having spent thousands of pounds with Adobe already, he told us, “I just couldn’t buy into a situation where the only way I could use Adobe’s software with the latest camera technology was to pay a subscription each month for Creative Cloud. I’ve spent thousands on Adobe products in my career and would have at least liked the option of continuing to upgrade or purchase new software."
Working faster -- a whole lot faster
“In contrast with what I have been using, the presets with Capture One Pro 7 give a great raw conversion immediately. I’m able to print 30 or 40” prints with absolutely amazing quality straight out of Capture One Pro 7.
“If I’m working in black & white I like to use the color editing tools to adjust different tones within the black & white image. Simply changing the tint of the original color image can alter the tones in the subsequent black and white image. With my portraiture this is a great way of enhancing flesh tones and make up, something which would be impossible to do in a traditional darkroom.
“Ironically enough, given that I’d chosen Lightroom because of its analogous darkroom tools (the brushes for dodging and burning), I’m finding that Capture One Pro 7 actually gives me more of the darkroom experience. It’s a matter of control. Capture One Pro 7 gives a very high level of control.
“With digital black and white, the problem is that you want it to look film based -- as close as possible. You need to be able to crunch the tonal range and one problem is that a lot of raw software doesn’t allow you to control those tones -- where you can produce sparkling images. Capture One Pro 7 brings you close to ideal black and white, then using curves and levels you can bring the highlights and shadows, and then with the brushes and gradients dodge and burn, and finally you have color editing tools that will specifically enhance tones if you want to go that deep.
“On the color side, I find that Capture One Pro 7 produces more natural colors easier than other pieces of software. Other software has biases to blues or greens or reds. Most of the time with Capture One Pro 7, the colour is pretty damn close on import.
“The ability in Capture One Pro 7 to fine tune skin tones and to fine tune other colors as well is great. One of the problems we have in the UK is the proliferation of fake tanning. This is especially an issue with wedding photography as you might have a bride with her bridesmaids and they are all different shades of orange!! The Color editing tools can correct the skin tone and even it up, and it works really well in those instances where you have someone who’s face is heavily made up causing a difference in tone between the face, neck and shoulders.
The Bottom Line
“The consistency in Capture One Pro 7 Styles is remarkable. For my portrait photography it is really quick to use. In the studio I have total control over the shot, so all I do is import the images into Capture One Pro 7 with a saved black and white preset, select the images that I want, and then do any minor tweaks.
“With Lightroom, a preset in black and white would look different with every picture; Capture One Pro 7 presets impact each picture the same way. That means that where it once would take me a couple of days to process images -- a day in raw software and a day in Photoshop doing black and white corrections just to improve contrast -- it now takes me a day to process everything within Capture One Pro 7. That means if I’ve shot 30 weddings, then I’ve saved a month! Ask me how much that is worth . . . . “