(go to the bottom for all the links)

This is as in-depth as I’ll ever go in sharing my before & after images and sharing my workflow. I don’t think I’ve ever shown a raw, out of camera image before.

So many people have been asking how I use Capture One, Photoshop and Alien Skin Exposure, I think it’s time to do some sharing.

I’ve mentioned this Facebook a bunch of times: Capture One has changed the way I shoot. I now only shoot tethered.

Every photographer has had the same experience – you don’t want to show the back of the camera to the client. First you have to do a bunch of work to sort out the contrast and color balance and sometimes even the white balance. You want the client to see the final, gorgeous, polished version, not the crappy raw file.

And more so than the client, there’s your side as the photographer. You have to imagine what the final image may end up looking like. And you don’t really know either. You’re already so busy with shooting that this just adds an extra bit of worry ‘will this image work out?’.


Here’s the solution:

1) Use Capture One (10% off with ‘AMBFELIX’). I shoot tethered via a USB cable. This means every shot the camera takes is automatically imported into the computer. This obviously wouldn’t work at a wedding but it’s helpful in the studio and even on location shoots.

When you shoot in Capture, you end up with the RAW file, it looks flat, it looks boring, it has no contrast and the white balance is often off. This is where I make my first changes. I ordinarily: Correct White Balance; tweak exposure; increase contrast; desaturate a little bit; work in shadows and highlights to suit; and maybe adjust the color balance. I leave levels and clarity alone for the most part.

Before and after shooting tethered in Capture One

This will give me a beautiful image right off the bat. Capture One will automatically apply these adjustments to each new image as you shoot. Simple. Powerful.

It makes all the difference. Psychologically you are now not covering up terrible looking images in the back of the camera and hoping the client doesn’t ask to see them. Instead you can shoot proudly and get excited about what you’re shooting. Such a different process. This is a HUGE issue for a lot of photographers.

A little tip: Use Capture in SESSION view, you’ll see how it manages the files through the filesystem. I much prefer that. So for a shoot of Allie, I would have something like ‘Allie Portrait Shoot’ as my folder name on my shoot drive (I use an external drive). It would be where all the Captures are stored. I don’t use the catalogue view in Capture.

So now you have an image that’s already amazing, and I like to stretch the definition of ‘in camera’ to include this, the Capture One edits, as they can be applied while you’re shooting:

Before and After using Capture One tethered – each image from the shoot will have this look and feel

2) Edit skin in photoshop. I export the files from Capture One into a folder on my desktop, usually something like ‘Allie Retouch’  - I export in 16 Bit TIFF in Adobe RGB

I take the images into photoshop and do a light skin retouch and handle any major messes. Usually I’ll have shot them so that they look pretty decent using the lighting I previewed on my How-To Class on CreativeLIVE.

I won’t show more of my photoshop process here. Watch Pratik Naik’s class on retouching, I learnt most everything from him and the plentiful online resources out there. Sue Bryce also has a lot of resources in this regard.

All the finished images on here have had some small photoshop work done for skin and little fixes.

3) I use the standalone Alien Skin Exposure 6 app (30% off with ‘FKZ1409′ till Sunday night) on my mac to do color work on these images. The process, as explained in my demo is not as scientific as it may seem – I rely heavily on my personal taste which I’ll try explain below.

I’ve created a set of presets based on the images below.  They are available to download here. Grab them and follow along

allie final

Preset ‘Allie2′ – light toning to give it a more vintage feel

preset ‘Allie Hair’ – the main inspiration here was the Les Miserables poster by Annie Leibovitz. I wanted to achieve my own version of that image.

preset ‘Stephen’ – this one for me was about finding the split between the raw and the capture look and lightening things up a tad

Preset ‘Regi’ – this one was almost perfect in Capture, it just needed a little portrait and a low opacity light leak from the top

Preset ‘Diana Hair’ – This is all about giving her that ‘iPod commercial’ feel. Mostly in color toning and a light leak from above

The ‘Allie1′ preset is a simple vignette and included as a bonus.

I urge you all to explore these presets and see what I did. Make your own, have fun with it! I’d love to see them on my Facebook page too.

Those of you paying attention will notice there’s also a NEUTRAL preset. This is what I use and start my edits from. I don’t think it’s in Exposure by default so I made one of my own.

That’s it. Simple. Fast. Beautiful images. 


Capture One – 10% off with ‘AMBFELIX’ – all through mid 2015
Alien Skin Exposure 6 - 30% off with ‘FKZ1409′ till Sunday
Felix’s Alien Skin Exposure preset pack - FREE!


  1. enta reply

    Hi Felix,
    Your lighting series are wonderful but this link’s videos don’t work. Can you fix it please? Thanks.

    • Felix

      Unfortunately they are super super old and unsupported at this point :)

  2. Zaka reply

    Is it possible to get the presets now i really want to try them out

    • Felix

      They aren’t active anymore as we did them in 2014 and as far as I know the software is no longer compatible with them.

  3. Vincent reply

    Hi Felix,
    I tried downloading your preset on alien skin above, after watching a tutorial you did on creative live but it keeps coming up with error

  4. Sean Galland reply

    Hi Felix,
    Great article . The presets links are not active. Are they available someplace else?


  5. Isaac Alvarez reply

    I was curious on how you did your color grading, do you always have to do it on post or can you achieve this on set. This is amazing great job on making it subtle, awesome images bud.

    • Felix

      I now do most of my color grading in Capture One. The Explorers Club Project I’m about to post was all done on set.

  6. Lukas reply

    Thanks for the post!
    Is it possible to way in another direction ? For example first to go into exposure, choose your preset and then to use capture one to optimize the skin tones?

    • Felix

      nope, Capture only does RAW files. You can edit JPGs in Capture but you’re not going to get the same results as the pixel depth just isn’t the same.

  7. Analia Paino reply

    Thanks Felix!

    Always great to see SOOC and the final piece. It gives us mere mortals hope!


    Analia :)

  8. Joe reply

    Great stuff, Felix. Thanks so much for sharing your workflow in Exposure. Really appreciate it!

  9. Monica Cole reply

    Hi Felix,

    Thanks for the great post! I am assuming that once you choose your edits in Capture One you can set it as a preset that will be applied as each tethered shot comes into the computer as you are shooting.. As a result your client is seeing a quickly edited RAW file instead of a sooc camera RAW image. Am I correct? I could not understand your explanation of how the edit is taking place as you shoot each image.

  10. Susana Mer reply

    Wow, I’ll try capture one for sure, I hope it works with my Nikon D80. I’ve been wanting to try tethered for some time but my old laptop was soooo trashed it wasn’t a laptop anymore (no battery, no all the keys worked, etc… lol). When I finally bought one I discovered that Lightroom didn’t work with the D80, I find another program wich capture the photo and send it to Lightroom but is a little slow working… sooo I’ll try this. I follow you and Sue’s advice on Alienskin and are very happy with it so I’ll try capture one to :) (sorry for the extended comment).
    Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

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