I have written multiple articles about my love affair with Capture One Pro. Being completely transparent, I switched to Capture One, then switched back to Lightroom, and now I have pretty much settled on Capture One Pro for good. Generally, because I feel that Capture One is the best image editor, with the best tools, to help the professional achieve just about any image editing task.
This back and forth came about for a bunch of reasons. For starters, many of my editorial clients only used Lightroom. When they would import my photos back into Lightroom from my Capture One file, a weird color shift would occur if that Capture One file was originally processed in Lightroom. It was as if the Lightroom adjustments were added to the Capture One adjustments producing an over saturated whacky image. This scenario only happens to images that were originally processed with Lightroom and then imported into Capture One.
The Work Around for Issue One
I have finally figured out the workaround for this problem—I have to strip the Lightroom metadata out of a photo that falls within this scenario. Again, it happens with previously edited Lightroom files, images imported directly into Capture One Pro do not exhibit this issue.
To fix the problem, I first remove the photo in question from the Lightroom Catalog (if it is still in there) and then delete the associated XMP sidecar file. I know, I know, this deletes the adjustments for that photo, but the photo looks so much better processed in Capture One that I would rather re-process it before exporting it to a client.
Solving Problem Number Two
Next, I couldn’t really figure out how to get my entire Lightroom catalog into Capture One Pro without things crashing at some point. It is a catalog of more than a quarter of a million images. I solved this problem by importing one folder at a time from Lightroom into Capture One. I am actually still in the process of this step, but gaining on it. Remember, a QUARTER OF A MILLION PHOTOGRAPHS.
Now Why Capture One is the Best
After years of frustration, Adobe made a bunch of updates to Lightroom that had the software actually functioning much faster, so I figured it was just easier at the time to abandon the switch. This all came crashing to a halt, literally and figuratively, when I started shooting with the Sony a7R IV. It was entirely my choice to start using this massive 60+ megapixel camera, but Lightroom went back to its old slow-down habits. Speed is probably the most important software issue that I face with such a massive catalog. When I can think faster than the adjustments being applied, something needs to change. This leads me right into the first reason that I feel Capture One is the best.
1) Capture One Pro - Speed
Capture One Pro is significantly faster than Lightroom. Period. Again. The reasoning behind this is probably many, but here are a few of my thoughts regarding the problem.
Capture One is the best because it isn’t bogged down by useless modules like the Web, Book, Slideshow, or Maps. Hey, if you like those modules more power to you, but they are pure gimmick in the world of professional photography. Capture One doesn’t use modules either. You can edit, print, and add metadata in the same window and that window is completely customizable—more on that later.
Speed Reason Two
Second, Lightroom probably has tons of stagnant, old code rattling around in its head. This is probably why Adobe Developers created Lightroom CC Classic and then just Lightroom CC. You can read more about that wacky experiment on this journal too. Capture One was built from the ground up after Lightroom, so in Adobe’s defense, Capture One started cleaner by “standing on the shoulders of geniuses”—name the movie and get a free print.
Speed Reason Three
Third, Capture One Pro was originally built by Phase One to handle files from their super high megapixel camera. If Capture One can handle a 120MP file, it can handle a 60MP file as well. Capture One Pro also ships with Sony cameras, so duh, it was an obvious solution to at least try Capture One again. This time though, I’m not going back. Capture One Pro is just too powerful now… Like the Jedi that went before me.
2) Capture One Pro - Customize
Let’s start with some of the simplest features that I have come to love in Capture One and move on to the more technical ones.
You can set the shortcut on virtually any function within Capture One Pro. In addition to being able to customize the shortcuts, Capture One’s shortcuts better reflect common sense, like the Crop Tool being activated by using the letter ‘C’ and the Brush Tool correspondingly by using ‘B’. In fact, most of the stock shortcuts in Capture One reflect those that Adobe uses in Photoshop. If you are like me, and have used Photoshop for years prior to Lightroom’s existence, Capture One will make you feel at home right from the start. Same goes if you are trapped in Lightroom’s ‘R’ for Crop and ‘K’ for the Brush, you can shortcut Capture One the way you want.
Photoshop has had custom workspaces for as long as I can remember, and Lightroom has now followed suit a little, by allowing you to customize the Develop Module Palettes. Capture One’s Custom Workspaces are just as powerful as what is offered in Photoshop. If you can dream up your workflow, you can customize Capture One to work with it—it will even simulate Lightroom at the click of a single option.
I actually have 3 Custom Workspaces—2 are editing based and the other is metadata based. When I add captions, keywords and locations to my photos, I don’t have anything else displaying on the screen but those tools and the photo I am adding the info to. This allows me to focus entirely on the task at hand.
I have written about keywording photos in my other Capture One articles, but this is another customizable option I love. You can create Keyword Presets that you then apply to a photo with one click. I use this to save groups of keywords for photos that I take regularly in Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks. I also have groups of keywords set up for athletes I photograph with on a regular basis that include their sponsors, gender, and discipline. Adding keywords in this way truly speeds up my editing workflow.
3) Capture One Pro - New Heal and Clone Tools
Midway through 2020, Capture One updated their software with new Heal and Clone Tools that work on their respective layers. I have the tools set with the same shortcut keys as Photoshop and as I use either of these tools, a layer is automatically created for the non-destructive adjustments. These two tools are almost as powerful as the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop as well. They are just missing the Content Aware feature that Photoshop possesses. Again, no biggie, if I need it for a larger fix, I have Photoshop. Still, I probably only need Photoshop 1% of the time when editing photos these days.
When Capture One updated these two tools mid-year, they did not charge for the update. That leads me to the fact that Capture One offers a perpetual license as well. Pay once and the software is yours. Don’t want to pay for the next major update, no problem keep using the software, you already own the license to it.
This is pretty liberating when Adobe now wants you to pay monthly to store your photos, in addition to the monthly Creative Cloud fees.
Layers is Capture One’s most powerful feature in my opinion. The ability to name, and then add multiple adjustments to a single layer, control those layers’ opacity and masking to an insane level is the game changer.
Yes, Lightroom lets you add multiple local adjustments, but not in the same way, as functional, or with the same precision or sophistication.
Within a Layer Mask of Capture One you have the ability to Refine the Mask, Feather the Mask, Adjust the mask’s opacity, and, the biggie, adjust its Luminosity. You can even create a mask from a color selection or tweak specific colors from a mask. The most import thing to note here, Capture One does all of this VERY accurately and that is really important from a quality photo standpoint.
5) Speed Edit
The latest version of Capture One 21 added a new featured called Speed Edit. Speed Edit allows you to hold down a single key on your keyboard and adjust a specific parameter of your photo by hold-clicking and sliding your mouse left or right. The engineers at Capture One used the Q, W, E, R, A, S, D, and F keys as the corresponding adjustments to Exposure, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, Highlight Recover, Shadow Recovery, White Recovery, Black Recovery. The Speed Edit Keys are of course completely customizable too.
Speed Edit takes a little bit of “brain training” to get used to, but once you do, editing those global adjustments is super fast.
The software is intuitive enough to know that you are using Speed Edit on these keys as well. Not a simple feat considering most of those keys already function as shortcuts for other tools. In the words of Darth Vader, “Impressive, most impressive.”
6) Style Brushes
Since this article has only taken me 6 months to write, Capture One has released yet another update. Yes, it was free if you already owned a copy of the Capture One Pro 21 release from earlier this year.
Style Brushes are, in their simplest form, brush presets. However, unlike the brush presets within Photoshop, in Capture One Pro you can add non-destructive adjustments to those Style Brushes. This can speed up your workflow dramatically because you just grab a Style Brush and start painting on your photo. Capture One adds the named layer automatically as you begin to brush and within these presets, you can also save the brush to hold its size, hardness, opacity and flow.
Capture One has a great support system. Though it is taking them longer to respond to issues because of the pandemic, they still REPLY. They also reply to your specific question and not just some random place where you may find information, which is really helpful for me because I am not necessarily going to them with an easy issue. I know how to troubleshoot most issues.
8) Still Not Buying In?
I know you. Naysayer. How about this… Capture One now offers native support for Sony’s new Lossless Compressed RAW file found within the flagship Sony a1. Capture One is also about to release a version of the software that runs natively on the new M1 Macs. Those will be free too current users as well.
Capture One Pro is a featured packed, non-destructive, image editing platform. It is everything that Lightroom is not. If you are a Lightroom user, switching could be a bit of a hassle, but in the end, I promise you, that your images are going to look better. The bottom line is that Capture One is the best image editing software out there to date that allows me to edit and catalog everything that I shoot in a painless and speed happy way. I like it so much that I pay full price for this software just like anyone else, that’s how strongly I feel about Capture One’s quality.
Also, should you need some help with Capture One, they have an entire page of tutorials that will get you going.