January 1, 2019
Hello Capture One, Goodbye Lightroom
Featured image edited using Capture One
With so many RAW editors on the market today it’s hard to decide which is the best. Well let me just say, there is no “best”. What works best for you is what matters. Choosing software can be daunting especially with all of the promo and promises out there. At the end of the day, software is a tool just like a camera body. So long as you can get your images tuned how you like and your clients are happy, it’s the perfect fit.
In this post I’ll be mentioning three of my primary image tuning tools while focusing on my migration from Lightroom Classic to Capture One.
It’s been two years now into my migration from Lightroom to Capture One and Luminar. In short, it’s been a colossal pain! First and foremost, learning a new RAW workflow is like learning a new language, but for me, its been worth it and I’m glad I made the move.
Let’s look at Luminar 3 before I get to Capture One and Lightroom. For me, I use Skylum’s Luminar platform as a plugin to Capture One, Photoshop, as well as Lightroom. My primary use of Luminar is for inspiration. Its AI features, such as the AI Sky Enhancer and Accent AI Filter, will often times highlight the best features of an image that I might not otherwise have arrived at by my own tweaking. There’s also a great selection of presets for even more creativity.
Another huge plus for Luminar is the price. At $69 retail it’s hard to beat and a great companion app to any raw editor. Skylum, who is also the developer of Aurora HDR, is big into AI and are continually updating their software—Definitely a company you should keep an eye on.
Click here for a more in-depth read into Luminar.
I started with Lightroom 2 10+ years ago and stuck it out until I felt there was a system that worked better for me. I still mostly love Lightroom and know that it’s an entirely viable piece of software, but I wanted better. Thus began my journey into Capture One.
Capture One has been around as a RAW editor just as long as Lightroom if not longer. It was the improvement in image quality that got me so excited about the switch. The best way I can describe it is “fidelity”—Capture One allows my images to speak with a more dynamic range of color and tonal range. It’s almost like listening to music in my truck (Lightroom), which has a great system, versus listening to the same artist live (Capture One). There is a tangible, but not always, definable difference.
It’s also fair to point out that, in my experience, all RAW editors have a personality of their own—A “look” if you will. We don’t need to get into the reasons why, however, we do need to be aware that the look of Lightroom is not the same as Capture One, Luminar, On1 Photo Raw, Alien Skin……the list goes on. At this point for me, I love the “Capture One look” along with its robust set of tools.
Click here for a more in-depth read into Capture One.
Although I have a lot of experience with Lightroom, nowadays I rarely use it. I have completely moved over to Capture One and after some growing pains, I couldn’t be happier. The only time I get back into Lightroom is when I have an older job to process that was initially edited in Lightroom. Otherwise, it’s all Capture One.
While both programs are reasonably fast on a modern machine, I feel Capture One is more stable and less likely to be broken in an update. I always cringe when I see Adobe has a new update for Lightroom or Photoshop, so often those updates make changes that either break my workflow or add additional hurtles. For exampe, I have an extensive preset collection that I use on a regular basis. In a recent update when the presets were converted to the new standard, several key presets stopped working. I also use the Palette controllers as well as a Shuttle Pro controller. It’s always a crap shoot if those will keep working after an update.
2. Local adjustments
While Lightroom has better noise reduction and an overall “smoother” look where Capture One is distinctly crisp. You can definitely get either one to look mostly like the other, but they still have their own unique personalities. Lightroom will allow you to adjust specific colors in the HSL panel, but Capture One will allow you even more control with the selection of a specific color range and the ability to create an adjustment mask from that color selection. It’s impressive and something you need to test.
Capture One also has a skin tone adjustment in the color tool that is very helpful for balancing and tuning portraits—A big plus over Lightroom. While both programs have local adjustment capabilities, Lightroom has a limited palette for local adjustments while Capture One offers nearly all of their adjustment options as layers, making it one of the most prominent and powerful features of Capture One.
For example, while Lightroom offers local adjustments with some level of luminosity control, Capture One features legit layers with luminosity masking! It’s brilliant, and if this were the only feature difference I would still switch, it’s that good. Did I mention you could also create layer masks from color range selections? So nice.
Another great feature of Capture One is Focus masking—For you mirrorless shooters, think of focus peaking. If you’re not familiar with focus peaking, when enabled, any area of an image will show a colored mask where the image is in focus. This feature is brilliant for faster culling. It’s my understanding that Capture One uses the info in the raw file to determine focused areas and only works on supported RAW files. I couldn’t function without this feature now that I have it.
3. Catalog and session handling
In short, a catalog is similar to what we are familiar with in Lightroom as a database that holds all image information (including metadata, adjustments, etc.) for multiple jobs containing files in many locations. Capture One will allow you to have multiple catalogs open at the same time, which is a massive plus when managing data that might be on a remote drive. Meanwhile, sessons are commonly used for one project at a time. Sessions can also be very self-contained, so they are much easier to move, backup, and share if needed.
The debate about which setup to choose or which is best will not be quickly answered. I personally use catalogs because I want to have access to all of my images at once for searching.
For a more indepth explination checkout this pre-recorded webinar hosted by Capture One.
Tips for making the switch
Here’s a brief list of things to be aware of if you’re looking to make the switch:
- You will lose all of your image adjustments. Lightroom and Capture One don’t share editing info, so you’ll need to re-edit your images in Capture One. Although it sounds terrible, it’s not really. You may just come away with a better image. For any finished images you have in Lightroom, I would suggest rendering out as PDS’s or TIFF’s and import alongside the RAW file into Capture One.
- You may lose your keywords and ratings. Lightroom stores all of your settings, including keywords and ratings, in a database. You need to configure Lightroom to write changes to a sidecar file so that the info can be read by Capture One on import. To reiterate, your image adjustments will not transfer.
- “Presets” will be referred to as “Styles”. Capture One uses the term “presets” to refer to parameters for a specific tool, while “styles” are adjustments saved from multiple tools are more like what you might be familiar with in Lightroom as “presets”.
- Heavy reliance on levels and curves. Lightroom adjustments doesn’t require you to touch levels or curves much, where Capture One relies heavily on them.
- Overexposure settings are different. Lightroom has “whites” and “highlights” slides to correct any overexposure whereas Capture One has only “highlights” and “shadow”. You may initially think they work the same, but they don’t. In Capture One the “highlights” and “shadow sliders are intelligent and offer a more fluid adjustment from image to image with often better results.
- There are no modules like developing or library in Capture One. With Capture One you can pretty much do all things from all places.
- All of the shortcuts are different. Don’t worry though, you can custom configure just about any action(s) in Capture One with a shortcut of your choosing.
- Don’t edit the same folder of images between Lightroom and Capture One. This could cause edits to be lost and potentially increase glacial melt. It’s best practice to separate images if they need to be touched by both applications or only move the through editors in 1 direction.
Should you switch to Capture One? I can’t really answer that for you. I’m glad I did and have no regrets. I will say, though, that migrating from Lightroom did take a significant amount of time to learn the application, organize, and build a productive workflow. All in all, I would suggest diving in deep and really commit to learning it before you decide.
I wish you fun exploring!
For some amazing tutorials be sure to checkout the Capture One YouTube channel.
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Thanks. A couple thoughts:
1. I’ve been less than impressed with Luminar. Even as an amateur photographer, Luminar as a **stand-alone** tool doesn’t do it for me. However, you’re right … it does provide fodder for creativity. And I also think you are right in that I should keep an eye on it. The concept is cool. The AI is cool. Hopefully some day it is ready for prime time.
2. I’ve been reading some Capture One vs. On 1 info. Your info gave me some useful info,l on lather One, and I think I’ll try it out soon, and I’m glad to know I can use the Luminar plugin with it.
3. Scott Kelby’s book on Photoshop gives a ton of good info on Camera Raw. I had never really pondered its usefulness, but I feel like I’ve come close to becoming seriously proficient with it in a very short period of time. As far as basic post processing, you can dial in a raw image in just a few minutes. If you recall the practice portrait of my wife I submitted for critique in TWiP Pro a couple episodes ago … Camera Raw and a couple extra content aware healing brush strokes only. Same with the kids sitting in the window in Amsterdam … Camera Raw only.
Of course, there’s only so much you can do with it before you have to pop the image into photoshop. But I think it is a great tool for basic postprocessing of things like photojournalistic shots, street photography, etc. Definitely gonna keep Camera Raw in my toolbox.
Great article. Thanks again.
Thanks for the read Thomas. The flood of software choices are overwhelming, especially when most don’t know what they actually need. I think it’s best to know our options and make a switch only when we see a need rather than switch or adopt new software because we belive it will make us better. Knowledge is key.