Capture One Pro – Should You Make the Switch?
This may be a familiar scenario? You’re on a shoot, and you’ve tethered your camera to Lightroom. Everything is going well, but you still have many shots to do. The clock is ticking, and you can feel the time crunch. Out of the blue, Lightroom crashes, and you have to unplug everything and restart your computer. All while your client is tapping their foot and breathing impatiently down your neck.
Welcome to the reality of tethering in Lightroom.
Now don’t get me wrong, Adobe Lightroom is a great program.
I have used it for years. It’s a powerful database for your image files. Lightroom has excellent color management tools and other features, such as noise reduction and spot removal, that make it the only program that many photographers use. In fact, the speed and stability of tethering in Lightroom is one thing that has improved by leaps and bounds in 2019.
But if you shoot a genre of photography that requires tethering, like food or still life, or if you’re a portrait photographer, you still may want to consider moving over to Capture One Pro (COP).
For years, I personally resisted making this change. I didn’t want to learn yet another program or complicate my workflow. But when Lightroom kept crashing and freezing on a career-changing shoot with a big ad client, I decided to make the switch. As a still-life shooter, I find that COP is unbeatable.
If you’re a pro-shooter, or semi-pro, I would say Capture One Pro is a must. If you’re a hobbyist, you still might find learning this image processor worth your while.
This article is not meant to be a tutorial. Rather, I want to walk you through the features and benefits of using Capture One Pro. There are tons of resources online if you want to learn how to use the program, many of them found in Capture One Pro when you log onto the interface.
What is Capture One?
Capture One Pro is a RAW file editor and management system. It’s been around for about 20 years and is made by Phase One, a Danish manufacturer of open platform-based medium format cameras.
The software supports Phase One’s own cameras of course, as well as over 400 DSLR’s, such as those made by Canon, Nikon, and Sony.
In fact, COP has entered into a relationship with Sony. If you’re a Sony user, Capture One Express is a free imaging editor that comes with your camera that includes some of the essential editing and workflow features found in Capture One Pro.
Getting started with Capture One
The first thing to know when getting started with this software is that the interface is nothing like Lightroom. For those used to using Lightroom, Capture One Pro will be confusing to you.
This is often what frustrates Lightroom users in the beginning, causing them to give up before they get started.
There are many differences between the programs. What has become intuitive for you to do in Lightroom, may not work in COP.
COP has the library features of Lightroom with the advantages of Photoshop to work in layers.
It’s an all-in-one solution for many photographers.
Advantages of using Capture One
So why is Capture One worth a new learning curve? Let’s take a look:
As you may have gleaned from the introduction, tethered shooting is incredibly stable in COP, whereas Lightroom is known to be super-glitchy.
Another advantage is that COP has a built-in Live View function.
If you’ve used the Live View function on your camera, you may have noticed that you can only use it in natural light, or when you’re using a constant light source like an LED or the modeling lamp on a monohead.
However, Capture One offers a Live View function within the program itself.
If you’re a food, product or still life photographer, this feature will drive your productivity through the roof. You and your stylists can make the incremental tweaks necessary in still life photography, all while viewing the components within the frame on a computer or laptop monitor.
In addition, it has an Overlay feature. It allows you to upload cover art, such as a product packaging layout or a magazine cover, so you can make sure that your subject fits into the parameters required by the project.
Sessions versus Catalogs
Both Lightroom and Capture One Pro double as RAW photo editors and organization software for your image files. However, their organizational structures are not the same.
Lightroom can open one Catalog at a time. These Catalogs can be divided into multiple Collections and Collection Sets.
In COP, photos are organized into Sessions. These are ideal for separating single client sessions, and various collections. For example, stock photography or personal photos. This is a better approach to large sets of images.
Similarly to Lightroom’s Collections, you can create Session Albums and move your images from several folders on your hard drive to a Favorite Session folder without physically moving them.
COP creates an automatic folder structure within the Session. It creates four default folders every time you start a new session: Capture, Selects, Output, Trash.
The Capture Folder contains all the images that were shot tethered or imported from your SD card. Once you make a selection of your favorite images, they will automatically be moved to the Selects Folder. If you want to delete specific images, they will be moved to the Trash folder by default. However, they are not permanently erased – you can move them back.
The Output Folder is the folder where your exported images will be sent unless you choose a different folder.
The power of Layers
Capture One Pro offers the functionality of the Lightroom Library interface, with the power of Photoshop Layers.
Both Lightroom and COP provide global adjustments that alter the entire image, as well as a set of tools for local adjustments you can apply to smaller portions of the image.
However, COP includes the option to create local adjustments on multiple layers. Lightroom users have to switch from Lightroom to Photoshop to access multiple layer adjustments.
COP’s layers options are less powerful than those in Photoshop but more powerful than Lightroom’s single layer tools.
Sure, you can do some masking type of adjustments with Lightroom with the adjustment brush and other tools. After all, the adjustment tools in Lightroom have improved with every upgrade.
But if you’ve made several adjustments and need to go back a few steps, remembering which adjustment you made can be confusing.
With COP, you have a clear overview over of all the adjustments that you applied to the image.
You can create radial masks and linear masks, and you can fill masks over the whole layer and erase parts of the mask. Also, you can create masks by luminosity, applying adjustments to only the highlights or shadows in your photo.
Last but not least, you can change the opacity of these masks.
For example, if you’ve have created a color treatment you had in mind, but the colors are too saturated and bold, you can turn down the opacity to reduce the strength of those colors. All while keeping your color treatment intact.
Better color management
There is so much flexibility when it comes to color management and color grading in COP.
First of all, Capture One has individual color profiles for every camera. So, when you import the image files, you get something similar to the preview on the back of your LCD screen.
Lightroom files, however, have a more neutral starting point. This is great for photographers who favor more muted palettes.
Conversely, in COP, the colors look brighter and more vibrant before you make any adjustments. The adjustment options in both programs will give you similar results, but the starting point will be slightly different.
The color tools in COP are also incredibly powerful and versatile.
While Lightroom has the HSL (Hue-Saturation-Luminance) panel with sliders and RGB curves adjustments, COP offers a few more ways to work with color.
You can use the Levels Tool, Tone Curve, Color Editor, or the Advanced Color Editor.
The color options include shadow, mid-tone, and highlight adjustments for Color Balance and a channel dedicated just to adjusting skin tones. COP also has a luminance curves adjustment option.
Some disadvantages to using Capture One
One caveat to using Capture One is that as a less-popular image processor, there are far fewer options when it comes to supporting third-party products like presets and plug-ins.
However, COP has a feature called Recipes, which are similar to presets.
The other major disadvantage is cost.
For US$10 a month, you can have both Lightroom and Photoshop.
COP is US$20 USD a month if you choose the subscription option. It’s $180 USD if you pay for an entire year at once.
Unlike Adobe, however, Capture One also offers the option to buy the latest version of the software outright for $299. Adobe now offers a subscription-based service only – much to the ire of many photographers.
Take Capture Pro for a test run
The best way to get started with Capture One Pro is to download the 30-day free trial and import some of your images from your hard drive.
Set aside some time to go through the tutorials and really get to know the program. Think about how you might set up a workflow were you to make the switch from another RAW editor such as Lightroom.
To sum up
Like any program, there are advantages and disadvantages and there. There is no perfect program.
The bottom line is that you want to make an informed choice. Hopefully this introduction to Capture one Pro has helped you understand some of its benefits.
Do you use Capture One Pro or considering making the switch? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.