Switching from Lightroom to Capture One

I recently wrote this article about switching from Lightroom to Capture One for a photography forum, but thought i would post it here too, just in case anyone is interested! For those who don’t know, Capture One is RAW processing software, similar in some ways Lightroom, (quite different in others), made and sold by Phase One for use with their medium format digital camera backs.

It also supports a wide range of other cameras and has particularly found favour with Fuji users for the way it handles Fuji X-trans RAW files.

As a Fuji X-T1 and X-T2 user, I have now switched from using Lightroom to Capture One for most of my processing. I was using the stand alone version of Lightroom as I own the Adobe CS6 creative suite and I have never been tempted to upgrade to Adobe Creative Cloud. Adobe have now stopped updating Camera Raw for the standalone version of Lightroom, and Fuji XT-2 files are not supported. I needed to make a decision about whether to subscribe to Creative Cloud, but first I decided to look around at what other RAW processing options are available (there are more than you might think!) and eventually, and perhaps unexpectedly, settled on Capture One.

I should add, I have nothing against Lightroom – its a great program, but if you don’t want to be paying Adobe £10 (or whatever) per month for the rest of your life, there are an increasing number of options becoming available. I think in the near future there will be other competing RAW processors that will start to eat into Lightroom’s market share.

Capture One does take a bit of getting your head around, and there are new features to learn about, not common to other image processing software. For anyone serious about using it I would recommend their U Tube channel which has a lot of good tutorials and webinars that cover most of the important aspects. As the software is used by fewer photographers than Lightroom, there are fewer instructional resources available on the web, but the videos produced by Phase One are quite comprehensive and also cover a range of genres, including wedding photography, landscape and studio work.

The MAIN reason I favoured Capture One is it’s speed. Switching between images is almost as fast as Photomechanic and there is none of the lagginess you get in LR. For me this is a big deal. I have seen on some forums people complaining about C1 slowing down with large Catalogs, and I guess as with LR there is bound to be some variation depending on computer spec – so definitely try it out first using the free trial.

Unlike Lightroom, Capture one haven’t really gone down the road of providing lots of camera profiles. You basically get one generic camera profile for each camera they support, plus a choice of response curves to use as your starting point. If you hunt around though, you may be able to find ICC profiles made by a third party. For example, you can get all the Provia, Velvia, Astia etc profiles for Fuji. Again, if you look at other reviews of C1 most people say images “just look better” when you take them into C1 before you start your edit – so therefore they require less editing. I would agree with this. I would also say that if you use more than one camera and of a different manufacturer, the images look more similar on import than with LR, which again makes editing easier. After some experimentation, I have now created an import preset that gets images pretty much how I want them to look. I do colour balance and exposure tweaks needed, local adjustments, and in most cases that’s it.

Here is a short, though not exhaustive, list of some of the things a really like about C1.

1 – Configurable workspace. You can configure just about everything on the screen to suit your own way of working. I have a “Weddings” workspace that only shows the tools I want for working with wedding images. If you use two monitors, this can spill over onto the second monitor, so you can have more controls open at once. It is worth adding if you are used to working with the Lightroom develop module, you can set up the workspace to look very similar.

2 – Keyboard shortcuts – like photoshop you can configure these to how you want them.  Also, a bit like VSCO keys – you can use keys on the keyboard to increase/decrease exposure, white balance etc. You and also increase and decrease settings by hovering over them and using the mouse wheel, which is a nice touch.

3 – Capture One has Levels! This is great for setting the black point and white point in an image. It also has an auto levels control which works really well on most images.

4 – Curves. Lightroom has curves, but I find the curves on LR to be a poor implementation. The curves in C1 are more like those in Photoshop and easier to work with.

5 – Luma curve. This is a great feature. In addition to the usual RGB, R, G and B curves you get a Luma curve. This allows you to control the contrast in the image by ONLY altering the luminosity, unlike the RGB image which also affects colour tone and saturation. I find it useful for adding contrast without affecting the colour values of skin tones.

6 – Local adjustments. These are done with layers, more like photoshop. You can turn the layers on and off, and have different masks on each layer. I initially found this slower to use than Lightroom, but after configuring and mastering keyboard shortcuts for adding new layers and selecting brushes, I would say it is as quick as the LR adjustment brushes. You can use any of the controls on an adjustment layer.

7 – The colour controls. Difficult to explain in words, the layout is very different to Lightroom but intuitive to use. There are also controls available just for working with skin. There are some very useful looking controls for smoothing out uneven skin tones. In practice I have not used these colour controls much in my wedding workflow, but I can see they would be very useful for studio editing.

8 – Catalogs and sessions. You can have one big catalog like LR, or you can have separate sessions for each shoot (for example each wedding). The sessions are portable and you can easily move them around form one drive to another with the image files if you need to.

9 – Output. You can run output jobs simultaneously. So if you want a high resolution set, a low resolution set and a watermarked set for Facebook at the end of your processing, you just tick the boxes for the ones you want, hit go and leave it running. Job done.

Finally – and this is about personal taste, I really like using C1. It has the look and feel of professional software (more like Photoshop than Lightroom) and now when I use LR it feels a bit clunky. I read on one blog C1 described as “professional” and LR described as “pro-am”, but I think that is just snobbery. It really is down to personal choice.

A free 30 day trial of Capture One is available here. If you do decide to buy C1, there is a 10% voucher code readily available (do a Google search – if you can’t find it let me know).


Capture One


Hi there! We are full time professional wedding photographers based near Conwy, North Wales. We also photograph a lot of weddings in Cheshire, Manchester and the North West of England. If you are looking for a friendly photographer for your wedding and would like to find out more, please drop us a line using the form in “Contact”. Diolch – Thanks!

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LL28 5UP

North Wales

Phone: 01492 650913
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