To a lot of photographers, the idea of spending any extra money on another raw processor is too much. But if you have the money, Capture One is worth it. Especially if you work with skin.
There’s really only 2 things I fanboy over. I think my Jabra headphones are better than Air Pods. And I think if you work with skin, you should really consider the switch to Capture One. If you work with people or do any retouching on your own, Capture One can become a life saver and time saving utility for your workflow. Here's why.
The Skin Tone Tool
This is the reason I switched in the first place. I actually think I finally caved and bought it after watching Tina Eisen use the Skin Tone Unify tool in an IG Story.
The way C1 (that’s what the cool kids call Capture One) manages color is perfect for working with skin. The Skin Tone Tool allows you to pick an area of color and unify the tones to that hue, saturation, and/or lightness... WITH JUST ONE SLIDER ADJUSTMENT. No more redness issues, no more cold fingers being too red... it literally takes seconds and is done before you even open up the photo in Photoshop. And you can use this with layers to adjust skin, eyes, contour, and lips on their own layers.
You can see in the Color Editor panel what I did. I just selected a color I wanted to be the unifying tone, unified the hues, and adjusted as necessary. And the thing is it’s still realistic and didn’t take tonal matching in Photoshop. It just happened in an instant. This tool was a huge leap for my work. I've always loved realistic tones and with Lightroom I always felt off. With Capture One I am starting off from a much better starting point than Lightroom.
Yes, Lightroom has their version of layers, but the way you use layers in Capture One is so simple. Having actual Photoshop-style layers with a toolbar where they can be named is just obvious and something I never saw in Lightroom with their Selection Brush. They’re simple to use and with the newly added Luma Mask feature, they are incredible for raw processing before Photoshop.
I especially love this when it comes to working on group photos. Being able to create different layers to unify the skin tones of multiple models on their own layers is just great. Sometimes you need to adjust the levels of someone in the back who didn’t get as much light on their face. You can do that and it can be labeled as such.
Lightroom tethering sucks. It’s just a fact at this point. I used to use a Surface Pro 3 for tethering on-location. To be honest, it has always been awful. If the tether wire ever adjusted and disconnected, I would have to restart the program just to start working again. After shooting 50+ photos, the entire system would just slow down to a halt... Every shoot I would make the same joke to the model, “We’re going to be here another 30 minutes if we keep waiting to see that photo”. I switched from Lightroom to Capture One and it is insane the difference. It brought new life to my old device. The time difference between photos populating was night and day.
If the video doesn't load properly, skip to 2:15 to see the difference.
The above video shows the difference being about 2 seconds. But this is also for the first photo in each catalog. I can't stress enough how much quicker it is when you're on the 2nd look and 150 photos into your shoot and Lightroom is literally taking 20 seconds to populate 1 photo compared to Capture One. I used C1 for a catalog shoot, over 1000 images, and I didn't notice a slowdown until around image 800 or so.
I used to work with a commercial photographer who used Lightroom on a Macbook Pro. He has the same annoyances with LR that I did. One day we used my Dell XPS to tether. We were shooting product and by the time he took the photo to then look at the laptop, the new photo was there. He stared for 15 seconds waiting for the screen to populate the new image until he realized what he was looking at was the latest photo.
I can't stress it enough. This feature alone is worth the $300 to me. If you use an older laptop to tether and you're feeling that Lightroom lag, don't update. Just try Capture One. I swear you'll feel the difference. When I was still using a Surface Pro 3 to tether, the switch to C1 saved me from upgrading to a newer laptop right away.
Sessions Versus Catalogs
I tether on-location. When I do, I don’t need to have the photos from all of my previous shoots cached. Capture One lets you create new sessions that are basically bare bone catalogs for individual shoots. What’s great is you can go back to the session and continue shooting days later. So if I’m shooting multiple days of products or look book work, I can go back to the session and continue working like I’ve never left. Even if there was another shoot in-between.
This really isn’t related to working with portraits, but it definitely should be noted. You don’t need to pay for a subscription. It’s a flat $300, less if you use Fuji or Sony. I have Capture One 12 and as long as that’s what is the standard, I am supported and have updates. Now yes, it is more than Lightroom if you upgrade every year, but you don’t have to. You can just keep Capture One 12 for years. No subscription, no expiring license.
Here’s a link to their store so you can see their prices. Don’t worry, I’m not getting kickbacks or referral points for this.
The Only Way to See the Difference Is to Try It out for Yourself
If you use Lightroom and have a couple days to try out C1, what’s the harm? Try it out. If you tether or work with skin tones a lot, it’s worth it just for that. I don’t shoot landscapes and I hardly shoot events anymore so I can’t really speak on the workflow for those styles. But when it comes to beauty and headshots, Capture One was a no-brainer switch.
If you do attempt the change, check out the tutorials Capture One offers on their YouTube page. They have a lot of great tutorials that helped me out when I first switched.