CaptureOne Is Worth Every Penny (From the Perspective of a Beauty Photographer)

CaptureOne Is Worth Every Penny (From the Perspective of a Beauty Photographer)

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.

Layers UI

This is how I usually set up my layers in C1. It has a feel similar to Photoshop which I’m much more comfortable using.

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

This is the opening UI I get when I open Capture One. I just click New Session, type a name, and start shooting.

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.

Perpetual License

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.

David Justice's picture

David Justice is a commercial beauty photographer in New York City.

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Lightroom has layers?

From what I've seen, Lightroom has the adjustment brush, but not with a UI like Capture One. Lightroom has the circles you click into, but Capture One has a panel with layers you can name.

I did try CP1 a while back and I swear I don't know what all the fuss is about with tethering. I couldn't tell any difference in speed from CP1 to LR. But apparently others can, but I think it may be b/c they just don't like Adobe and aren't being honest. My files didn't take nearly that long to load into LR when tethered and I was using a D850 with 100mb sized files. And CP1 is the "Industry" standard? When did that happen?

I don't hate Adobe and the only person who called Capture One the Industry Standard is you.

LOL you mentioned it was the industry standard in your video.

Not my video. Just a video I found that compared tether speeds.

Gotcha! Correction: It was mentioned in the video above.

In most large markets when you are working on set with a digital tech C1 is the industry standard, yes I know that there are a lot of photographers that use LR on set and its their preferred way but if you were to book a freelance digitech they will arrive on set expecting to use C1 and not LR, having not watched the video but reacting to your statement about speed that is only one aspect. Color and reliability are also considerations. In the end I think its apples to apples if I was a studio that is a closed ecosystem I wouldn't care if LR or C1 is used but having to shoot multiple places/ studios with different crews it would be impossible for me to do that with LR here in NYC, C1 is just used everywhere.

ML, you are absolutely correct, Capture One IS the industry standard. I am in Hollywood and have never seen anyone tethering to Lightroom on a professional set. It’s all Capture One. I think the main reason is it’s rock-solid, never crashes and very fast. Many users have difficulty switching from Lightroom to C1. Best advice is to forget everything about Lightroom and start from the ground up. Forget presets. Don’t need them. Use sessions not catalogs. Have fun!

Sony and Fujifilm is not supported by Lightroom. Also Capture One have the habit of just working . every time. If you never get discounts and have to reboot to connect again, then you are good to:)

I love it for Landscape photography. hoping the next gen has bracketing and pano merge though.

Can you have it active on multiple machines at the same time? I know you can for the Student version (2 machines) but there is nothing on the website about the regular version.

The C1 Pro for Sony I have is for 2 machines. I'm 99% sure you'll get at least 2 machines for the regular version.

The default Pro license contains activation on 3 different machines.

Thanks, thats exactly what I wanted to know.

2 activations per license I think. I use my laptop and desktop on 1 license.

I prefer Lightroom Layers myself. Much simpler for quick edits. Also, the clone/heal tool in C1 is garbage. You have to make a new layer for every single instance of it. Each to his own, but I bought the Sony C1 version on sale and was so excited about making the switch, but couldn't stick to it after repeated tries. Now, LR has added a really quick, simple "texture" skin tool (perfect for quick edits like wedding photos), and they even actually truly really honestly genuinely did speed up LR with their last release! It's a brand new world!

That’s a fair criticism I must admit.. I usually round trip to Affinity and use the excellent content aware fill brush to remove objects, would be nicer to do it in C1 though.

Yeah I can totally understand these criticisms. If you shoot weddings and events I could totally see not needing half of what Capture One does. I've only really seen studio photographers and editorial photographers use it. That's why I labeled this with the caveat of shooting beauty because for me Capture One has exactly what I need.

Well, I do shoot weddings (one coming up this weekend) and Capture one is my main picture editor.
I have come to love it for its speed and rather find it much flexible, features and all.
Must admit it has its downsides but overall am very content with it.

Yes the normalizer of skin tones is one of my favorites too .. and color wheel

I loved Capture One and used it a lot. It then stopped working and there support has not helped fix the problem. If anyone from Capture One is reading this - please help, I loved your product, but it is currently wasting disk space on my machine.

Mac sw engineer here. How may I serve you Sir? :)

Have the same experience, C1 is much more responsive and great for skinwork (if you shoot natural tones, which I often don't).

Only thing that keeps me locked into Lightroom are:

a) The catalogs and adjustments. I dont think adjustments are migrated, but maybe there is a new tool now. But that is personal "technical debt" that I just have to pay off someday.

b) Sharing from Lightroom to the cloud and myportfolio. The only good thing bout the subscription is the free online storage for the smart previews.

I have my own Owncloud and used to export to that, but just ticking "sync" for the lightroom catalogue and having it auto-sync is very convenient. Perhaps the only good feature Adobe has built the past years. Although it's buggy like everything else and I have to re-sync every few weeks.

If you know how to retouch, you don't care about Capture One, Lightroom, or any other RAW editor. Any of them will give you an image YOU will take to the Promised Land. ;-)

LightWHAT? Been using Capture One for so many years I can't tell you what version I started with. Never considered trying Lightroom because of all the things I had heard over the years. I'm sure it works just fine for some people (Not being sarcastic).

I like C1 for quick edits and i used it a lot recently. It seems to work well for 'studio like' shots. But seems to produce sometimes not so natural results under less than ideal circumstances. Off course e.g. the default curve can be switched off, but this way it looses it's main advantage imo.
For such complex images i use darktable, it gives me a lot more control and also has more tools for more artistic approach.

I shoot tethered on 99% of my shoots and prefer Capture One. About two years ago, my largest clients Art Dept expressed their preference to LR, so I started the day using it. Within minutes, they saw that it took 6-8 seconds to see an image on the display and we went back to Capture One. I have Creative Cloud and I did try to use LR but found it unintuitive and I much prefer Capture One. Ask any Freelance Assistant or Digital Tech and they'll tell you that Capture One is the Industry Standard.

I've Capture One 3 times, each time I go back to Lightroom. For me the main thing is the way it renders black skin, always looks a bit like it's added a layer of rubber on the skin, always too shiney and too red, sure I can fix it in post but I would rather a software that renders what I cpatured for me to adjust than one that adds its own filtering for me to undo. I have no doubt its great for many photographers (I doubt they will all just convert for the sake of it) but in the end each person should test for themselves and go with what works for them. Will wait for the next release and test agian.