Five Changes for a Better Capture One

Five Changes for a Better Capture One

Capture One is regarded as one of if not the best pieces of raw-developing software available for professional photographers. Image quality resulting from Capture One processing is undoubtedly among the industry leaders, but the software itself could use some updates to make it the absolute gold-standard for raw developing and digital asset management. 

Before we begin, I would like to mention that I am a long-term Adobe Photoshop Lightroom user. However, this is not an article directed at portraying one software solution as better than another or suggesting that we have yet another argument over everyone’s personal choice. This article is to point out some areas of Capture One that I feel could benefit from change or updating in order to make it an even better software package than it already is. To that end, let’s keep the comments focused on that!

Better Asset Management

This, I feel, is where Capture One could use the most improvement. Simple things like moving a folder of images from one catalog to another (a common task I perform at backup time) or synchronizing the timestamps of multiple cameras are not possible. Selecting multiple folders from your library to view simultaneously is also not possible. Small features like this would take Capture One from being an excellent raw developer to a piece of software you can rely on to manage your assets as well.

Even when importing a Session into a Catalog, which is another common task, Capture One is unable to physically move the images on disk; it simply imports references to them and leaves them where they are. For my personal use case, this would be extremely helpful at backup time. I could select a Session to import into my archive Catalog and have Capture One bring all the necessary files into a folder I select before importing their details, rather than the two-step process of me copying the Session folder and then importing it myself at the new location.

Sleeker Interface

Let’s talk interface. This is no doubt a personal preference. Some will love it. Some will hate it. I love that each tool in the program can be hidden or shown and moved about to your heart’s content. This is excellent, as it means you can hide the tools that you never use and keep the ones you do right in front of you. However, that’s not all it takes to make a comfortable user experience. 

From a simple visual standpoint, it is almost as if we’re stepping back in time. It’s almost like MS DOS with vector fonts. Nothing is clearly separated from anything else, and it’s a constant battle to find the tool you want, even after organizing them in your preferred way. Clear separation of the tools and panels would make the experience of finding and making use of them so much more comfortable. Even something as simple as slightly varying the shade of gray for adjacent panels would suffice, I feel. 

Sessions and Catalogs

At first, I thought I would be annoyed by the distinction between presets and styles. But I can see how these two, although essentially the same thing, fit differently into the interface and offer easier ways to make small changes on a per-tool basis. However, in the end, the split between Sessions and Catalogs has become my pet peeve about Capture One’s organizational structure. 

I feel that merging these and adding the Session functionality into the Catalog structure would make for a much simpler program to use. When it comes down to it, adding watched folders for the importing of images into the catalog would make its functionality almost identical to that of a Session. 

Perhaps this is not something that would work for you. How do you make use of the distinction between these two? 

Additional Tools

Some additions to Lightroom over the years have become so ingrained in the way that I work that I feel myself missing parts of the program when I work in Capture One. The biggest example of this is actually the radial filter. Having the ability to essentially place a vignette anywhere and draw focus in your image is extremely useful. In Capture One, this must be painted by hand. I’d love to see this added. 

File Merging (HDR and Panorama)

Honestly, I would also love to see some sort of subtle HDR merging included in Capture One as well. Capture One's highlight and shadow recovery tools are excellent, but sometimes, the data contained within a single raw file isn't quite enough. Lightroom’s HDR functionality was a great step in the right direction for the uses I would like it for and meant that I didn’t have to step into a dedicated HDR program that would then stop me from having access to a raw file for editing afterwards. I use HDR for the purpose of subtly expanding dynamic range when I need to and would love to be able to do this within Capture One as well. Of course, Capture One is a raw developer, and this may be beyond the program's scope, but one can always hope!

In Conclusion

These are just a few of my wishlist items after working with Capture One. It is an extremely complex program with a lot of options to benefit many different use cases. For me, these are the things that would improve my experience. How about you? What would help make Capture One a better solution for your uses? If you don’t use Capture One, why not? If you think it’s the perfect solution for you, why? 

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Lenzy Ruffin's picture

I switched to C1 over the summer and I love it, but there is definitely a learning curve.

I wish there was an option to overwrite existing files on export. Instead, C1 just appends a number to the existing version. If I need to re-export because I needed to make some edit, I have to delete the original file(s) first, or I end up with multiple versions of the same file.

I'm still figuring out if the layer-based clone tool in C1 is easier or more work for me. One clone per layer is frustrating coming from the LR method, but it may prove to be a better method once I get used to it.

The way the delete key functions definitely needs work. It's intuitive in LR. In C1, pressing delete does a different kind of delete, depending on whether you're in an album or some other location. I have to use the File menu to delete to ensure I choose the delete option that is what I intended.

Also, how virtual copies ("variants" in C1) are managed is not intuitive. In C1, there's a learning curve to it that I've not yet made it through.

Having an edit history would be nice, too. I do miss that from LR.

I wouldn't switch back to LR, though. I'm definitely glad I made the switch. I find C1 to be faster and have considerably more powerful tools, especially when it comes to white balance. In photos with mixed lighting, I can get to the correct white balance in C1 way faster than I could in LR.

Dylan Goldby's picture

These are some great points. I've also run into the exporting "issue" and am frustrated by the layer based cloning as well. The delete key isn't one I've used yet, but now I'll know to be careful!

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I think I agree with all of your suggestions. C1 need a major GUI re-fresh

Johnny Rico's picture

My counter point to this is, it works. If you change it, you have to relearn.

Mood Translator's picture

Learning is not a bad thing. You always have to learn a new program for the first time anyway. The GUI needs to be a lot easier to use and friendlier, while maintaining the same controls. Its very possible, and if it requires change for the better, so be it.

Chad Andreo's picture

IMO, the number one feature that Lightroom has over Capture One is the ability to sync, organize and update galleries on sites like Smugmug.

david shepherd's picture

As a C1 Pro user since version 9, I would say that the software has come a long way from what I have experienced and even from the years prior. I will say that there is only one valid point here that is made about improving the experience, and that's with the catalogs. Capture One Catalogs suck. Nothing more needs to be said, but there are superior options. The most superior option is Capture One Sessions. The reasons pro's prefer sessions over all other options is that the session is a self-contained catalog that operates independently of a global database. This allows photographers to deliver entire shoots in an optimize and custom fashion. Lightroom does not do this and even worst, to take on a project shot in Lr means that the operator has to install the catalog on the new machine which can be a nightmare.

The other opinions are considerations, but in my view are minor quibbles. The GUI is beautifully simple and intelligent. I am not focused on "Sleeker Interfaces" but creating great images and I can care less how it looks but how it performs. I would like the radial feature also, but the layer adjustments is a superior toolset and I tend to manage gradients/mask in photoshop. HDR and Panoramas would be nice but not a requirement and I am certain that the team is working on it. I would not blame the software for lack of ability to pull detail out of an image. I know C1 provides at least a stop of better performance over Lightroom.

I can go on about Capture One, but I would suggest that everyone start using C1 and ditch Lightroom.

David Willis's picture

Let's not forget that the crop tool is frustratingly limited. I've been using CO Pro for nearly a year now and have finally gotten over the learning curve. At this point my two biggest frustrations with it are the crop tool and the "process recipes."

With the crop tool, it's impossible to resize all four sides at once, i.e. maintaining the center point. In fact, you can't resize from the sides at all, only the corners, unless you set the aspect ratio to "unconstrained." This is a daily frustration for me. Also, if a photo is dark it's very hard to find the edge of the crop rectangle since it's not outlined at all.

Exporting, called "processing" for some reason, is more difficult than it needs to be because the presets, called "recipes" for some reason (why is there a cooking metaphor in the middle of a photography application?), don't allow you to save output location or file naming along with them. You can work around the output location limitation a bit by using the "sub name" field (not the sub folder field right below it, strangely) but you still have to enter the "sub name" placeholder so it's only a marginal improvement. The ability to use literally any piece of metadata in the output naming as well run multiple "recipes" at once is nice and when I need that it's a huge help but most of the time I just want to quickly export something and it takes a lot more clicks to do that than it does in LR. Not being able to overwrite existing files is also annoying.

I, too, miss LR's edit history.

Apart from that tho, it's a fantastic piece of software. I don't care that the look is dated--it's very responsive and the keyboard shortcuts are robust. I don't care that it doesn't do HDR or pano stitching. I use Photomatix and PT GUI for those things. I've only been using sessions tho. I haven't taken the time to really learn about the catalogs. I tried to import my LR catalog of 70K+ images once. It didn't really work out.

steve fischer's picture

regarding exporting, why are you using process recipes? That's really for when you are shooting on set and need to export various file formats and sizes of the same images. For instance full rez TIFF's for a retoucher, jpegs for an art director to make selections etc. etc. For simply exporting just go to "file" -> "export images" -> Varients. That will save your last export settings and destination. Then just export. Process recipes are overkill unless you are working in a work flow with outside agencies, publications etc. And it will overwrite in that case if you've exported a duplicate image previously. It only stacks roundtrip files from CO to Photoshop or similar. And you said you can't "resize from the corners"... you absolutely can. Click the crop tool, pick your aspect ratio, grab from the sides to resize, then just put the mouse in the middle of the photo and move it around to center. The "catalog" issue i can not understand. Why anyone would want to use catalogs vs sessions is beyond me. But most of all if you shoot for ad agencies, fashion brands, magazine editorial or other shoots where there are art directors and digi-techs on set you are going to get a super weird look if you fire up lightroom. Its not an industry standard for professional work flow. In fact when you (or the client) rent a studio with a digitech station it's only going to have CO loaded on it, you will not find lightroom. The RAW processing is far superior, the tether capture is rock solid, sessions vs catalogs, color proofing and so many more features. How anyone would choose lightroom over CO is beyond me. But to each their own. Just my opinion. My main point is you can do a simple export of one or multiple images from the file ->export option. You do not have to use recipes.

David Willis's picture

I didn't know about that option. Thanks for telling me! Looking at it now though, it doesn't appear to have any option for presets at all. Also, there are two different places where you can specify the output folder, which is confusing. I experimented with it just now and it appears that the location specified in "Export Location" is totally ignored if a location is specified under the File tab of the "Export Recipe" section. Which begs the question, why is it there? Another example of poor UX design I would say. It's nice to know this is here but it doesn't seem to address the shortcomings of the process recipes. And it definitely does not overwrite files. It exports the new files alongside the old ones with "_1" added to them. Is there a setting somewhere that I've missed that will change this?

I think you misread me about the cropping. I didn't say you couldn't resize from the corners. I said you can ONLY resize from the corners. There are no resize handles along the center lines unless you set the aspect ratio to "unconstrained." It's also not possible to resize multiple sides at once. In LR this was done simply by holding Alt and grabbing any resize handle.

I get the impression that you think I'm attacking CO and defending LR. I'm not at all. CO is clearly the superior piece of software and I've all but abandoned LR over the past year. But CO is not a perfect piece of software. They got all the major things right but they stumbled over simple things that I took for granted in LR like exporting and cropping. UX design isn't really a simple thing but I think they stumbled there too. LR and CO both have their issues but I think CO's issues will be relatively easy to address whereas LR's issues are fundamental and probably intractable. Which may be why Adobe forked the product.

David Willis's picture

I just used the File > Export Images method and it exported everything to wrong place. I picked the destination folder I wanted under "Export Location" but, because the "File" tab of the "Export Recipe" section isn't open by default, I didn't see that the root folder was still set to the folder I had picked yesterday, in a different session, when I was experimenting with it regarding our conversation. And it ignored the folder I picked and went to the previously used one that was hidden on that tab.

These are silly problems to have with a professional piece of software. It's not a huge deal but it's a nuisance and really makes the software look unpolished and unprofessional. Hopefully they'll fix this in an update soon.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Oh, yes. I moved to C1 this January and then quickly moved back as I’ve lost two events edits after trying to move them to the new location in their browser.

Now it is used for tethered capture in studio mode only.

Nate Reese's picture

Catalog vs Session .. Sessions with folder structure is all I want/need .. Catalogs a need for importing pictures are reasons why I wont switch to LR (well that and better image/color processing and C1 being tethering standard for commercial photography all over the world),
It is hard for me to judge GUI after all those years...Im used to it and it works for me but there is always room for improvement. I like the simple interface and graphics of it.

You can easily add vignete in Capture one . .either with slider in Vignette tool or manual with masking layers ...

Deleted Account's picture

I agree so much on the asset management and masking front.

While the former has come a long way in the last couple years to the point that it's fairly useful, there are still things that more products need to steal from Lightroom, for example the idea of keyword synonyms (e.g., I have tags for the Latin names of some animals and those have synonyms for their English and German names) or flagging keywords as persons' names with the option of skipping those on export, so you don't spew all kinds of PID to sharing sites (hello, GDPR!) but still have the information in your catalogue.

The latter, drawing masks, is downright clumsy. It's nice the first few minutes, but then you want to change brush size or hardness and need to go to a window with sliders. Steal that from Photoshop, or some other product that lets you change those on the spot with modifier keys. And of course radial or linear gradients which need to be redrawn for every change, and shifting them means you lose anything outside the canvas and end up redrawing them anyway. That's not how it's done today, make them parametric so I can shift, rotate, and compress my GradND effect or vignette.

I would also like to see a processing history to easily go back some steps, "fork" a variant from that point, and maybe even have that persist across sessions.

DCP support maybe? Pretty please?

By and large, if it weren't for the obscenely powerful colour mangling capabilities (don't need tethering at all), I probably wouldn't consider buying it. Speed isn't much of an issue for me in Lightroom, and while everyone keeps lambasting it for it is the worst, it still does the complete workflow Fine™ instead of focusing on some things and totally neglecting others. Oh, and Photoshop is in that 13€/month subscription which is another product in dire need of competition.

David Willis's picture

The bracket keys will change the brush size and shift+brackets changes the hardness. Gradients would be nice to have though. As would a history for each image, as LR does.

Mick Ryan's picture

Stacks and an IOS version of the app would make me drop Lightroom completely.

Johnny Rico's picture

Capture Pilot? or you looking for more

Mick Ryan's picture

Defintiley. An alternative to Lightroom not just an extension to the desktop app. I like Lightroom on the iPad but syncing is a nightmare.

Robert Feliciano's picture

There's usually a new version around Nov/Dec.
Also, look for Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales.
I'm looking to get it for the tethered capture. Nikon's Capture Control Pro 2 is showing its age.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I would love to see Capture One implement the ability to simply open a processed file into Photoshop without the need to create any additional files. For example, in Lightroom you can simply send a processed RAW file into Photoshop. Once you’re in Photoshop, then you can decide whether or not you want to save it as a PSD or not save it at all. In addition, you can choose where you want to save that file.

Capture One on the other hand, automatically creates a PSD file that sits right next to your RAW file every time you choose Edit With > Photoshop. This creates a LOT of unnecessary PSD files that I have to go back and delete, especially if all you want to do is stack layers in photoshop. It would also be great to see Capture One have a “open as layers in Photoshop” command like Lightroom does.

Vlad Ilaș's picture

I don't think you will ever see in C1 "open as layers in Photoshop", but you can always choose Edit in Photoshop, and once you have all the files opened you do this: select File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack, and choose Add Open Files.
This will leave you with a new document containing all the opened files as layers :)

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks for the tip Vlad. It would be super helpful for commercial photographers stacking images, blending exposures and compositing frames together if C1 had an "open as layers in Photoshop" script like LR does. Hopefully it will be added to a future release.

Jim Tincher's picture

I have been using Aperture (I know) for years (I use PS for editing) and I really like it's workflow for culling images and showing those selections to clients. Recently I purchased Capture One because my new camera is not supported by Aperture.

There are two things in Capture One I haven't figured out how to do, and yes these are quite annoying.

I haven't found a way to "flag" images on initial culling without having to assign it a "star" or a "color tag". This seems fundamental to me as Aperture and LR both have this ability. This is something that would be really helpful to me and save time.

Going from "browse" mode to "view" mode could use a lot of improving. A simple double-click to "view" and then double-click returning to "browse" seems like a "no-brainer" and I'm baffled how that has been left out. Yes, I know currently there is a three key keyboard shortcut and that I could create a different keyboard shortcut if I wanted but that is slow, clunky and unrefined.

Yeah, those are little things but when you're culling hundreds of images or going through selections with clients it's those little things that make a big difference. As is, to me this part of the interface needs attention and it should be easy to fix.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Hey Jim Tincher , yeah it's true, you can't "flag" images in C1 like you can in Lightroom. That said, the color tags and star ratings basically do the same thing. For example, I use Green for my selects in Capture One and then I can add a quick filter to see only the selected images that I rated with a green tag.

As far as going from browse mode to view mode in C1, I just set up a keyboard shortcut by going to the Capture One menu and choosing “Edit Keyboard Shortcuts.” Go into “View > Show/Hide Viewer” and create a keyboard shortcut. I used the letter “G” because in Lightroom the grid view shortcut is the letter G. Doing this will allow you to easily toggle between browsing your photos in a grid view, and then making it larger for editing.

Deleted Account's picture

With all due respect, you supply your credentials to review this software as "A long time Adobe Lightroom user" with no mention of your experience using the actual software, and you expect seasoned users of C1 to take what you say seriously? As someone who uses C1 in an institutional environment (in other words, hired for my proven experience with the software) I'd recommend you change the title to "Five Changes for a Better Capture One for my Specific Workflow", or "Five Changes to C1 that will Make it More Like Lightroom."

Merging Sessions and Catalog is basically turning C1 into Lightroom, and undermines the very essence of C1. If that's the kind of change you're looking for, I say stick with LR.

I suppose you mention at the end that these are changes for you - putting that at the beginning would have made this a better, if less clickbaity, article.

Paul Christiansen's picture

Printing templates need refinement. add an upload module and better support for windows tablets. Free them from needing a mouse or trackpad to move sliders. With the interface a better clearer way of switching tools You think you are about to crop an image and you use the brush and create a new layer. The only LR tool I ever think I might want is dehaze.

Deleted Account's picture

Biggest WTF moment using Capture One: "Selecting multiple folders from your library to view simultaneously is also not possible." Ummmmm?

Vlad Ilaș's picture

May I add poor chromatic aberations corrections? :)

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