Five Things Capture One Can Do That Lightroom Can't

Five Things Capture One Can Do That Lightroom Can't

If you’re reading this, the likelihood is that you are currently or were recently a Lightroom user and are looking for better software with which to treat your images. That quest to find the best software is not necessarily an easy one, but it is necessary. While you may change camera bodies, lenses, lights, locations, and styles, the one constant that touches all of your images is the software used to develop them. 

Capture One is multifaceted image processing and asset management software. As a raw processor, it is considered the gold standard, supporting over 500+ cameras, and with it comes a uniquely powerful toolset for developing, color grading, and tethering. But finding what is unique about it can sometimes be challenging, and comparative articles are often bathed in ambiguity and dappled with missing information to be suggestive rather than declarative — enough that it makes delivering unequivocal statements a near impossibility. Here, however, we’ll be direct and quickly highlight five things Capture One can do that Lightroom cannot.

Click here for a 30-day full trial of Capture One Pro so you can follow along. 

Edit With Multiple Layers

There is no way to overstate just how powerful layers in Capture One are, as they totally change the game in terms of power and flexibility. From high-quality healing and cloning to fine-masking, layer stacking, and layer opacity control, Capture One has a broad range of local adjustments, powerful layers, and layer masking tools that allow you to maximize the flexibility of your raw files. That means you can get the most out of each shot and do more with a raw processor than previously possible, all while saving time. 

Each file in Capture One can have layer upon layer of local and global adjustments and the ability to make local adjustment masks from Color Editor selections. This functionality allows users to easily and quickly create more complicated masks and is a huge help when editing any and everything from landscapes to skin tone.

In contrast, Lightroom’s adjustment layer capabilities are almost nonexistent, and they are limited to just a single layer for all adjustments. While Capture One’s layers aren’t as robust as those in Photoshop, the power Capture One provides through layers covers the lion’s share of what the vast majority of photographers need.

Fully Customize Your Workspace and Thus, Your Experience 

Those of a pedantic persuasion might say there’s some argument to be made that Lightroom is also customizable, as there are parameters that can be changed, but its abilities in that department are incomparable to Capture One. Capture One’s entire interface is made of parts and panels that can be moved around, duplicated, adjusted in size, and made to float. You can pull tools out of the tool panels and into the image frame and snap them back when done, you can get rid of specific tools and double up on others, and there’s even a preset workspace that mirrors the look of Lightroom in case you want some help with a transition. Effectively, you can make Capture One look and behave precisely how you want it to.

Change the Default Value of Almost Any Tool for Any Specific Camera

Not all cameras are equal, and neither are personal tastes. If you find that you are consistently changing the base value of a tool when you begin to edit an image, you might want to consider changing the default setting for that tool and camera combo, and Capture One lets you quickly do this.

For example, if you find that you’d like a brighter white point or more sharpness on your images from a particular camera, you can change the value of almost any tool’s sliders to reflect that. Once you’ve done that, click the three dots in the top right corner of the tool you’re in, and select "Save as Defaults for (camera model)." Once you do that, each image from that camera model will have those new default values set.

If you think your images always seem a bit over- or under-sharpened out of the box, fear not. You can change the value of almost any slider and save this value as the new default for your camera. Click the three dots in the top right corner of the tool you’re in, and select "Save as Defaults for (camera model)." Every image from that specific camera model will now have these new default values applied.

Apply a Style / Preset as a Layer and Control Its Strength

There’s no denying that Styles and presets are common and hugely popular, but what if you like a particular style/preset, but it’s just too strong for your image? In Lightroom, without the use of a purchased plug-in that’s still not entirely integrated, you’d need to go in and change all the various sliders and so on to reduce the effect. In Capture One, however, the story is much different.

To do this in Capture One, you apply the Style or preset as a layer, and then move the opacity slider to control the strength of that Style. That’s it.

All you need to do is right-click a Style or Preset and select "Apply to New Layer."  Doing this will create a new Layer with the name and adjustments of the Style or Preset, and right at the top of the Layers tool, you can adjust the opacity slider to control the level of impact that Style or preset makes.

*This feature requires that the tools included in the Style or Preset work on Layers. Black & White, Film Grain, Basic Color Editor, Vignetting among others don’t work on Layers. If a Style includes tools that don’t work on Layers, a warning will show.

Focus Mask

Since Capture One 9, the software has made it easy to determine quickly and easily if an image is in focus by using the Focus Mask. 

The Focus Mask is a robust tool that’s incredibly simple to engage, as all it takes is an icon press. Once pressed, it works by analyzing each image in a catalog or session and determines the sharpest areas. Once it has done that, the sharpest areas of the image are overlaid with a bright color mask. It works quickly and is very accurate, and even better, this feature works in catalog view, which means users get a quick look at what images are to be ignored and which ones to focus on, basically allowing for accurate culling at speed and scale. 


There are so many different and deeper ways Capture One is different than Lightroom. We'll address more in the near-future, but while I can list them off, there's no better way to understand it than trying it. 

If you don’t have Capture One, this is the perfect time to try it, and you can click here for a 30-day full trial of Capture One Pro, or, if you're a Fujifilm or Sony shooter, click here to download Capture One Express for free so you can follow along.

If you're looking for a quick and effective way to learn Capture One, check out The Complete Capture One Editing Guide.

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You can save Defaults for particular camera’s in LR too, you can even save it based on the serial number of the camera, not just the make/model and also ISO which is good for different noise reduction defaults. That focus peaking looks useful though :)

I don't want to sound anti-C1 because I own and use it and there are many things I appreciate about it. That said, if you're going to start comparing feature sets, Lr is the clear winner. In fact, I would argue that C1 is way behind in terms of basic usability.

Want to step backward in your editing workflow more than a step at a time? Can't do it with C1—at least not easily or without limitations because History Palette functionality is completely missing. Users have been begging for this since v6. Phase doesn't seem to care.

Want to stack the 250 images that make up your favorite star trails image? Can't do it in C1. Enjoy scrolling and scrolling and scrolling to get past them.

Want to stack the JPG you exported along with the original file? Not only can you not stack images in C1 but there is no way to automatically add exported files to your catalog.

Want to change the size or intensity of a vignette in C1? Too bad. Can't do that either. Fortunately, there is a radial grad tool that has recently been added to compete with the one that has been available in Lr forever.

Do you use the Alt key to see your mask when sharpening or to see colors when split-toning? So such thing in C1.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Lr proponents like to bring up the lack of Dehaze and it is true. C1 has no analog to that. Also no mapping functionality. Lr's printing capabilities are far superior. Entering metadata in C1 is notably limited compared to Lr. And, in my experience, highlights and shadows are more of a challenge to recover in C1 on images with extreme DR.

I'll stop here except to say that I detest Adobe so it pains me a little to stand in as an apologist for them. I do so only because anyone thinking of switching should understand that the process involves more than getting used to a new interface. There is missing functionality in C1 for which there are no real workarounds.

Let's make sure to remember that the author of this article is indirectly paid by Capture One, is not forthcoming about his relationship with C1, and in the past has employed various rhetorical tricks in his articles to help push C1.

It does say "sponsored" up there at the top.. so maybe more directly paid?

" In fact, I would argue that C1 is way behind in terms of basic usability."

I used both and had to dump LR. Speaking of usability LR won't even allow you to program specific keys such as Export which is three fingered Ctrl + Shift + E. This is lame as i had to hit the export key dozens of times a day and being able to remap it to a ` key is very essential compared to the twister type combo on LR.

But what really got me to dump LR is the output. The rendering on C1 looks so much better to me especially skin tones.

every heard of Repetitive strain injury. google. it. there is no reason to treat the export button like a big red button that if accidentally grazed will launch a thousand raw files.

it's also why there are apps like textexpander and keyboard maestro. you'd be surprised at how many days you save a year from typing common phrases. adobe turns you into a wether.

bottom line is: choice matters and c1 gives you choice.

good Repetitive strain injury. there is no reason for adobe not to give you the choice to decide how the app works for you and a three key combination to export files is ridiculous.

this is why there are programs like textexpander and keyboard maestro. those couple of minutes a day you joke about add up to quite a significant amount of time and lost productivity and $.

looking at my textexpander stats shows i saved 18.42 hours and 221051 characters saved.

time is money.

"Time is way more important than money and we all waste way more than a paltry 18.42 hours."

I can't argue with someone who thinks its great to unnecessarily twisting your fingers like a pretzel or repetitively pressing the same combination of keys for a "paltry" 18.42 hours. This is not the same as sitting in front of a tv to watch 18.42 hours of a netflix.

Guess I have better things to do with my productivity. That is just from textxpander statistics in the last 4 months. I use Alfred 4 as well as Keyboard Maestro 8.

"Regarding repetitive strain injury, your dozens of exports don't amount to much"

you speak like someone who has never had rsi. the contortion of the export key is just one example. to argue that contorting three fingers or using both hands instead of pressing one key is one of the least logical things I have heard about productivity or workflow. no wonder c1 doesn't fit your workflow. please stay away from intelligently designed software that allows you to customize it to your workflow.

"Having used Lightroom, as well as a plethora of other software, I've never encountered any situation requiring me to twist my fingers like pretzels or repetitively press the same combination of keys for any length of time. I think you're exaggerating but, of course, wouldn't swear to it."

You really are delusional or you must have an assistant pressing the keys for you in lightroom. Or your workflow is limited to a few minutes a day touching up photos.

"No, I've never had RSI for the reasons outlined above. The only people I know of, having such injuries, were a result of poor work habits and not deficiencies in the software they use"

What a heartless, ignorant comment. "A repetitive strain injury (RSI), sometimes referred to as repetitive stress injury, is a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves from repetitive motions. RSIs are common and may be caused by many different types of activities, including: using a computer mouse, typing swiping items at a supermarket checkout, grasping tools, working on an assembly line, training for sports"

I guess you can blame millions of people with "poor work habits" who do not have the luxury of your keyless Lightroom sessions.

"not deficiencies in the software they use"

c1 allows you to customize your workspace, your keyboard layout etc. just because something doesn't affect you doesn't mean it is a benefit to others.

When you blame the victims of RSI as "The only people I know of, having such injuries, were a result of poor work habits" you are done in my book. What a heartless ghoul. You really crossed the line on that comment.

"I can't argue with someone who thinks its great to unnecessarily twisting your fingers like a pretzel or repetitively pressing the same combination of keys for a "paltry" 18.42 hours."

Whenever I hear about folk complaining about awkward keyboard shortcuts, they are usually Mac users who have not yet twigged that you can easily swap the Cmd + Cntrl keys for the far more ergonomic Windows style modifier layout. You can also disable the 'caps-lock' key, hurrah! Almost worth swapping to a Mac for that alone. ;)
As for the time your programme saves you. Well funny how the programme self fulfillingly claims to save you so much time. I have had RSI in the past so learn keyboard shortcuts and how to minimise mousing etc and yet I see next to no time benefit to swapping the current export shortcut for something else. But if you do then...
On a Mac you can customise shortcuts for any's a bit faffier for Windows and LR.

Imagjez: so you are SAYING YOU DO NOT WANT options for the user to customize the program they use 1 to 30 hours a week? I guess you are also in favor of car seats that do not recline or adjust due to the driver's height, weight? ONE SIZE FITS ALL is what you are saying, right? You have obviously not used textexpander, keyboard maestro and alfred. BECAUSE YOU LIKE DOING THINGS HOW YOU ARE TOLD? Probably why you had RSI.

By the way, keyboard shortcuts are not the only user customizable options in capture one. But you probably wouldn't want to know that because what Adobe says is what you blindly follow.

Virtual copies are simple and intuitive in LR...variants in C1 are not.

The delete key in LR always does the same thing. In C1, delete means different things depending on context. I don't even use the delete button in C1, I go to the menu each time to choose the correct option so I know I'm doing the kind of delete I intended.

The crop tool in LR is simpler and easier to use. LR export overwrites any previous exported files (after prompting). C1 requires you to delete any existing versions or end up with (1) (2) numbered duplicates.

As you wrote, Timothy, I could go on.

I've left LR for good. There are many things that C1 does better. But there are so many simple things that are maddening that C1 doesn't get right.

There's definitely more to switching to C1 than learning where things are now. Some things aren't there and you have to learn a new way to edit.

c1 is more build from a commercial / advertising / photographer standpoint. you see this in many aspects.

so a lot of feature for nature / landscape / B2c and amateur photographers might be missing. on the other hand you have this insane skin color tools, better colors grading tools, composite view, capture pilot, basic parameter changes for exposure/contrast/.... are working much more natural or analog - in adobe you have to ochestrate parametric changes over n sliders to get a certain look which is not super artificial / tacky / digital - in c1 is is often just a slider which behaves more logical. c1 is a pro tool for photographers who all have photoshop or sending tif/psd files to a retouching studio. c1 to jpg and then to privat client or mom and dad is not the typical workflow it was intended. on the other hand, after an 8h production day try export your 1xxx images to a web gallery to cull select... with lr after a couple of hunderts jpgs its getting slow as f.. after 2 hours you might be done - in c1 just let your gaming gpu do this in 5 or less minutes.

There is kind of a way to add exported files to the catalogue automatically - if you use the Edit With option to launch it in Photoshop / Affinity. You can configure the file type and quality it uses for this somewhere as well (away from pc at the moment and can't recall exactly where)

Superficial differences. The only two things that Lightroom does that Capture One doesn't that I keep Lightroom around for ... HDR merging and Panoramic merging.

The good news is that Capture One fully supports the DNG RAW file from Lightroom panoramic merging, but dos not support the DNG from an HDR merge.

"Superficial differences. "
Not if they are key parts of your workflow, then they can be critical differences.
I've never used 'merge to HDR as it happens.

Jeez, how can software in 2019 NOT have a basic multiple undo / history feature? Ridiculous.

? :) How? :)

To say things like LR doesn’t have layers is just inaccurate, while they aren’t called layers all of the local adjustments are editable similarly and include excellent masking features. Camera settings can also be associated with a specific camera right down to the serial number. Not well thought out and very misleading. Yes, there are pluses and minuses on both sides, but don’t misrepresent the truth, politics is doing enough of that.

Lightroom does not have layers. Period.

"Lightroom does not have layers. Period."
But many of the tools in LR work like adjustment layers in PS, but more elegantly.
Now as PS is included with LR and you can seamlessly swap between the two programmes AND maintain the edits in your LR catalogue, there is little need for layers in LR.
PS effectively work like another LR module with a lot more layer wizardry and other PS stuff that C1 will ever have.

The one thing that always bugs me about articles like this, they compare a Digital Assets Management tool that has basic editing tools attached to a primary photo editing tool with the management tools attached. If you are want to be fair, your lightroom sub includes photoshop... So Lightroom+Photoshop vs Capture 1... you tell me then what can do things the other can't...

Its like Comparing Walmart VS Amazon and not bringing up the fact that Walmart has physical stores you can go into...

You can just buy Affinity which does a whole lot of the things PS can do, for £50.

Yes you are right it's very much an Apples to Oranges comparison Jason but
"basic editing tools "
If you think LR's tools are basic, then you don't know how to really use them. More powerful and faster than PS in many ways. I rarely need to use PS anymore as a result, other than when compositing or layer blending work. Plus PS which is included with LR works like a another LR module anyway - the advanced retouching module. ;) You can even retain a raw workflow into PS from LR by using smart objects.

Let’s not forget the monthly fee difference either, Great reply.

LR is designed to work in conjunction with Photoshop and even the camera raw filter. That's why you can't replace Adobe.

I’ve never had it to replace in the first place and I manage ok.

That's fine, you don't do any serious post processing.

thats a great assumption to make of somebody you dont even know.

Please do tell, what exact evidence do you have that 'serious processing' cant be carried out on Capture One Pro and Affinity photo? please tell us all.

Affinity has a long way to go before it can compete with Photoshop.

Yet many people are using it for professional work with no issue. Just so you know I like LR/PS but to simply palm everything else off as rubbish is quite closed minded.

You don't do any critical thinking about how your mouth works do you?

You can do round trip PS edits from Capture One. It works just fine.

But then you're paying two overpriced subscriptions for no good reason.

Capture One pro 12 Fujifilm is currently £110 one off payment, Affinity photo is £50 one off payment. thats £160 if you are struggling to add that up, thats quite a lot less than £15 a month for the rest of your life.

Capture One is £100-200 /year, because you do actually need the updates - it's not quite complete yet. Affinity is in no way competitive with Photoshop for serious work and large files. It's fine for playing around. The Adobe stuff is £100-120 /year.

What do you think it needs to be functional that isn't there yet? I'm honestly curious. I appreciate all he improvements when they make them but I haven't found anything directly missing for usability.

"Capture One pro 12 Fujifilm is currently £110 one off payment,"

And it only supports one brand of camera. Most if not nearly all folk have more than one brand.
Plus C1 deciding what cameras I can use [they do not support all cameras] is a big no-no from me.

Yes, right at the top of the article it says "Sponsored." They paid Fstoppers to post this.

Switching around from software to software is a losers game. Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standards.

Master LR and PS and don't waste your time with anything else.

Capture One is 100% an industry standard for tethered workflows. It's been around as long as LR but it's only recently made a push to be competitive with hobby and retail photographers for raw processing. Its roots are in commercial and editorial work.

"it's only recently made a push to be competitive with hobby and retail photographers for raw processing"

So, part of that push is to advertise on Fstoppers and try to entice "hobby and retail" photographers into spending some time and money with it?

Lightroom. Photoshop. Maybe those links will help.

Yes you can tether in Lightroom. No it is not suitable for high volume workflows that rely on tethering. Capture One was designed to do this for major shoots and studios and it has been doing this for years, as an industry standard. If you work on a commercial shoot, unless the photographer is shooting with a Hasselblad, you'll probably see Capture One on set.

In my opinion most aspects of Capture One are more robust, including raw processing. Layers, masking (the methods of masking, like color range and luminosity masking), and the color editor are things I use all the time in Capture One that I wished I had in Lightroom. Yeah there's H/S/L sliders in LR but you can do more precise color manipulation in Capture One.

Anyway, you don't have to use it or even like it, but regardless, it's industry standard software and that's the point I was getting at. If you don't have a need for it, cool. It's good that your'e covered. A lot of people who try it out will find they prefer it though, and sponsored or not, it's useful to have educational content out there.

Yep, it is industry standard in commercial, fashion, and ad photography.
In 12 years as DIT I only run into somebody wanting me to use LR twice. Rest is C1 .. with very few exception of using Phocus with hasselblad.

LR has some nice features but forced catalogue system and worse performance are not working for me. Also colors and output seems to be better in C1 (haven't cheeked LR in six months I might be outdated here)

I like to work in sessions in C1 and keep them organized in a folder structure that makes sense to me. I don't care for LR's default date-based system where you need to be in the program to find the files you want easily via collections. Then if there is any reason I need to bring something into LR, (for example, had a client that had explicit LR export setting they wanted that didn't quite match up in C1) I bring them in with the "add" import function so the files stay where they are on the drive.

Long time LR user here. I like LR, a lot. The tethering tho, oh my. EVERY TIME I use LR for tethered shooting it stops working. C1 was perfect with tethering on the few shots I've done with C1. C'mon Adobe, get your tethering right or you are going to lose portrait photographers.

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