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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Previous comments
Rk K's picture

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

Stuart Carver's picture

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.

Rk K's picture

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

Stuart Carver's picture

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.

Christopher Eaton's picture

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.

Rk K's picture

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

Stuart Carver's picture

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.

Rk K's picture

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.

imajez .'s picture

"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 use C1 mostly for tethering and culing with clients. Then all photos go to Lightroom for storage. Yes, it is costly to use it as solely tethering solution, but it does its job great.

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.

I have the same folder structure, but to get photos into LR use “Synchronize folder”.

Kevin Gilligan's picture

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.

I have been an LR user since v1. Tethering is why I bought C1 Then I started experimenting using C1 as a replacement to LR Classic. I still have to use LR to do HDR and pano's, but C1 is working out well for me, especially in terms of color grading.

Nick Rains's picture

1. Wrong, simply not true.
2. True but meh.
3. More powerful tool defaults for sure, but not a biggie
4. Wrong, you can do exactly this but it's not well documented
5. Correct, and reasonably useful.

A pity the author could not get his facts straight as C1 is in fact excellent, just for none of the reasons mentioned.

ma mo's picture

if c1 can panoramic in the future and especially hdr then i think about a change, but before that it is not interesting for me.

Vincent Alongi's picture

How about a compare to Photoshop? I'd been a LR user for about three years. Just recently jumped to Capture One. As a portrait photographer, I love the skin tone color editing... and outside of the layers aspect, is the single biggest draw that makes me run far away from LR. But... does Photoshop have this feature (or a similar one)?

The pricing on the Photographer's bundle at ten bucks a month (including a web site host) is killer with Photoshop / LR. Double that for Capture One (and I'd need to pony up an additional $16 a month for Squarespace.

Currently debating this. Not big money, but I'd rather spend $10 than $36 a month if I can have similar features.

LR still can't do luminosity masks can it? This is a huge one for me in C1 and you can apply the masks to any layer. C1 adding luminosity masking has eliminated me ever bringing an image into CS6 probably 90% of the time now. Pretty much the only time I use Photoshop at all is if I need to clone or complex heal. It saves me a lot of time.

Not having to worry about tethering issues during a photo shoot is one of the 20 unsponsored reasons why I love @PhaseOne @CaptureOne. I always thought it was my cables causing issues when it came to tethering in Lightroom. Thank God for @CaptureOne. Perhaps it is time to monetize on my love for @PhaseOne and @CaptureOne. Anyone know the going sponsored rate for a gushing "250 Things @CaptureOne Can Do That Lightroom Can't" review?

Uneternal Van de Dood's picture

Most people have the Photoshop + Lightroom CC bundle and combined with Photoshop and importing as smart objects, you can work with layers as well as change opacity of presets and a lot more.

vik .'s picture

This of article is so useful, i've learned 2 new things. Thanks!

Deleted Account's picture

"Change the Default Value of Almost Any Tool for Any Specific Camera"
You can do it in Lightroom… If you don't know how read the manual……

A couple of comments -

So, which version of LR are you comparing C1 to? It's nobody's fault but the Adobe Marketing Department that they have confused everybody with their product naming, but are you in fact comparing C1 to what is currently being called Lightroom Classic? Perhaps you should so indicate. Comparing C1 to Lightroom CC and letting people think you're comparing it to Classic would be pretty misleading.

If you're talking about Classic, your comment about not being able to "Apply a Style / Preset as a Layer and Control Its Strength" is just wrong, at least in current versions of Lightroom Classic, since you can in fact apply Profiles (which are basically Presets on steroids), and there is a strength slider to control how strongly they are applied. Furthermore, unlike the traditional Lightroom presets, when you apply a profile, it does not adjust any of the sliders, allowing you infinite latitude to make further adjustments. You can learn more about it here:

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