Three More Things Capture One Can Do That Lightroom Can't: Luma Curve, Sessions, and Process Recipes

Three More Things Capture One Can Do That Lightroom Can't: Luma Curve, Sessions, and Process Recipes

This is the second in this series of posts highlighting some of the differentiators between Capture One and Lightroom. As with the first, if you’re reading this, the likelihood is that you are or were recently a Lightroom user and are curious about a better software solution with which to treat your images. "Better," of course, is somewhat subjective overall, but less so with specific features, and though that quest to find the best software is not necessarily an easy one, 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. And though both are raw processors, Capture One and Lightroom are not the same in terms of feature set, general performance parameters, and approach - each with their particular strengths. 

Capture One is multifaceted image processing and asset management software. As a raw processor, it is considered the gold standard, but without using it and experiencing the software some of its unique qualities can sometimes be less obvious to see, and comparative articles are often bathed in ambiguity 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 a few things Capture One has/can do that Lightroom doesn’t/cannot.

I highly recommend you click here for a 30-day full trial of Capture One Pro so you can follow along — seeing is believing, after all.

Luminosity Curve 

This is a big one, and one of those features that can hook someone on Capture One just because of it. It is true, later versions of Lightroom have a degree of control with Luminosity, but Capture One’s are vastly more developed, more akin to Luminosity blending mode in Photoshop, and Lightroom does not have Luma Curve at all. So what is it?

It’s a curve tool that appears as all curve tools you’ve seen before, but rather than adjusting the RGB values all together or by channel, the Luma Curve tool adjustments only affect the luminosity values. In a concise statement, Luma Curve allows you to precisely control tones separately from color. 

This is significant because as you adjust the lightness and darkness values with curves or any other way, you are adjusting contrast, and contrast has a direct effect on hue and saturation. So as you use a standard Curve tool, you’ll be introducing shifts to the color and saturation, but with Luma Curve you’re only adjusting the contrast without changing color; so it's a matter of tones versus color.

There is, perhaps, no more obvious place to see this than when adjusting skin or color managed products, and so it’s common to find Capture One’s luminosity controls among the top favorite features of portrait, fashion, studio and wedding photographers who use Capture One. See the example below

Both processed images have precisely the same curve values applied, but one is using the RGB curve and the other the Luma Curve. As you can see, there is a significant difference in both hue and saturation with the RGB Curve, and correcting that takes time and effort.

Multiple Simultaneous Export

Capture One’s export options are incredibly vast, and it can be the source of some intimidation at first, but the benefit of having all those options is that there is so much that can be done with it. One such thing is its ability to export with multiple "Process Recipes."

For Lightroom users, it’s best to think of Process Recipes as Lightroom’s export presets, except with Capture One you can export multiple versions of your images simultaneously, and use metadata to generate subfolders. Here’s an example of how this would look in practice:
Once ready to export an image, you can set it to export a full PSD or TIFF file to store in your back-ups, as well as a reduced JPEG with metadata and watermark for publishing, and a version that is perfectly scaled for Instagram all at once. 

You can also set parameters for specific metadata – like camera model/body, lens model, keywords, subject – so that upon exporting Capture One will create sub-folders for each or all. If you like to keep organized and save time, this is a huge help. Click image below to enlarge and see the Process Recipes panel on the left.

Session Based Workflow

Most basic introductions to Capture One will list the significant differentiator between C1 and Lightroom by highlighting the interface and Sessions versus Catalogs, and for good reason. Think of them in terms of use-case scenarios wherein Lightroom you typically will use a Catalog for all your images, and Sessions are typically for a particular individual photo session. For example, maybe you have a catalog set up to cover an entire calendar year of weddings, a Session would be used to keep all the assets of one wedding in their own separate, safe, and organized world.

Sessions have been the default method of organizing since the start of C1 and remain the go-to workflow used by nearly all pro production, studio and commissioned photographers, and are a completely different way of organizing and managing images than catalogs. 

*Though if you want to go the catalog route as in Lightroom you can, of course, do that with Capture One also, and anyone who was told Capture One doesn’t work with catalogs hasn’t used it since Version 6, and we’re on 12 right now. Also, you can import sessions into C1 catalogs for hybrid workflows.

When you create a new Session, Capture One will automatically create a folder structure for you that will have the parent folder (name of your shoot, perhaps), and cascading from that will be folders for Capture (where all images are copied/imported into), Selects, Output, and Trash. And yes, you can create more folders in the structure to suit your needs, but this is the basics and tends to be most what you’ll need. You can see how the various folders are reflected in the application and your OS in the images above.

The benefits of sessions are plentiful, and we’ll explore all the ways they differ from catalogs in another post, but Sessions are easier and cleaner for organization, offer greater security in case of corruption of a drive, easily portable between computers, better image privacy, easier file management between teams, and offers simple adjustment backups. 


There are tons of varied 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 the differences than using 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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I renewed my LR/PS subscription because until there is something out there that can do it better than the LR/PS combination, I'll stay with the subscription.

Give the Darktable/GIMP combination a try. Of course the user interfaces are different, but you might be pleasantly surprised in the results you can achieve. Your pocketbook will certainly thank you.

This is one expenditure that is worth every penny for my work. Plus, LR/PS play nicely with the plugins that I use.

I'd say the Capture One/Affinity Photo combination is better than LR/PS. Calling all your plugins into it is the same argument as switching camera systems.... "But I have all these lenses.".

If it works as well as LR/PS does for me, then you have yourself a good combination.

Agreed and more importantly the exorbitant price of Capture One makes one wonder who is actually using this application? The rich and famous!!!!!!

I use C1 for high end retouching. It handles skin tones much better than LR or ACR. It is also more reliable for tethered operation than is LR.

You pay for C1 once, and its not "exorbitant." Its more because it gives you more with layers supported. When I look back at my last LR purchase (LR 6.14), I have the C1 paid off already by the savings from the Adobe cloud. And now I just use it when I do photography, or not, when I am busy. But no one drains my account, even if I do not touch the software for months.

You pay normally for every new major update once a year and this is more expansive than LR/PS. I use LR/PS and also CO! I use CO for some critical things but overall the workflow is not much intuitive (for me, so there's no need to vote it down!).

Abobe should construct a National Monument for people like you, "The Heroic Feeders No Matter What" for their bonuses, yachts, 3rd and 4th homes. I have never, and do not, and I will never subscribe to a software, and being a software professional I assure you: the industry lives well, I mean multi-billion well, with the perpetual licenses as they always were. Its just so that you as a customer actually purchase something and possess the product or right to its use without being sucked out of money in a steady stream. Look at Adobe's income now, who do you think feeds them for virtually the same?

You can keep your holier than thou, self righteous attitude. Why did you even bother to reply? I'm spending my money, not yours. I don't care if Adobe can afford to buy China, their stuff works for me and that's all I concern myself with. :rolleyes:

I was in the SW industry for 40+ yrs (yes I'm a dinosaur).The OLD model was perpetual license then annual maintenance. If you didnt get maint, then decided later you wanted it, you had to pay for missed maint. As I understand it this is the C1 model except they call maint, upgrades. Adobe has adopted the subscription model. You need a current subscruption to use. One issue with the OLD model was the way interim updates are financially accounted for. That aside, from users cost perspective the cost in this case favors Adobe. C1 charges $400 + $200 for annual upgrades as I understand it (3yrs cost $800) Adobe charges $120/yr for always current LR & PS (3yrs cost $360) I hear C1 has some great features, but at a higher cost. So one could argue that Phase One is floating around on their yachts, and with their camera prices that easily imagined.

Same here, I see myself a Software Dinosaur. Your calculations contradict mine.

The point is, that while owning a product you are in control what you want to maintain at a fee, or what you want to upgrade. If you do not use the product for prolonged periods of time, you do not pay for it. My LR cost per month was $3 on average, calculated all way from LR1.0 to LR6.14, with updates made "at my pace," seldom the version. Paying in all the sudden $10 for their scheme means 300% cost increase for... what? Being unsafe what will happen if I stop paying? Cost for C1 is for me nothing compared to the cost of the gear. I use two systems, one Nikon and one Canon.

What about Adobe's "testing" of $20 version, what about their threatening letters to users to uninstall older versions, what may or may not force users to upgrade their hardware at thousands cost, when more important expenditures are due in household.

You see, this Cloud Business is good for... business. Professionals might benefit from that, its obvious. For private people this just adds up to humongous expenditures, lack of control. Every software company will maximize the "p*n" (price times n-users) but that's not the end of it: You rightfully mention the maintenance, in m-cases fixes are to be made, emails replied to etc etc. The number of these cases is difficult to predict and that drains of course on the above mentioned max(n*p).

"Three More Things Capture One Can Do That Lightroom Can't: Generate endless sponsored articles from Kishore" . Make this guy an ambassador already with free C1 updates for life!

And how many ambassadors and youtubers does Adobe have?

Probably at least twice as many, but they're not out there crying about what CP1 doesn't do, they focus on LR.

He really did a great job of speaking about C1, and explaining the differences between it and LR. Not sure what the problem is.

It's an advertorial.

The internet is an advertorial. Nobody's clean, don't fool yourself.

Hi Lance, normally they note "Sponsored" Now they seem to forget to do that.

And what if he not sponsored in fact?

Hi Thomas, I frickin' knew this had all the hallmarks of a "sponsored" article even though it appears this article did not originally have the "SPONSORED" tag. Thanks to your reply I went back to the top of the article and noticed they added the "SPONSORED" tag. So, yes, according to Fstoppers it is a fact now that it is sponsored.

What I like about the Sessions is it's self-contained and compatible between Macs and PCs. When I'm the road, I often do the first couple of culling passes on my Macbook. Then, when I get home, I'd just copy the entire folder to my PC. That's it. No re-syncing or adjusting.

Catalogs are also compatible between Macs and PCs, you'd just have to re-sync (locate) your images folder.

But I bet it's still slow. I don't do slow. :P

What is slow? Culling in LR is not slow, I really don't know, why people keep saying this. I use only LR for culling, no problem at all. After, when editing, there comes the slowness when scrolling with presets, yes, but nothing unusable. And I have a 4-5 years old config (Mac).
Also tethering is really nice with LR now.

When I used to use it (LR) up until 2014, it would drive me nuts. When culling in Library mode, the images don't render to 100% quality for the sake of speed. It's was hard to tell quickly if the images were out of focus or just rendered in low quality. I've tried different settings. There was always some compromise.

In Develop mode, it rendered to 100% quality, but, damn, it took about 2 seconds or a little longer. Whenever I view an image in this mode, it was slightly soft, then about 2 secs later, it was sharp in focus. Again, it was hard to tell quickly. And, that's what drove me mad, crazy, fucking INSANE!!!! joking joking :D

On average, I take about 1200 images per shoot. I ain't gots no time to be waitin' around for each image to render at 100%. Even on my road computer, a Macbook 1.1 ghz and 8 gb of ram, will go through 42 meg raws like it's nothing. And it's not because it's a Mac, it's because it's C1. My PC, which I built in 2012, is faster least 3x. Can you just imagine trying to use LR on a 1.1 ghz machine. lol

If you think about it, how many times have you seen or heard about people complaining how slow C1 is? And, there you have it.

In 2014? :-) 5 years ago. Also, have to use import in Standard mode or 1:1, and then, in Library, no waiting. Yes, in Develop mode, with presets on the photos, still slow, I know. But other than this, I love LR, simple, smart, do the job.

Any comment made comparing 5 year old software from one company vs. new software from another company is completely ignorant and without merit.


1. The 5 year old software is 8 years old. 5 years ago when when I stopped using it. They should have improved by now but didn't because they sat on their ass.

2. The new software isn't new. They were at version 8 at 2014. They are now at version 12. They didn't sit on their ass and vastly improved their software.

Riding in here uninformed on your high horse is what would be completely ignorant and without merit.

Sorry, but since you stopped using Lightroom 5 years ago and was using an old version then, how are you in a position to say they "sat on their ass"? You haven't used it.

I have C1 and not Lightroom as of last year, but when I see these articles I have to roll my eyes. How many users of the new Lightroom version are not also using Photoshop as well given the photographer bundle pricing? Compare apples to apples - C1vs LR/PS.

--"Sorry, but since you stopped using Lightroom 5 years ago and was using an old version then, how are you in a position to say they "sat on their ass"? You haven't used it."

Because I'm constantly seeing the complaints people have. Some spend as much as $5K and are still frustrated. I think it was this year supposedly LR finally uses the GPU to help with the speed. How much faster it is I dunno. Don't care at this point.

In contrast, how often do you hear about people complaining about C1's speed? Yeah, didn't think so.

CO is sooo slow! Really. If you have some hundret images in your catalog (and I don't store them in the catalog directly) it last some minutes until all metadata are loaded and all previews are done. Maybe it's all about using xmp files between LR and CO. But importing some hundret images in LR is also so much faster than importing in CO. It's just a fact!

Used to do the same in LR way back when for individual events. It's alot more fluid in C1.

Not missed those things.


Hi Lee. I shoot e-commerce on white quote a bit. Curious to know how you use the Luma curve in your workflow. Do you mind elaborating a bit?

CP1 is nice, but I'll stick with LR. At least you guys have an alternative now and we don't have to continually hear about how Adobe is ripping you guys off.

Sessions and tethering are alone worth it. 👍

Nobody has ever compared products before. Nope, no company ever has done that. They never had to make advertising laws about badmouthing a competitors products in ads.

In case you don't notice the small type at the top of the post:

"This is the second in this series of (SPONSORED) posts"

Not necessarily bad, but a bit misleading by not mentioning it in the post.

It's the same size font as everything else on my phone lol

Not sure what exactly sponsored means in this context, is Capture One paying Fstoppers to run an advertisement disguised as editorial content as that is exactly what it feels like to me.

Thats exactly what it means. This article was fairly blande though. If you check out a bunch of the industry leaders have decent blog/editorial articles. As long as you know where the bias may be coming from it's not really an issue.

Yes that is what I suspected, while the disclaimer probably meets the requirements, it still feels shady to me

I disagree. Even though the article was sponsored by Capture One (as stated) it was still full of useful, true info and it helps me decide whether to keep Lightroom or not. And it was well written, which I appreciate greatly.

Bought C1 now twice and both times went back to LR. Maybe there are workflow benefits to some. I saw zero improvements to image quality/processing in C1 over LR despite a lot of claims to the contrary.

I find C1 to process Sony's ARW files better than Adobe LR / PS / CR.
But for a dual-system shooter like myself, Lightroom is still king.

Buying software is not enough, you also need to use it.

I’m probably part of a very small user base who still uses the (old) Pentax 645Z and wished to tether. I’ve heard good things with C1 but unfortunately it doesn’t play nice with 645Z in favor of their own medium format cameras. For now, will be using LR despite it being very slow via the watched folder method.

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