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.

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David Pavlich's picture

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.

David Pavlich's picture

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

"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!

Christian Lainesse's picture

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.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

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.

You’ll be surprised, I do the same in LR :)

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

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

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

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.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

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.

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

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.

Johnny Rico's picture

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

Rob Mitchell's picture

Not missed those things.


Lee Christiansen's picture

I used LR for years, and was always hesitant about making any sort of switch. Initially it was the quality of images I could more easily achieve - C-1 just offered better pictures more easily...

But alas back in the days of vs 8, C-1 was quite lacking in its feature set.

But at last things have caught up with the addition of radial masks, (great for events and wedding work), and the wonderful luma adjustment, (great in particular for e-commerce product work against white).

The article mentions the benefits of luminosity curve adjustment, and it can't be overstated. Colours stay the same when I make curve adjustments in a way they don't with LR. Indeed, I almost always change the blend mode to luminosity for curve adjustments in PS.

With respect to the curves in C-1, one extra feature that is very useful is the 5-point option. It more easily allows adjustment to highlights / shadows / mids, but seems to keep the curve line straighter where no adjusted... very nice and speedy.

Sessions are of course a matter of taste - but I use both sessions and catalogue. Self contained sessions are great when tethering, (which is soooo much better than LR both for speed and in that C-1 allows the option of following adjustments to the next capture with ease). Importing a session is easy, as is then transferring the images to the catalogue.

Where LR is still better is where I can view all images in a group of nested folders, where C-1 only allows me to view a single folder.

I'll say that I do find C-1's tech support nice and speedy - albeit only via emails.

There will always be the two camps, but C-1 has come of age. I could never go back.

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.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Sessions and tethering are alone worth it. 👍

These posts wouldn't be nearly so annoying if you just stated what cool things you can do with C1 and not compare it with LR.

C Fisher's picture

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.

Of course they do, and can, but that doesn't make them any less annoying. I haven't kept track but it seems to me they typically do it as part of the article and not the entire point of the article. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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.

C Fisher's picture

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.

Johnny Rico's picture

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.

Koketso Resane's picture

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.

JJ Casas's picture

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.

Still haven't mentioned Luminosity based Masking. If you ever dodge or burn this feature is massive once you learn how it works in C1. I like it far better than the Photoshop plug-in way I was doing it before the latest C1 upgrade. It is even better when combined with hue based layer masks.

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