The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Capture One

The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Capture One

Capture One is multi-faceted 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 that is just the tip of the technological iceberg that is Capture One. With a focus on user experience, its mountain of capability and complexity is hidden under a veneer of simplicity so as to make working with your images fast, focused, and easy. 

Although Capture one is known for being the software of choice for high-end professional photographers, it’s designed to help every level of photographer create professional-caliber images. With a feature set that’s geared for speed, accuracy, and a level of customizability fit for the most discerning professionals (read: Victoria's Secret, the Royal Wedding, etc.), it is also designed for ease of use and fun. 

If you are new to Capture One, here are the top 10 things you should know.

1. You Don’t Need the Latest or Greatest Cameras (or Computers) to Get the Most out of It

capture One

A 2015 MacBook Pro running Capture One smoothly

It is Capture One’s ability to provide a great experience and develop every image to its best possible version —regardless of the camera used — that makes it so special. In fact, Capture One can bring out the best of old camera files and make them look different and better than you’ve seen them before, and unlike other popular software that can be really taxing on a system, Capture One will run on less.

2. Getting Started Is a Breeze

When it comes to using image editing software, it’s common to find that users are about as adventurous as a hermit. The tendency to avoid experimentation is often a result of thinking about how powerful the applications actually are and being intimidated by this, assuming the learning curve is too long and that using it is too difficult.

As mentioned above, Capture One puts a focus on user experience and design, and you can be familiar and up and running in 10 minutes. Of course, there are depths of Capture One that you can learn after, but you can go from download to import and developing in minutes. Check out this video for a quick overview of the interface.

3. Capture One Plays Well With Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom

For those who use Lightroom or have in the past, it warrants pointing out that it’s actually easy to move Lightroom catalogs over to Capture One, retaining exposure values, ratings, and so on. 

Capture One also works beautifully with Photoshop, allowing for full round-trip file management. That means you can edit a file in Capture One, open it as a PSD in Photoshop for anything outside the scope of Capture One, like Liquify, and then send that file back to Capture One (layers intact) to edit further if you choose. Capture One is, however, so powerful, that you may find your time in Photoshop cut drastically.

4. The Skin Editor and Uniformity Tools in Capture One Will Transform Your Portraits and Make Perfect Skin Easier Than Ever

One of the biggest challenges to producing a beautiful portrait is managing skin tones, and Capture One has a dedicated Skin Tone tool that makes easy work of perfecting them. Combined with Capture One’s ability to use masks and layers, you can correct and alter skin appearance so you have beautiful photos of people.

5. Capture One Leads the Pack in Tethering

There’s good reason Capture One is being used on sets of those like Russel James shooting Victoria’s Secret, or Peter Lindbergh shooting the Pirelli Calendar, but the tethered-capture workflow in Capture One offers so many benefits for photographers at all levels, whether you’re shooting a cover of Vogue or a senior portrait. The process is fast and simple and provides advantages in organization, review, adjustments, and even live view or remote camera control.

There’s also an accompanying mobile app for iPhone or iPad that allows for wireless review, rating, and wireless shooting. It’s called Capture Pilot, and it’s free, unless you want wireless camera control.

6. The Best of Presets Are Also on Capture One

Capture One comes with a number of built-in high-quality Styles. Styles are the combined settings from multiple tools that are applied to images in a single step, unlike Presets, which are the saved settings from individual tools. 

Styles can be used as an endpoint or a starting point, with many able to be applied to layers for precise control of the intensity. And in case you were wondering, your favorite presets, like those from Mastin Labs, are available from Capture One as Styles.

7. With Capture One, Fujifilm Files Have Never Been More Flexible

Capture One and Fujifilm have collaborated to allow full Fujifilm raw file and tethered support. Sixteen film simulations are available in camera, ranging from color stocks like Provia and Velvia to black and white film like Acros, and the collaboration between Capture One and Fujifilm means photographers using the renowned X-Series and GFX-series cameras will be able to edit photos with Fujifilm Film Simulations. 

These in-camera settings have been faithfully reproduced in Capture One to provide an identical experience when working with the files, resulting in images that appear the same as if the Film Simulation picture profiles were applied in-camera.

8. Capture One Has Powerful Local Adjustments and Layers

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 a raw file. That means you can get the most out of each shot and do more with a raw processor than previously possible.

9. Capture One Is Available to Purchase or Through Subscription

While you can buy any of the Capture One versions outright, you can also opt for the subscription if that suits you better. There are also brand-specific versions for Fujifilm and Sony that work only with the specified camera brand and come at a lower cost. All versions of Capture One come with a full, free 30-day trial. You can get it here.

10. Capture One Works Wonderfully With All Your Favorite Editing Accessories Like Wacom Tablets, Loupedeck+, or Palette Gear

As photographers in the modern era, we often use a myriad of accessories to help us be faster, more accurate, and find a workflow that’s optimal for our individual tastes. Fortunately, all the major tools are made to work with Capture One. From Wacom tablets and Tangent panels (or Tangent App), to Loupedeck+ and Palette Gear, they’re all Capture One friendly, and with Capture One’s growing tool set and functionality, these accessories can be even more powerful. 


Of course, there is a lot more to Capture One than is listed here, and hopefully, this has piqued your interest. Over the next few weeks, we are going to teach you how to use Capture One from the ground up, right to the edge of the envelope, so check back often.

And if you want to jump-start and learn immediately, there is already a bevy of tutorials on Capture One’s YouTube channel, and you can download Capture One here with a 30-day free trial. 

If you're looking for a fast and effective way to learn Capture One, check out The Complete Capture One Editing Guide. a five hour video tutorial taught by Fstoppers' own Quentin Decaillet.

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Previous comments
Luke Adams's picture

I think this article is trying a little too hard, don’t you think? I own C1, and it certainly has some strong points, but user friendliness/intuitiveness is definitely not one of them as it probably has the steepest learning curves of any of the popular editors, also the “best” presets are certainly not available for C1. Mastin just made their Kodak Gold pack available - and that’s not even their most popular pack. Also, I don’t think you can definitely say C1 is the gold standard in raw processing. It is my opinion that images generally look better in Lightroom. C1 has some film curves that are baked into the images which I really don’t like. Again, C1 is great and all, but I think they are riding a trend of coolness by association right now, and it’s getting a little annoying seeing all the people walking around feeling a little more “evolved” than their fellow man just because they use C1.

Luke Adams's picture

I’m also still baffled by number one, saying that you don’t need a new camera to make great images in capture one . . . I’m pretty sure that holds true for most raw processors. BUT, the rest of the point is absolutely untrue. Phase One offers no support for cameras they generally consider to be competitors such as Pentax and Hasselblad, etc. They actually are being selective with what cameras they want to support - which is generally untrue of other processors. Again, this article reads as a piece of fanboy mail.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

There is no other software that supports native tethering to so many cameras as C1, period. As for not supporting their direct competition, well that's hardly something you can hold against them.

So unlike most other software which is VERY selective in their tether/live view support C1 should be considered the gold standard.

I don't feel more evolved, I just feel I use the best professional tool for shooting tethered with a Sony camera. LR is slow and plain dumb in comparison. Not only when it comes to tethering but spee din general. Using Loupedeck+ in LR is laggy compared to using the same control surface in C1 (which is still running a beta driver for C1)

Luke Adams's picture

My reply had nothing to do with tethering, but yes, if you are a tethered shooter, then C1 seems the way to go. No, I don’t blame C1 for their selective policy of cameras they support. I was simply replying to the authors assertations. I actually own C1. I appreciate its speed and I appreciate some of its tools. But, I don’t use it with rose coloured glasses either, and generally find that I do not prefer the “baked in” look of their raw files compared to LR.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Well if you had some experience as to why many professionals use C1, you would know Tethering is one of them. In that regard, LR is pretty much useless.

As for their "baked" raw files. yeah like ACR is the holy grail, it's been pure garbage for years with Sony files.

Your assumptions that C1 users see them self as evolved is narrow-minded to say the least.

My camera is a Pentax K1MII, which isn’t listed in the camera profiles. However, the vanilla K1 is, which is essentially the same camera (profile-wise). I also had the same issue with the KS-1.
Not to mention the lenses I use.
Capture One makes it easy to get around these shortcomings with live previews of each profile, so I can find a close match.
I also love how it will compare a bunch of images to create a new lens profile.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

--"I think this article is trying a little too hard, don’t you think?"

No, I don't.

--"I own C1, and it certainly has some strong points, but user friendliness/intuitiveness is definitely not one of them as it probably has the steepest learning curves of any of the popular editors"

If you're coming from LR (and maybe other editors), it does have a steep learning curve. I came from LR (RIP LR 2012-2014). However, once you get used to it, it is very very intuitive and customizable. It's worth learning.

--"Also, I don’t think you can definitely say C1 is the gold standard in raw processing. It is my opinion that images generally look better in Lightroom."

Then, maybe you should stick to LR. Yes?

--"Again, C1 is great and all, but I think they are riding a trend of coolness by association right now"

They are riding a trend of coolness because they are a superior product which draws in their association.

--"and it’s getting a little annoying seeing all the people walking around feeling a little more “evolved” than their fellow man just because they use C1."

Seriously, though, so what? Stop being so cynical and melodramatic and it won't bother you so much.

They aren't riding the trend of coolness, they are riding the trend of $$$. This is a sponsored post so they were paid to "try a little too hard." This doesn't mean the conclusions are incorrect... but you just have to take it with a grain of salt.

Alec Kinnear's picture

In terms of user-friendliness and getting first rate results fairly quickly, DxO PhotoLab knocks C1 out of the park (I own both). As PhotoLab doesn't have its own DAM features, it plays better with other software than C1 (you can't send a file to C1 for editing from an external app, it requires its own catalogue or session, PhotoLab lets you do just that). PhotoLab noise reduction on high ISO Canon files (the ones I shoot, other brands might be the same thing but I don't know) is a totally different calibre.

On the other hand, C1 does have tethering if tethering is important to you (not to me at this point) and the colour tools are more capable than anything outside of Davinci Resolve (which started life as a $200,000 colour only suite for motion pictures).

An Fstoppers original that's is actually an add...

That's a weird choice. I feel it dimisnishes the actual valu of the tag for future posts...

Ryan Mense's picture

Personally I'd say the #1 thing to know is that it's highly customizable. I think the main complaint I hear is that people don't like the layout. Whether that be where the toolbars are located or sized, or how it uses the tabbed approach rather than having one long scrolly sidebar. But it can all be changed.

It is extremely customizable. Maybe we'll do another 5 or 10 things you should know - the 'Ryan' edition ;-)

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Yup. People that are complaining about that, feel all the effort and time they invested learning Adobe products is wasted when they have to put the slightest bit of effort into learning a far superior product and customizable workflow that fits many needs. Granted, PS has it's perks, but for quality RAW editig from the start C1 beats the crap out of LR or PS ACR. Especially Nikon NEF files. Adobe half asses the interpolation and those Nikon users that stick to ACR are only hurting themselves.

c1p is build around a professional workflow in advertising and fashion, so it has tools no adobe user has heard.
like capture one pilot, integration of profoto air controls, compositing view, skin color tools, or colors in general, and finally the session based workflow. when working with teams on one job, one thing you don't want is one big database with all in - this is a nightmare.
lightroom is more for landscape people, amateurs and wedding people. so you have these panoramic function or super weird colors, digital colors when you are pushing the parameters - fine for tacky landscapes or tacky russian 500px styled portraits.

Luke Adams's picture

Ahh, I see you are one of those sophisticated and “evolved” C1 users I mention above . . .

Paul Lindqvist's picture

So you disagree that there are different needs/requirements for hobbyist and professionals or between different genres like weddings and commercial studio work?

Luke Adams's picture

I disagree of his characterization of who Lightroom is for, and what it is suitable for - tacky landscapes and tacky Russian (very classy BTW) portraits.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Sure I do not agree with that either in general, but it's not totally off the mark either...

LR is targeted at amateurs and professionals, while C1 has a workflow and toolset very much aimed towards professionals.

but there might be much more professionals who are doing weddings and business to customer work, tacky portraits.

Richard Bradbury's picture

I am considering moving from Adobe LR to Capture One for a few reasons.

1. Crap performance.
2. Crap Performance
3. Adobe FUBARD the camera profiles on recent Canon( and may be other) cameras. Crushing blacks.

The only conerns I have is bringing large catalogues ( built and edited in LR) over to Capture One and also the fact that you can't record to camera and computer in Capture One.

The rest of Capture one has really impressed me. I mean it has Live View... Live view... you hear that Adobe.

I had a hell of a time porting my 20,000 image LR catalog to C1. It was not easy and it took months to straighten out the resulting mess. YMMV, but I recommend trying to port your catalog during the 30 day trial period so if it goes badly you won't be out $300.

Richard Bradbury's picture

That's my fear.

I don't want to fight to move my 80k + over or risk anything. But man Lightroom is making it tempting to try. If only Adobe would pull it's finger out it's ass and get to the work that needs doing to Lightroom... which is a new ground up rebuild.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

For someone like me who shoots 99% tethered, regardless where i or what i shoot C1 Pro is without equal. LR is a toy in comparison.

The use of sessions and it's raw converter for sony files is superb as well!

With that said Adobe CC is indispensable for me as well.

user-206807's picture

The main asset of C1 is that it is a powerful competitor of Lightroom.
And as we all know that competition is good for better products, it's good for us!

I’ll guess you don’t have much experience with Capture One if that’s your take. It’s been around at least as long as LR, I think longer but I’m not totally sure. It’s only in the past few years that it’s really started to go mainstream for hobby and retail photography. Before that it lived more in the commercial and editorial domain and had to perform for the upper echelons of photography. It’s Phase One’s own software after all.

user-206807's picture

Typical comment of fanboy… ( "the brand I use is the best because I am using it…")
Btw I guess that you did not understand what I meant…
Should I have to explain you the benefits of a sane competition, for everybody and every product?…

I have no doubt that Phase One products are excellent.

I get what you’re saying. Yes, innovation-boosting competition is good for everyone. What I’m saying is that’s definitely not Capture One’s main asset.

Quite the edit after I already responded so I’ll add more to address what you tacked on... I use both LR and Capture One. I believe Capture One is the better product because of the feature set and performance. Also I’m not a boy...

user-206807's picture

Sorry, I did not see that you answered before I edited.
I use C1 occasionally and Lightroom more regularly, but I fan of luminosity masks in Photoshop (just another way to work).
So I think we understand each other ;)
I am also not a boy… I am an old cow.

In that case, you’ve got to try Capture One 12 if you haven’t yet. That’s one of the coolest new features - you can use luminosity masks now with layers.

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