Following up from last’s week’s article about Capture One, today, we’ll take a look at its main rival in the raw processing field, Lightroom. To keep things on a relatively level playing field, I’ll be discussing what is now called “Lightroom Classic,” the desktop version of Lightroom.
As with last week’s article, I’m expecting that a lot of our visitors won’t actually read the article, and we’ll have a fairly emotional comments section. Again, we’ll be looking at the more objectively better features rather than the subjective ones like noise reduction and highlight/shadow handling. So, for those of you who do take the time to read this, I hope that it stirs some thoughts in you about why Lightroom is a good choice for you or what might make it better for your needs. Please try to keep the comments section on topic and discuss the pros and cons of both pieces of software so we can make this a valuable discussion for those who might be looking at both pieces of software.
Functions Outside of Raw Development
Adobe has introduced some extremely useful tools to Lightroom that make it a much more fully featured post-production suite than Capture One. A couple that come to mind are the DNG panorama and HDR merge functions. These make it simple to perform basic panorama stitches and HDR merges while staying in Lightroom and not relying on external software. While you'll still need to jump into a pixel-level editor like Photoshop for certain tasks, these are a great option in many situations.
One of the ones I didn't even think about before making the move for most of my work to Capture One was the simple ability to synchronize cameras. Wedding and event photographers frequently make use of multiple bodies during shoots and having those files in the correct running order can be extremely important. With Lightroom, you can quickly and easily sync cameras whose clocks were different at the time of shooting.
Adobe allows developers access to the inner workings of Lightroom in the form of a robust API and even access to the raw processing engine through their improved "camera profiles." This has allowed for plugins like Nik and Aurora HDR to make their way into full Lightroom integration. It has also allowed companies like VSCO and RNI to create very powerful film simulation preset packs. Additional hardware, such as MIDI decks and even the Loupedeck products are fully compliant with all tools in Lightroom.
Robust Catalog System
While Capture One offers two basic workflows, Catalogs and Sessions, Lightroom offers only a catalog system but does it extremely well. Simple tasks like moving images between catalogs are straightforward and powerful. You can choose to send adjustments, raw files, smart previews (or any other preview for that matter) between catalogs. This process is painless and does exactly what the wording in the program says.
This sort of functionality is great for having catalogs that serve multiple purposes. For example, you might keep a small working catalog for your current jobs on a super-fast internal NVMe drive and then move each job into an archive catalog on a slow spinning drive when it’s done. Lightroom facilitates this in a straightforward manner that takes all your work and drops it into another catalog.
Another function that is extremely useful in Lightroom's catalog is the ability to select multiple folders or collections at the same time and see their contents together in a single slider. Lightroom's catalogs and organization features are far more robust than Capture One's when it comes to viewing and managing large numbers of files.
Bouncing off the last point, Lightroom offers the ability to sync your work across to a mobile device for working on the go. This is great for people who need to take something light and simple such as a tablet or phone on the go so they can make the most of commute time or time between jobs. Having Lightroom sync smart previews and the presets you work with across to a mobile device quickly can be a huge time-saver for some.
Well-Named Interface Components
I mentioned above that the options for exporting between catalogs were well named and made sense. This is a trend that continues throughout the program. Features are thoughtfully named and do exactly what you expect them to. Presets are presets and the export option exports files. Capture One allows you to both export and output files or create a preset or a style. These unnecessary distinctions give Lightroom the upper hand when it comes to the simplicity of executing simple tasks. A first-time user should have very little trouble navigating the software and performing basic tasks.
These are a few of the places that I feel Lightroom does better than Capture One. On the Lightroom end, things that stand out to me most are the move to being more than just a simple raw development package and the ability for third-party developers to expand the program. These are what, in my opinion, make Lightroom a compelling option.
Have you chosen Lightroom as your software of choice? What are the biggest positives for you? Where does it fall short?