The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with Capture One Pro

Over the years, Capture One has evolved tremendously in its feature set, and has steadily become one of - or arguably the best - raw processor available. Despite all it's advantages and praises, many remain hesitant to adopt it, largely due to its seeming complexity and the intimidation factor associated with a truly professional tool. In this tutorial I'll be guiding you through the key aspects of Capture One version 12, and demonstrating that it's actually quite intuitive and straightforward to use. 

With its highly customizable and professionally geared interface, Capture One can be intimidating to even the most experienced photographers and retouchers. My first attempt at using it was met with a good deal of frustration and resulted in my abandoning the product for several weeks. Not until I was forced to use it did I sit down and gradually begin to understand the ins and outs of the application. Thanks to the perks of writing for Fstoppers, I also got a one-on-one screen sharing session with Phase One's development manager for Capture One and got answers to a lot of my lingering questions. It's now been several years that I've been using the application, dating all the way back from version 7, and decided it was time to pass that knowledge on and hopefully alleviate some of the shock that you might be feeling when you first launch the application.

My advice in learning and using Capture One is to stop comparing it to Lightroom in any way. If you try to associate features between the two products, you'll ultimately get confused and frustrated. Capture One's design is geared towards professionals working under a variety of scenarios. For that reason it offers an extensive set of customization tools to adapt to your workflow, and not the other way around. In the video I'll show you how to get started by working with catalogs and sessions and discuss the pros and cons of each. From there we'll look at importing files and then culling and organizing them, and finally processing the raw file using a variety of tools and getting it into Photoshop. We'll also touch on customizing your interface and working with different workspaces. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive tutorial on all things Capture One, as such a lesson would span several hours and probably bore you to death. My goal here was to present you with an overview of its many features and give you a workflow for starting work on your first images. 

Once you get into the swing of things and want to explore some of its specific features, I highly recommend taking a look at Phase One's YouTube channel where they offer a number of short topic based tutorials on Capture One. Also be sure to take a look at my YouTube channel for a number of free Photoshop, Capture One and retouching tutorials.

If you have questions on Capture One, you can connect with me via the social media links below. 

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Russ Wittmann's picture

While I believe Capture One Pro is an up and coming competitor to light room, I just can get over the interface UI.... it looks like someone painted ugly all over it.

Filip Wesołowski's picture

When Lightroom 1.0 was realesed Capture One was already on v4. It is also considered industry standard in many high end photogaphy niches. So, calling it up and coming competitor seems rather misguided.

Also interface UI is a pleonasm.

With that being said, I have to agree that UI design is subpar by todays standards. Skeuomorphic patterns are so 2007 :D

Russ Wittmann's picture

Thanks for that bit of history. I stand corrected.

Morgan Moller's picture

This guide should be quite useful for a lot of people. I've been using C1P7 for a while now and before that C1P6. Its true that the interface is intimidating at first, but you quickly grow fond of it. I couldnt go back to Lightroom now. I just use it for cataloging and printing. The printing interface in lightroom is stellar, especially color management, ICC profile management and resolution resolving.

The true power of C1P7 lies exactly in that customization however. Make good use of the preset workspaces, they are incredibly valuable. Tethering simplified and Black and white workflow are stellar.
Noise reduction and sharpness adjustments are two other major things that are ahead of LR.

The ability to work in layers has reduced my need to go to photoshop by close to a half I think.

While it is more expensive, its certainly worth the try. As said before its been the industry standard for quite some time

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

The UI is terrible and as Michael's voice said intimidating indeed but for me the main problem with CO is that there's no option of using my simple file system I already have on my hds. Explorer is awesome and we know it and comfortable with it. Why forcing catalogues on people is beyond understanding. Photoshop is really the only professional tool for photographers and Adobe has nothing to worry about with Capture One. Capture One make me feel uncomfortable and irritated while Photoshop provides me as photographer with real comfort and everything I need to make best job possible. Btw I dislike Lightroom as well, so no, it's not my dedication to Adobe or anything like that.

David Grover's picture

That is not the case actually Bello! You can use Capture One Pro 7 as a simple file browser. In any Session, just look to the System Folders section and you can browse away. You are not forced into using a Catalog. Capture One is not a Photoshop replacement and we don't market it in that way.

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

David, thank you for your reply. I tried COP7. Some things are quite cool. But overall impression is negative. There are simple things you made difficult probably due to developing some unique experience. But this is where the problem is. I wish there was an option of simple intuitive explorer kind of browsing in CO. I read tutorials, I watched videos but still I am far from being comfortable with CO. And I am not the only one. Simplicity is the most important UI quality. Not because we are dumb but because we have millions of other things in our lives to give energy to.

J. Guevara's picture

Much of this reminds me of Aperture for DAM but with greater flexibility for organizing the workspace for different workflow tasks. The Color Editor and Skin Tone are pretty nice along with the local adjustment masking without having to go to Photoshop. My biggest concerns are my use of Nik Collection and VSCO Film presets. The Capture One film presets look good but you can't add grain. Not a deal breaker but I would like the option. With the "Switch50" 50% discount, I'm tempted.

Mark T's picture

What really counts is that it is a superior RAW processor period. That's where the real buzz is for me (certainly with Nikon files, no experience with Canon so can't speak for them - but C1 is visibly superior to LR and Aperture for NEF processing IMO)

David Grover's picture

Thanks for your feedback J.

Neil Shearer's picture

Michael, thank you! This is just what I needed! Have been playing around with Capture One this week and there are elements that I really like, but getting to grips with it properly will be much easier now!

Spy Black's picture

Phase One needs to make better tutorial videos available and get over nickel & dining on training. The webinar videos, while informative, are draaaaaaaged out and sleepy. I wish weren't such Adobe whores, as their tutorial style is very good, but nary a C1 video in sight.

David Grover's picture

Basic Capture One training is free from us and I apologise for my sleepy webinar voice. ;) Our partners offer training courses too. We only charge for POCP training which is aimed at Digital Techs and is an intensive two days, covering camera systems and Capture One.

Spy Black's picture

I wasn't implying your voice was sleepy, just the loooong nature of the webinar. ;-)

David Grover's picture

LOL. Ok. Well, back in april I trialled 18 minute long webinars but the longer ones are more popular!

Stian Klo's picture

guess i have to give this badboy a chance then :D

Shayne Thomas's picture

Personally, It is such a hog on my machine and I cant work effectively if things are lagging. Ive got the top of the line MacBook Pro 17" and can perfectly run Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign and all without the slightest lag... I would be super curious to give this a go on a shoot but its not worth the added time and frustration...

Spy Black's picture

I have noticed my CPU going on overdrive with C1P as well. All I was doing was painting an alpha with a small brush and my CPU fan went on full RPMs. This, mind you, is on a 6-core Phenom machine with 16 gigs of ram, plenty of storage, and an SSD drive as a scratch disk running Win 7 64-bit. Not sure why such a simple process was taxing the entire system.

Lowell Mason's picture

C1 is incridbly powerful. My first experience was with C1 v6 and i discovered after i found Lightroom way too buggy and laggy when shootign tethered with my Canon. The interface intimidaed me but i liekd how my images looked so i persevered. Now i wouldnt look back.

The raw processor is far superior and the real treat for me lies within workign with adjustement layers and the 'skin tone' and 'colour' tools. they are incredibly powerful. I can now get alot of my base work done here before pushign to photoshop.

I then had a legendary workshop with Joey L and learned how best to send the cleanest file over to Photoshop for more refined work and its fantastic.

Now i shoot with my Phase 1 645 i kind of have no chioce where i go first but i would not have it any different. For me its in a different league to light room. I still use Lightroom for my wedding workflow because its faster to deal with batch work in Lightroom however for real speciliastic, and portrait shotos where im workign on 5 to 10 images. Capture One is my first port of call.

Sean T's picture

Michael what is your workflow if you need to go to LR? I read you sometimes what the options of LR. Do you save out as a TIFF into LR?

Diko Jelev's picture

Any update on that one (ver. 10.2) ? Would love to hear. :-)

Pascal Hibon's picture

Great video! I'm fed up with the slooooooowwwwww LR performance, especially when using several local adjustment tools. I kinda like C1's interface; it is so customizable! One think I liked in LR was to open several images as layers in Photoshop. How does that work in C1?