We are busy professional wedding photographers, who also shoot events, portraits, real estate, products, and artworks. Our primary focus in terms of computers, software, and systems is wedding photography.
Our history of editing RAW files
For years, let’s be specific, right from the very beginning in 2006, we used Lightroom to edit our RAW files. Prior to this, we were using a combination of camera-specific Kodak and Nikon Raw processing software, finishing files in Photoshop. That was a long tedious process. Lightroom was revolutionary and did what it said on the tin. It saved lots of time and sort of introduced digital asset management.
Over the years, we soldiered on with Lightroom. As it evolved, it bloated and became resource hungry. For us adding lots of features, but then making it so resource-hungry, that users needed a new computer was not intuitive.
Now we only use Capture One for editing RAW files, and Photoshop for any finishing.
Lightroom started to affect our productivity
In about 2012, things got a bit silly, Lightroom version 4 was great in some respects, but the minor version changes made it slower and slower.
With software being a bottleneck, we started to look elsewhere, Capture One looked interesting, but was not quite there for us. We continued with Lightroom, frustrated by sluggishness and freezing. Roll on to 2014, and Capture One perked our attention again, with the release of Version 8.
Testing Lightroom next to Capture One
At this point, we were being totally frustrated with Lightroom. Something had to give. With an open-minded interest, we started to test Capture One next to Lightroom on the same computer and did a side by side comparison.
We happened to be setting up a new high spec Windows workstation. After installing the latest version of Windows, we then only installed the latest offerings of Capture One (version 8), and Lightroom (version 4). We were expecting both packages to fly. We were very surprised by what happened next.
Taking the same selection of 1200 Nikon RAW files into each piece of software, Capture One simply flew, whereas Lightroom was still running in full syrup edition mode. Looking long and hard at both the hardware and software configuration; nothing we could see explained the lack of performance from Lightroom.
Frustration is not why we changed to using Capture One
As busy photographers, changing an integral part of our systems was a big deal. We had a tried and tested routine. For this reason, for a while, we carried on using Lightroom, whilst tentatively flirting with Capture One.
The massive speed difference between Capture One and Lightroom was greatly impressing us. All aspects were so much faster, including ingest, editing to exporting. It was night and day different, but what was really impressive was the image quality.
Quality trumps everything
We then started to look at the actual images. Side by side, Capture One was pulling so much more out of our RAW files. The image quality was outstanding in comparison. The way Capture one deals with colour was really standing out to us too. For this one reason, we jumped ship. Quality trumps everything for us. But other things about Capture One were grabbing our attention.
Professional, not frivolous
You know that lens debate. The one that involves pixel peeping, and shooting test charts, and arguing about sharpness. We see the same issue with editing software. The sorts of folks that worry about which lens is minutely sharper are usually the ones dissecting every single software feature, comparing them side by side and always wanting something else.
In some respects, we feel that’s where Lightroom lost its way, adding feature after feature to its RAW editing software, bloating it and not resolving the knock-on performance issues,
Capture One is designed with professionals in mind
As shooters first, we feel that RAW editing software, is just a tool for us in getting our job done. Capture One just seemed to have the features we needed, no more, no less. The philosophy behind it had workflows in mind, and we could build an un-distracted workspace, with just what we needed.
Just like a professional camera has fewer features, distracting controls and buttons, than a consumer camera, We feel that Phase One had concentrated on developing Capture One, with just the features that professional photographers needed.
The tethered shoot
Unusually for us, we then booked a shoot, where we would need to shoot tethered. We grabbed our laptop with Lightroom installed, double checked everything was working, and the usual nightmare started. An hour of messing with drivers and cables left us totally frustrated.
Could we shoot tethered into Capture One? We loaded a copy onto our laptop, and immediately was shooting tethered. No delay, no drivers, no messing. It works, works well. The subsequent shoot went flawlessly.
Getting used to Capture One
Impressed by the speed, the ability to manage workspaces, the non-distracting interface, image quality and the way it just works when shooting tethered, we took the decision to jump ship and 100% commit to Capture One.
Finding our way
In our off-season, we lifted the lid of Capture One and really committed to learning how to use it, sorting our workflows and integrating into our systems.
Let’s hang this one out there. There is a learning curve. Capture One IS NOT Lightroom. We made the mistake of trying to Capture One like Lightroom for a short while. After a few days, it clicked with us. We could personalise Capture One do what we wanted, and tailor it specifically to the task we were doing.
We shoot several different sorts of photography, mainly weddings, often artworks, properties, portraits, hotels, and products. When we realised that each sort of photography could have a different workflow, and each part of the workflow could have a different screen layout, everything fell into place.
For us, the two extremes of our work are real estate and wedding photography. For each genre the culling, editing, and output management process is different. Capture One allows us to have totally different processes and layouts for each type of photography.
Lightroom has much more of a “one way of doing things fits all” type of approach. Capture One allows a customised approach. This makes the overall workflow much more efficient.
If you have a mentality, where you do a shoot, and see that job as a singular thing, you will love Capture One sessions.
A Capture One session contains all the files from one job, in one neat nest of folders. You can back up the session root folder, go to a different computer, and just reopen the session, just where you left of. This approach is perfect if you have a rigorous backup routine. You can complete a job, and back it up, in as many different directions as you want.
Capture One might not be for you, it is certainly proved to be a great fit for us. We had a long, slightly bumpy journey switching to Capture One. Overall, we are delighted we changed.
The main difference between the packages is where they are focused. Capture One is focused on giving professional photographers, just what they need, to efficiently edit and process RAW files into very high-quality finished files. Lightroom is less focused, providing most photographers with a broader suite of tools.
Why we like Capture One
- Much higher quality images
- Amazing colour control and rendering
- Extracts more from a RAW file
- Customisable workspaces allow optimised workflows
- Non-distracting interface
- Faster editing
- Sessions allow simple downstream back up
- Faster ingest
- Output much faster and slipstreamed
- Very stable
- Tethered shooting just works
- Lacking distracting un-needed features
- Exploits the hardware available to it
- No freezing, stuttering or other performance issues
Areas where Lightroom is better
Lightroom does suit some photographers. Adobe has chosen to provide features that are not entirely about non-destructive RAW file processing. For some photographers living without these features is a deal breaker.
Here is where we feel Lightroom has an edge.
- Adobe Camera RAW allows a tighter knit with other Adobe applications
- Digital Asset Management is stronger
- If you need it, lightroom plugs into a wider range of applications both on and offline
- Panorama stitching
- Merging HDR images
We use Windows on our workstations, so we won’t comment about software performance on computers that have Linux or Macintosh operating systems. We always have fully updated versions of Windows, with plenty of RAM, and fast hard drive and processor configurations. We use specifically designed workstations, as opposed to consumer PC’s.