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Work smart not hard with Capture One

photo courtesy of phaseone.com

photo courtesy of phaseone.com

We here at the studio have recently made a big big BIG! change in our workflow. Let's start this from the beginning, where we were before Capture One Pro 10. Let me also clarify that I am in no way affiliated with Phase ONE, I have not been paid, offered discounts, or in no way been bribed or persuaded to say neither good nor bad things about PhaseOne/Capture One. Now grab a cup of coffee this is going to be a long one.

Where we began

Like most of us photographers we used what was most common. Adobe Products, specifically Lightroom for our DAM (Digital Asset Manager)/RAW processor and Photoshop when we needed the extra editing capabilities. All was well and good, but well... Slow. These massive applications have been around since the digital stone age and have been growing bigger, fatter, albeit more feature intense but also more cumbersome and bloated.

What did this mean for us? It meant additional hours of time post processing. My editing rig is a top specced MacBook Pro with 16GB of Ram and a 512GB SSD Drive with an AMD Radeon Graphics GPU. Now I was perfectly happy in my day to day work when it came to importing, adjusting my raw files, and exporting. The main issues came into play with local adjustments in Lightroom, specifically the spot removal tool. It would literally take 10 seconds per spot after clicking to see the result and if I needed to change the sample position even longer. Not a huge deal until you have to remove multiple pimples, specs, moles, or any other unsavory items in a photo (like lipstick specs on teeth).

What's the problem? Why not just open the file in Photoshop? YES! Doing these healing operations is FANTASTIC! in Photoshop, simple to remove blemishes, soften skin, add sharpness, remove objects etc... But if I am going to use the workflow that is Lightroom + Photoshop here is what happens. Do your glibal adjustments, then from Lightroom have it open the file in photoshop which creates a new file I need to manage since it is now going to be a destructive edit if I edit the original raw in Photoshop (which in the end would turn into a PSD file). So that means if I want to keep my original and have the healing operations done I would have to manage 2 large files. No problem, except for a wedding I may have 1300+ files to cull through (Which can be a slow process in Lightroom even with full size 1:1 previews), then out of those 1300+ maybe 200 or so I would have to pull into Photoshop creating an EXTRA 5GB+ worth of files! Not to mention the loading time of Photoshop, etc etc.. you get the point.. This is just not elegant.

Capture One Pro 10 Interface while editing an Engagement Session

Capture One Pro 10 SAVES THE DAY!

After getting frustrated over and over I decided to try and find a better way. And I tried them ALL! (Well the ones that had free trials and/or free). I then found Capture One by a company called Phase One (Which makes a $55,000 USD CAMERA! *plus others in various price ranges). At first glance I felt lost, looking for my modules, where do I go to adjust my RAW files, where do I go to organize my library? Literally had no idea what was what or where. So instead of immediately diving into the sea of youtube how to's I got quickly up to speed with the video tutorials provided by Capture One. I was still feeling a major lack of power or understanding of the system so I decided to contact Capture One through the support system and received the BEST reply/customer service from my personal experiences TO DATE. A amazing woman by the name Sofia replies to me with a full list of webinars and even video suggestions that pertain specifically to my industry which is wedding and event photography. Armed with these resources I spent the next hours and days enthralled in learning this software and discovered how powerful it is and I am still only scratching the surface. I'm going to highlight my experience directly from my workflow.

Importing

At first glance this import screen is a bit overwhelming and I'll be honest, IT IS OVERWHELMING! But this is actually a good thing once you get a grasp on what is going on. You have all the flexibility you could ever want when it comes to applying styles (Presets for those coming from Lightroom), Where your images live, how to handle your backups, and a really cool feature that allows you to use what Capture One calls Tokens to name your files. Oh and it's FAST.

*A little teaser for those Lightroom users.. You can "STACK" styles. In Lightroom we can apply 1 preset upon import. Well, Capture One let's you stack styles ON IMPORT! Meaning, say you have a sharpening style, a split tone style, a style with a curve, or a combination of styles you like to blend together. You can do them ALL at one time at import. HUGE time saver.

Culling and Organizing

Stars, Colors, Keywords, Labels, You name it Capture One has it! Bonus, It's FAST. Coming from Lightroom I have gotten used to waiting a few seconds for my photo to become clear (EVEN with full size 1:1 previews, and even with Smart Previews). With Capture One my photos load fast, I mean ridiculously fast, were talking 50MB Uncompressed RAW files. Which makes me very happy and I guess should be expected since it is built and designed to handle 100 megapixel medium format Phase One Camera RAW files. Filtering, sorting, organizing is a breeze but so is Lightroom BUT! the difference and bread winner here is sheer speed making this hands down the best DAM/RAW converter I have ever used.

It's about to get heavy, let's talk editing

Let's admit it, if we didn't have to take our images out of our RAW converter for post processing that would save us a HUGE amount of time. Well guess what, this is where Capture One straight up murders the competition. So many editing features that really let you get the most out of your images. The RAW processing of Capture One is HANDS down the best I have seen and perhaps the best in the industry. Shadow and highlight recovery on raw files is simply insane! I can hear the fanboys now telling me how you can do this is Lightroom. You can somewhat do it in Lightroom but with no where near the level of control or capability of the RAW engine of capture one. To compare Camera Raw (Lightroom) to Capture One is like comparing a Chevy to a Bugatti, they will both get you from point A to point B but Capture One will not only get you there quicker, in style, and if it makes any sense better! I have already compared shadow and highlight recovery on my Fujifilm RAW's with Lightroom and Capture One and I simply CANNOT let me repeat that CANNOT achieve the same results in Lightroom that I can in Capture One. I pulled highlights from a grey sky in Capture One and saw blue where in Lightroom It turned into grey mush because it simply didn't know how to handle the data.

Local adjustments, this to me is the cherry on top and Capture One nails it. Organizable layer masking, intuitive color editor, color balancer, spot removal that is fast and doesn't suck, healing mask, cloning mask, I can literally write a novel on all the things you can do just for local adjustments. No more going to photoshop to take care of pimples, removing basic distractions, it's all here folks and it works!

And the rest is History

Other things like exporting to multiple file formats, sizes, folders, is beyond the scope of what I am writing about right now but trust me it's awesome. Capture One focuses on what we as Photographers truly care about and that's our photos. It doesn't have a publishing engine to let you place photos directly on Facebook through a publishing service, it doesn't have a map module, it doesn't have any modules. You have One interface to do everything, and it integrates with any external editor through it's edit with option, or open with option to either edit a variant or the original file and tracks it!

Let's wrap this up

Ok so it's all sunshine and rainbows right? Well not 100% there is no such thing as a perfect system, workflow, software, or even perfect camera. Capture One is not without it's flaws, I have had a couple of hiccups but nothing that stops me or inhibits my work. Overall it has been faster, and better in every way with fewer trips to Photoshop... (oh wait, I switched to Affinity Photo, sorry Adobe, we're done, I'll write another article on Affinity at another date)

My Verdict? I don't believe in rating a software 10 out of 10 because I used to be a software engineer and there is no such thing as a 10 out of 10 but I give Capture One a STRONG 9/10.  

Oh, did I mention it's fast? I'll say it again, it's blazing fast.