Why I choose Capture One over Lightroom for tethering and raw conversion
There are really only two industry-trusted, combined capture tethering and image processing software programs on the market that professional photographers use. These being, Adobe Lightroom and PhaseOne’s Capture One Pro. Both platforms have been around for a number of years and have been pivotal for photographers in streamlining their post-production workflow; viewing, selecting, editing (non-destructively), organising and exporting large numbers of raw images.
Whilst Lightroom has benefits in its own right, I want to discuss why I choose Capture One over Adobe Lightroom for tethered capture, batch raw conversion and precision editing (colour correction and grading, image manipulation and even masking). Because I am a portrait and lifestyle stock photographer, who shoots predominately on-location, I not only take large quantities of photos, but like to get each image exposed as best as possible in-camera so I don’t spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer.
What is it that makes Capture One so good when it comes to tethered capture, raw processing, and photo editing? I’ve spent the past few years using the two programs in commercial conditions to find out which one performs best in different phases of a typical workflow. I find Capture One to be far more reliable (and stable) than Lightroom when it comes to camera tethering and the deeper I delved into its raw conversion capabilities (through online search and other photographers showing me), the more I became impressed!
First up I want to discuss the workflow superiority of camera tethering with Capture One. Lightroom pales in comparison to Capture One because it simply is not reliable. Tether dropouts (between camera and computer) continue to plague the final standalone version of Lightroom (6.14 update) as it always did since its release.
The amount of times this happened to me when I was in the middle of setting up a shot or trying to complete a job was consistently annoying. This is not desirable, nor acceptable when working under pressure (think sweatshop eCommerce photography 😂) or with paying clients in the studio or on-location. Capture One is considered industry leading tethered capture for a reason because it’s fast, flexible and reliable, particularly for photography sessions where meeting a deadline with accuracy is required.
Tethered shooting in Capture One brings a level of control which is an absolute necessity for professional photographers, as it allows us to process vast numbers of digital (and print-ready) imagery of the utmost quality, with consistency and predictability. When it comes to gear and tech, photographers just want it to work intuitively and reliably each time. Again, Capture One is both user-friendly and practically foolproof in functionality and speed.
Whether it be high key product photography or an on-location lifestyle shoot, some of the key benefits of pro-grade camera tethering on Capture One include:
- Immediate review of your image capture (1:1) on a larger display (21″ desktop or 15″ laptop) instead of the cameras’ small LCD screen
- Seamless raw processing and ability to copy, apply and save bulk edits and adjustments including presets and styles (non-destructively) to your images as you shoot
- Powerful colour-editing tools for colour toning/ grading images giving you an excellent idea of how the finished product will appear
- Allows clients or people collaborating on the photoshoot, to also view (and approve) images as the shoot is in progress
- Live view, which is extremely useful when shooting top down or macro product photography to view composition, focus, guides, and to see the effect of lights and modifiers as you adjust them
- Having remote control of your camera to easily adjust camera settings from your computer or device and customisable tools and keyboard shortcuts
There are a number of raw conversion and photo editing software programs on the market: Adobe Photoshop CC and Camera Raw (being the most superior and one I use in combination), Adobe Bridge, ON1 Photo Raw, AlienSkin Exposure, and until only quite recently Skylum Luminar. Whilst each are great in their own right, none of them provide combined pro-grade capture tethering. So I am only going to look at the benefits of Capture One’s capabilities in this article compared with that of Lightroom.
Capturing raw files enables a broad scale of possibilities for tweaking your images, as raw files have the full range of the captured information available from your camera. Capture One is able to get the most out of every raw file (from most camera models and lenses) because it has custom tailored profiles to ensure the most accurate colours and details are available.
You will notice as soon as you import your images into Capture One you are getting a far superior representation of your image file than in Lightroom. For example, Adobe Lightroom does not transfer camera-specific settings such as Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer setting (or Nikon equivalent) and as a result underexposes raw images considerably upon import. This is a problem, particularly when you need to push the dynamic range of highlights and shadows in an image.
Photographer’s that use Lightroom must create custom presets for each camera and lens to counteract what I think is poor software development. It also means they have to spend more time correcting the exposure – contrast and colour saturation which not only means more work but misrepresentation of your image from the get go. I shoot with a Canon 5DSR and Sigma 35mm f.1.4 and in Capture One it represents both extremely well and have never had to face this issue.
The workflow and performance of raw conversion in Capture One Pro far outweighs Lightroom for a number of reasons. Firstly, Capture One has a very powerful colour editor which gives you more control over more specific highlights, mid tones and shadows in the image, particularly skin tones. Whilst Lightroom has a very useful but somewhat limited HSL tool.
In Capture One the colour editor is very subtle but powerful and can do things effortlessly and more accurately that Lightroom users would have to then do in Photoshop. For example, you can select a colour range and it creates a virtual mask so you can sample skin tones, invert this ‘selection’ and then adjust the hue saturation and brightness for the rest of the image without affecting the skin tones. You can even convert a colour range selection into an adjustment layer for extra control.