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Why Capture One? Why not Lightroom? And my thoughts on Adobe Subscription Services

So when I set out on this wondrous journey of blogging again, I said to myself, “Self… we need to write every day.  EVERY day.”.

And here I am, 7:36 AM, coming up with something to write.  It’s day 3 of the “new” blog, you’d think I would have a lot to say.

Weird morning, Derica has a migraine, which happens more frequently than I’m sure she’d like.  It’s a bit chilly this morning, but our mulberry trees handed out more fruit than any day so far this year.  All is well in the kindgom otherwise.

I’m more awake than usual.  Got up at 6 AM.  Not sure why, just woke up and decided to get moving.  There’s an odd stillness at that time of the morning.  The sun hasn’t risen, and the birds are just beginning to chirp.  It makes for a slow awakening, but I had tea.  Good black English tea.

I just thought of what to talk about today.  About time since I’m already 168 words into this post.


For those of you who are not photographers or even users of higher end photography gear and software, I apologize, as today’s rant might not be all that interesting to you.  For the rest of you, hang on, it might get a little wild in here today.

I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, a black sheep even.  I don’t conform to the norm, and I don’t apologize for it.  I still hold firm to the belief that everything 90% of photographers need came in Photoshop 5.  Not CS 5, just Photoshop 5, circa 1998.  For those who might recognize the name, I was a “Barneyscan XP” user, way back in I think it was 1988.  Yes, I used Photoshop before it was Photoshop.  I helped a wee bit in its development too.  Me and a zillion others.  I also believe today’s cameras have too much crap on them.  Way too much.  That’s another article, maybe tomorrow, who knows?


A little more history then I’ll get into why Capture One over Lightroom.

I have shot RAW for about as long as RAW has existed I think.  I used various software to process my images.  If you’re new to photography or don’t know what a RAW file is, the best and most expedient corollary to film is the negative.  Essentially, you can’t view the image yet in any meaningful way and it has to be “processed” or “interpreted” to become a finished viewable image.  If you use a cellphone camera or shoot Jpegs out of any camera, your camera is doing all of this for you.  To some, you might think this a good thing.  However, do you really think the CPU “brain” in your camera or cellphone is smarter than a human with 30+ years of experience at color correction, exposure and composition?  I doubt it.  They just make for “average” and “bland” interpretations.  To me, I think like Ansel Adams, and if you don’t know who he is, shame on you.  He was probably the most prolific photo enhancer of his time.  He believed a photograph was half produced in camera, and the other half in the processing and printmaking of it.  I’m of similar belief, though I seldom make prints these days, for me it’s all about the processing and the album (which is a print, I know).

On a similar note, when I see or hear about photographers sending their work out to third parties to process their images, I always frown and hang my head out of shame for what has happened to my industry.  They will argue, “I am a photographer, not a lab, I should be shooting, not working at a computer.”.  That’s a cop out and a very lame excuse to me.  It means either they’re too lazy to do it, or can’t do it well, or… greedy and don’t really give a shit what they give their clients.  They will also say, “The processing company learned my style and do it just like I would.”.  They very well may have, but they will NEVER do it the same as you.  They might make a watered down, generalized, boring version of what you would, and it’s pleasing enough, but… they cannot be inside your brain.  Hells, if I work on the same image twice, it comes out different, how the f$%# can someone else replicate my work?

I call bullshit.

So, more history.  Adobe Lightroom was not really the first of its kind software, there were others, and many of them have fallen into obscurity.  I remember the first RAW converters were the ones that came with the cameras.  They could load one image at a time, and you made adjustments to it such as exposure, contrast, white balance, and saturation, THEN you clicked to produce a jpeg, hoping you made the right choices since you couldn’t see in real time what you did!  That made for some interesting work, and I didn’t really use them all that long.

Next was software that used the scripting from the camera version, and used a clever “preview” system so you can see your changes in almost real time.  Took about 20 seconds each time you changed something, but… we’re on the right track.

Then came third party RAW converters, the game changers.  I jumped on the Capture One bandwagon, long ago.  I think somewhere around version 3, sometime around 2005 or so.  This was the first “real” image processing software.  You could output an image with adjustments in about 40 seconds total per shot, as opposed to earlier software that took 2-3 minutes per shot.  Think about how many hours were spent processing images if you delivered just 600 to a wedding client.  That’s 30 hours on the old software, versus just under 7 with Capture One.  Impressive, to say the least!

There was a lot to like about Capture One back then, from it’s lovely interface, to it’s super high quality noise removal and image sharpening algorithms.  In addition, it did a bit of housekeeping for you by organizing folders and the like.  It didn’t get in the way, and it worked.

In about 2006, Adobe acquired technology from a company called Pixmantec.  They made a product called Rawshooter, and I used it for a while, I think in the pre-Capture One days.  I tend to always try new things, so it might have been one of my research projects too.

Anyway, Adobe bought them out and used their software to form the basis of Lightroom.  Yep, that’s right, Adobe didn’t create Lightroom, they bought it.  The first version of it showed that too.  It was pretty horrible.  At the time I was still a “tester” for Adobe, in that they sent me new software and I got to test it for bugs, feature updates, and other issues.  In return, I got Photoshop for free.  Sweet-ish deal, but, later on it turned sour.  They sent me a beta of Lightroom, and I was honest, and used comparisons against the already well made Capture One, and I was politely, well, not so politely dropped from the testing program.  Not a problem really, since it was already getting too tedious and I had a living to make.  Getting one piece of $600 software a year hardly paid for the hours spent writing reports for Adobe.

And so I went back to Capture One.

Then in 2008, Adobe released Lightroom 2.0.  What made this one different was “local adjustments”.  I think I got whiplash turning my head so fast to check this one out.  That was the one thing missing from all RAW processors.  The ability to change one area without affecting the rest as up until now, that’s how you did it.  Anything that detailed meant a trip out to Photoshop and several more minutes per image.

I used Lightroom until December, 2017, and was happy enough with it until early 2017.  It was at this time that “features” were being added that I thought were stupid.  Things like mobile versions that connect to your desktop and their notifications of such that come up EVERY TIME YOU OPEN THE PROGRAM even if you always say “NO”.  Adobe made no way to shut that shit off, and it annoys me to this day.  They literally made a professional, high end piece of software work more like an iPhone app, and wanted it in the hands of amateurs, so they began dumbing it down.  Proof of that is today, there are two versions of Lightroom, one for pros and one for everyone else.  I’ll say this once…. how many amateurs are really going to spend the time to process RAW files from a cell phone when there are literally thousands of free editors out there that are “good enough”.  What is the point?  Adobe has always made products for the professional, they shouldn’t pander to the commoners!  Sorry to all you non-professionals, but it’s true.

Then, somewhere along the line, Adobe decided it was a good idea to charge people a monthly fee to use their software.  On this, I drew a line in the sand.  No freaking way.  I’d been paying for Photoshop since CS… something, I forget.  I didn’t get all the updates every time, since… here’s my rule of thumb for software and camera equipment:

“If a product will make me more money or save me significant time to be worth more money, or offer me something I need, but cannot currently do, it might be worth investing in.”

Most of the updates to Photoshop didn’t do any of those things, they just dumbed it down, added more and more “features” that I didn’t use, and geared it more and more to the public, rather than the professional.  They’re still doing this today.  So many “automatic” tools, it’s disgusting.  They mostly suck by the way, you can do all of it better by hand, and with older versions of Photoshop.  I put this out there to all you Photoshoppers, “Do you use EVERY new feature in the version you buy?  Or do you buy new versions because, you SIMPLY MUST HAVE THE LATEST?”.  Think about it.  I have.  I’m not one to buy something just because everyone else did.  I buy what works, and what makes me money.  I don’t need frivolous tools and doodads.  I need solid, reliable software and gear.  It’s that simple.

By the way, my version of Photoshop CS3 was installed on a computer that actually suffered hard drive failure.  Adobe’s paranoid licensing system wouldn’t let me reinstall on my new machine, so I had to call them.  They disallowed me to relicense or fix the situation in any way.  Seriously, $600 for software I can’t use, and I’d only had it for 2 months.  F$%# you Adobe.

Also, early in 2017 I believe is about when Lightroom began being excessively slow.  I’m not that concerned with “ingestion” and “output” speed as I can walk away and let it do its thing.  I’m more worried about how long it takes per image.  When Lightroom was older, as in 2.0 or thereabouts, making a slider change gave an instant response.  I found my edits taking 2-5 seconds per slider change.  That adds up and it’s annoying.  Then, about 6 seconds each time I moved to the next image.  I assumed it was my aging computer.  I’d put off buying a new one for longer than I will admit.  So, new computer.  Even with a new computer, same issue.  Slow as f%&# Lightroom.  I’d say there was no improvement, which is a testament to my thinking that you don’t need the latest and greatest all the time.  My computer was probably around 8 years old when it was replaced.

At this point, I’m frustrated, so I look around the internet, to find that MANY people suffer as I do.  Some suggested getting the latest version, which meant… Creative Cloud, Adobe’s subscription service.  I resisted, but eventually relented.  I gave them my money, and got the latest version.  It sucked.  I downgraded to the version just before, and it was marginally better.  Slow does not begin to describe it.  It was almost like going back to 2002 as far as RAW processing goes.  Productivity fell, I was pissed off, and in general didn’t look forward to working on weddings.  I still did of course, as that’s what you do as a Pro, you do as you promise, even more so, but it doesn’t mean I enjoyed it like I used to.

I began to simply accept that this is the way it is.

Then, not sure how, I happened upon Capture One again.  It may have been an ad or something, not sure.  I’d tried the demo version a few times over the years as they kept updating it, but always fell back to good ole comfy Lightroom.  I think that’s what most people do.  Anyway, I tried the demo and played around with a few images.  Impressive.  This was version 11 by the way.  I then worked on an entire Engagement Session with it.  I finished it in 1/3 the time of a usual session and the images looked better.  I was hooked.  That said, I tend to jump on things quickly if I like them and decided to wait, since I’d just signed up for Adobe CC, and the prospect of spending $300 for another piece of software didn’t appeal to me.

But that image quality, ease of use, and overall smoothness and speed…. it appealed to me.

I used the full 30 days, then bought it.  I cancelled my Adobe subscription, only to find out that it was a 1 year contract?  That’s bullshit.  The only people who make you pay monthly for something and hold you to a contract like that are people who are not confident in their product.  If it’s good, they will continue to pay, if it sucks, you have made a pissed off customer.  Well, I’m a pissed off customer.  I paid I think an extra $70 to get out of the contract.  I think I had it for 2 months.  So I paid $110 to use software for 2 months, that I can’t keep afterward.  To ice the cake, Creative Cloud tried to claim my FULLY PAID FOR AND OWNED VERSIONS OF LIGHTROOM AND PHOTOSHOP and nearly made them unusable unless I renewed Creative Cloud.  Well, a simple uninstall solved that problem.  Again, f$#% you Adobe.

As you can tell I do NOT worship at the Altar of Adobe.  They used to make great products, then they decided they were better than the people they serve, charged ridiculous prices for bloated software, stopped caring about how well their products worked, and pumped out new versions just to do so, making grand claims of “improved performance”, meanwhile it’s still the same old bloated software with a band-aid or something shiny so people don’t notice that there have been no real improvements since CC was made, yet they still made money.

That’s not something I condone.

Back to Capture One.



It was glorious.  The speed cannot even be compared to Lightroom.  It’s got a lot of features, and all of them useful, nothing pandering to the Instagram crowd here.  It’s made to be used by people who do this for a living, and it shows.  Is it expensive?  Well, it costs more than Lightroom, but… it’s far superior to Lightroom in every respect.  Speed, usability, image quality, all better.  It took me about 5 days to adjust, so the learning curve is not so bad.  I even made it look a little like Lightroom to ease the transition.  Yes, you can fully customize your workspace.

Speaking of image quality, every RAW converter has its own way of producing an image.  Without getting too technical on you, the sensor information in a RAW file is… incomplete, so, complex algorithms have to guess at what information goes where to some extent.  This guessing is what separates them a lot of times, and it’s one area where Capture One excels.  My images with no sharpening (which is how I like it, too much sharpening makes for crunchy fake looking images) from Lightroom compared to those from Capture One, same basic settings… Capture One images win hands down.  More detail, less noise, sharper result, FAR SUPERIOR COLOR.  Color sucks in Lightroom, everything is fake looking.  Capture One allows for realistic color.  I’m no technician, I just know what I see.

Another bonus to Capture One, they let you have the software forever when you buy it.  Yeah, I know, they have a subscription plan too, but trust me, buy the thing.  You have it forever, and I believe they will give a free upgrade if a new version comes out within 90 days or something of your purchase.  Oh, speaking of new versions, their version changes are meaningful!  They now have layers too, which Lightroom doesn’t have.  The list of comparison goes, oh hells, let me make a list:

Things Capture One can do that Lightroom cannot:

  • Make me happy
  • Layers, each with their own opacity, and you can use presets on each one individually
  • Masking, using the layers, you can make complex masks to apply settings, and change them infinitely without losing quality
  • Color, there are several ways to get great color and have control over color in C1
  • Input is fast, generally about 25% of the time that Lightroom took
  • Output is faster than Lightroom, but not by that much
  • Image to image speed is phenomenal, nearly instant.  Adjustments are instant feedback so workflow is quick
  • Lets me own the latest version
  • Without much fuss, creates a better quality image as far as detail, color, noise and overall appearance than Lightroom
  • Isn’t becoming an iphone app or being dumbed down for public consumption
  • Lots of free videos to ease the learning curve
  • Sets of presets made by Capture One Professionals that work seamlessly with the product and make meaningful changes to images for quicker workflow

Things Lightroom offers that C1 doesnt:

  • It has Adobe’s name on it
  • Lots of presets, too many if you ask me, and third party support so you can simultaneously put your images on flickr, instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Smugmug…. ‘cuz, yeah, that’s necessary for a professional.
  • Albums, you can order albums direct from it.  Yay?
  • A few other things that have NOTHING to do with image processing really
  • Connect to your mobile device, since every pro works from a cellphone…. not.

And there you have it.  3000+ words on why I use Capture One.  And I thought I had nothing to write today.

-B

P.S.  If you are considering purchasing Capture One, please use the banners you find in this post or the one in our sidebar.  It won’t cost you anything extra as the price is set by PhaseOne, but it does help me keep Brianized afloat.  Thanks for your support.


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