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Why I chose Capture One Pro over Lightroom

Bear with me, this will probably be a long story.  But, like any good story, I’ll start at the beginning!

So, about 20 or so years ago, I began processing RAW files from my cameras.  To be honest, it was horrible.  You see, I’m a wedding photographer and even back then it wasn’t unusual to have a few hundred files to work on.  Generally, processing them back in those times went something like this:

  1. Load the file into the RAW file processor.  This usually just meant locating it on the computer and the software loaded it in.  No preview or a simple thumbnail preview.
  2. Adjust the different aspects of the image.  Things like White Balance, Exposure, Contrast and Saturation were about it.  Keep in mind… you didn’t get to see your changes at this point!
  3. Export the file as a jpeg or tiff.
  4. Examine the file in Photoshop and go back to step #1 if you didn’t get it how you wanted it.
  5. I kid you not.

Then, came software that took the proprietary camera maker RAW converter and added a GUI, or Graphical User Interface to it.  The processing went like this:

  1. Load the file.  You’d see a thumbnail and probably the same sliders as above, just arranged a little more… pretty.
  2. Make adjustments to the sliders.
  3. Wait about 20-30 seconds.
  4. See your changes on the smallish sized preview.
  5. Make more changes or export.

As you can see, this was a huge upgrade and made shooting RAW files ALMOST practical.  The best reason for shooting RAW was to maintain quality and have control over things like White Balance after the fact.  Still, processing an image took about 2 minutes per file when you include the round trip of import, adjust, preview and export.  So a 300 image wedding was a solid 10 hours of processing, most of that time spent waiting.

Then came a piece of software called “Rawshooter” by Pixmantec.  This was announced in 2005.  It was revolutionary.  Finally a piece of software made to work with many RAW files and show you your adjustments as you worked!  Of course I bought it.

Well… as much as some people don’t seem to want to admit it… there is a little known fact that Adobe didn’t really create Lightroom.  The uncanny similarity of Rawshooter to the early versions of Lightroom coupled with the fact that Adobe bought out the rights to Rawshooter technology from Pixmantec pretty much tells it all.  Sure, Adobe built on it and improved the product, but… they bought Lightroom, for all intents and purposes!

And so Lightroom was a thing.  But… there was another player in the RAW game.  Phase One had made proprietary software for their own digital backs and cameras and up to that point had kept it just for the users of those cameras.  In 2006, that changed and Capture One Pro hit the market as a direct competitor to Adobe Lightroom.

Get a free 30 day Trial of Capture One Pro 12 here

Sadly, because Adobe had much more clout and a much, much larger reputation as well as the fact that Capture One Pro was a more expensive option, Lightroom gained traction and began becoming the de facto choice for photographers who shoot RAW.  At this time, many still didn’t shoot RAW, due to hard drive storage prices, complexity, or, simply ignorance of the benefits.

I Beta tested the first iteration of Lightroom as one of my final forays into such things with Adobe (that’s a whole other story).  Suffice to say, I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  You see, I was using Capture One at the time!  I think it was in version 3 or 4 at the time, and honestly, it was just better software.  You were NOT required to import anything, you just pointed it to a folder of images and the previews popped up on the screen.  There were already more tools than Lightroom had, and I felt the sharpening, noise reduction and overall final output image quality was superior.  Well, Adobe didn’t like hearing that.  We parted ways, and I chose to keep using Capture One for the time being.

Then came Lightroom 2.  This was something unique and instantly got my attention.  They finally added LOCAL adjustments!  You see, up to this point, no RAW converter could do anything but global adjustments.  Meaning, you couldn’t take out an Exit Sign, brighten just a face, change the color of that ugly tungsten light, etc.  You had to go to Photoshop for that.  With Lightroom 2, Adobe upped the ante and made a product that made me a convert.  Yep, that’s right, I went back to Lightroom and I purchased it!

This was… 2008.  I began doing some Photography classes and seminars at the time.  I also discovered Photographic Competition through the PPA and it’s daughter guilds.  I actually taught classes on Lightroom at my studio in Safety Harbor, Florida!

From 2008 to 2015, I happily purchased every new iteration of Lightroom as they came out.  I’ve no idea how much I spent, but it was pretty substantial, however, they kept fine tuning the software and it worked well.  At this point, I was using version 6.

Then… Adobe did something so dastardly that I can never forgive them.  They decided corporate profits were more important than getting their product into the hands of those that use it best, and began charging a monthly fee to use the software.  Gone were the days when you paid, downloaded software and used it indefinitely.  Now… if you didn’t keep giving Adobe their hush money, your software would stop working.  By this time, Adobe was a giant, and many people simply believed there was no other company out there producing quality enough photography software.  I mean… Photoshop is now a verb and a noun, right?  So, because it’s an Adobe product, Lightroom MUST be the best, just like Photoshop is…. Well, even Photoshop isn’t the best image editor, but that’s another article!  So many people clung to Adobe and Lightroom despite hating the new subscription format.

Over time, people bought presets and add-ons to Lightroom, adding to their mental and financial investment in the product, despite obvious flaws in it at this point.  I personally saw that for every new feature added, there seemed to be a huge decrease in speed and performance.  The image quality didn’t change over a several year period, but there were more “toys” and things that really weren’t needed in a “Professional” product.  Well, to be honest, they were making it a consumer product, as evidenced by the annoying popup that came up every time you loaded it to synch with your mobile devices!  Never in my career had I used my phone to edit photos, that’s for Instagram, not for professional editing.  The color shifts and auto-adjustments on phones?  And you want me to edit a paying client’s photos with it?  No thank you Adobe.

I opted out of the subscription service and kept an older version of Photoshop and Lightroom.  Things worked just fine, but… being a Professional and always wondering about “what’s new”, I had to peek over the fence.  Dwindling performance and lots of frustration at the software helped pique my curiosity at the new improvements that much more.  I also upgraded my computer at this time.  The machine I was using was nearly 8 years old!  So I thought for sure that must be why Lightroom is so slow.  Interestingly, in hindsight I neglected to notice that was the ONLY software that was that slow, but… it was time for a new computer anyway.  I bought a competitive, higher end computer and signed up for the Adobe subscription service and got me that shiny new version of Lightroom.

The excitement and anticipation of having a usable copy of software that I depend on every day was palpable.  As I imported my first wedding into it, that excitement quickly abated as it took seconds to switch between images, seconds to see changes as I made them, and nevermind using the local adjustment tools, things came to a crawl.  My computer was NOT the problem, as this was pretty much the same performance I had before.  A testament to the idea that you don’t need a new computer every 6 months as some would lead you to believe!

I thought about the issue for a while after the slew of expletives left my mouth.  I was furious.  After spending over a thousand dollars for a computer, and subjecting myself to a monthly fee for the privilege of using software that in the past I could just use after one payment, I was… exceptionally disappointed.  I began looking for options.

I felt like I’d gone back to 2005 and using old clunky software again… it was that bad.

Something made me take another look at Capture One Pro.  Sure, over the years since Lightroom 2, I’d tried trials of it, and it just never seemed…. right for me.  The different layout, the unique terms, and the really unusual color tools (which are actually awesome) had turned me off.  But, since I was trying out options, I gave it a 30 day try.  I also tried some others, nothing worth mentioning since they were either just simply not at the level I wanted or were slower than Lightroom to use!

December, 2017 is when I got the trial.  I was pretty well hooked within 2 days, but… stuck it out through the whole 30 day trial.  You see… it’s a real trial.  You can use the software to its fullest for 30 days, no strings.  I processed out several weddings, Engagement shoots, and tests after tests of my own.

First, it was fast.  Like… really fast.  No more waiting to click through images for culling, no waiting when you adjust sliders.  All was in real time.  It was.. in short… exactly what I needed.  I watched some YouTube videos, and read a ton of articles and learned all I can, and I liked what I learned!


So I was now a Capture One user and gave them my money, gladly.  I cancelled my Adobe subscription and at that time found out they FORCE you to a one year contract!  What the hell?  You know who forces you into contracts like that?  Untrustworthy people, that’s who.  If a product is so great, people will keep paying.  Don’t force them to.  Anyway, I paid extra to get out of the contract, wasn’t so bad, something like $80.  Still… crappy way to do business in my opinion.  After several weeks, I had things fairly well straightened out, and finally had my computer back.  You see… the Adobe services took ownership of my copy of Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 6 THAT I PAID FOR!  They were going to cancel my use of that too, and they did, for a few weeks until I removed Adobe’s stupid services from my computer.  I paid for those products and had the right to use them as long as I wish, without a monthly fee.  At this point, I was pretty fed up with Adobe, as I hope you understand.

I kept my old copy of Photoshop, and used Capture One Pro 12 to process my images.  I didn’t need Photoshop all that much to be honest, so an older version was just fine.

Enter Spring of 2019 and my curiosity getting the better of me again.  You see, I kept hearing about how great Lightroom was again, and all the things you can do, etc etc.  I rationalized that paying monthly was the same as buying an upgrade every so often in the end, and ….. I gave in and got a 7 day trial of the Adobe Subscription Services again.  The Photoshop seemed alright, not that different really, but usable.  The version of Lightroom seemed wonderful!  I did a bunch of side by side tests comparing image quality with Capture One with fairly even results.  I would say, with an experienced user, either Lightroom or Capture One can create superb results.  It’s not about that though, it’s about what it takes to get there.

For the first few days, I was convinced I’d be going back to Adobe, despite my better judgement.  They got the tools I gotta have, I told myself, much like the other millions who hand over money to Adobe every month.  Then, I decided to give it a real world test, and process a wedding.  This would be the true deciding factor as to which software I keep.

I used Lightroom for a couple hours and became frustrated!  It was taking forever to change between images for culling.  So… I tried a trial of another software called Photo Mechanic.  Yep!  This was the ticket!  It was so fast at culling and tagging images that it was…. it….was like using Capture One… hrm.  Then I imported those files into Lightroom and thought, now I can edit them and all is good!  Well… as I made changes and added adjustments, I watched the performance slow to a crawl.  I honestly don’t know how people get any work done this way.  It took me about two hours to process about 1/4 of the images from that wedding.  I changed tactics and used Capture One.  Of course that meant culling the images again, and starting over… but… 3 hours later, the entire wedding was finished!

Needless to say, I quit my trial of Adobe’s Subscription Service and stuck with Capture One Pro 12, and I’m still using it today!  Oh, I also stopped using all Adobe products… out of principle.  I use Affinity Photo as my image editor, and couldn’t be happier.

If you’re interested in Capture One Pro, we have links throughout this article to the FREE 30 day trial.  I you too decide it’s a better choice and you purchase it through our links, we do get a small commission at no additional charge to you!

Thanks for reading,



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