I know I’ve been one apt to complain about Adobe and their software, but I’m finally doing more than shake my fist at a cloud. After watching Adobe aimlessly add useless features at the cost of core competency, I’m finally at a point where I can’t take it any longer– I’m moving out. It’s you, not me. Considering the variety of design tools available to offset the loss of Photoshop, an alternative to Lightroom (LR) has been the biggest hurdle until now.
LR has gotten progressively worse with each update, and there’s been a total lack of meaningful innovation. They’ve added useless features here and there, but they’ve all come at the cost of performance, and none have added anything meaningful (at least in the way I work). I also have been using LR ‘Classic’, and given their focus on updating the more basic/cloud-based LR CC, the more capable Classic version will likely be phased out or ignored for further improvement. (The ‘Classic’ nomenclature is also very telling to that point, and not in a good way if you’re hoping for updates. Also given my broader experience with Adobe across their suite of apps, banking on improvements is… dumb at best, reckless at worst.)
After taking a look around at a few different options, I’ve settled on Capture One (C1) as the best forward-looking option. I’m not saying this to advocate that you should too... you should use whatever software works best for you. Maybe thats still LR, and thats awesome– I’m stoked for you. Different strokes for different folks. I’m only making mention of this because I think the transitional experience has been interesting, and it might be something that others find useful. AND people ask me what software I use a lot, so I can have this post to explain it more comprehensively than I could in insta or twitter messages.
Making the switch from LR to C1 is relatively painless in most ways for most people. They have built-in tools to migrate your catalog with a decent amount of metadata, and some basic adjustments made to things like temperature, exposure and a few others. Unfortunately for me, 90% of my efforts in Lightroom came through the curves panel… which does NOT migrate to Capture One. This is hurts. In Lightroom, curves is really the only place to adjust colors at specific values (besides split-tones), so curves was basically my world. Without the ability to transfer all the curves points I used to create my edits, I considered that a non-starter for switching software for a long time. If you’ve ever worked with curves (especially in LR), you know it’s slow-going, and applied to a ~60k image catalog… thats a lot of work to lose, and then have to re-create from scratch in unfamiliar software. After an update to the CC Library app was running in the background at 95% of my comps energy (to literally do nothing), I finally knew I had to get out of their eco-system no matter the cost.
Enough about that– my C1 experience so far. I really enjoy it because there’s much more refined control of color/values, and its forced me to re-evaluate my approach to editing. With these new tools, I’m finding the need to fight old habits. Considering how much time I’ve spent in Lightroom, Ive found myself trying to bend new tools to old techniques when I really don’t have to. There’s been a lot of full-resets on my C1 workflow already, but each time it’s netted a better result. In general I think there's an increased smoothness to my colors and values because of the additional tools, and the ability to use layering. There's also refined ways of controlling colors at specific values (on top of the traditional curves panel I had lived in with LR) that I think will make cinematic styling more available to more people. The curves color channels has a really steep learning curve, so I understand why people in LR aren't able to push their images stylistically that far– I ate shit with the curves panels for about a year before it started making sense. While I don't find myself needing it as much, I definitely still get into the curves color channels for more refined control beyond the other C1 tools.
Comparing old edits in Lightroom to Capture one, I think the results are just different– usually better, some worse. I think I'm less heavy-handed in certain regards, but there's still LR edits of certain shots I haven't been able to better in C1 for reasons I'm still working to understand. I also think I'm able to retain more details while getting the more cinematic film look. In LR I would crush out (maybe) too many details for the look I wanted because of the limited tools at my disposal, and I don't think I need to make those compromises in C1. Again, there's certain things I can't quite replicate in C1 from what I would do in LR, but I'm now questioning whether or not I really need or want to. I typically have edited along strict 'rules' I had worked to validate over time, and this switch has prompted me to re-evaluating those with a broader set of tools. It's currently resulting in some lack in consistency, and thats ok with me as it should net a better result long term.
I traditionally never do this, but for the sake of comparison, here's a look at some older edits in LR compared to ones in C1 to visually show some of what I was mentioning above.