Make your Lightroom images look like they were processed with Capture One

Sep 30, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Make your Lightroom images look like they were processed with Capture One

Sep 30, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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lightroom_vs_capture_one

Capture One is generally touted as the only real Lightroom alternative. Overall, many say that it produces better results, or at least better starting points, but does it really? An interesting article by Martin Evening in the current issue of Photoshop User Magazine suggests that the differences between the two are less than you might think.

The article attributes the better initial look of Capture One to more aggressive default sharpening and enhancement of the images. A pretty stark contrast to Lightroom’s more subtle default settings. Lightroom tends to be quite conservative on sharpening and noise reduction in comparison in order to preserve actual detail.

capture_one_vs_lightroom

Indeed, the differences between the two at their default settings (middle row) is quite striking. The Lightroom image appears to be much softer with slightly less contrast than the Capture One image. But it only appears that way. The fact of the matter is that Lightroom simply applies less sharpening by default.

Colour is a slightly different issue. Capture One and Lightroom both treat raw files from different cameras slightly differently. The article goes on to talk about how Capture One and Lightroom handle those colours. Capture One does seem to do a “better” (subjective) job of getting the colour right straight out of the box.

Martin suggests that with Lightroom, you may need to switch out the camera profile from “Adobe Standard” to “Adobe Portrait” to get more pleasing skintones, for example, with certain cameras. Or you may need to switch to another profile entirely to get more accurate colours for your scene.

Personally, I avoid the stock Adobe camera profiles completely in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport and DataColor SpyderCHECKR both solve colour issues with ease. With either of those, your colours are consistent and accurate no matter which camera you shoot.

That’s the main thing that always put me off Capture One. I use several different cameras from Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad and other manufacturers. Capture One has never had any support for the ColorChecker Passport, nor the SpyderCHECKR, so matching colours between cameras can be a pain. Even when the white balance is set perfectly between cameras, different sensors, filters and lenses have slightly varied response to different colours.

The one area where Capture One does seem to shine, however, is how it applies tonal changes. If you shoot very high dynamic range scenes with a bright sky and a dark landscape, this difference can be pretty huge.

capture_one_vs_lightroom_tone

The difference is especially noticeable when you have completely blown out areas of the shot, such as the sun, or bright lights. Capture One seems to do a much better job of gracefully transitioning from those blown out areas. Lightroom often produces obvious edge lines and halo effects around such areas once you mess with the highlight slider.

There’s definitely a very different “look” to the images that come up in Capture One by default compared to Lightroom. Is it possible to get this look in Lightroom? For the most part, yes. Obviously the two will never be pixel perfect identical, but you can get it close enough.

The article wraps up with some instruction on how to get Lightroom images to look more like those shown by default in Capture One. Martin also offers some preset suggestions to apply those settings with one or two clicks in the future.

Capture One and Lightroom do both have definite advantages over each other. The colour tweaking controls in Capture One are much easier to work with than the Lightroom options. Lightroom, on the other hand, offers controls to better tune things like sharpening, noise reduction, vibrance. The Photoshop integration with Smart Objects is also invaluable at times.

Neither really is better than the other. They’re both good at what they do, and both have their downfalls, too. Like Nikon vs Canon, Mac vs PC, iPhone vs Android, it mostly boils down to personal preference.

The article appeared in Photoshop User Magazine, but Scott Kelby has made the complete article available for all to view online. You can read Martin’s complete article here.

Which do you prefer? Capture One or Lightroom? Why do you prefer the one you use? Is it because you feel one produces better results than the other or is it simply a workflow thing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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22 responses to “Make your Lightroom images look like they were processed with Capture One”

  1. Harry Cal Avatar
    Harry Cal

    The easiest way to get a Capture One look is to use it :D

  2. Giovanni Arroyo Avatar
    Giovanni Arroyo

    I am a Lightroom user but I could mostly attribute that to workflow. I have years of experiance with LR and have only dabbled with Capture One. I think if I had developed a Capture workflow initially, it would have been my choice.

  3. Stephen Cotterell Avatar
    Stephen Cotterell

    As a photo library tool LR is fantastic, it is also great at many other processing jobs. However as a RAW developer it loses out to Capture One and just about every other RAW converter. The reason for this is that, on import, LR “tops and tails” the files (meaning extremes of Highlights and Shadows are lost). The LR user has no control over this ;( Obviously this limits our post-processing choices in LR. Capture One does not do this. Instead applies a default RAW profile (which you can change at import) that keeps a lot more highlight and shadow detail. The person who knows a lot more than me on this subject is Guy Gowan of guygowan.com. He is definitely worth checking out because he stays up to date with this topic and rigorously tests different RAW engines.

    1. Aankhen Avatar
      Aankhen

      I can’t find anything about this outside of guygowan.com, which doesn’t have a search feature. Could you elaborate? Is Lightroom destructively processing the RAW photos I import?

      1. Stephen Cotterell Avatar
        Stephen Cotterell

        +Aankhen I guess that you have already watched the video called RAW that can be found on the Focus tab? It specifically speaks about ACR and Lightroom

        http://www.guygowan.com/focus

        1. Aankhen Avatar
          Aankhen

          Perfect, thank you.

  4. J.L. Williams Avatar
    J.L. Williams

    In my case it’s a moot point. I have more than 40,000 images that have been cropped, straightened, exposure corrected and color balanced in Lightroom. Even if someone came out with a tool that was unquestionably superior (which Capture One certainly isn’t — it’s just different) that wouldn’t be enough to offset the writeoff of time and effort I’ve got invested in my Lightroom data. I suspect this is the reality for most photographers who are tool-users rather than tinkerers.

    For us, the question isn’t “Is tool X better than Tool Y?” but “Can I get good results with either of them?” In this debate, both tools can produce good results, so the one you already know is usually the better choice.

    1. Scott Hampton Avatar
      Scott Hampton

      I’m STILL using Apple’s Aperture and have about the same amount of images. I’m not interested in switching unless there’s an absolute need. Aperture has the built-in watermarking, which I love, as well as a workflow that I’m familiar with. I’m not interested in LightRoom, however with it included in the CC subscription I’m open to trying it. CaptureOne has more switch-appeal, to me. Until I switch, I’m still on Aperture.

      1. Johnny Golden Avatar
        Johnny Golden

        Just don’t upgrade to macOS Sierra. I too love Aperture but now have many issues after upgrading the OS

        1. Scott Hampton Avatar
          Scott Hampton

          I already did the upgrade and, indeed, have issues with Aperture (particularly in full screen mode). Unfortunately, I hadn’t opened Aperture since. Too bad I saw your post after the upgrade. So, CaptureOne, here I come!

  5. Tim Hasl Avatar
    Tim Hasl

    Johannes Keller

  6. Daniel R. Chang Acat Avatar
    Daniel R. Chang Acat

    Arnold Loli lol

  7. Gary Roylance Avatar
    Gary Roylance

    Or buy Capture One…..

  8. George Avatar
    George

    I wonder how many out there have suffered Lightroom’s less than stellar tethering ?

  9. Peter Avatar
    Peter

    This article doesn’t even compare handling of saturated colors as they would for instance occur in images taken under stage, neon, or black light. You’ll find that the two applications are worlds apart in those cases, especially with the Adobe Standard profile.

    1. Scott Hampton Avatar
      Scott Hampton

      Can you explain? I have LightRoom and have yet to use it. I’ve been considering CaptureOne.

      1. Peter Avatar
        Peter

        Well, there is pretty much no detail in saturated areas in Lightroom’s conversion under such conditions. They just become one single blotchy mess where often one or more channels get clipped, whereas most other raw converters, including Capture One, can reatain detail just fine.

        If I were you, I’d just get trials of both and see how they compare for the kind of subjects you tend to shoot most before making a decision regarding which one to get.

        1. Scott Hampton Avatar
          Scott Hampton

          Thank you, Peter. I already have Lightroom as a part of my CC subscription. I’ve just never used it. I still use Apple’s discontinued Aperture and sometimes it exhibits minor saturation issues. I’ll give the new editors a try and see how they perform.

  10. point Avatar
    point

    Stick with the one you use the most or have the most time in. The initial differences are not worth worrying about.
    However, if you shoot fashion, portrait, or landscape, Capture One is better in general. Also, if you shoot Sony or Phase One cameras, Capture One may be a better option.
    Try either in demo mode if starting off or, if you think you can use Capture One with LR.
    Capture One can also be bought or rented and you can often find it on sale with codes. Academic version is also cheaper.
    Some of the features in Capture One are also unique.
    Warning: Capture One has a totally different UI and UX. It is not an Adobe mimic.

  11. Todd Sipes Avatar
    Todd Sipes

    What a waste of time.

  12. Eddie Avatar
    Eddie

    Optics Pro, Optics Pro & Optics Pro!

  13. Stewart Scott Avatar
    Stewart Scott

    Capture one seems too/over technical it has more graphs than a city trading screen. What’s the deal is it better than Lightroom?