Capture One Quickstart Guide For Lightroom Users

Capture One Pro isn't new, but this advanced photo editing software has blossomed in recent years. Originally developed as a companion for Phase One's high-end digital medium format cameras, Capture One has expanded past its original function to include new tools that all photographers can use, and in some cases, surpasses the old guard, Adobe Lightroom.

Interested? Ready to give it a try? Awesome! Now to the fun part: learning a new program! With so many capabilities, the interface can inevitably seem a little intimidating the first time you open it. If you're already a seasoned Lightroom user, there are some definite parallels to help you get a toehold as you learn to navigate Capture One Pro.

Switching from Lightroom to Capture One

Migrating Images from Lightroom into Capture One

Capture One offers a choice of two methods for ingestion and organization: sessions and catalogs. Sessions are Capture One's original file organization and handling structure, while catalogs have gained popularity since their integration into the program. Sessions are frequently used for tethered shooting and are a self-sufficient, easily transportable microcosm of folders, and catalogs are more overarching and can contain sessions in collections.

You can import your existing Lightroom catalog into Capture One, with caveats. To do this, navigate to File > Import Catalog > Lightroom Catalog. After clicking through a warning dialog about the limitations, you can navigate to your where you've stored your Lightroom catalog and import.

The primary thing to note is that this is more of a structural migration than anything. A few necessary adjustments will carry over directly (exposure, white balance, saturation, contrast, crop, rotation, and orientation), but beyond that, your edits are back to square one. However, your collections, except for smart collections, will arrive intact. You can convert your smart collections can to regular collections before import and then recreate them in Capture One since it also supports smart collections.

Whether working in a session or catalog, you can import new images via the "Import Images" menu option under the File menu. Pay attention to the import destination, the safest course of action is to avoid the "inside catalog" option from the destination drop-down in case of corruption.

Setting Up Your Capture One Workspace

When you view Capture One Pro's interface for the first time, there is a lot to take in. For a quick and dirty, simplified way to jump right in, look to the "Migration" workspace. Find it in the menu under Window > Workspace > Migration. Suddenly, Capture One will look very familiar. The migration workspace moves the navigation filmstrip to the bottom, and on the right, you will find collapsible adjustments ordered similarly to Lightroom and a histogram on top. Notice that there are small tabs above the histogram. These are for navigating different vital functions in Capture One and will label themselves if you hover your cursor over them. It reduces tool tabs from the default workspace for simplicity.

Scale back the learning curve by using the Mastin Labs Custom Workspace provided in our Capture One Style Packs. The custom workspace is built to provide fast and easy access to all the tools you need for a basic Capture One style-centric workflow. You can find installation instructions and a download link for the workspace here (insert link). Once installed, you access it like the "Migration" workspace; choose "Mastin" instead.

Nearly everything in this workspace is identical to Capture One's default workspace. The difference is the addition of a quick custom tab with a histogram, exposure and highlight/shadow sliders, white balance, styles, plus the Keystone tool. "Keystone" in Capture One lingo is comparable to Lightroom's "Transform" panel, used to correct perspective issues.

Capture One is incredibly customizable. If, as you learn more about Capture One's features, you find something you use in your workflow missing from the Mastin workspace, you can easily add tools to the tab. Or any tab.

What Is A "Variant" in Capture One?

This is an important word to know in the Capture One ecosystem. It sounds a little odd, but it's just the name for any image once you've brought it into Capture One. "New variant," "clone variant," and "export variant" are examples of common actions that make a lot more sense now that you know what a variant is.

Tips for Navigating Capture One

No matter what workspace you're using, Capture One's bones remain the same. The important ingredients are the filmstrip where you can preview and select images, the tabs that group tools by type, the tools themselves, the image viewing area, and the icons along the top which correspond to tools and functions. A quick tip: as you're learning what the icons mean, you can turn on text labels for them by right-clicking anywhere along the top section and selecting "Icon and Text."

At the top and center is an array of cursor tools. Each one, when clicked and held, opens a list of tools within a particular family from which to choose and/or a drop-down menu of settings. More frequently used tools you can find there are the select tool (looks like an arrow and is a great neutral place to leave your cursor when you aren't actively using a cursor tool) and the crop, rotate, and zoom tools.

There are many tool tabs, but we'll skip ones you won't immediately need to keep things easy. The Library tab, whose icon looks like a folder, is used to navigate your catalog or session and browse your photos using filters such as star ratings. If using the Migration workspace, just about everything you need to edit is under the Exposure tab, with an icon shaped like a histogram. Styles and Presets are under the Adjustments tab in the shape of a clipboard with a checkmark. The tab that looks like a single gear is the Output tab, home of Process Recipes used for exporting images.

If you've installed the Mastin Labs workspace, find the quick tab to the right of the tool tabs, which are on the left of the screen by default in this workspace. Its icon is a circle with a "1" in it, like Capture One's logo. Everything you need to get a quick clean edit is right there including access to the Mastin Labs styles.

Using Styles in Capture One

Mastin Labs users coming from Lightroom are used to choosing looks from "presets," but, while Capture One also has presets, the parallel you are looking for is actually "styles." When you purchase and install Mastin Labs style packs for Capture One, you can find them in the "Styles and Presets" tool under "User Styles." The difference between presets and styles in Capture One is that presets contain saved settings for one tool only, whereas a style is a look comprising saved settings of many tools.

Exporting Your Photos from Capture One

Like Lightroom, Capture One edits are non-destructive and you export edited images. You can do this by selecting the images to export and navigating to the export dialog via File > Export Images > Variants and choosing your export settings, or "recipe," when prompted.

Another way to export is by using the gear-shaped Output tab to use the Process Recipes tool. This is handy if you need to export the same images for multiple uses, for instance, a set at web resolution and another at print resolution.

Process recipes are export presets. Click a recipe and its baked-in settings will show in the tools beneath it. Capture One comes with some and you can create your own. If you tick the checkbox on multiple process recipes and press the process button in the Process Summary tool at the bottom of the Output tab, Capture One will export your photos using all checked process recipes at once.

Now you're ready to use Capture One Pro! Go forth, create, and share what you've made with other Mastin users in the Mastin Labs - Community Facebook group.

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