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5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can’t Do in Lightroom


If you’re a Lightroom user, you may be wondering:

Are there any Lightroom alternatives that can take your editing to the next level? Are there any editing programs that can offer you something more?

The answer is a resounding yes:

Capture One Pro.


You see, Capture One is a step above Lightroom in several key respects. While Capture One isn’t for everyone, if you’re looking to expand your post-processing capabilities, Capture One may be the way to go.

So in this article, you’re going to discover five things you can do in Capture One that you can’t do in Lightroom. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but it should give you a sense of Capture One’s power, and why you might consider it as a RAW editor.

Let’s get started.

1. You can create a session-based workflow for efficient organization

I’m a big fan of Lightroom’s catalog-based editor. I like Lightroom’s method of quickly organizing photos with Collections and Albums.

But Capture One’s session-based workflow option is well thought out and amazingly useful.

Here’s how it works:

First, you have a photography outing or a photo shoot of some kind, then you head into Capture One and create a session.


Now, every session involves a parent folder. And within that parent folder, Capture One creates four additional folders:

  • A Capture Folder
  • A Selects Folder
  • An Output Location folder
  • A Trash Folder

5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can't Do in Lightroom

So when you begin your session, you can import all of your photos from the day into the Capture Folder. This is where all of your photos can reside until you go through them. When you do, you can move the best shots into the Selects Folder and the worst shots into the Trash Folder.

Once you’ve edited all of your Selects Folder photos, you can create JPEG or TIFF files, which you export into the Output Location folder.

Note that you can create a new session whenever you do a new photoshoot. That way, you can use the same session-based process on every single photography outing.

And your photography workflow will stay quick and efficient.

Plus, you can access every session from within Capture One, as part of the Library.

Cool, right?

2. You can do layer-based editing for advanced post-processing control

One of the biggest things missing from Lightroom that you can find in other post-processing programs?


Now, Adobe has found some nice workarounds; the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush tools are very powerful and give enough fine-tuned control to satisfy plenty of users.

However, if you really want to selectively edit your photos, layers (and the masking functions that go with them) can’t be beaten.

With Capture One’s layer options, you can apply masks using a brush, a gradient, and more. You can make any basic global Capture One adjustment via a layer, then quickly turn it into a local adjustment.

5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can't Do in Lightroom

Plus, layers are useful for compartmentalizing different edits. If you’d like to keep your exposure adjustments separate from your color adjustments, put them in separate layers. If you’re like to make multiple exposure adjustments, but aren’t sure which ones you’ll end up using, put them in separate layers. Then quickly toggle on and off layers to see how the adjustments affect the final image.

Of course, you don’t have to use layers in Capture One. If you’re more a fan of Lightroom’s sliders, then there are some options for more selective editing compared to Lightroom, including the enhanced color adjustments I talk about in the next section:

3. You can do enhanced color toning with Capture One’s Color Balance tool

Color toning is one of the most important adjustments I make to my own images, and it’s one of the simpler tweaks you can make to really improve your photos.

So it’s pretty important that you’re able to control color as much as possible.

And while Lightroom offers its (extremely useful) HSL sliders and split toning tool, the Color Balance tool is one of my favorite things about Capture One, from its interface to its control to its power:


You see, with the Capture One Color Balance tool, you can alter the Highlight, Midtone, and Shadow colors. You can do basic split toning by pushing blues into the shadows and golds into the highlights. Or you can go for a more advanced three-toned color grade using the Capture One color wheels.

Plus, color toning in Capture One is very intuitive!

Instead of doing toning while referencing an external color wheel, you can quickly select complementary colors off the wheel and see how they look. And if you don’t like those, well, you can switch to a different pair or harmonious colors, or a color triad, all within the Color Balance interface.

It’s a lot of power in a very simple tool.

4. You can create presets for individual editing tools

Lightroom is known for its preset-creation capabilities.

But did you know that Capture One lets you create presets for individual tools?

If you hit upon a set of values that you like, simply tap the hamburger icon in the right-hand corner of any tool:


And select Save User Preset:

5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can't Do in Lightroom

Then, the next time you get stuck using that tool, you can scroll through your saved presets and see if anything sticks out at you.

Capture One also provides you with a number of already-uploaded presets, so you’re free to check those out, as well:

5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can't Do in Lightroom

By the way:

While Capture One user presets are nice to use, they’re certainly not a substitute for broader preset editing. Which is why Capture One includes preset functions just like Lightroom (but called Styles).

5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can't Do in Lightroom

So you get the best of both worlds:

Tool-specific presets, and image-focused Capture One styles.

5. You can rearrange the interface for streamlined editing

Here’s one more great feature that Capture One offers:

You can arrange your editing interface – and I’m not talking about toggling on and off a few editing panels.

Instead, with Capture One, you can remove tools completely from the editing interface. You can bring them out so that they float in the main editing window, or you can stick them back into entirely different sections of Capture One.


This is especially useful if you have a particular editing workflow that you tend to follow. Instead of hunting around for each tool every time you edit a photo, you can arrange your editing tools in a neat stack. Then, when it’s time to edit your photos, you can go straight down the sequence, doing one edit after another until you’ve finished.

Being able to rearrange the editing interface is also nice if there are certain tools that you never use, and just want to get rid of.

Hate the Levels tool? You can remove it in seconds.

And you’re also free to remove entire tabs. If you never want to use a Capture One style, you can delete the whole Adjustments tab.

5 Things You Can Do in Capture One You Can't Do in Lightroom

Note that Capture One even has several tool tabs that you can add into the Capture One interface, such as a Composition tab and a Black and White tab.

Really, the options are endless!

5 things you can do in Capture One you can’t do in Lightroom: Conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about the power of Capture One, and what it offers compared to Lightroom.

Bottom line:

Capture One is an impressive RAW image editor and one that packs a lot of punch.

So if you’re looking to increase your editing power, testing out Capture One is a good decision!

For those of you who have tried Capture One, what are your thoughts? What did you like or dislike compared to Lightroom? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Jaymes Dempsey
Jaymes Dempsey

is the Managing Editor of Digital Photography School, as well as a macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. To learn how to take stunning nature photos, check out his free eBook, Mastering Nature Photography: 7 Secrets For Incredible Nature Photos! And to see more of Jaymes’s work check out his website and his blog.

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