...and it is, probably not surprisingly to most professionals here, from Lightroom to CaptureOne
As photographers we have more that binds us than things which divide us and one of them is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a frustration with the way Lightroom has been developing (or not, as some would suggest) over the past couple of years. I’m not talking about the whole CC thing, but rather that one massive mammoth in the room - speed and performance! And let us be honest - Lightroom has become slow. Really slow. Counter-productively slow.
Now, I have been a Lightroom advocate since LR1! Yes - when I made the jump from film to digital, back in 2004 (I think), even though I was using a Mac (and back then, if you were using a Mac, well, you were using Aperture - there was no question!), I made the conscious choice to use LR. I cannot remember which exact features tilted the scales in LR’s favour, but I am certain that to remain faithful over the past 13 years, well, they must have been good ones! And please, don’t get me wrong - LR has served me very well over the years. It has catalogued, processed and managed over 120,000 images across multiple catalogues on multiple drives, incorporating external edits, keywords etc. It’s been a heck of a ride.
Now, don’t get me wrong - there are still about a million things that LR does very well for me: it’s easy to use. The shortcuts moving across the different modules have probably saved me weeks over the years. The simplicity of some of the tools - heck, even the fact I can use the arrow keys to make adjustments - has allowed me to process hundreds of images in a single session sometimes. Hey, I even like the map where I can drag pictures and geotag them! But over the last couple of projects, even using all those cool features has become more of a hassle than a standard, pleasurable process. Why? because of the speed…
What before used to take a few secs, maybe a couple of minutes, would now take minutes upon minutes, the images would stagger, sometimes i would even have to wait before the preview was available. In the very last project, it took me twice as long to process the same amount of images as after the project before that - time I did not have - and so, after a rather fruitless online search for optimisation methods (none of which worked or provided significant improvements), I decided to look around.
Enter, stage left, CaptureOne. Upon first download - panic! Overwhelming interface, tons of tools, icons, not clear shortcuts, no clear distinction between a nice, clean, library view and a development area, being forced to select tools from multiple areas to do simple things - the list went on and on. To be honest with you, a day after downloading it I literally left it alone for a few days while desperation set in… but then, I returned. Call it stubbornness, call it curiosity - I needed to see why so many professionals were swearing by CaptureOne!
To test it I went through a proper migration scenario: created a copy of my current LR catalogue and attempted to import it. Result? Complete failure! After 9,5 hours, CaptureOne declared the process a success, but upon closer inspection it ended up only migrating about 35% of all my images - with absolutely no hint as to why the rest were left out, as they did not share any common characteristics (file type, processing type, etc.) It was completely random (oh, and an email to PhaseOne support received what I can only classifysify as the least helpful response to ANY question EVER!) Then I exported parts of my LR catalogue and attempted to import them to CaptureOne - again, with very limited success. Finally, I found the trick: if I exported Collection Sets as catalogues from LR, I could then import them easily (and completely) into a single CaptureOne catalogue, thereby slowly, step-by-step, recreate my LR catalogue (yes, a long-winded approach, but better than nothing!). Once I had my images in CaptureOne, I went by some of my favourites and reprocessed them…
Let me start by giving you the good points: actual processing (colours, detail, variety of tools available, adjustment layers etc) is absolutely amazing. While it did take a bit longer to process an image, the results were - in my view - better than I could have gotten with LR in the same time. Somehow, the images look closer to what I had in mind, what I had experienced and what my vision was for them. So, as a pure post-processing tool, it is better than LR, hands down. It is also fast! While loading the catalogue at first is, maybe, a tiny bit slower, the actual processing, scrolling etc. afterwards are much, much faster - I imagine that once I break up my massive catalogue to smaller ones, it will be fine! The focus area feature is actually quite cool - even though I don’t think I would depend on it blindly to assess my images, despite what the various blogs say.
However, there are quite a few things which annoy me to no end: the fact that I need to have a separate view (CaptureOne calls them Workspaces) to be able to distinctly view a summary of all my images, that even then I cannot easily just inspect an image in full screen and then quickly return to the grid. The fact I now need to find an alternative to cataloguing my PSD files (unless I convert them all to TIFFs or some such idea). The lack of shortcuts to the various toolbars - there are more, but these are the most annoying by far. Oh, and the fact that when I click on a Collection Group I cannot see all the images in the contained Collections - that is bloody annoying!!!! Overall, what I estimate they will do is, pretty much, take away any time saving I get from the speed increase during development…
So, what does one do? Well, seeing as I’m not a wedding photographer (or any other genre which may require processing within a very short time period), I’m estimating that my overall workflow will not change much - at least in terms of time from import to delivery. I’m also looking forward to seeing my images processed in a different way - I actually feel really excited at the possibility and looking forward to investigating the potential.
Luckily for those of us for who a simple month going over past-processed images is simply not enough, PhaseOne has a nice 3-month subscription package which is what I am going to start with. This will enable me to process all images from my upcoming trip to Cuba and see the differences against real circumstances. Then, I can make a much more informed decision. That way, I do not risk too much re-work (if, for whatever reason, CaptureOne does not live up to my expectations, I will only need to re-process the Cuba images back in Lightroom) and I can have my customers evaluate the results as well…there are therefore some risks, but doesn’t every major migration decision have those?
Watch this space for updates on the process…;-)