I wanted to do some research on why commercial photographers I admire use the RAW software they use. To two most prevalent are Phase One’s Capture One Pro and Adobe’s Lightroom. After having collected 10 answers, I can see some pattern and very much agree with what they have to say. I asked them why they favour their software and what are their most used features. Without further ado, here are the results.
Cody is Montreal’s top product, food and corporate portrait photographer. You can check out his work at www.codycaissie.com. Lightroom is his weapon of choice and that is because of the archival feature of it being more advanced than Capture One’s. He says that it works really smoothly with his NAS. Furthermore, Cody likes the ability to rapidly adjust an image and have it synchronize to a bunch of other pictures. To finish it off, the product photog enjoys the seamless communication it has with Photoshop. Just press Command + E to go from Lightroom to Photoshop and save the file after your done to have it appear back to Lightroom. After all, both are made by the same Adobe.
Tony is a professional food, beverage, product and architecture photographer from Spokane, Seattle. As for Michael, he shoots fashion, beauty and portraits. Both agree that Capture One Pro has a slight edge in image quality (sharpness and contrast). ...Only if you load in the original manufacturer’s RAW files and not a DNG. They feel that the interface is superior to Lightroom’s in the sense that everything is well laid out. In the same vain, Michael prefers Capture One’s session image management system. It allows him to open and work on a session without having the actual files on his local drive. I can personally add that working with Lightroom with more than one computer is not very pleasant. You NEED to have the catalog file on your local drive, making it more difficult to stay in sync on various machines. Also, Lightroom doesn’t offer a file management system like C1 does with the auto-created Output, Selects, Capture and Trash folders. They say that Lightroom is a tiny bit better on the sliders because they all go both in the positive and negative. Phase One’s software “treats [the shadow and highlight sliders] as recovery tools only” says Michael. To continue, the fashion photographer really likes the presence of the Color Editor tool in Capture One. As he says: “This tool is almost an application in and of itself by allowing you to specifically target a particular color and luminosity range and make hue, saturation and luminosity adjustments on that range”. Finally, Capture One offers more flexibility to export your work via the “Process Recipes” tool. Yet, it lacks in the precious Photoshop integration that Lightroom possess (albeit, in the new C1 8.1, you can do a Photoshop round-trip but not in earlier versions of the software) . You can read a really nice blog post comparing Lightroom and Capture One written by Micheal here, on Fstoppers. Also, if you want to try C1 out, head on Phase One' website. If you decide to purchase the software, save 10% the with the code AMBROSLUND (thanks, Tony).
Don’s a commercial photographer and designer off of Phoenix. Talking with him, he said that’s he’s currently using both softwares. As far as the UX and UI go, he feels that Lightroom is simpler, faster and lighter. Capture One Pro is fast but not intuitive nor easy to learn. He photographs people and locations and for that, Lightroom is his card. Otherwise, (tight portraiture environment and product/still life), Don goes with C1P. Capture One has a lot of flexibility and an “infinite level of control” built-in. The only problem is that it sports a pretty steep learning curve. That said, both programs are good. If you’ve ever wanted to learn tried-and-true lighting and photography techniques, please visit this awesome website of Don’s: Lighting Essentials.
Vadim, a jewelry and perfume photographer from Epicmind Studio in Montreal, uses Capture One Pro. He's says it's mostly because, at the time when he looked into a RAW processor, it was pretty much the only option available. These days, the photographer shoots with a Phase One camera system, so Capture One is the most logical choice. Also, Vadim says he heard that C1P outputs higher quality file (in line with Michael's opinion) but he hasn't tried Adobe's software in a while. "I love the easy file naming for individual files versus those which need to be focus stacked (sequence number). For example, productSKU#_01, _02, _03… etc. It’s great and easy.", Vadim says. Finally, he adds that he heard that Lightroom can do it but it's more complicated (I can personally confirm that).
Brandon, a photographer from Toronto whose specialties include food, architecture, lifestyle and portraiture, uses Photoshop and Camera RAW. That’s what he grew up with and it is very familiar to him. Otherwise (to process a quick JPEG for a client on location), Brandon chooses Lightroom. He says that Lightroom and Camera RAW are based on very similar algorithms but goes with Photoshop’s tool because he prefers the curve panel’s interface and behaviour.
Drew’s a very talented Montreal commercial photographer shooting architecture and interior design. He’s mostly photographing on location so Lightroom 5 makes the most sense to him. That’s because C1P has a certain edge in tethered shooting but its complexity is less desirable in a location-based non-tethered workflow. Drew says that he really likes the workflow from Lightroom and appreciates its RAW processor. Also, he likes the fact that he’s sure to have all the latest feature with Creative Cloud. However, he likes Capture One but rarely uses it.
Costin mainly photographs food and product. He’s also situated in Montreal. Costin’s camera is a Phase One medium format so Capture One Pro is the way to go. Lightroom does support Phase One’s .IIQ RAW files but the color support isn’t as good as with the native Capture One. Costin also says that he likes the greater image quality that the Phase One software gives him. However, “The downside is that I don't find it very stable but, mind you, nothing is perfect.” says the photographer. I, too, had a few random crashes and some troubles moving from 8 to 8.1 but overall it’s stable enough.
Riccardo, a commercial professional specializing in advertising, food, people, product and corporate photography, uses Lightroom. In fact, he began (8 years ago) by using Adobe Bridge and Camera RAW and is currently switching to Lightroom. He supports that collections can be better managed by using Lightroom’s library together with various sorting criterias and metadata. Riccardo says: “Collections in Lightroom are like playlists in iTunes which is great because you don't have to worry about having multiple versions of an image in different locations and accidentally modifying one of them”. Furthermore, the fact that Lightroom is both a photo/file manager and photo editor permits a faster and more efficient workflow. Just like Brandon, he feels that Camera RAW’s interface is clutterless and he’s used to it. Finally, the fact that Riccardo is a CC member makes Lightroom more senseful since it’s included in the price.
This guy is a commercial still life, food and portraiture shooter. He spends most of his post-production time in Lightroom. However, he goes to C1 occasionally when his shoot requires the fancy IQ 180 or P-45 Phase One digital backs. The reason why Lightroom’s his main RAW editor is the simple interface. He really likes the whole folder management workflow that is implemented into Lightroom. Also, he’s accustomed to the software which certainly helps continuing using that program. Finally, Hans prefers Capture One for the colour work. It’s true that the Color Editor is a very well constructed tool that enable very precise adjustments.
Dominique is one of the best Montreal photographer specializing in food and editorial photography. She uses the Phase One software. The reason is, as with most cases, pretty simple. She started a decade ago so Capture One Pro was pretty the only way to go (Lightroom was first officially released on February 19, 2007). She hasn’t looked back since getting on the Capture One side. It works wonderfully well for her because of the software’s overall performance. Moreover, the broader color range that it has is a compelling advantage over Lightroom. Finally, in a studio environment where, we, photographers, have a near-infinite amount of control, having a software that has a matching level of it certainly is a pro. To complement, I love the very granular control you have especially in C1 but also in Lightroom which is to use the arrows to move a slider (albeit Lightroom’s is less precise).
While communicating with these pro photographers, I realized that each software has a special signature in the industry. Capture One has more control but is more complicated. Lightroom has a much more robust image manager and a simpler interface doesn’t go as deep as C1. Finally, Camera RAW is the most tied to Photoshop (it’s IN the software) and boasts a clutterless interface but lack any file management. The software choice depends on what you are shooting. A 3-images-per-day still life/product photog that shoots in the studio will tend to use C1. In the other hand, a shutterbug who photographs on location (architecture, location portraiture, etc…) will bow towards Lightroom or Camera RAW. One thing is for sure, Photoshop is used in any case and it would be a huge misstep for a software not to communicate with it in any way. Thankfully, they all do.
Personally, I use Capture One - a recent switch from Lightroom. I love the fact that you can Pack files as EIP. That basically bundles the RAW file with the adjustments you made into one file that can be stored on a NAS and grabbed by another copy of C1 on another computer. Also, I like that I can just click on the session file from a NAS and have it open on any computer (with C1 installed). All the files and their adjustments appear even though they are not locally in the machine. Those features allow a very convenient workflow using networks and let you Photoshop the files from any computer in a breeze. Another characteristic from C1 I appreciate is the keystoning. You can very easily correct a not perfectly straight product image. I love Photoshop so much that I maybe wouldn’t use C1 if it lacked the integration with it. Furthermore, I like the tethering workflow from it. I can modify the camera’s settings and take a picture by way of a keyboard shortcut. Although, Lightroom has both of these, I just feel the tethering to be better in the Phase One software (obviously, the folder structure C1 creates is a big plus). Finally, the Color Editor is an outstanding addition. It enables me to control a specific colour, like taming down the greens a little or make the yellows a bit more saturated. The better control in almost every aspect of Capture One is what I like.
So that’s is it! A case study on why professionals commercial and editorial photographers use the RAW processor they use. If you have a comment or suggestion for a future blog post, please share it with us below. I like making those researches, it’s a lot of fun. I want to say a big thank you to everyone featured in this blog post for having cooperated with me.