Lightroom or Capture One – lets look at the workflow and the numbers

Adobe Lightroom or Capture One? A topic which for divisiveness comes close to the dark feud of Vi or Emacs, okay *nothing* really comes close to the dark feud of Vi or Emacs, civilisations have been obliterated after less divisive feuds. However, it’s an ongoing topic on which there can’t actually be as many opinions as their are photographers as there are actually only two options. But you know what I’m saying here. The caveat here is that this is all about me and my workflow and approach, it’s not an attempt to say this is going to be true for anybody else. Also, if you’re looking at this in the future, all these prices might be well out and so my comparisons aren’t going to work.

I’ve been a user of the Adobe workflow for years, and I’m quite happy with it. But it’s important to not just do what you’ve always done and assume you’ll always do it. I believe it was Keynes, but it might not have been, at least in that format, who said that when the evidence changed he changed his mind. So I thought I’d look at the evidence for switching my workflow to Capture One. There was a lot of opinion, most of it being fairly presented as opinion, as to the merits of one or the other in terms of image quality, especially when processing RAW files. At the end of my trip through the Youtube videos on this, I wasn’t any the wiser about if switching would benefit me. So I was on the point of downloading the trial of Capture One and seeing for myself when I decided, before going down that road, to look at the numbers. The difference between the two, and one which I’ve seen as a vote in it’s favour, is that you can actually own Capture One – you can rent it the way you Lightroom, but there is an outright purchase option. I’m pretty happy to rent software, but there are sound financial arguments to ownership too, so a tick to Capture there.

So, currently, I rent Lightroom and Photoshop on the photography plan for which I pay about a tenner a month. If I opted to go the rental route for Capture that would be double that so clearly not a better option for renting it just on the money alone. There is an important note here, the price for Capture One is only £9.95 if you’re only a Fuji or Sony user, but I shoot Canon so can’t take advantage of that discount, and I’m talking about me here. But for you the numbers might be more advantageous.

So I looked at the purchase option, outright ownership, £299.99 and it’s mine for life. Which works out at two and a half years of Adobe rental. Well, I thought, okay but I’ve hopefully got decades of snapping ahead of me so once I own it I own it. But of course with Adobe I’ll be getting all my updates and upgrades in the price while with Capture One there is probably going to be an update along in a couple of years which will be chargeable so maybe not a good deal? That would depend if the version I bought kept doing everything I wanted with it and so I didn’t need the upgrade, which is a significant possibility and so I could consider that.

But

And this is the fly in the ointment now and has been every time I’ve thought of this migration and remains the thing which stops me jumping to Capture. With Capture One, I get Capture One. With the Adobe Plan I get Photoshop as well as Lightroom, which I use for more significant edits and which I know well. Okay I could shift to something like Affinity Photo which I know and like, but which would put another £50 on the migration cost, or something like Luminar which I know is mega popular at another £70, neither of which are huge sums but I’d lose the seamless integration I get and like from Lightroom and Photoshop. They’re both good products, are only going to get better, and I could probably deliver using them, but the right-click >> edit in photoshop and then have the edits come back into Lightroom for further work is something I like.

For me the migration killer is that I get both Lightroom Classic for my desktops and Lightroom for mobile for my phone and tablet, with the ability to synchronise folders between the two using the 40Gb of cloud storage I get. That’s the big thing Capture One lacks, though to be fair it’s never claimed to want to go down this route. It’s heritage, the place it lives and thrives, is for photographers who want to get their photoshoots processed back in the office. People say it’s quick and good and if you’re a modern wedding photographer who needs to deliver 2000 photos to the happy couple asap that’s a sales point. But I like to be able to take an image from a photoshoot, export it to Lightroom in the cloud, then when I’m ready load it on my tablet or phone and put it onto Instagram. Or to shoot a file on my mobile device into Lightroom and finish it on the desktop.

So for me, the reason I’m not even going to try the free download of Capture One too see what the fuss is about mainly has nothing to do with the relative merits of the two packages, which is what most comparisons seem to make their focus. It’s the effect on my overall workflow. I could possibly, if I forgo the updates and subsequent updates to the Apple OS allow the older versions to function adequately, make it financially a better option. But for me the Capture One based workflow just wouldn’t work.

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