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  • Writer's pictureSean Gallagher

What app is that??

Back before we were all locked down with this virus, I would - on every Friday - regularly post a screenshot of my "Week in Review," a collection I'd assemble from the previous week's shots both on stage and around the building:

In addition to the flood of messages I'll get in the hours afterward with "hey post the second row third from left" type sentiments, there will inevitably be a few photographers who write to ask "what app is that?" Or "Is that Apple's Photo program?" Or, if they've heard of Capture One, "how do you use it?"

So, this is Capture One. More specifically, this is a little slice of my Capture One catalog for the Daily Show. I have a catalog for each year, so Daily Show 2020, Daily Show 2019, etc.

In addition to Catalogs, Capture One also offers what they call "Sessions." What's the difference between Sessions and Catalogs, and which one is better? Ask ten photographers who use it and you'll no doubt get ten different answers.

In my case, I use Catalogs for collections I know are going to be very large. I don't know if this is cognitive bias or actually true, but I feel as if Catalogs handle giant collections of images better than Sessions do. My Daily Show Catalogs tend to run well north of 30,000 images per year, so they're certainly large collections.

I also tend to use catalogs when I'm going to be importing images off of cards into a much larger batch. Again, not sure whether I'm actually correct in thinking this or not. I've also started out with a Session and later regretted it because the collection became much larger than I anticipated...for example I have almost 10,000 infrared images in a Session, and at some point I'll have to change that.

I use Sessions for one-offs, and almost always when I tether the camera to the laptop. I generally say that I "shoot into sessions." An afternoon when I have to bang out 25 images of tabletop product shots? Session. Even 300 images? Session.

One downside that I haven't seemed to have been able to find a workaround for is that moving a Session or Catalog can really get complicated...I've had it work without a hitch and I've also had it break the reference to every file contained in the master index, instead pointing to the original location on the laptop or whatever external drive it was on originally.

So why do I use Capture One? Well, for a start I've never used Lightroom. I've also been present in the studio for almost every big photo shoot (big in terms of size as well as the relative fame of the photographers, who have been pretty huge) we've had with Jon or Trevor for the past ten-ish years or so, and everyone who shoots tethered (and if you don't have the equipment to shoot tethered, you should put that on your's gotten to the point where it is expected by most clients...if you're shooting, you're shooting tethered so your clients can stand by even your laptop's monitor or a big external and see the images as they roll in) shoots with Capture One. It's not even close....I've never seen anyone tether and shoot into Lightroom. So that in itself is a great endorsement.

More importantly, though, is that Capture One just seemes to render everything better than anything I've seen come out of Lightroom...the images just look better straight out of the camera with no settings applied. That's a big deal.

Is the interface clunky? Perhaps, at first, but it's also endlessly customizable. I'm not on the latest version, but more and more they seem to be trying to target Photoshop as well as Lightroom, giving you more and more features that will allow you to execute your entire workflow inside C1 without having to export your file and then move to Photoshop. That's appealing...I don't use Photoshop often, but generally when I do I know that there's some fairly involved work coming.

Once you've got it set up how you like it, though, it's a pleasure to use. As I've said elsewhere on the blog, I've got a ton of presets that I've built for each area in the building that I've ever shot in more than once or twice...I really try to keep on top of maintaining my preset/automation rule (if I do something more than twice I build a preset or automate the task with an action or macro) so I really try to be disciplined about grabbing my Color Checker to shoot in whatever room I've found myself in for that second time so I can go build a preset.

So that's about it for how I use Capture One. As I've said elsewhere I'm generally in a pretty good rush to get images out, so it tends to be a very fast-paced run through the steps (Import->Run Presets->Double check on waveform to ensure exposures are consistent across all images->Export->Upload), but what allows me to make that speed run is all the prep work like preset building.

As ever, I love hearing from you with questions and comments, so please feel free to comment on this post or to get in touch with me via the contact form.

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