There and Back Again: my journey using Lightroom and Capture One

I started taking photographs more regularly at the end of the 1990s, when I met my wife and we started traveling together. If you are curious and want to laugh a little bit, this is a short review of the Canon Photura camera my wife owned back then. What an intriguing and unusual design! We still own it to this day, as well as a ton of physical photo albums in our bookshelves.

Back in 2005, I jumped from film cameras to a Canon APS-C digital camera, the Rebel XT/350D. This was my first DSLR, and the first leap in my photographic journey. Like most users at the time, I started shooting a lot more photos than on film. Digital cameras removed the necessity to print every single images, it was liberating and allowed for much more experimentation.

I started developing my photography skills and soon needed a way to organize the rapidly growing collection of files on my computer. Lightroom was evolving rapidly at the time and was the obvious choice. I have been a longtime Adobe Lightroom user, probably since version 1.0 or 2.0, starting around 2007 or 2008.

Lightroom era

From 2005 to 2018, I shot over 12,000 images on two Canon Rebel digital cameras. My favorite lens was the EF-S 50mm f/1.8, a 100$ plastic lens that produced outstanding images. I frequently appreciate images from that era, still, using Lightroom’s fantastic cataloging ability.

In 2019, I jumped from Canon to Fujifilm. At the time, I was looking for a mirrorless camera to do sports photography and the Fujifilm X-T3 was highly praised as a compact and “pretty good at everything” camera. This was another “leap” for me, as the electronic viewfinder, high resolution screen and Fujifilm control dials allowed to experiment with manual exposure much more easily and understand which settings were appropriate in various conditions. In 2019 alone, I shot over 11,000 photos.

I started by shooting in JPG format and immediately loved the images and Fuji film simulations. However, for indoor sports, where you tend to shoot at high ISO values, I quickly realized shooting in RAW format would give me much more flexibility in post-processing. I immediately encountered issues with the famous worms in Lightroom. At the time, I was still editing images ‘like Canon’ and I was definitely over-sharpening and over-processing my images, unaware of demosaicing and the differences between X-Trans and Bayer sensors. For more details about this, see my other blog post.

The Internet was saying that Lightroom was the problem, not Fuji. Many were saying “just use Capture One”, so I did.

Capture One era

Late 2019, I initially started with Capture One Express For Fujifilm. It was the honeymoon phase, as C1 did not produce the worming effects that I had experienced with LR. I was not as comfortable editing with C1 as I was with LR, but I am a strong believer in ‘practice makes perfect’, so I persisted.

I wanted to combine Lightroom and Capture One in a single workflow, as I did not want to say goodbye to my extensive Lightroom catalog containing thousands of images. This workflow included multiple steps and was a little cumbersome. I also did not find any obvious way of having edits performed in Capture One recognized correctly by Lightroom, even when using sidecar XMP files. It took me some time to realize this, but I had created a split in my editing workflow, slowly duplicating where edits were stored. And this was slowly and gradually becoming a mess.

In 2020, I decided to explore switching completely to Capture One and attempt converting my complete Lightroom catalog to C1. I tried the paid version of Capture One, I liked it enough and received a well-timed marketing offer for 50% off, so I decided to purchase it on the annual subscription plan. I am the living proof that marketing works, people!

Unfortunately, I never really succeeded importing my Lightroom catalog in Capture One. The process would either be too time consuming, or I would lose my editing steps for thousand of images. Furthermore, I just never got comfortable with the user interface in C1. I would constantly search for editing tools in the menus and the tools themselves never felt completely right to me. Overall, my editing workflow was significantly slower than on LR, particularly when editing hundreds of images following a sports tournament.

By middle of 2020, I had abandoned Capture One completely and returned to Adobe Lightroom, after viewing this very thorough video about Fuji demosaicing, from Oliver Hilbert.

Lightroom: The Next Generation

I’m fully back on Adobe Lightroom since a year and a half and never looked back. The Enhance Details processing step and its largely improved demosaicing algorithm saved the day for me. I’m getting equally good or better Fuji images than what I got with Capture One, but with a much more comfortable and time effective worfklow.

I can now invest more time on learning new skills. I’ve built a photography portfolio and started doing commercial shoots. I’m experimenting with artificial lighting for portraiture. I’m learning Photoshop in much more details and using it to complement Lightroom for more complex edits, like sports posters. I started my own website, which I produce and host using Adobe Portfolio, included with my Creative Cloud subscription.

I did a couple of significant upgrades to my equipment, which further improved my overall editing speed and image quality. First, I ditched my Windows laptop for an Apple M1 Mac Mini. The performance editing photos in Adobe products is absolutely stellar with the M1 chip. I also invested in a good quality Dell 4K monitor to complement the Mac. Finally, I leveraged another marketing promotion 😉 and got Topaz Denoise AI around Black Friday. Denoise AI is extremely useful for my indoor volleyball photography, where I regularly shoot above ISO 5000, and well integrated to Lightroom as an external plugin.

Conclusion

In my opinion and for my workflow, there is absolutely no question that Adobe Lightroom is a better fit for my needs. It allows me to produce high quality images from my Fuji X camera, without wormy artefacts, at a faster speed. Lightroom comes bundled with excellent value added applications and services like Photoshop and Portfolio. Finally, it also integrates with various third party tools like Denoise AI, that complement my editing workflow while keeping Lightroom and its catalog as the source of truth for all images and edits.

I hope you learnt something from my personal journey:

Think twice after watching videos on Youtube.

Think twice after reading comments on social media.

Think twice after receiving a marketing offer 😉.

Most importantly, do extensive testing when considering your image editing and cataloging application, as it has long-term implications. Use your own images for testing and use the application during a real-world shoot/edit, with a large batch of images. Test from end-to-end, from taking pictures with the camera to publishing images on the web or social media. Finally, think about your needs and how they might evolve in the long-term. Your image editing application is a platform that support the needs and requirements of your photography activity, whether for personal or commercial use.

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