For years I've always heard that Capture One Pro was the best raw processor there was and that I needed to be using it in order to be producing my best work, at least my best work as far as raw processing goes. The problem was that I just couldn't ever get the hang of it and it seemed like a whole bunch of hype that I just wasn't buying into.
I constantly go through cycles where I'm never content with my work, it's never good enough. Some would argue that's a good place to be because you're always striving to be better, and that's true to an extent, I am always striving to be better. But sometimes I would wonder if something in my process was holding me back, or at the very least not letting me get better results. When this happens I would usually try to switch something up; lighting differently, change in my retouching, switching up my content (this one is a long post all on it's own for another day). And one thing I would try is to see if the Capture One hype was real.
I've downloaded trial versions of Capture One since version 5 I think. And I've got two email addresses, so if I wanted to download a trial of a version twice I could do that. While that may be sneaking and cheating the system, it's ok, because each time I never used it for more than 30 minutes. I just couldn't get the hang of it. The interface and layout was too foreign, the raw processing controls just didn't do anything for me, and one time it crashed within 5 minutes of me opening it. I had given up on understanding the hype of Capture One.
About a year since my last attempt at Capture One, I decided to give it one last go. And I Was determined to at the very least understand it. I'm not sure what was different this time, but it actually started to make sense. And no only did it start to make sense, but I started to like it. So I used it a little more and I started to love it. I realized that what was holding my back before was my familiarity with Lightroom, which I'd been literally been using since version 1. When I stopped thinking about it terms of Lightroom, Capture One started to make sense. And I've actually grown to love how it's different.
The one thing I always hated about Lightroom is after you import a photo from a card or shooting tethered it would look nice for a second, and then Lightroom would apply the Adobe profile to the photo and it would get washed out and overexposed. Easy fix, just change the profile, but it was annoying. Capture One doesn't do do that, you shoot tethered and a beautiful photo comes in, it will always look like that until you start your processing, that's a big plus. Version 10 is much more stable than previous versions and it doesn't crash anymore. Tethering is much faster than Lightroom, photos download faster and and you don't have to wait for the profile to render. I'm used to shooting tethered into Lightroom and having to stop every so often and let Lightroom catch up to make sure it doesn't "get angry" and stop tethering. "Getting angry" is what I would say happens to Lightroom when it would bog down from shooting tethered too fast. But with Capture One there's no queue of photos that are backed up in the pipe waiting to download, and that was a huge plus.
I've only had a chance to shoot one test completely inside of Capture One (input, process, retouch in photoshop, output), but I think it's really improved my work and my workflow. In the past I admittedly had a tendency to be a little heavy handed when it came to color grading and adding contrast in photoshop, partially because I wasn't getting good color at the raw processing stage. Don't get me wrong, I like the look I've made for myself, but *sometimes* I wished I would have a lighter touch. Enter Capture One. The photo below has zero color grading and contrast added in Photoshop. Raw processing in Capture One (white balance, open up shadows a hair, and skin tone uniformity). Then I did my retouching in Photoshop, cleanup skin and dodge and burn. Capture One can read PSD files so round tripping between the two is super easy. After retouching, back to Capture one for a tiny bit of contrast and saturation. And that's it!