Adobe Lightroom, Exposure X6 or Capture One for image processing

Every photographer out there is using one of these three applications. Adobe Lightroom is probably the most popular among them, but Capture One is also widely used especially among the most serious of photographers. There is also this Exposure X6, formerly known as AlienSkin Exposure app. I guess we could also add Adobe Photoshop with Bridge being the image management and organisation app, but if anyone is actually using Adobe, they’d organise their pictures in Lightroom. I have used all these applications and currently deciding between two of them.

I installed my first Lightroom app when it was at version 1.4. That is probably around 2008. At that time it was the best app to manage images available. Easy choice. It did a good job and I stayed with that until at least 2014. I am not sure which version it was by then, but it was a very good app, and combined with Photoshop 6.0 it gave me all the tools necessary to manage, organise and edit all my images.

Then Adobe decided to change the pricing structure. They realised that charging a monthly rent on their apps made them a lot more money than selling their apps outright. The pricing was actually very affordable. I think it was AUD$10 a month for both Lightroom and Photoshop. A photographer’s bundle. I subscribed to that for at least a year. Until I learned about AlienSkin Exposure, which is now just called Exposure X6.

They released a version that had very similar features to Lightroom. Editing images was just as easy as Lightroom, and the organisation was much more to my liking. They didn’t use a global database – catalog, instead, they just processed their images on the folders. They also had a large number of “film presets” built-in and they looked really good. Also, there was no subscription. I liked that idea.

I canceled my Adobe subscription, reinstalled my old version of Photoshop 6.0, and migrated to Exposure. I’ve been really happy with the setup for a few years. Actually, I’m still happy with it, but I was looking for a better way to publish my client images and decided to give the Adobe subscription another go. At that time I had an online gallery with Zenfolio, which cost me USD$8 a month. Not much, but I thought, if I only pay another 2$, I get the Adobe subscription, which apparently offers a good way to share images with my clients.

At this time, I upload finished my client’s Boudoir Photography or Online Dating Photography images to a Zenfolio gallery, give my client a link and I’m done. It’s convenient, but not entirely necessary. I know a lot of photographers who simply send the finished pictures to a DropBox or similar online file-sharing app. Most of these apps give users a few Gb of space free. However, with Adobe I thought I could have the convenience and also retain the branding of my photography business.

I downloaded the trial version and started digging into the settings. As it turns out, both Lightroom and Photoshop looked a lot more modern, than the versions I remembered, but I think they spent most of their development budget on making the apps work in the cloud, and not so much on the actual image processing capabilities. They had desktop, phone, and tablet versions on the apps, and I’m sure that would appeal to some people, but I would never edit my images on a tablet. That’s crazy.

Also, as it turns out, sharing images with the clients required them to create an Adobe user account, which is simple enough, but it does add a layer of complexity to my clients and it was not as convenient as I thought. I canceled my subscription to Adobe only a few days into the trial. It was just not for me and so not worth the money. My Photoshop 6.0 still did everything I could ever want to do with my client images.

What I noticed, however, as I studied all the new functionality of Lightroom on YouTube, is that a lot of FujiFilm photographers actually use Capture One instead of Lightroom. Simply because Capture One does a much better job at rendering FujiFilm’s raw images. I decided to dig further, spend a couple of days studying the app on YouTube, and realised that I really like it. It’s a very powerful image processing app. Has all the bells and whistles of Lightroom, and quite a few of their own too. And it also works well with Photoshop, if I needed more editing done to my images.

So now I’m a little bit torn. I will definitely not go back to Adobe, as I hate the subscription model. And I really don’t need anything more than my current Photoshop 6.0 gives me. However,  I’m not sure if I should buy an upgrade to Exposure X7, or perhaps spend just a little bit more on Capture One, which works a lot better with my Fuji raw images. The new perpetual license of Capture one is just a bit more than Exposure, but it will be double the price for me as I get an upgrade discount on Exposure. I’m not sure what I’ll do. I kind of like new things, and Capture one is new and really shiny too. Also, Capture one has good integration with FujiFilm cameras too, so I can actually process my raw files with the jpeg film simulations with ease.

I also watched quite a few videos on Capture One, and I’m getting quite good at it. My mind is almost made. I might wait for the next major version of Capture One to come out and I’ll switch to that from Exposure X5. I can still use the Exposure film simulation and grading if I wanted to, but it looks like Capture One can deliver similar results. In a way, it’s great to have options, but 12 years ago, there was only Lightroom and there was no need to worry about alternatives.

Capture One should give me all the editing and organising tools I can ever need. For more complicated edits, like frequency separation or liquify filters I can still jump quickly to my old and trusted Adobe Photoshop 6.0. I am just really impressed with the way Capture One works with Fujifilm raw files. I will have to check the keyboard shortcuts, and speed of Capture One on an actual client shoot, but if I like the feel of it, I will start using Capture One for all my photography work.

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