Migrating from Capture One to Lightroom

When Apple stopped developing Aperture I switched to Capture One as my image editing and asset management software. Capture One just as Adobe Lightroom offered an importer for Aperture libraries, which made the transition fairly simple. 12 months later I am switching again, this time to Adobe Lightroom because Capture One (version 8 as well as 9) did not fulfill my expectations of a professional tool. While the quality of the raw file conversion is outstanding, it lacks in digital asset management features, has quiet a few bugs and worst of all, the performance is just too slow when using the catalog feature with a large amount of images (using catalogs with 10.000 – 40.000 images).

Lightroom collection

While migrating from Aperture to either Capture One or Lightroom is fairly easy, the same can not be said about migrating away from Capture One, as there is no import plug-in for Lightroom. To me most important was the metadata of the images like titles, captions, keywords, ratings and flags. I was willing to loose things like albums, especially since I usually organize shoots in individual folders. In some cases I temporarily set a metadata ITPC field with the name of an album, so that I could recreate the collection later in Lightroom.

In order to migrate the metadata, the main trick is to use XMP sidecar files. XMP stands for Extensible Metadata Platform and is an ISO standard for standardized and custom metadata.

In Lightroom we are importing the folders with the original images, so it is important to use referenced files in Capture One and have the images organized on the file system, e.g. by year, month, shoot etc.  Images that were stored within the catalog in Capture One I just moved to one folder location and then let Lightroom organize the files into separate image folders during the import. Also there were some edits I didn’t want to loose, so I let Capture One process those again and store the results in the same location as the original RAW files.

After the files were all in the right place, the first attempt was to enable full auto sync of sidecare XMP in the Capture One preferences.

Capture One XMP auto sync preferences

Capture One will then start to write the XMP files for all images in the catalog. Depending on the size of the catalog that will take a long time (hours!). If you want to use Capture One next to Lightoom, you could leave this enabled but with my large catalogs it made Capture One completely unusable as it was permanently busy checking the XMP files for changes. After a day with Lightroom I already knew I wasn’t going to use both or switch back, so I didn’t need full sync.

It is easier and faster to do it only for selected images and import those in Lightroom in batches. Make a selection (e.g. an album or a month/year), go to the metadata options in Capture One and click on the 3 dots to show the additional functions. Here there is a ‘Sync Metadata’ feature that will generate the XMP files only for the selected images.

Sync selected metadata in Capture One

Once the XMP files have been generated it is just a matter of importing the images in Lightroom. Since I wanted to leave the images at their current location I used the ‘add’ mode during import. When importing those images that had been stored in the catalog and had not been organized on the file system yet, I imported using the ‘move’ mode and then let Lightroom move them to folders organized by date etc.

Unfortunately this did not work with jpg files. Even though Capture One wrote the XMP files also for the jpg files, Lightroom did not read their metadata. This is a limitation of Lightroom. XMP sidecar files are only working with RAW files. Here good old Aperture came to the rescue since Aperture reads XMP sidecar files of jpg images during import and then we can import the Aperture library directly in Lightroom. An extra step that takes some time but luckily I’ve been shooting RAW most of the time.

Like this I was able to migrate all of my Capture One catalogs to Lightroom within a few days and so far I am glad that I made the switch.

6 thoughts

  1. I’m making the switch from Capture One Pro to Lightroom this week, after having switched to C1 a year ago from Aperture. I have to admit, I’ve struggled with doing this for some time (though I’m definitely moving over this week). Part of it is the heavy lift to migrate photos, but most of it is that I keep coming back to the quality of the RAW converter. Most of my photos coming in through Lightroom have flatter colors, and look like softer images. Through C1, they come through outstanding. I’m trying to figure out what things I can do to the image within LR after importing to get the quality on par with C1.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Dan,
      I think it is just the result of default processing and in Lightroom it should just be a matter of defining your own presets (or selecting existing ones) and applying those during import. I process all suited images manually, so don’t really pay attention to the default after import. Personally I prefer the result in Lightroom in most situations, although I found it easier to achieve in C1.

  2. I also really like the output from Capture One, but the file handling and cataloging is a lot easier with Lightroom. You also get photoshop as well. A nice bonus.

    So yeah, I use capture one now but I am considering moving back to Lightroom again. If I can follow your instructions and get the metadata and keywords over. I guess most adjustments gets lost or do you have a suggestion for that?

    1. Not just most, all adjustments are lost. While C1 can import LR catalogs and at least handle some adjustments, that’s just a one-way path. If you want to keep adjustments, the only option is to export files in C1 (e.g. as TIF or JPG) first. Which is not a bad idea anyhow as all of these products use proprietary catalogs. I did it for a few images but then didn’t bother any longer when I realized that I actually prefer the results that I can achieve in LR.

  3. Hello,
    Thank you for this articles. It sounds strange to me that LR can not import JPEG and XMP.
    I know that LR can make and manage XMP sidecar for JPEG. So it would mean that LR is able to manage XMP except when importing files?

    1. The difference is, that Lightroom stores/reads XMP in jpg files directly and does not use sidecar files for them. The XMP sidecar files are mainly intended for proprietary format raw files.
      C1 in return does not support writing meta data directly into original jpg files (Aperture does if I remember correctly).

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