If you’ve used Lightroom, you’re probably quite familiar with working with catalogs. But until recent years, Capture One only had sessions. So what is the difference between the two options? Why use one rather than the other?
What is a Catalog in Capture One?
A catalog is like a filing system. It allows you to find, sort and edit (even export) various different files from the same access point, without having to go looking for them.
It’s similar to a library card system or a central warehouse that stores all your images. Collections, folders and sessions can be contained in this library. If you mainly shoot personal stuff and a wide variety of genres, then a catalog system might just be the way to go.
What is a session in Capture One?
On the other hand, sessions are individual projects separate from each other. They almost look like mini filing systems. Each session will store all images and data from that session together.
The advantage of this is that you can grab a single session and put it on a hard drive and move it around. All your edits and adjustments are stored in the session, so you don’t have to worry about using or downloading an entire catalog (or having to export some images). If you work in the studio, using a different session for each shoot or project makes a lot of sense.
Can you use both sessions and catalogs?
Yes, you can move your sessions into a catalog. To do this, go to Choose File > Import Session from the main menu, then select the session name. Select Import to begin importing, along with the variants and metadata and any adjustments made.
What is the main benefit of using Sessions?
Sessions in Capture One are more a la carte and completely separate from your catalog. They are stored wherever you choose to store them (if you leave them in the default location, they are in your Pictures folder). You can name and store whatever you want, select and move images to different folders in your session (Capture, Selections, Trash, etc.).
The main advantage is that it is easy to share on different devices. It also makes shooting, selecting and disposing of images during a studio session quick and easy. Any changes you make to images in your session will be moved with the moved session.
Which do I prefer?
Having used Capture One in the studio for a while now, I have to admit I prefer Sessions to Catalogs. I create a new session for each client or project I work on.
I mostly shoot in tethered mode, so clients and joint creatives can see everything that’s going on. We assess, sort and select, make adjustments on the fly, and then the entire session is moved from the studio laptop to my main PC for final editing. To me, it makes sense and it works.