Take a look at this list from my notes about how I manage my photos:
  • 2019-01-01 I’ve decided I’ll be using Lightroom CC.
  • 2021-05-15 Don’t listen to 2019 me, I’m using Lightroom Classic
  • 2021-06-03 Don’t listen to May 2021 me, I’m using Capture One now.
  • 2021-08-12 Don’t listen to June 2021 me, I’m using Lightroom Classic again.
  • 2021-08-15 Don’t listen to last week’s me, I’m using Capture One.

Obviously, I struggle with which tool to use. I was certain I’d “permanently” settled on Lightroom Classic just a week ago. In my comparisons, Lightroom wins nearly every category. But there was this entry:

C1: I get better images, faster

I couldn’t get this advantage of Capture One out of my head. Somehow, with my digital files, Capture One’s defaults come really close to where I want to end up, whereas in Lightroom I always have work to do.

My head says, “Use Lightroom because it’s ‘standard’ and works with everything.” but my heart says, “You know you like using Capture One better, so do that!”

The the other thing that settled it for me this last time was the realization that I want my editor and my library to be decoupled. Lightroom really wants to be my library. In fact, I spent a good portion of last weekend importing 100,000 images into a single Lightroom Library. It’s an adequate library, but using it as my primary tool puts me in a situation I don’t want to be in: I’m relying on Lightroom (and Adobe) for everything. Much better to have a DAM tool that isn’t entirely dependent upon a specific photo/RAW editor.

This is where Photo Mechanic Plus comes in. I’ve been using Photo Mechanic for a decade or more, and there’s nothing better or faster for ingesting, culling, and applying keywords and metadata to photos. Now, with the new “Plus” version, it’s also a powerful DAM.

My process is currently as follows:

  • Ingest photos or scans using PM
  • Rename with PM (e.g. “YYYYMMDD-FILENAME.dng”)
  • Edit the RAW files in Capture One (using a temporary “session”)
  • Export a “burned” JPG from each edited RAW file in the same folder with the same name (but using .jpg rather than .dng or .tif)
  • Move files to wherever they belong (usually in “/Media/Photos/YYYY/MM-Month YYYY/”) using Capture One (so the edit settings travel with them)
  • Add exif data to any scanned film files using Exiftool or the MetaImage app
  • Add any metadata, keywords, etc. to every image (or at least most of them) using PM.
  • Add new photos to the main PM catalog
  • Upload or share using PM as desired

Once the initial edits are done and I have created permanent JPGs, everything lives in organized folders on my hard drives and are viewed, searched, managed, shared using Photo Mechanic. If I want to do followup edits later, I can always open the RAW files in Capture One or whatever other app I might want to use.

I miss things from Lightroom. For example, to convert scanned color negatives I use Negative Lab Pro, which only works in Lightroom. I miss some of the plugins and other tools, too. But I feel like this is better for my library and my photos for the long haul.