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Deciding between Sessions and Catalogs in Capture One

If you have been using Lightroom, you are probably quite familiar with using Catalogs. But up until the last few years, Capture One only had Sessions. So what’s the difference between the two options? Why should you use one over the other?

What is a Catalog in Capture One?

Photo by <a href="">Gabriel Sollmann</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Gabriel Sollmann on Unsplash

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 search 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 within that library. If you are shooting mostly 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?

Sessions Vs Catalogs

On the other hand, Sessions are individual projects that are separated from each other. They are almost like mini-filing systems. Each session will store all the images and data for that session together.

The benefit of this is that you can grab just that single Session and put it on a hard drive and move it. All your edits and adjustments are stored within the Session, so you don’t have to worry about using or uploading an entire Catalog (or having to export certain images). If you are doing studio work, 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 in the main menu and then select the Session name. Select Import to begin the import, along with variants and metadata and any adjustments made.

What is the main benefit of using Sessions?

Setting up a Session in Capture One
Setting up a Session in Capture One

Sessions in Capture One are more a-la-carte, and completely separate from your Catalog. They are stored where you choose to store them (if you leave them in the default location, they’re located in your Pictures folder). You can name and store as you wish, and select and move images within different folders inside your session (Capture, Selects, Trash, etc).

The main benefit being it’s easy to share across different devices. It makes shooting, selecting and culling images in a studio session quick and easy as well. Any changes you make to images in your Session will be moved with the moved Session.

Which do I prefer?

After using Capture One in the studio for a while now, I must confess to preferring using Sessions over Catalogs. I create a new Session for each client or project that I am working on.

I shoot mostly tethered, so clients and joint creatives can see everything as it’s happening. We make rate, sort and cull, make adjustments on the fly and then that entire Session gets moved from the studio laptop to my main PC for final editing. For me, it makes sense and it works.

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Rafael Jones

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