Importing & Organizing Photos in Capture One Pro 9 (Podcast 537)

Importing & Organizing Photos in Capture One Pro 9 (Podcast 537)

As I switch my digital imaging workflow to Phase One’s Capture One Pro 9, I’m learning how to bring out the most from this powerful raw image processing software, and today I’m going to share how I’m now importing and organizing my images.

You might remember from episode 534 that I have just switched to Capture One Pro from Lightroom, and so my goals are to maintain as much of the control that I had in Lightroom as possible, while making use of the powerful features now available to me in Capture One Pro. I don’t necessarily want to simply emulate my Lightroom workflow, although there are things that Lightroom does better, so I want to get as close to this as possible.

If you want help with actually migrating from Lightroom and importing your archives, take a look at episode 534 first, as I cover this in that post. Today I’m starting a more in-depth series that I’ll build on as time allows, and it makes sense to start with importing and organizing images from shoots, although I’ll start with some background on how I’ve organized my catalogs and other considerations.

Multiple Catalogs

First of all, I’d like to talk a little about my Catalogs. Although in Lightroom I used to have my entire library of images in one catalog, this really doesn’t work with Capture One Pro, because there is too much data held inside the catalog folder.

Catalog Selection Pulldown

Catalog Selection Pulldown

I tried to put all of my images from 2000 to 2015 into a single catalog, and it ended up 174GB in size, and took around 3 minutes to open, then another five minutes or so before you could navigate around. Also, when I tried to select All Images under the Catalog Collections, Capture One became unusable for around 15 minutes, so I had to force quit the program, and that corrupted the catalog and it was not recoverable, so I had to throw it out. Capture One Pro just cannot handle this number of images, which incidentally was around 165,000 of them.

So I’ve split up my previous year folders. I now have an one catalog called ~2005, which has everything up to 2005, then an individual year folder for each year from 2006 to 2016.

My 2016 folder is of course work in progress at this point, but once this year is over and I’ve finished all my editing, it will simply become the archive for this year and I’ll create a new 2017 catalog for next year.

This strategy gives me more manageable catalog folder sizes. My 2016 catalog is currently about 21GB, and will probably become around 30 to 35GB by the end of the year. I can live with that.

I can also switch easily between catalogs, with the Catalog pulldown under the Library section, as you can see in this screenshot (right), and it only takes about 10 seconds to switch, so this is a workable solution.

The only thing I wish I could do but currently cannot, is to search across multiple catalogs. If I could do that, this strategy would be totally stress-free for me.

Finals Folder

Finals Folder Structure

Finals Folder Structure

I also maintain a separate catalog called my Finals, and into this I copy all images that I consider my final selects. So, my year folders contain all images that I didn’t delete from all shoots, and I do all of my rating and keywording initially in these folders.

Then when I have completed my editing for any given shoot, I copy my final select images into my Finals catalog, separated out into year folders. I currently have 16 folders in there.

This means the year catalogs become more of an archive, and I can open just the one Finals catalog to get access to all images that I think are worth a hoot from 2000 to the present day.

I tend to open this Finals catalog more than any other as I’m working on various tasks. This also means of course that I can search across all of my final selects too, which I think is important to be able to do.


One final note on this, is that I always keep my Finals folder on an external hard rive, and it goes everywhere with me. This means that even if I’m traveling, I can plug in the external hard drive, and access every half decent image I’ve ever shot, no matter where I am.

And, my current year folder is also on that hard drive. Once I have completed my 2016 images and am working with a new 2017 folder, I’ll move the 2016 folder to my Drobo, attached to my iMac in the studio, and I’ll repeat the process until 2018. Rinse and repeat.

Organizing the Folder Structure

2016 Year Month Day Folder Structure

2016 Year Month Day Folder Structure

For many years now, I have organized my original shoot photographs into a Year/Month/Day folder structure, as you can see in this screenshot (right). This means that all images I shoot go into a single folder for each day that I photograph anything.

If I am shooting with multiple cameras, they still go into the same folder, and if the filename should end up with the same number, Capture One will append a new number to the end, rather than overwriting the first file with the same number.

With the way I’m now naming my files though, I have the camera include 5D1 and 5D2 in the filenames, so that I can tell which of my 5Ds R cameras was used to shoot the photograph, so the file names will never be the same.

All day folders for each month go into a single folder with the number of the month, and all month folders go into one year folder for each year.

I find having everything in day, month and year folders makes backing up images and organizing your image library easier. When I first started digital photography I did what a lot of people do, and put images into individual shoot folders, with the name of the shoot.

This quickly becomes unmanageable, as you forget what you’ve backed up, and the more folders and shoots you get the more difficult it becomes to find anything.

I find it much easier to have everything in these Year/Month/Day folders, as I personally remember quite well when I shot at any particular location, so I can generally find things quickly just by navigating to a year, and a month folder. I always use keywords to find images in my catalog, and we’ll touch on this shortly.

Show Folders Hierarchy

Also, note that by default, you will see all of your folders in a flat hierarchy, and will not be able to find anything. To make Capture One Pro display your images in the correct Year/Month/Day folder structure, right slick the folder and select Show Folders Hierarchy from the shortcut menu that is displayed.

Import Workflow

OK, so now that we have our folder structure strategy in place, let’s start to import some new images. Note that although Capture One Pro also supports Sessions instead of Catalogs, for now, we are going to cover just Catalogs because this suits how I work most of the time. We’ll talk about Sessions at a later date.

Another thing that I’d like you to bear in mind as we walk through this workflow, is that I try to do as much as I can in my workflow as early as possible. The earlier you do something, the more time you’ll save later. If for example, you change your filenames during import, it’s done and dusted. You can forget about it from that point on.

This helps in a number of ways, for example for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) if you share your images online, but it also gives you a kind of a SKU ID for each image, especially if you include the date and some other custom text, so we’ll look at how to set this up in a moment.

Also, we want to drop our images directly into the folder structure that I’ve mentioned so far, and we need that to be automatic. There is nothing more wasteful time-wise than navigating to folders and setting up your import details every time you do a shoot, so we’ll cover this too.

Create a Location Sub Folder Presets

Before you even insert your memory card into the computer, open Capture One Pro and select the Catalog that you want to import your images into. For me, this year, that Catalog is called 2016. Then, insert your memory card into your computer, or a card reader etc. and Capture One Pro should automatically display the Import dialog. If it doesn’t, click the Import button which by default is the downwards pointing arrow in the top left of the toolbar, or select Import Images from the File menu.

If it’s not selected, select your memory card from the Import From, Source pulldown, and turn on Include Subfolders if necessary to see your images in the right side of the Import Images dialog box.

Under Import To, select the Destination, where you’ll save your images, but resist the temptation to navigate right down to the Day folder in our Year/Month/Day folder structure. Remember, we want to automate this, so you don’t have to do this every time you import images.

Import to Year/Month/Day Folder Hierarchy

Import to Year/Month/Day Folder Hierarchy

To create a preset to automatically import your images into a Year/Month/Day folder structure, click the ellipsis to the right of where is says Subfolder, under the Import To section, and you’ll see the Locate Sub Folder Tokens dialog, that you can see in this screenshot (right).

Select Date and Time from the Group pulldown, and you will then be able to add the Year, Month and Day of the Month options. Note that to create a folder hierarchy, you’ll have to type a forward slash “/” between each element.

Also, note that if the year option only has two “y” characters in parentheses, click the downwards arrow, and select the four “y” version from the pulldown.

When you’ve done that, click the Presets pulldown at the top of this dialog box, and select Save User Preset, and give your preset a meaningful name. I called my preset “Import to Year Month Day folders”. From this point on, until you change it, this preset should be automatically selected whenever you import images, but if it ever is not, come back to this dialog, and select it from the Presets pulldown.

Renaming Files on Import

As I mentioned earlier, I also think it’s better to rename your images on import, to save time later. Of course, if you need to change the filename later, you can easily do that anyway, but it’s much better to have your base file name changed to something meaningful from the start, so let’s set that up too.

Create Naming Format Preset

Create Naming Format Preset

Under the Naming section, click the ellipsis to the right of the Format field, and you’ll see something similar to the following dialog box (right).

I usually prefix all my image file names with MBP, followed by an underscore “_” so you’ll need to decide what, if anything, you will use for your images.

After that I want to insert some kind of descriptive custom text. There is no Custom Text option like there is in Lightroom, but if you add something called Job Name, this enables us to do the same thing.

If you select All from the Group pulldown, you can find the Job Name option, and add that to the Format field, then type another underscore, and locate Current Year, and again, change this to (yyyy) not just (yy), for the full year number, and add that to the Format field as well as the Current Month (MM) and Current Day of Month (dd).

The next thing I added was the Image Name option, which literally just takes the image name, and appends it to the end of the new filename. Once you’ve done this, select the Presets pulldown and give your new preset a name. I called my MBP Rename. As with the location, unless you change this, it will be selected now for all future imports.

Import Images Dialog

Once you have these two presets created, and are back in the Import Images dialog box, you should see something like this screenshot (below).

You can see from the Sample Path, that our images are going to go to my external hard drive, which is called MBP Traveller, because it travels with me and travels between computers, and the images will automatically be placed into my Year/Month/Day folder structure. Under the Naming section, if you enter some meaningful text into the Job Name field, this will get picked up by our file renaming preset, and used to build our new filenames, also including the date and original filename.

Capture One Pro Import Dialog

Capture One Pro Import Dialog

In this example, I was importing photos of prints coming out of my new printer, so I used Canon_PRO4000 for my Job Name. This means that from now on, if necessary, I could easily search for the word PRO4000 or Canon, and get a list of images. I could do this both within Capture One Pro, or even just in the operating system search feature, and that can be useful sometimes.

Importing Multiple Shoots Simultaneously

Note that if you are importing lots of images from various shoots, and want to use a different Job Name or custom text for each, you could just select the relevant images from the right side, and import them shoot by shoot. Or you can simply import the entire memory card first, leaving the Job Name blank, so it uses Untitled, then select your various types of images, and select Batch Rename Images from the File menu.

At this point, I have found no way to use the original unique ID number that is embedded in the files, so the only way to rename files after the initial import is to use the Batch Rename Find and Replace method. If your files have Untitled as the job name, just search for Untitled and replace it with whatever Job Name or custom text you want to include in the new filename.

Renaming Individual Files

To rename any file directly, you simply click on the filename in the thumbnails view, and change it right there, which I really like.

Copyright Information

Back to the Import dialog quickly before we move on, I wanted to also mention that it’s a good idea to add your Copyright information, as you can see in the above screenshot. Again, once you’ve added this, Capture One Pro will remember what you entered until you change it, so you may only need to do this once, then you can forget about it until the following year, when you just need to update the year number accordingly.


If you find that you are making the same adjustments to all of your images after importing into Capture One Pro, you can create a preset of those changes, and assign that preset during import by selecting it from the Styles pulldown in the Adjustments section. You could assign other creative presets, like converting everything to black and white during import if you wanted to.

At this point, I haven’t really decided on any generic changes that I want to make on all of my images, so I’m not using this yet, and may never use it, but I have started to create presets for various looks, and I’m using them in my processing after import, so we’ll look at this in a future Capture One Pro tutorial.


In addition to including a descriptive word or two in the filename during import, I always add keywords to my images, so for example, if I need to list all photographs that I’ve made of Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes, or Snow Monkeys, I can simply search for these keywords and find all images with the keyword assigned very easily.

In Lightroom, I used to add my main generic keywords for a shoot right there in the import dialog, but that isn’t possible in Capture One Pro at this point in time (Aug 2016) so I’m trying to get into the new habit now of adding my generic keywords straight after import. I am forgetting sometimes, which is why I really would like to be able to do this on import, but I’ll stick with it.

Just go to the Keywords section in the Library tab, and click on the field where it says Enter Keywords, and add your generic keywords for the shoot. Then, later on, after I’ve made my final selection of images, that I might share or send to OFFSET for consideration for inclusion in my stock library, I select each batch of images, and add more refined keywords.

For example, for a shoot from Hokkaido, say in the area of Akan, where we photograph the beautiful Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes, if all of the images on the card include cranes, I might include that in the first generic keyword list, but if we have some fox shots, and maybe a sunset shoot on the same card, I would probably add the keywords Winter, Japan, Hokkaido, Akan and Snow straight after import.

Then later, I’d go to just the crane shots and add Japanese Red-Crown Crane, Bird, Avian, and maybe Graceful, White, and any other descriptive keywords that it makes sense to add. I don’t go crazy with keywording, but I think it’s important to get the main keywords assigned to your images. This makes it easier to find things later, and improves SEO if you post your images online or send them to a stock agency etc.

Rating and Color Labels

Just like in Lightroom, you can rate your images as you browse through your library simply by hitting a number key, from 1 to 5, or zero to remove a star rating. You can also add a number of color tags to help with your organization, and three of the main colors also have shortcuts.

You can assign a Red tag by hitting the minus “-” key, a Yellow tag by hitting the asterisk “*” key and a Green tag by hitting the plus “+” key. You can also add color tags from the Adjustments menu, and Color Tag submenu, or click the color tag icon at the bottom left of the image thumbnails.

No Reject Flags

One thing that I miss from Lightroom is that there is no Reject flag, or Pick flags, but I rarely used the Pick flags. To Reject an image you just had to hit the X key on the keyboard in Lightroom, and then once you’ve selected all your rejects, you can hit COMMAND + DEL to filter out and delete all of your rejected images.

My Rating System

I thought of going back to my old rating system, in which 1 star means the image is to be deleted, but I like the rest of my system now, where 1 star means it was once selected, but fallen out of favor. 2 stars is an original image, for something that I made a TIFF or other format copy of the image. 3 stars is anything worth a hoot, 4 stars is stuff that I want to actively share with people, and 5 stars is portfolio class, by my standards.

While looking for a way to reject photos, I came across a Niels Knudsen post from a few years ago suggesting to use “-” to mark images with a Red tag, and then delete them. I didn’t really want to do that, because I use Red tags to mark the last frame of a series of images to be stitched into a panorama, but I think I’ll change that, and go with the minus key, Red tag for now. On a Japanese keyboard (that I use) the minus key is the only one of the three color tag shortcuts that doesn’t require you to hold down the Shift key, so it makes most sense.

Filtering Images

Filtering on Star Ratings and Labels

Filtering on Star Ratings and Labels

Once you have star ratings or color tags assigned, you can easily filter on these values to get a cut down view of your images. For example, when I’m ready to select just the Red tag images to delete them, I just go to the Filters section in the Library tab, and click to the color tag to filter out the images, as you see in this screenshot (right).

You can hold down the ALT or COMMAND key and click on multiple ratings and color tags to filter on more than one at a time.

Once I filter out all of my Red tagged images like this, I can hit COMMAND + A to select them all, then the Delete key, to remove them from my hard disk.

Working with Multiple Folders

Being so accustomed to simply being able to select multiple folders and see a view of everything inside all of them in Lightroom, I was stumped initially by the fact that you can’t just select a top level folder under the Folders view in Capture One Pro, and see everything in that entire folder hierarchy.

For example, if I click on my 2016 folder, or any of the month folders, I do not get a list of all images inside each of my day folders. I have to click on the actual day folder. I cannot even select multiple day folders, which I found incredibly frustrating at first.

Then I realized that if you click All Images under the Catalog Collections panel, the Date section under the Filters panel comes to life. With All Images selected, as you might imagine, you get a list of all images in the Catalog. To drill down to specific dates though, you can select the month, or multiple dates in the Date section.

Searching for Images

Search and Filter

Search and Filter

The Search features in Capture One Pro are really quite powerful, but takes just a little bit of getting used to. You can for example search for images based on Keywords and file names, as well as pretty much any other text field assigned to or embedded in the image, and this is linked to the star and label filters.

If I want to search for all red-crowned crane images that I shot in February this year, but only images that have a 3 star rating or higher, you just type the phrase to search for in the search field, and click on the criteria while holding down the COMMAND key on your keyboard.

You can also right click the ellipsis to the right of the Search field to display a more advanced search criteria dialog, or right click the ellipsis to the right of the Filters section label to opt to select which fields are included in your search.

Sticky Search and Filters

The other useful thing is, if you navigate to a different folder, or even a different catalog to look for something, and then come back to the same view, each view remembers its own search and filter criteria.

This used to drive me crazy in Lightroom, because it forgets it’s filters every time you navigate away, but Capture One Pro does not.

Clear the Filters When Finished

Conversely though, if ever you come to a folder and can’t see the images that should be in there, the first thing to check is the Filter and Search fields. It is possible that you have something set down there that you forgot about. Because of this, it’s a good idea to just hit that circle with the X in it to the right of the phrase you were searching for, and it will clear not only the search phrase, but all of your other selected criteria like star ratings, color tags and dates.

Display by Keyword or Place

There is also a Keywords and a Place section under the Filters panel. These are pretty self explanatory, but basically, when you open them up, you can see a list of keywords from all of the images in your current view, as well as Places if you have geotagged your images. If you click on any of these, you can get a view of all images with common criteria.

Collections and Selects Collection

Capture One Pro also supports Collections, very much like Lightroom. As I mentioned in my earlier post about jumping ship to Capture One, if you import your images into Capture One by importing Lightroom Catalogs, you will keep any Collections that images used to be in.

But you can of course create your own Collections from scratch to organize your images. For example, if I’m interviewed about my work, and I’m asked to provide some photos, I generally create a new Collection inside a folder called Interview Images. I was recently interviewed by Craft & Vision for their new blog, so I created a new Collection called “Craft and Vision Blog”.

Selects Collection

Selects Collection

Although you can drag and drop images into a Collection, it’s often quicker to use a keyboard shortcut, and to enable this, you’ll first need to right click the new Collection, and select Set as Selects Collection from the shortcut menu. This is pretty much the same as making it the Target Collection, in Lightroom.

Once you’ve made a Collection the Selects Collection, you’ll see a little tray with an arrow pointing into it to the right of the Collection name, as you can see in this screenshot (right).

Then you can use the shortcut COMMAND + J on a Mac or CTRL + J on a PC to add images to the Selects Collection. To remove an image from a Collection, you can just hit the Delete key. This does not delete the photo, just removes it from the Collection.

This is powerful, because it can be used to build collections, and narrowing down images for a final selection after a shoot etc. Then, once you have your final selection, you can change the Selects Collection back to some other default Collection you might use, and you are left with a regular Collection to keep your images in.

Of course, the images themselves don’t get moved around your hard disk. They remain in their original folder. You’re just creating logical links. Images can also be in multiple Collections etc. This is just for organization purposes.

Exporting Originals

We’ll talk about exporting files and printing with Capture One Pro in a future tutorial, but to complete this discussion of my workflow today, I want to talk about how I copy my Final select images into my Finals folder and Catalog. Once I have my final selection of images from a shoot, I filter down to everything that is 2 stars or higher, because I want all of my original images for anything that I made a copy of, and everything rated 3 stars or higher.

Export Originals to Finals Folder

Export Originals to Finals Folder

Then, with everything that I want to export selected, I right click one of the thumbnails, and from the shortcut menu, select Export, then Originals. You can also get to this option from the File menu. Then all I need to do is select the destination folder and I keep the image name, because that’s already changed on import, and click the Export button, as you see in this screenshot (right).

Note that this does not automatically add the image to the Finals catalog though, so I then have to switch to my Finals catalog, navigate to the folder under the Folders section in the Library tab, and right click it. In this example, I right clicked 2016. Then select Synchronize from the shortcut menu.

You will then see a dialog showing the number of images that will be synchronized, and giving you the option to show the importer as well. If you select to show the Importer, the preset that we created earlier, to import images into our Year/Month/Day folder structure will be selected, so you’ll have to select Current Location instead, and then you’d have to reselect your folder structure preset when you import your next memory card.

To avoid that, you can deselect Show Importer, and just click sync, and your new Final selects will be imported into your Finals catalog but remain in your 2016 Finals folder, which is where you want it anyway.

Please note that due to changes in Phase One, the discount code that I mentioned in the Podcast is no longer valid. 

Also, note that you can download a fully working trial version of Capture One Pro from the Phase One Web site, and try it out for a full 30 days before you buy. See if you love it as much as I do.

Wrap Up

OK, so we’ll wrap it up there for today. I know that at times this might have sounded a little complicated, but in practice, it really isn’t. Sure, Capture One Pro isn’t as smooth as Lightroom in some respects, but in others, I’m finding it more powerful, so I’m still happy to have switched, and I’m happy to work around a few areas that are a little more troublesome than my old Lightroom workflow. In my opinion, the image quality and processing power of Capture One Pro is worth it.

Also note that if you are already using Capture One Pro and are happy with your import and organization workflow, I’m not necessarily saying you have to change anything. This is my workflow having used Capture One for the last month.

If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be leaving for Greenland and Iceland two days after this episode is released, and I should have an episode about Outputting images, ready for you next week. I’m going to save a conversation about processing images until I get back from my travels, as I’ll have been processing every day and expect to be able to talk about my processing better after that. Plus, I’ll hopefully have some nice new photos to share with you as well.

Show Notes

Download Capture One Pro here:

Music by Martin Bailey


Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.