Capture One imports are highly flexible. Like many things in Capture One, it doesn’t require you to adopt any particular directory structure or import method. Instead, you can configure it on an import by import basis to do whatever you like. Or, you can keep life simple and let Capture One Imports handle things.
There are three general ways you can manage your imports and image storage: Inside Catalog, Current Location and Choose Folder. Lets talk about each of them:
Inside Catalog: Let Capture One Handle It
Capture One’s “Inside Catalog” import destination has become one of my favorite features. It makes project based catalogs work really well because the catalogs are self contained. You can treat them as an atomic unit. You can move them from computer to computer, or drive to drive and everything just works.
Inside Catalog is the simplest way to handle imported images since Capture One handles all the details. It works great for smaller catalogs, like those created with a project based workflow. It also works fine on large semi-monolithic catalogs.
To store image Inside Catalog simply select “Inside Catalog” in the Destination pull down in the Import Dialog.
RAWs Are Still Accessible
When I first switched to Capture One (at version 6) I was wary of “Inside Catalog”. After all, the last thing I wanted was RAW files locked inside a proprietary DB file. Luckily, Capture One handles the RAW files in a simple way that leaves them accessible with nothing more exotic than your file manager.
Capture One is storing your raw files in a regular directory structure it manages.
Capture One Imports is storing your raw files in a regular directory structure it manages. You can always get to them without using Capture One, although, in the normal course of day to day photo editing, you shouldn’t need too. In the event that Capture One is not available to you (e.g. 20 years from now, on a strange computer, etc) you can always retrieve your RAW files directly using Explorer, Finder or any other method of accessing files like a command terminal.
How Capture One Stores RAWs Inside Catalog
When you start a Capture One catalog, Capture One creates a catalog directory to hold it’s internal database, cache and other information. On Windows that directory looks like any other directory. On Mac OS, Capture One uses a special kind of directory called a Package that looks like a normal file in Finder. You can see its contents by option clicking (or right clicking) on it and selecting “Show Package Contents.”
Once inside the catalog folder, you will see something like the following:
Capture one creates a new directory for each import based on the import date. We are viewing the first import that happened on 9/4/2018.
Regardless, you shouldn’t mess with the files here except as an emergency situation. If you want to rearrange your storage, you can do that inside Capture One. You can easily move file out of Inside Catalog, or into Inside Catalog, but that is a topic for a future blog post.
Current Location: Connecting Up Existing Images
Photographers that have been shooting for a long time may already have an independent way of copying images from their cameras onto their computers. Whether you use a different program, or copy the images by hand using Finder or Explorer, Capture One can hook right up to your structure using “Current Location” during import.
Using Current Location tells Capture One to remember that the files exist on the hard drive. Capture One does not move or copy the files. In many ways, the net result appear similar to “Choose Location” (discussed next). The difference is that you create the directories and copy the images yourself.
During import, after you have found the Source images using “Choose Folder…” as the source, simply pick “Current Location” as your destination. Capture One does the rest.
If you think Current Location is right for you, be sure and read the next section “Choose Folder” and look at the powerful meta-data driven sub-folder system. Capture One might be able to handle your import for you and make your life easier.
Using External and Network Hard Drives
Large archives of images often have to span multiple hard drives. Images end up on external or network hard drives. Capture One works just fine with this. It understands whether a hard drive is connected or not. The Library tool panel is organized by hard drive and includes a red-light/green-light indicator to let you know which storage locations are currently online.
When the drive is not attached, the light will turn red. You can still browse the thumbnails of images on that drive, but you can’t edit or export any of the images.
Current Location NOT For Memory Cards
Capture One will not make “Current Location” an option if your import Source is a memory card. While some people might choose to store their image on cards this is a bad idea. Memory cards fail often and it is easy to forget what is on a card and format it. Most of the time, it is also accidental and could result in loss of images.
Consider a situation where you accidentally selected “Current Location” for images on your memory card and then cleared the card without realizing what you had done.
Current Location is only for permanent storage (i.e. hard drives) and Capture One won’t let you use it on memory cards.
Choose Location: Storing Files Your Way
If you have an existing RAW storage structure, Capture One can (probably) use it thanks to it’s flexible system of meta-data tokens. Capture One will copy your images from your memory card into the proper directory structures. It will create directories as needed.
For example, lets say you store RAW files in the same way Lightroom does, in a directory structure by image capture date:
- RAW Files…
- RAW Files…
- RAW Files…
During import you will pick “Choose Folder…”, or select a folder you previously used from the pull down. Once a specific folder is selected (as opposed to Inside Catalog or Current Location a few field, Sub Folder, will appear.
The “…” button to the right of the field is where the magic happens.
Using Tokens to Automate Imports
Capture One includes a powerful token system for creating paths and file names. You can leverage it to customize your RAW storage, or adapt to an existing structure.
I’ve built up a Format using the image date fields available in the Tokens list that mimics Lightroom’s default storage structure. However, I could do a lot of other things too.
Adding Sub-Folders Inside Sub-Folders
The example above creates a 2 level directory structure to mimic Lightroom’s storage structure. To do that, all I did was type a “/” between the tokens. I have also added “-” between the different date fields. You can add fixed text or directory breaks (/ on mac, \ on windows) as often as you like. You could for example store RAW files inside a tree like this:
- RAW Files Here…
- RAW Files…
- RAW Files…
To do that, you would create a Sub-folder format like this:
You can see from the Sample Path that images imported will be stored by year, then month name, and finally by camera model name.
Available Metadata Options
Capture One relies on the meta data in your individual image files as well as some catalog metadata. For example “Document Name” is the name of the catalog or session and Description is the description you enter in the import dialogs Metadata section.
Some of the metadata token have a small next to them. That indicates that you can change how that token outputs. For example, the Image Year has a “(yyyy)” next to it. Clicking the lets you pick either four digit year or two digit year. Many of the tokens have many options. For example, Image Month allows you to pic the month number “M” (i.e. 1 or 2 digits), 0 filled “MM”, (i.e. always 2 digits), month abbreviation “MMM” (i.e. Oct), month name “MMMM” (i.e. October) or month first letter “MMMM” (i.e. O).
There are hundreds of tokens with a ton of options. You can make most things work.
While image metadata is *in theory* standardized, camera manufactures are not consistent. For example, Nikon include the company name in the model field so using the Model token produces “Nikon D810”. Olympus on the other hand does not include that, so the Model token produces “E-M1MarkII”.
Variations like this are less of a problem if you are using only one manufacturers cameras since they are normally self-consistent. Just be aware of them if you shoot multiple brands of cameras.
Capture One provides a sample path based on the image you have selected in the import dialog box. While you are first establishing a path structure, it is a good idea to select a few files and check the Sample Path before performing a large import. Once you have some experience with your chosen structure, you can skip the spot checks.
Remembering What You Did Last
Capture One automatically remembers the settings you last used, including the sub-folder. That is great. I still recommend clicking the “Save User Preset…” button on the lower left of the Location Sub-Folder Tokens dialog box.
Capture One Imports: 3 Powerful Methods
Whichever Capture One imports method you use: Inside Catalog, Current Location or Choose Folder, Capture One offers flexible import methods. It’s system of metadata driven tokens allows you to mimic Lightroom, adapt to another existing system and go way beyond.
Those using project based catalogs will find Inside Catalog natural and trivial to use. For photographers with a well established organization scheme, Choose Folder paired with the powerful Sub-folder system is probably the right choice. And for those that have a large existing archive they want to top into, or that like to manage the import by hand in a file manager, Current Location provides what you need.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.