Capture One, Affinity Photo, Luminar? Post Processing Without Photoshop And Lightroom

The Skyline of Frankfurt, Germany
The Skyline of Frankfurt (Post Processing with Affinity Photo)

Since Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud I have been looking to replace Photoshop and Lightroom. I don’t mind subscriptions when it comes to newspapers or streaming services because you pay for content, but a subscription for software is basically like renting it. This might be fine if you only need it for a period of time, like renting a car on vacation that you won’t need anymore when you travel back home. But software usually is something that you continue to use.

When Creative Cloud was introduced I already tested some software and found Capture One as the perfect replacement for Lightroom. But I didn’t really find anything to replace Photoshop. Certainly there was Gimp, but I was missing too many features that I constantly use in Photoshop. When Affinity Photo was introduced I was testing it very early on. But in the early release versions I was also missing some tools.

The Church on the Mountain Top
The Church on the Mountain Top (Post Processing with Capture One)

Though the Photoshop/Lightroom combination is still fairly priced I think that single programs are much too expensive. I have copies of Illustrator and InDesign, but these are old Mac versions and I’m using Windows for a couple of years now. Therefore I bought Affinity Publisher a while back to edit my latest books. As I needed to to some graphics recently I also bought Affinity Designer and decided to also update Photo (which was sitting on my computer in a version that hadn’t been updated in a couple of years) because all three programs work together very well. Then I noticed that the missing tools were finally integrated. I tried to edit some pictures and even found a lot of things that worked better than in Photoshop.

So, should I dare to ditch Photoshop?

I decided to to do so.

However, before I decided to replace Lightroom with Capture One I wanted to test other RAW editors as well. At this point I should mention that I am mainly using a Fuji camera now. Therefore I didn’t test DxO Photolab. I’ve heard that it should be a great editor, but unfortunately it doesn’t support my Fuji RAWs. I also took a brief look at RawTherapee only. It is supposed to support Fuji, but somehow my photos didn’t really look sharp and I don’t want to use a sharpening tool too much.

But now to the programs I did test:

Tree I
Post Processing with Capture One

The first program I tested was Capture One and I was still amazed. First, it works really well with Fuji. Secondly the tools for processing photos equal or even excel the tools offered by Lightroom. Especially the colour control and colour grading tools are so much better and the ability to work with layers makes a lot of things easier. What I still find a bit confusing are there library tools, but I guess I just have to get used to them.

For the example picture I worked on the details of the tree and the colours and I managed to get out the best of the picture very easily.

Tree II
Post Processing with Luminar

Luminar was handling Fuji photos very well. I tried Luminar 4 (not the AI version) and it comes with a lot of AI features already. In my test photo I replaced the sky and added the birds easily. (However, there is one part in the picture that didn’t belong to the sky that was replaced as well.) But this is not really my style of working. If I want to replace the sky in a photo or add some elements I prefer to do that myself. The toolset for doing all the edits yourself I also found a bit limited and I thought that the tools don’t work as fine as the tools in Capture One or Lightroom. However, if you don’t want to bother too much with post processing I think Luminar 4 might be great program for you.

Post Processing with On1

I know a lot of people really like On1. Overall, editing worked well but I didn’t really manage to reduce the noise in the picture. I read that the program should be great for noise reduction, so either it was the Fuji RAWs or I didn’t use the tool correctly.

Tree IV
Post Processing with Topaz Labs Studio

The fourth program I tested was Topaz Labs Studio. Post processing worked very well here, but I was missing the library, so I guess the program works best as a plugin. The program comes with a lot of filters if you like this sort of thing, but all the important editing tools were there and easy to use. However, I need a library and therefore the program didn’t work for me.

After testing the programs I decided that Capture One was my software of choice. It is a professional editor that delivers stunning results for the RAWs I took with my Fuji camera and also with the old pictures I took on a 15 year old Nikon. Most of the tools work well with JPGs too (“The Church on the Mountain Top” is a JPG file and I didn’t take a RAW version of that motive).

So, finally, I can cancel my Creative Cloud subscription and continue processing with Capture One and Affinity Photo. I’m still trying to find a workflow though, because C1 doesn’t support AFPHOTO files (none of the programs I’ve tested does that). I could probably export them as PSD or TIFF files – I’m still experimenting with that.

And you? Which programs do you use? How is your post processing workflow?