Overview of Catalogs

Before importing any photos, you must first decide to use either a Catalog or a Session. This section provides information on Catalogs and the benefits of using one.

An overview of a Catalog

A Catalog is the primary method of working in Capture One, and it’s where all of the various steps in your workflow will be carried out. Not only does that include image importing, capture (using a tethered camera) and image organization (viewing, sorting and grouping), but a Catalog is where you will apply all your image adjustments and then distribute your images. 

The location of the original images (sometimes called source files) can be on any disk (local, or external) and their location is referenced by the Catalog and recorded by the Library. As an option, the original image files can be stored physically inside the Catalog file. This is referred to as a managed workflow. The benefit to you when working with managed files is that those images are always accessible. Capture One never alters your originals in anyway but if you store your images on a external disk, and you don’t have access to it when the time comes to distribute them, then Capture One can’t duplicate them to process or export them.   

Whether you’re using a managed or referenced workflow, or a combination of the two in the same Catalog, image files and are located and accessed using that Catalog’s Library tool. The Library tool in the Catalog tracks the imported original images in their folders or wherever they’re located, and it seamlessly keeps track of the corresponding variants and adjustments, so you don’t have to. For more information on variants, please see here. After importing, you can use the Library to to create projects, groups and albums, to further organize your images.

Note that you are not limited by the number of Catalogs you can create, so you use as many or as few as you like. See below for information on Catalog strategies.

Video tutorial: Catalogs

Learn about Catalogs in this in-depth video tutorial. (Click on the image to the right). Discover how to create, build and structure Catalogs.

Catalog strategies

It is possible that a single main or master catalog will be sufficient for your workflow needs. However, grouping files into a few separate catalogs creates a higher level of organization. The main downside is that you can’t search across them. Here are some examples in which to organize your catalogs:

  • Organize by project
    You can dedicate a catalog to each of your projects or clients for easy and quick reference. This is also a good method for supporting short-term deadlines and goals.
  • Organize by chronology
    You can create an additional set of catalogs based on the date and time. This is a good monthly habit that will help you build a searchable archive as you go.
  • Organize by subject
    Any logical subjects that are not likely to overlap are a good way to divide your media into multiple catalogs. For example, you can store your images by high-level subjects that describe the types of your photo assignments, such as travel, fashion, portraits and so on.
  • Organize by process/task
    At times, there are clearly definable states for files in a workflow. Separating items by their state or task can help direct users to a media item at a specific stage in the workflow. For example, photographers might create one catalog each for client selections or edited images.

Creating a new Catalog

After setting up and creating your first Catalog, the next time you open Capture One that Catalog will be displayed straightaway. However, if in the meantime you’ve created and recently opened a second Catalog or a Session, a Recents window will be displayed first. You can bypass any previously created Catalogs (or Sessions) and create a new Catalog, by clicking on the New Catalog... button instead.

If you have clicked on one those Catalogs in the list or Capture One is already open, you can create a new Catalog (or Session) without closing the existing one. You are not restricted by number of Catalogs that can be created, see Catalog Strategies above for more information.

  1. If Capture One is open already, as either a Catalog or Session, select File > New Catalog... Or use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Cmd+N/Ctrl+Shift+N (Mac/Windows). A dialog box will open.
  2. Fill in the Name field and select a Location for the Catalog. Note, although a Catalog can be stored anywhere in theory, it is best located on a high-speed local drive.     

Opening a Catalog

If you’ve not created another Catalog or Session, opening Capture One will open your original Catalog, however if you have, a Recents window will be displayed showing up to ten of the last-opened Catalogs or Sessions in a list. You can open any of those directly, or you can search for a Catalog anywhere on your system by clicking on the Browse button instead.

When Capture One is already open, you can do one of the following

  • Select File > Open Recent and select the relevant Catalog from the list. Note, the list may also shows recent Sessions, if any.
  • Using the Finder/Explorer (Mac/Windows), navigate to the relevant Catalog on your system, including external drives and then select and Ctrl/right-click (Mac/Windows) to open.

Importing images into a Catalog

Depending on your workflow, there are various options available to import images into a Catalog in Capture One:

  1. Import from a memory card, connected camera, or folder on a computer or external disk drive. Press the import icon (downwards-pointing arrow icon in middle or the top left of the user interface) or go to File > Import Images… Find out about the Import dialog box here.
  2. Shoot from a supported tethered DSLR or digital back. Images will be imported into the active Catalog by default, or you can choose another location. Find out about capturing from a tethered camera here.
  3. Import a Media Pro, Capture One or Lightroom Catalog, or a Aperture Library. Note that there are certain limitations to what Capture One is able to import from third-party applications. Find out more information here.