If you are coming from Photoshop and the only "raw editing" experience you have is Adobe Camera Raw, starting off with Capture One can be quite confusing. Capture One is a professional piece of software that allows high level of customisation, but that does not mean that you cannot approach it in a simple way. I wrote this article and recorded the video "Capture One 20 Session Explained - How to Import and Organise Your Photos" for beginners who want a smooth start with Capture One. So below I will cover three different scenarios for beginner users and you can quickly test them out and decide which method feels most comfortable.
To quickly navigate through the video use Chapters in the video Description area on YouTube. That way you will be able to quickly access the method that interests you the most.
A few words on my basic archive structure
On the screen-grab below you can see my own archive structure. Basically all my files are sitting on a 4TB LaCie external hard drive (link in the page footer in "Resources"). I am using the "mirroring" backup option, so each time I save anything the data is saved on two separate hard drives simultaneously. This minimises data loss in a situation when the hard drive breaks down.
As you can see my archives have very simple structure based on chronological order. This worked well for me back in the days when I was doing all my editing work in Photoshop and ACR. When I switched to Capture One I had to create Sessions for every project, since I wanted to avoid working with Catalogue. This is just my personal choice, I am not saying it is the best option, nor that it will suit everyone. For my workflow it proved to be efficient, the initial setup was time consuming, but once I got it out of my way I can now focus on creative aspects of Capture One.
1st Scenario: Importing images into a new Session
This first method is probably the most common way of importing new images inside Capture One. It requires creating a New Session and as a next step importing images from indicated location. This could be a memory card, a USB stick or any folder sitting on your hard drive. On the screen shots below you can see all the steps of the importing process.
The "Import Images" pop-up window visible below allows you to customize the import process. For example already at the import level you can apply a selected preset or add metadata tokens. For the sake of this article I decided to keep it as simple as possible and stick with the necessary steps, skipping all the optional features.
2nd Scenario: Adding images into a new Session via System Folders
This method is a bit faster, since all we do is to create a new Capture One Session and once it is sitting on our hard drive, we just add photos via System Folders. On the screen shot below I show how I do this on a Mac, but obviously it can be done with Windows as well. This method skips the "Import Images" pop-up window step. So if you do not want to apply any presets automatically during the import and all you want is to just add quickly photos inside the "Capture" Session folder - give this method a go.
3rd Scenario: Accesing your photos via System Folders
And finally let's talk about the third scenario. People very often just want to browse through their images inside Capture One, but for certain reasons don't want to create a Session, nor a Catalog. This can be done with the "Session Favorites" functionality which can be found in the Library Tab. Simply click on the "+" icon and next go through your System Folders. Once you have found a Folder on your hard drive that you want to access via Capture One - click on it. Capture One will create a "shortcut" to your indicated Folder. All your "shortcuts" are indicated by the little heart icon.
I use this method when I want to freely browse through images and perhaps experiment quickly by applying a Style or specific adjustment. The method can be useful if you are searching for color grading inspiration. So you can browse the web, take screen grabs of images that you like and then access them via "Session Favorites" indicating your Desktop after hitting the "+" (or any other folder where you keep your screen-shots). Next you can simply drag your screen shots from your Capture One Browser and drop them inside the Capture Folder in the Library Tab. This way you can display in Capture One your photo next to the images found online. Having them in the Viewer one beside the other will help you to investigate with the color readouts if you would like to replicate similar color grading on your photo.