When I first switched to Capture One as my primary photo management and editing tool, I knew I wanted to come up with a workflow that suited how I photograph. But I also knew that I needed a quick and easy way to find the photos I needed, whether it be in a week, month or year from now.

I did a lot of research on Capture One’s organization tools when you use a catalog system. If you use a session, you’ll obviously treat your photos differently, and we’ll have more on that in a future article. But what’s the best method to organizational madness in Capture One?

Understanding Capture One’s organizational tools

A lot of people say that Capture One’s weakness lies in its organizational tools. I couldn’t disagree more — I find that Capture One has put together a toolset that can make it easier to keep track of your photos, as well as offer some automation that isn’t present in Lightroom.

In the User Collections area, you’ll be reminded of Lightroom Classic in that you can make projects (like collection sets) and albums (like collections). But you can take it much further, too.

There are four different options in Capture One’s User Collections that can help sort your images:

  • Group: This can’t hold images, but it can hold projects and albums, and display the photos that are present inside of the albums. Groups can be nested within each other.
  • Project: If you’re used to Lightroom, think of a Project like a Collection Set. These again can’t hold any individual photos. You can nest groups, albums and smart albums inside of projects.
  • Album: This is exactly what you’d think it is — this holds your photos.
  • Smart album: Smart albums can display photos based on a specific criteria, and can be nested inside of groups and projects. If they’re inside a group, they search from your entire catalog. But if they’re inside of a project, they only work with images that are a part of that particular project.

Common organization strategies

As a corporate event photographer, I’ve found that it’s often most convenient to organize my catalog based on client name. When I open the Library tool in Capture One, I see three groups, one smart album and one album.

The smart album holds any images I’ve given a 5-star rating to, which gives me easy access to photographs that I might want to post on social media for promotional purposes. The BTS album holds any of my behind-the-scenes photographs I’ve taken.

Client-driven strategy

If I drill down into my Clients group, you’ll see that it has sub-groups for each individual client. This makes it easy to quickly and easily find a client, which I sort alphabetically.

If I expand one of those sub-groups for a client, you’ll see an individual project. In this example, I photographed several people for a local magazine for an upcoming July issue. So the project is the July 2020 issue, and underneath that are nested albums.

Group and album strategy

What happens if you don’t have a specific project you’re working on? Well, simply put, that’s when you would take projects out of the mix. In this example, I have a main Photofocus group and a sub-group called Gear Reviews. Inside of that I have individual albums for each product I have reviewed.

In this case, projects aren’t necessary because it’s not an ongoing thing I’m working on. And it’s not a specific use case to a client.

Utilizing smart albums

I’ve learned to really love smart albums in Capture One. As I said earlier, these can be nested, so I can have them only pick up the photographs in the parent group and project.

In this instance, I have a project under a sub-group called Coronavirus. This is where I put all of my Coronavirus-related photographs that I’ve taken for various clients. Inside of that are two albums. “All” holds all the photographs, while “Selects” is a smart album that only pulls images from the project’s photos that have color labels of yellow, green and blue. You can obviously edit this to show photos based on ratings or other data, too.

What’s the right organization for you?

Only you can answer that question. But Capture One gives a lot of organizational options to help you keep track of and manage your photos. With the latest update to Capture One, there’s never a better time to switch. Do you have a method to your organizational madness? Let me know in the comments below!

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