About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Capture One In Depth: Importing

Capture One In Depth: Importing

In this new series, I’m going to go through the basics of Capture One in depth, both for new users and anyone who wants to learn more. When the series is complete, I will release a compendium as an eBook Guide. To get started, I’m going to take a look at how to import images into Capture One, and how to navigate the Capture One import dialog.

Please note that this isn’t an attempt to paraphrase the manual. This is written from scratch by me, and I’ve tried to keep it as concise as possible while still giving you the information.


Before you do any editing in Capture One, the first thing you need to do is actually get images into the software. There are a couple of different ways to do this, but they all activate the standard import dialog. The main ways to start the import process are as follows:

  1. Insert a memory card into a card reader or connect a camera while Capture One is running. This should bring up the import dialog box.
  2. Manually import by selecting the import button from the toolbar. This is the very first button in the toolbar on the software.
  3. By dragging and dropping a folder of images onto the software’s icon in the dock on a Mac (I’m not sure if the equivalent works on a PC)
  4. Shooting Tethered is another option, but we’re not going to over that here!

Doing any of these things will start the import process by opening the import dialog.

The Import Dialog - A detailed overview of the Functions

The import dialog is the main interface for controlling how you import images into Capture One. It controls where you get images from, which images you import, where you want to put them. You can also choose to apply styles or presets on import and you can also make a backup copy of your images during the import process.

Let’s start with an overview of the window.

  1. This is the main viewer area where you can see thumbnails of the images you’re going to import. You can select images in this view to manually select which images you want to import.
  2. Across the top of the viewer is a set of controls for adjusting the size of the thumbnails, and also controls for sorting and filtering the images available.
  3. Down the left hand side are the main set of options which controls the various aspects of importing
  4. Down the bottom are some additional controls which control what happen after importing

Main Viewer

In the main viewer area, you will see the thumbnails for the images from your selected source (see below). You can scroll through these and select individual or multiple images. If no images are selected, then everything will be imported.

At the top of this window you can use the magnification slider to control the size of the thumbnails.

On the top left of the main import window, is a pop-up menu (probably labelled “Name” unless you’ve already changed it) which allows you to elect how the images in the viewer are sorted. This has a number of options for sorting by various types of metadata.

On the top right, is a search field. You can enter any text here to search for it in your selected source. You can also search by star ratings or colour labels if you click on the little magnifying glass icon. Clicking on the … icon in the search field will bring up a dialog that lets you do advanced multi criteria searches.


Import Tool Panels

The panels on the left hand side are where you make most of your decisions about what to set during the import process. They are fairly straight forward once you get used to them. What follows is a breakdown of the controls in each panel and how to use them:


Import From

“Import From” Capture One Import Window

This is where you select your source. In other words, as the panel heading states, it’s where your images are coming from. In many cases you’re probably importing from a memory card or direct from a camera via USB. In those circumstances, the card is usually automatically selected. If not, use the “Source” pop-up to select the location where your images are currently stored.

If you have a memory card in a card reader, or a connected camera, it will be at the top of this pop-up menu. Next you will find a list of recently used folders, but obviously if this is your first time using the software, this list will be blank. Finally is the option to choose a folder.

If you want to import from a folder of images that are already on your disk, go to the Source pop-up menu, and from the bottom of this menu choose: “Choose Folder…”. This will open a file dialog, and from here you can select the folder of images you want to import. Once you select a folder and click “Open” in the file dialog, the thumbnails should start appearing in the main viewer.

Below the source pop-up there are two checkboxes. These are as follows:

  • Include Subfolders: This will scan any sub folders of the folder that you selected as the source, or if there are subfolders on the memory card selected.
  • Exclude Duplicates: This does pretty much what it says, and avoids importing images that are already in your Library.


Import To

The “Import to” panel is where you set your destination. You can also set some additional options, such a setting a sub folder hierarchy, and set which collection the files are added to. Here’s a breakdown of the options.


This selects the location on your hard drive where the files will be stored. Clicking on this pop-up will bring up a menu with a set of options:

  • Inside Catalogue: This stores your images in a managed fashion inside the catalogue file. This works in a similar way to Apple’s Photos (or the now defunct Aperture) in that it doesn’t let you directly access the images on the hard drive, and it stores them inside the catalogue file.
  • Current Location: Use this if you’re just adding files to your library, without moving them. This is most useful if you’re adding images that are already on your hard drive. You shouldn’t use this option on a memory card or attached camera.
  • Recent Folder List. Next will be a list of folders that you’ve recently used as a destination
  • Select a folder. At the bottom of the list is the option to manually select a destination folder. This can be anywhere on your computer that you have write permissions to store files in.

Note that beside the destination pop-up is a little arrow. Clicking on this will bring you to the location that you have selected as your source in the Finder or Windows Explorer.

Sub Folder

This allows you to set the name of a sub folder. This will become a sub folder of the destination you selected from the destination pop-up menu. One example is that, say you have a folder that you regularly put images into, which you set in the destination pop-up, you can then use the sub-folder entry to create a folder inside that folder for each shoot or project that you’re importing.

However there are even more options to this because the Sub Folder field supports Capture One’s token system. This is basically a set of variables that you can use, which can be drawn from things like metadata and so on. To access the tokens click on the button beside the sub folder field. This will bring up a dialog where you can select them. These can be things like date and time of capture, or even exposure values like Aperture or ISO.

If you use something like ISO for example, and you have shot with multiple ISO values, your images will be sorted into sub folders corresponding to the iso values of each image. The same would work for any variable. If you have images that were shot on multiple dates, you can use a date token, and they will be sorted into subfolders according to date. The token system has a lot of options and you can be fairly specific with what you choose here, and this will in turn sort your images into very specific sub folders.

You can also combine tokens and static text. For example this…

Screenshot 2019-08-26 08.51.37.jpg

Would create a sub-folder called “Street Photo August 26-Fuji”

And if the source was shot on multiple dates, it would create multiple folders for each date. For example, say I had shot over three days, the result would be something like this:

  • Street Photo August 24-Fuji
  • Street Photo August 25-Fuji
  • Street Photo August 26-Fuji

The dialog also comes with a set of pre-built presets which you can find at the top of the window. You can also save your own presets.

Sample Path

This shows you a sample of the path where the images will be stored. This will give you an idea of how your destination and subfolder settings will combine and where your images will be stored. This isn’t editable, it’s just for informational purposes.

Capture Collection

This allows you to add your images to a collection as you import. The controls here are a bit clunky though. The default is to import into the recent imports collection.

Recent Imports Recent Imports is actually a group of collections. You can find it near the top of the Library view, and every time you import images it will create a new collection with the date of the import. However, these collections aren’t permanent, and it only keeps the ten most recent import sessions. It’s a handy way to quickly find recent imports, and is better than Lightroom’s single “recent imports” collection. This is the default option when importing.

Recent Imports Collection in Capture One

Capture Collection Capture collection is an album that you designate as the “Capture Collection”. You can do this by right clicking on an album in the Library view and choosing “Set as Capture Collection”

Selected Album This will import to the album that you have selected in the Library. You must have an album selected before you activate the import window though, and unfortunately it doesn’t let you select it after the fact.

Space Left

This shows you how much space is left on the hard drive you have selected as the destination.


Backup To

“Backup To” Capture One import Panel

This panel gives you the option to create a backup of the image files that you’re importing as you’re importing them. To activate this first click on the checkbox that says: “Backup Enabled”.

Secondly, choose a folder from the Location pop-up menu.

Once you have this set, Capture One will create a second copy of your files at the chosen location when you import images. This is most useful when coming from a memory card or directly from a camera.



Capture one “Naming” pane in the import window

The naming tab lets you rename your images as they are importing. Like the “Sub Folder” option in the import to panel, it uses the same token system for setting out the format for how your images will be re-named. This might look like a simple panel but it hides a degree of complexity.


This is where you enter the pattern for formatting your name. You can enter information manually here or you can use the token system. To use tokens, click on the button beside the Format field.

This brings up the Naming Format dialog. At the top there are some presets that you can select, or you can create your own pattern by dragging in tokes from the Tokens section. You can scroll down this list as there is a wide range of options here. The options can be filtered by related parameters, by selecting a “group” from the Group pop-up menu. You will also see a sample of what your re-named image will look like in the sample section.

Overall it behaves pretty much like the same as the Sub Folder field we covered earlier.

If you use any of the counter options, you can reset, or manually set the counter from the menu on the top of the Naming panel. If you don’t reset it, it will continue on from the last time you used the counter. In other words, it doesn’t reset between import sessions.

You will also find an option in this dialog to pair RAW + Jpeg images The doesn’t combine them in the same way that some other software does, but it makes sure that RAW + JPEG images will get the same name. This is useful if you’re using a sequence, and ensures that both RAW and Jpeg images get the same sequence number for example.

Job Name

This is a special field that can be used in the naming pattern, if you use the job name token. So, for example, you could use it if you’re importing a shoot as part of a project. You could use the job name token with the image name token, to prefix your images with the name of the current project.


This will show you a sample of what the renamed images will be like.


metadata import panel

The metadata panel is fairly simple, and has two fields that allow you to enter metadata for the images that you will import. These are:

  1. Copyright: Use this to enter copyright information
  2. Description: Enter a description for your images. Note that you can’t do this on a per image basis, and whatever you enter into description will be applied to all images.



Adjustments Import Panel in Capture One

This panel lets you apply styles and presets to your images at the time of import. You can apply both styles and presets, and you can stack multiple styles or presets.


The styles pop-up menu lets you select whatever styles you wish to apply on import. Here are some things to know about this menu:

  • Stack Styles: At the top of this list you will see an option for “Stack Styles”. If you select this a checkbox will appear beside it to indicate that the option is active. With this option active you can elect multiple styles or presets and they will be combined. This is especially useful if you want to use multiple presets from different tools. For example, if you want to use a sharpening preset and a noise reduction preset, you can apply both.
  • When you select a style or preset to be added it will appear in the pop-up menu, with its own sub-menu. To remove the style from the list of those to be added, go to the style or preset at the top of the list, and from its sub menu and choose the option to remove.
Screenshot 2019-09-09 16.20.19.jpg

Auto Adjust

Checking this checkbox will apply the automatic settings to every image in import. This will have the same effect as clicking the Auto button on the main interface of Capture One

Exclude Existing Adjustments.

If you’re importing images that were already edited in Capture One, this basically ignores the editing metadata and just brings in the image file unedited.

File Info

File Info Panel in Capture One

This panel will display a selection of metadata for whatever file you have selected in the main viewer window.

Bottom Panel Options

Across the bottom of the import window, there are a number of options. These are as follows:

Import Collection: This pop-up menu lets you decide what action Capture One will take when you begin importing images

  • Open Collection when Import Starts: This takes you straight to the recent imports collection.
  • Notify When Done: This will leave you in whatever folder or collection that you are currently working in, but will open a notification dialog when importing has been completed.
  • Never open import collection: This basically does nothing.

Eject Card Ejects a memory card after importing has bene completed.

Erase Images After Copying This will erase the images on the memory card after importing has been completed. It is always recommended to format the memory card in you camera to properly erase all images rather than using this method, as anecdotal evidence suggests that this can reduce the likelihood of card errors. Therefore, I suggest not using this option.

Cancel Cancels the import session

Import X Images Clicking on this button will begin the import process. If you have manually selected an image or number of images, this will change to reflect the number of images you have selected in the main viewer area. For example “Import 6 Images” if you have 6 images selected. If you have nothing selected it will change to Import All.


That’s pretty much it for the import panel. If you have found this useful, and you want to support more content like this, you can check out my Capture One Style Packs, or if you’re a Fuji Shooter, I have a guide to Processing Fuji Files in Capture One, which is available on my store.

If you don’t already have Capture One, and you want to get a copy, I’m on their affiliate programme, so if you buy through any of the links on this site, such as this link right here!!, I’ll get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going.

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