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A posture: playing around with styles in Capture One

I was intrigued by this funny posture of my oldest daughter the other day. So I rushed into the house to get my camera and asked her to repeat it. She didn’t understand what I meant, however, so I tried to mimic it, which was not so easy with my less than flexible arms. At some point, she understood and I took a few shots. My favorite is the one below. I like the “dreamy” pose, with the slightly tilted head and the arms forming a sort of frame around the pattern of her dress. It’s the sort of pose that asks for a moody black-and-white or washed-out color treatment in post. After some tweaking in Capture One, I ended up with three possible edits: a high-contrast B&W, a faded B&W, and — indeed — a washed-out color edit.

Three styles applied to the same photo: 1Styles (Kodak T-Max 400 emulation), Capture One Matte Styles (MT-15), and again Capture One Matte Styles (MT-06). Note that these styles have been adjusted to taste.

Inspiration came from playing around with two interesting style packs: 1Styles and Capture One’s homemade Matte Styles. Now I must say that I have a sort of love-hate relationship with styles, or presets, as they are called in other editing software. They are great when applied to the right photo in the right way, but they can be pretty frustrating when you have that ideal look in mind and you just can’t find a style that matches it. After many if these mixed experiences, I have learnt one thing about styles: Applying them is always a starting point; styles never ever bring you the much desired look that the makers showcase on their websites, at least not instantly. In practice, it is a matter of skimming through the different options (Capture One shows you a preview when you hover the cursor over a style) and then select the one that comes closest to a desired look. Once you get the hang of it, you may develop a sense of what type of style suits what type of photo. With the photo of my daughter, I have no strong preference for one of the three styles applied, although I’m somewhat leaning towards the first, high-contrast B&W, version.

In any case, you better don’t use styles if you feel lazy and just want that particular look with a single mouse click. It definitely takes some experience to match the right style (or selection of styles) with the right photo. Believe me, some styles just don’t work with certain photos. Once you have found a match, the real editing begins. Thus, styles will inspire and — to a certain extent — help you, but they will definitely not do all the work for you. In a way, this is a relief. The creative struggle of the editing process may, in the end, be more satisfying than any fast and easy Insta/Hipsta-like experience. Considering this and the hefty price tag of most commercial offerings (honestly, Capture One’s home brews are ridiculously overpriced), you may ask yourself whether you should bother with these style packs at all.

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