We are living in digital times where digital still image and video quality is better than ever before. The cameras of today are getting closer to perfection for every new release. We now have noise free high iso in cameras that can almost see in the dark. Dynamic range within the newest cameras is incredible and we can pull highlights and raise shadows almost to the level of what we see through the human eye. But is image quality getting to good? Because what do we do with images from these fantastic cameras? We have paid thousands of dollars for noisefree iso 6400 and the sharpest lenses available and we take those perfect images and try to make them look like film images from the good old days. We even, after cleaning up every bit of high iso noise, add grain to get them to look more analog:-). it sounds almost contradictory and is actually kind of funny. But, as every photographer knows, photography is not about telling the truth, it is about conveying moods and feelings. There isn't much exciting about an ordinary snapshot even if it has 30 megapixels and are noise free. We want images that stand out.
See Capture One Styles in action:
Analog look has been popular for the last couple of years. Mobile apps like Instagram has made retro filter available as one click options for everyone. But analog look is also popular with professional photographers and there are many film style packs available with the professionals and enthusiasts as targeted audience. Most of these are plugins available for Photoshop or to be used as external editors with Lightroom or Aperture. Aliens Skins Exposure and DxO FilmPacks are examples of full feature plugins with lots of film presents named after classical film types and lots of options to fine-tune the look of the image and to add film grain. Google Nik collection also has film presents in their excellent Color Efex Pro plugin. A while ago they even launched a dedicated plugin for analog look named Analog Efex Pro.
These softwares are all popular, high quality softwares that bring lots of opportunities to fine-tune images to our likings. And there is no doubt that combining the fantastic image quality from today's high quality cameras with the analog look from these software can give amazing results that tells a story far better than a snapshot trying to tell the "truth".
The drawback with these plugins is that they bring an extra step into your workflow. We have to do our basic raw adjustments in our preferred raw converter, then bring the images as tiffs or jpegs into Photoshop or an external editor to apply the look we want, then we might bring them back into our raw converter to do final exports, printing and so on. So basically using these plugins means that we add on extra work and complicate our workflow.
As a solution to this there are several vendors that make film packs that are meant to be used within the raw converter itself. VCSO has 5 different film packs available for Lightroom. Totally Rad has done the same with their Replichrome presets. What these vendors has done is that they have made presets that replicate the different film looks altering the native tools inside Lightroom. I have not tried any of these film packs, but I have seen raving reviews of them on the net. The idea is kind of brilliant, instead of adding on to the workflow you get many of the raw settings adjusted with one click and using the film packs will probably speed up your workflow instead. This is good news for photographers that has to process a lot of images as fast as possible. It also helps to give your work a consistent look and stand out of the crowd. This is great news for wedding photographer that might have to process a thousand raw files after a wedding.
My favorite raw converter for files from the Fujifilm X-series cameras is Capture One. I reviewed Capture One Pro 7 here at fujiboys.com earlier this summer. Capture One was on a 50% off sale in June. The sale must have been a success because Capture One is, at the time of writing, back on 50% off sale valid throughout August 2014. So you still have the opportunity to get this excellent raw converter for a nice price. I'm a Creative Cloud subscriber and I still do most of my work in Lightroom. I found the price of Capture One Pro 7 to be a little on the steep side even when on sale so back in June I bought Capture One Express 7. The range of plugins and presets/styles available for Capture One is limited compared to what is available for Lightroom.
So if you want the film look with Capture One I believe Capture One Styles is the only film pack available. This might not be a drawback at all because Capture One Styles is a pack of 100 great film styles available at the price of $49,95, which is actually a bargain price compared to the price of similar film packs for Lightroom. The Capture One Styles pack consists of 42 Black & White styles and 58 color styles replicating the look of well known films by altering the native tools inside Capture One. This mostly means the curve tool and Capture One Pro's excellent color editor. What you unfortunately won't get with these film styles is film grain. This is because Capture One doesn't have a grain tool, so there is no way to simulate film grain within Capture One. So if you want grain you have to bring your files into Photoshop or any other preferred software.
I'm fairly new to photography and have only been serious about photography since the summer of 2012. Back in the film days I only had point and shoot cameras and didn't mind if I used Kodak or Fujifilm films. But I have still picked up a thing or two about different films. I have heard that the Kodak Porta 160 NC was great for portraits, the Porta 400 and 800 too. Fujifilm velvia was great for landscape and Ilford was often preferd for Black & White shooting and so on. But since I haven't shot film I have no relation to any of them. Therefore I have no idea if the film styles available with the Capture One Styles are true to original films. Quite frankly I don't care if they are true or not as long as they give me good looking images and are easy to use. But I have read elsewhere that the film styles replicate the look from the original films very well.
But the more important question is: Do these film styles make my images look good? Yes, they definitely do! I'm using Capture One Express 7 which lacks some of the advanced features from the full featured Capture One Pro. lThe advanced color editor, local adjustments, the skin tone adjustment tool, color balance tool and the individual channel curve tool are all missing. This means that color management is limited in Express compared to the Pro version. Because of that Capture One Express 7 is not officially supported by Capture One Styles. In my experience the styles work wonderful in the Express even if they are not supported:-). There may be a couple of styles that use the color balance tool to get a certain look, that might not work as they are supposed to in C1 Express. Also you do not get to adjust curves for the individual channels to fine-tune the look of the styles. But all in all I find the styles to work wonderful with Capture One Express, but they probably work even better in Capture One Pro.
What is cool when using styles with Capture One is that you instantly see the results of the added style on the main image. This makes it easy to preview and find the right style. This is much better than the preview you get in the little navigator window when using presets in Lightroom.
Personally I think that the default rendering out of Capture One is kind of boring, but with the Capture One Styles you get great starting points for different kind of images. Most images look great just applying one of the styles and require far less basic raw adjustments than with Capture One's default starting point. Using one of the Fujifilm Provia styles on portraits will give me the beautiful, well known Fujifilm colors I love from the X-series with a great, dynamic and contrastful look with the style alone. I would need to do quite a lot of raw adjusting to get this look without the style. Of course you should still to do your cropping, sharpening, noise reduction, vignetting and so on. A little bit of basic raw adjusting will probably improve the image even more. But it seems like I get good results with less work using the styles and in other words that means that Capture One Styles give me good results in less time.
And time is an important issue, especially if you are a professional photographer that do this for a living. The more you get done in less time, the more you will probably earn. Having software that will help you improve your images is nice, having software that helps you save time are even nicer. Having software that do both are great:-D! And these styles belong in the last group that do both.
I am a people shooter and I review the Capture One Styles pack from this perspective. There are probably lots of styles that suit landscapes, architecture and so, but I haven't tried styles for that. Personally I have found that the different Kodak Porta styles and Fujifil Provia styles work very well on color portraits. The Fujifilm Superia styles is great for little more "analog" look, and the Kodak Ektachrome are great for more retro look. For Black & White images I find the different Ilford Delta styles and the Agfa APX styles to be great. They are of course just starting points and I like to fine-tune BW images by altering the different color channels to my liking to, for example, get a more dramatic sky.
As I have written earlier in my review of Capture One Pro I find that Capture One is rendering skin tone a little dark to my liking. I am Scandinavian and we have pale skin. Maybe if I came from the southern part of Europe the default skin tone rendering would suit better. I find that the skin tone out of my favorite film styles from the Capture One Styles pack is better than the default rendering, but I still find the skin tone to be a little dark. This is probably because I compare it to the beautiful skin tone on the SOOC jpegs from the X-series. Anyway I like to compensate this by adding a little bit of brightness and also sometimes go and lighten the skin tone with the color editor tool.
The fun thing about using film styles is that it makes it easy to get out of your comfort zone and try new looks. You see the results instantly and it makes it much easier to be creative. Of course you could play around with the native curve and color tools in Capture One to make your own unique looks and you probably should. It is a great way to get to know the software and improve your raw editing skills. But it will be more time-consuming than starting with one of the styles and personally I find that without the styles I often play safe and just adjust to my usual look.
If you are a professional photographer you probably want a look that stands out from the crowd, but also a look that is consistent so that your work is recognizable. And you probably want to achieve this with a fast workflow. For this I think that Capture One Styles is a very good addition to Capture One. Using styles also helps to keep a consistent look when working with lots of image files. After you have found your favorite styles it is very easy to use them as starting points, add your own touch and save them as your own personal styles. These styles can be applied during import and if your white balance and exposures are fairly consistent the images will almost be finished right after import, just lacking the final touches. Another way, probably the way I will use this for multiple images, is to find my preferred style for the series, add sharpening, noise reduction, vignetting and do some basic raw adjustments to my liking. Then save the settings from this image as a new style that I apply to the rest of the images. We can copy and paste settings also, but this copies everything including cropping, rotation and so on. Creating a new style lets you choose which settings you want to include and what to leave out.
This makes for a very fast workflow and I think this must be a fantastic tool for wedding photographers, event photographers and others that might have to edit nearly a thousand images after a job.
I find the Capture One Styles to be an excellent addition to Capture One. The Capture One Styles film pack makes my favorite raw converter for the Fujifilm X-trans files even better. The film styles work very well with Capture One Express even though it is not officially supported. They will work even better with Capture One Pro where you will be able to fine tune the styles even more and the styles that is using the color balance tool will work as they are supposed to.
The price tag of Capture One Styles is also very inexpensive. The package costs $49.95 which is half the price of similar product available for Lightroom.
All in all I highly recommend Capture One Styles. The filmpack makes me more creative, speed up my workflow and for the price of $49.95 I think this pack is something every Capture One user should try out. Check out Capture One Styles and try 5 styles for free at www.captureonestyles.com.
A sidenote, but Capture One is back on a 50% off sale until the end of August 2014, so you now have a chance to get one of the best raw converters for the Fujifilm X-series files at a very nice price:-).
Here are some more images with different styles applied:
Equipment used in this post: