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Capture One Styles vs. Photoshop Actions

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High-end photo editing software like Capture One Pro and Photoshop both offer ways for photographers to automate and optimize their workflow by using either styles in Capture One Pro or actions in Photoshop. But when should you use what, and what are the different benefits you will get when choosing one over the over?

Capture One Styles lets you achieve a specific look in a breeze and easily copy it across multiple images. Photoshop actions, on the other hand, enables you to use very advanced post-processing techniques with a single click while you can maintain full control. In this article, we take a more in-depth look at the benefits and drawbacks of Photoshop actions compared to Capture One styles. We will also give our tips to which genres of photography that fits better with using either styles or actions.

Before we dig deeper into whether you should use Capture One styles vs. Photoshop actions, let us take a closer look at how each of them works.

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The Basic Difference Between Capture One Styles and Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions use a step by step approach to applying enhancements to your image. The one who creates the action decides what each of those steps should be, and that they should be carried out in that particular order.

If you create a Photoshop action, you can tell Photoshop to: First add an HSL adjustment layer. Then a Levels adjustment layer. Then resize the image to a specific size, and finally create a border around the image.

When you are finished with recording the Photoshop action, you can run the action on other photos, one at a time. When you run the action, it will carry out the steps from start to finish in the same order as used when creating the action. Running PS actions normally takes only a few seconds. You will be able to modify all the layers created by the action, if you need to modify anything.

Capture One styles are a set of saved settings that enables you to achieve a specific look when you apply it to one or multiple images. Capture One styles are essentially the same as Lightroom presets. You copy the settings stored in the style to the photos, which thereby get another look. Whereas Photoshop actions are more process-oriented, Capture One styles give you a finished and polish look straight-away, which might be just what you want.

No matter whether you prefer Photoshop or Capture One, you can create your own C1 styles or PS actions. You will also be able to import action or styles created by colleagues or your friends. Alternatively, you can buy professional Photoshop actions or Capture One styles explicitly made to target the need for creating a professional workflow.

Capture One Styles can help you get an effective workflow
Sample of different looks obtained by using Capture One Styles

Benefits of Using Capture One Styles or Photoshop Actions

Both Capture One styles and Photoshop actions share some of the same benefits in helping photographers spend less time editing. 

1. They are easy to use

Both actions and styles can lift your game, and let you create effects that you are not able to achieve yourself, if you are new to photo editing in either Capture One or Photoshop. You can get your image to look the way you imagined with a little help from the right actions or styles.

2. Give your photos a fantastic look

Even experienced photographers can benefit from high-quality Photoshop actions or Capture One Styles to enhance the look of your photos.

3. They can be great for learning new techniques

You might not know how to achieve a specific effect or look in Capture One or Photoshop. But with an action or style, you can “reverse engineer” how to get there. Apply the action or style and take a closer look at which settings were modified to get the result. This can help you learn how to use the technique yourself.

4. Get an efficient workflow

Both Capture One styles and Photoshop actions can help you get an efficient and timesaving workflow. This is probably one of the biggest benefits for photographers who constantly delivers a lot of photos to their clients, like event and sports photographers

5. Maintain a coherent look

Both styles and action can help you deliver a consistent look to all the photos you deliver to the same client. Delivering photos with the same style, helps you appear professional and subtly shows that this collection of photos belong together.

Shared Drawbacks for both Photoshop Actions and Capture One Styles

Even though you will surely get a faster workflow when using either C1 styles or PS actions, there are a few drawbacks to be aware of.

1. Neither actions nor styles are a one-click fix for your images

Despite their rumors of being a set-and-forget method for incredible photos, it is not the case. You will have to put in the final work with sliders to make your photos look their best. However, much of the work can be done by styles or actions, saving you a lot of time.

2. No Photoshop action or Capture One style is perfect for every image

Each image is unique in terms of lighting, exposure, and tonal values present in the image. Even though some styles might be very generic, or some actions work on a lot of images, they will not fit for all your images.

3. They can’t save your bad photos from the trashcan

You have to do your best as a photographer at the scene. Too many photographers expect magic from Photoshop actions or Capture One styles. They cannot make your images look amazing, if they composition it not inspiring in itself, or if the exposure is way off.

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Capture One Styles Specific Benefits

Capture One Styles
Styles in Capture One

1. Capture One Styles lets you sync with many photos in no time

Capture One Styles are simpler to apply to many images compared to setting up a batch job for applying Photoshop Actions. Furthermore, viewing the result of changes made to all the images is also far easier in Capture One because of the lack of catalog features in Photoshop. Applying multiple actions to all photos from a shoot can end up taking a long time in Photoshop.

2. Easier to modify the results of styles in Capture One

Both Capture One styles and Photoshop actions are great for getting a good starting point for further editing. And since Capture One is simpler than Photoshop for editing, if you need to do a lot of further editing of your images besides applying the styles, Capture One might be the way to go. You will likely have to work with fewer layers than when using Photoshop. Most editing in Capture One done by modifying sliders, which is much faster than working with adjustment layers.

Both Capture One styles and Photoshop actions are great for getting a good starting point for further editing. Capture One might be the way to go if you need to do a lot of additional editing in your images besides applying the styles.
You will likely have to work with fewer layers than when using Photoshop. Most editing in Capture One done by modifying sliders, which is much faster than working with adjustment layers.

3. Capture One Styles are not as sensitive as Photoshop Actions can be

If you have tried to work with Photoshop Actions, chances are that you have had your share of issues with Photoshop actions that don’t work as intended as well. You can, by accident, mess up your actions or delete a required layer. Capture One Styles, on the contrary, will rarely popup with an error.

4. Instant preview

In Capture One, you can see the result before applying the styles to the image, by just hovering over the style name, in the Styles & Preset Tool. Photoshop actions need to run before you can check whether the effect is useful or not. And if you don’t like the effect, you need to revert to a saved snapshot or undo all the steps created by the action. It is not because Photoshop Actions are not as good as styles and presets. It is just another way of editing your images.

Actions are often targeted specific parts of the post-processing. A preview in Photoshop wouldn’t help much anyway, because actions are often not designed to give you a complete look, but instead help you with complex but precise post-processing tasks.

Applying a style to multiple images in Capture One
Capture One Styles: In this example the first seven images are selected, but not the last image. Under the Adjustments Tool tab, you can see the style applied to all the selected images by just hovering over the style.

5. Contrary to Lightroom Presets, Capture One Styles can work with layers.

This is not really a specific benefit compared to Photoshop but instead relates to Lightroom. In another article where we discussed Lightroom Presets compared to PS Actions, one of the limitations what that you cannot limit presets to specific layers in Lightroom.

Capture One Pro styles - applying a style to a layer
Right-click on the layer to apply a style to the layer

In Capture One, you can apply styles to a layer. This also means that you can mix C1 styles on different layers and restrict each layer using masks or luma ranges, and in that way, give your photos a unique look. You can also lower the opacity of the layers that you apply a style to. This is just to say that many of the downsides that you might know from Lightroom presets don’t apply to Capture One styles.

Workflow specific Photoshop actions

Specific Benefits of Using Photoshop Actions

1. Remain in control with Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions offer quite a deal of flexibility if you know how to use them. For instance, you can deactivate specific steps that you don’t need the action to perform. You can enable or disable popup dialogs for specific Photoshop actions, so you are prompted to give your say on the settings as they are applied to your photo.

2. Got a complex part of your photo-editing, build a Photoshop action to take care of it

You can make Photoshop actions for each part of your post-processing phase. One for enhancing eye, one for enhancing lips in portraits. Or an action for extract details or one creates a brush that targets and removes hot-pixels in long exposure photography. There are many options for letting Photoshop actions help you in accomplishing complex tasks with easy in your daily post-processing workflow.

Which to use: Capture One Styles or Photoshop Actions?

Whether Photoshop actions or Capture One Styles depends on several things, like which photo-editor are you most comfortable with? Is your editing process complex or simple? And what type of photography do you do the most? Furthermore, using styles in C1 doesn’t rule out using actions in Photoshop. Both styles and actions can have a place in an effective photo editing workflow.

Photographers who are into sport, wedding or other types of event photography, and maybe even commercial photographers will benefit the most from using Capture One styles. Everything that demands you to process a lot of images fast and deliver them to a client would suggest that you utilize the benefits from styles. Photoshop actions will be too slow for this if you need to verify the result of each photo, as this is not easily done in Photoshop.

On the other hand, if you rely on complex editing techniques to achieve a special look, then Photoshop Actions is likely the way to go. Some photographers, including myself, like to spend hours on editing just a single or few photos. Typically, this would be landscape or macro photography, involving blending several layers. Composite artwork and fine art portrait photography also belong to this genre.

You get more control of the post-processing workflow in Photoshop. Photoshop actions can help you perform some of the tasks that involve a lot of clicks and steps to do in a specific order before the final result appear.

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Concluding words on Photoshop actions vs. Capture One Styles

As you have learned, whether Capture One styles or Photoshop actions is for you depends on your way of processing your images. Are you the patient type, that put a lot of work into processing a few photos? How much control do you prefer to have in the editing process? Is achieving a similar look across multiple images more important than keeping control of the editing process? And remember it is not an either-or decision, but more a question of when you can benefit the most from Capture One styles vs. Photoshop actions.

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