We’ve all heard the common complaint about the lack of layers in Lightroom Classic. And up until now, I never really understood it. If I needed layers, I could do that in Photoshop, right?

Since discovering Capture One, I’ve since changed my tune. While I’m still a relative newbie to the platform, using layers in Capture One really can help you elevate your photos, and do things that aren’t otherwise possible in the Lightroom ecosystem. Let me explain.

Styles vs. presets

You might be wondering why I’m talking about styles and presets in an article about layers. And I’ll get to that shortly. But quickly, what’s the difference between styles and presets in Capture One?

Coming from the Lightroom world, Capture One styles are more or less what Lightroom’s Develop presets are. They quickly change settings and apply different effects with styles. On the other hand, presets are saved adjustments that contain only one tool.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about integrating layers with styles in Capture One. I never was much of a preset person with Lightroom, unless I was repeatedly making the same look over and over again throughout photoshoots. A great example of where I have used the Develop presets was with corporate headshots, where all of the headshots had to have the exact same look, over the course of multiple photoshoots.

But one thing that Lightroom’s Develop presets are good for is to help you learn the program. You can see what each preset is doing and notice how an image is affected by it. And the same can be said for Capture One’s styles.

But with Capture One, that’s just touching the surface of how styles can be helpful. Why? Simply put, because you can utilize the Capture One layers system with them.

Taking advantage of layers to change the look of styles

If you’ve ever played with a program that has layers built-in, you know you can change the opacity and basically stack different effects on top of each other to create a unique look.

It works the same with Capture One. If I find a style I want to use, but it’s a little too harsh, I can dial back on the opacity. In the second image above, for instance, I might want to tone down that faded look to, say, 50 percent. I can very easily do so. Just right-click on a style and select Apply to New Layer, and then adjust the opacity.

Likewise, if I want to make several layers with different styles applied on each of them — with different opacities — I can create a totally unique look.

Going a step further

You can take it even a step further, by utilizing masks on your images. Say you have a photograph where you test a style out on it, and you love it — except for what it does to the sky. For that you might want to leave it as is, or apply a different style to it.

To do this, apply a style to a new layer, and then make a mask. You can then brush away the part of the image that you don’t want the style to be impacted by.

Once you’re done, apply your second style to a new layer. Then right-click and select Copy Mask From, and select your first layer. Once you do this, right-click again and select Invert Mask, and the sky will be masked in.

Here’s the original edit, after the first style and final edit. Notice how in the middle photo, everything but the sky got a little faded and a touch cooler. In the last photo, the sky became brighter and more vibrant.

The changes above are obviously subtle, but they can really make all the difference in the world. Subtle or over the top, Capture One has really opened up my editing world to so many new possibilities. I can’t wait to utilize the layers tool more and see what I can come up with!