I’ve been using NIK software for about 3 years as part of my toolbox. I thought it was time to final write up a NIK collection review for anyone considering dropping $149 for the software. It’s expensive enough where you’ll want to sure it’s going to fit your needs before you commit. So here it is, my round up. For each of these tools I’d like to give you an overview of what it does, and provide some before and after examples from my own work.
What is included in the NIK Software Collection
The NIK collection comes with a set of post processing tools that can handle just about all of you color as well as black and white post processing needs. When you purchase the package you’ll be getting a set of 7 tools. Those tools include:
- Analog Efex Pro
- Color Efect Pro
- Silver Efex Pro
- HDR Efex Pro
- Sharpener Pro
Analog Efex Pro
Analog Efex Pro allows you to apply filters that reproduce vintage camera and film combinations. From wet plate cameras to lomo there is something for everyone. If you can’t find what you are looking for you can even create you own custom camera by defining a set of custom parameter values to get a unique look and feel.
My favorite use for Analog Efex is to add dust and scratches to black and white images to create old time vintage style photos remenicent of the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. If you’d like to read more, check out my in depth review of Analog Efex Pro.
Color Efex Pro
The best way to describe Color Efex Pro is to compare it to Instagram filters on steroids. Color Efex Pro provides a huge range of presets that can be applied globally to an image or can be applied via certain strengths using NIKs selection points.
Filters range from color, to contrast, to exposure, to picture frames. Filters can be combined and ordered in different ways. If you are familiar with adjustment layers in Photoshop, you can think of it in similar terms. Stacking different layers in different orders will achieve different end results.
When you find a combination of layers that you like, save them as a recipe for use later. Recipes are great ways to speed your workflow and provide a common look across a set of images quickly and efficiently.
Silver Efex Pro
Silver Efex Pro is a great tool to instantly create stunning black and white images. The filters are similar to the set of black and white presets you might find in Adobe Lightroon, but I find that Silver Efex has a wider and more customizable set of options. In general I just like the results better than Lightroom and the ability to quickly see several potential treatments in NIKs interface prior to committing to one is faster than experimenting with Photoshop.
Viveza is a great for making local corrections based on NIKs control points. Controls points are smart local filters that quickly and automatically select the regions of your image that you want to improve. The control points mask largely based on color and make it lightning fast to make amazing post process edits.
While there are many options to choose from I tend to find myself relying on structure, contrast, and shadow adjustments.
Viveza is by far my most used tool of the entire collection and one that I go back to time and time again because of the speed and simplicity. After I got used to Viveza, I started to like it even more than Adobe Lightroom. I love it for it’s simplicity of using Lightroom style sliders, with the effectiveness of Photoshop’s masks without the need to make complex selections.
HDR Efex Pro
If you are into HDR you have surely spent some time exploring one of the many HDR utilities out there. Some are more complex, and others are extremely simplified. HDR Efex Pro is perfect it you want quick results without too much hassle. The ability to pick a style and apply it and seconds later check out the results is fantastic.
I used to be a livid user of Photomatix. Somehow I feel like Photomatix was a better suited if you are the type to tweak and play, adjust and readjust. HDR Efex is for those that are looking for no-nonsense results now.
Sharpener Pro does what it says. It is an output sharpener to bring your images to crisp life. Sharpening is important. I myself was late to the game when considering the importance and impact that sharpening can have on your final image. If you want to take you photography to the next level you have to run your photos through a sharpener.
Having used Lightroom for sharpening for a long time I thought I knew what sharpening should look like. I was mistaken. Sharpener Pro provides and additional layer of control and I find the preview much better than Lightroom. Try it out if you want to take your print work to the next level.
Dfine is my least used package of the bunch. I should probably use it more, but I don’t. The reality is that sensors have become so good in low light that I don’t find myself battling noise as much as I used to. Dfine does a fantastic job at handling noise reduction. The tool allows you to define a section of the image that has significant noise and then it will try to make contextually informed adjustments.
It works well, but I just don’t pull it out that often. When you need it it will do wonders.
NIK Lightroom Integration
All of the NIK tools integrate with Adobe Lightroom, and the behavior is similar to the Photoshop integration that exists in Lightroom. From Lightroom you have an additional option under the Photo -> Edit In menu to select any of the NIK packages. Should you choose to edit a photo in Viveza from Lightroom for example Lightroom will ask if you want to make a copy. Assuming you say yes it will open a copy in Viveza for editing. When you are finished and close Viveza the file will be saved back to you hard drive and you’ll find a new entry in Lightroom.
I have had one issue with the integration that I have never been able to fix. When opening a file for editing, the dialog box provides you the option to work with a jpg, PSD or TIFF file. I have never been able to get the PSD option to work. I did troll forums to try to find a solution to this issue but was never successful. It is not a show stopper for me as I prefer to work with jpgs for family snap shots, and TIFF files for ‘fine art’ but it is something that has annoyed me over the years.
NIK Collection Reivew: Final Thoughts
The NIK software collection offers some great tools that are fast and efficient at make pro quality post production edits. To me it is the power of Photoshop but with the ease of an Instagram filter. Even though I am running Photoshop on my laptop, I tend to only use it when I need a specific Photoshop tool. In 90% of the cases the NIK suite gets me great results in a fraction of the time.
For the price, I think the package is well worth it.
There you have it, a quick intro to all the tools in the NIK Collection.