Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4, now owned by Google, is a single plug-in that consists of a huge library of special effects – these are displayed in a long vertical list on the left side of the screen. And in true Nik (now Google) style, it shows you how your pictures can look before you even start to work on them.
The Contrast Color Range tool is one of my favourite effects because of what it can do for your landscapes. Like many Nik (now Google) effects, it has little to do with conventional Photoshop processes, but operates via its own special methods. Essentially, it intensifies the contrast between different colours in the scene, and to show how it works I’ve picked an image that needs a boost.
It’s a picture of Smeaton’s Tower, a lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe in the UK. It was shot on a sunny day, but the colours and the contrast in the original image don’t seem to do the scene justice.
01 Choose your filter
This is the Color Efex Pro window. All the available filters/tools are displayed in the vertical panel on the left side of the screen. I haven’t chosen one yet, so the image hasn’t been altered so far.
02 Contrast Color Range tools
But if I select the Contrast Color Range filter on the left, the image is adjusted with the default filter settings (or the last settings used). Over on the right are a series of sliders for adjusting the effect – highlighted here with the red outline.
03 Getting the colours right
The Contrast Color Range filter doesn’t introduce any colour shifts, it just intensifies some colours at the expense of others. It all becomes a lot clearer when you try it out. There are three key sliders which I’ve adjusted for this shot:
1: The Color slider needs careful balancing. You move it to and fro to see the effect on the colours in the picture – here, I had to find a position where the sky became a much more intense blue without sapping too much of the colour from the red lighthouse.
2: The Color Contrast slider adjusts the strength of the effect – in other words, the relative lightening and darkening of the different colours.
3: The Contrast slider just affects the overall image contrast. I’ve used it here just to give the picture a little more punch and vibrancy.
04 The end result
I’m much happier with this picture. The colours are deep and vibrant, and even if they are rather exaggerated they capture the scene as it appeared to me and how I want to remember it. If all we want from photography is accuracy, we might just as well walk around with a photocopier…