There are so many filters in Color Efex Pro that it can take a long, long time to work out all the things that it can do. Some of the tools are obvious, like Levels and Curves or Graduated Filters, but some are less so, and the Detail Extractor is a prime example.
It sounds like a tool for making your images sharper, but it’s actually something else entirely. It’s a kind of localised contrast adjustment tool which brings out details in both shadows and highlights with the kind of power and simplicity that you might wish your favourite HDR plug-in could achieve!
It’s not a true HDR tool. It works on single images rather than merged exposures, so there is a limit to just how much detail it can enhance. But it is quick, simple and very effective, and you don’t have to go for the full-on HDR treatment each time – it’s equally good at providing a subtler boost to images that just lack a little definition.
For my start shot I’ve chosen this picture of an old Victorian pier just after sunset. The colours in the sea and sky were just starting to fade and it did look as if the best moment to take pictures was gone…
01 Find the filter
The Detail Extractor is easy to miss, but Color Efex Pro helps by listing all its filters alphabetically. The key thing is, though, that if you move the mouse pointer to the right of the filter name, Color Efex Pro displays a presets button…
02 Choose a preset
When you click this button, Color Efex Pro displays a selection of presets. These are a great starting point because they show the full range of adjustments possible for each effect, from fairly subtle to full-on, and show you just what your picture could look like without you even having to push a single slider. I’m going for the ‘Strong Large Details’ preset here.