Google Nik Collection review


Color Efex Pro 4

This is one of the older plug-ins in the suite and it feels like this is where least has changed – but while the filter effects are mostly familiar, there have been some important improvements, notably the ability to ‘stack’ filters in combination and save your favourite ‘recipes’ as new presets.

The screen layout takes the now-standard plug-in format, with a list of filter effects in a vertical panel on the left, and main window which displays the image you’re working on and manual adjustment tools on the right.

There are 55 filters in all, but you can thin down the list by clicking on one of the category buttons at the top: Landscape, Wedding, Architecture, Favourites, Nature, Portrait, Travel.

The filters themselves vary in usefulness, to say the least. I’ve never used the burnt landscape look of Indian Summer, the false colours of the Ink filter or the soft-focus Duplex effect amongst others.

But some are near-indispensible, such as the Graduated Filters, Contrast Colour Range (brilliant for bringing out colour in landscapes), Detail Extractor and Tonal Contrast.

Each filter has its own adjustment parameters, displayed in the panel on the right side of the screen, and – crucially – they all use Nik’s control point technology for localised adjustments. You click to add a control point and it adds its own mask, based on the colour values where you clicked, and which operates over an adjustable radius. You adjust the opacity of the control point with a slider to either remove the filter effect from an area or add it in.

Initially, these control points can feel a little crude and indiscriminate, but once you start moving them around, adjusting the parameters – and when you realise you can duplicate the group them – they become very powerful indeed. With just a few moments’s work you can can create subtly blended adjustments that have a very natural look and none of the harsh boundary transitions you so often get with regular selections.

These control points work especially well with the Graduated Filter effects, solving that age-old problem of tall buildings or mountains jutting up into the sky. You can add one or more ‘minus’ control points to remove the darkening effect from these objects and, if this takes away too much of the darkening effect from the sky around them, drop in a couple of ‘plus’ control points to restore it.

Color Efex Pro doesn’t just offer a list of filters and leave you to get on with it. It also offers a selection of presets for each – though it would be easy to overlook these. To the right of each filter’s name is a small button which reveals a handful of pre-configured ‘looks’ for that filter. These can save you a lot of time by showing you what’s possible and giving you a head start with the settings.

Color Efex Pro’s real power, though, likes in its filter stacking capabilities. If you find the Tonal Contrast filter has given your landscape the punch it needs but the sky is too dark, you can click the Add Filter button underneath to add a Graduated Filter effect – and you can keep adding filters until you’ve got the result you want.

After all that work, you might want to save that filter combination for use again in the future, in which case all you have to do is click the Save Recipe button. You can choose a name for your recipe and it’s then saved in the Recipes tab in the filters panel on the left of the screen.

Color Efex Pro does have limitations as well as strengths. You can save filter recipes, but all the edits you carry out on individual images are ‘destructive’ – you save out a regular JPEG or TIFF file with all your adjustments baked in, so you can’t go back later and tweak the settings.

That’s not so hard to live with though, and Color Efex Pro is another tool with a degree of depth and control that you may never fully explore.

8 thoughts on “Google Nik Collection review

  1. Hello Rod

    I downloaded the Nik Collection several months ago and have use as a stand alone product (Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro) not as a plugin. What are the downsides to this? Image quality? Read a couple times online that you can use as stand alone but no detail beyond this as to advantages / disadvantages.

    Photography a hobby for me since 2005 using Canon / Olympus products. My enjoyment / challenge comes from playing with the camera in the field but can’t say the same for post processing (1 of the 2 reasons why I haven’t invested in Lightroom or any other editing program). I fine post processing does help and generally my adjustments are minor ….for exposure, contrast, etc. I shoot RAW and use Canons DPP and GIMP / Nik collection for the Olympus micro 4/3. Lately using the snapseed app for ipad and enjoy this product very much.

    So what am I missing out on by using the Nik Collection as a stand alone?

    Came across your site a few days ago and very informative. My interest is in macro / close up, black & white photography (starting to read up on this), some landscape and down the road i want to try long exposure photography.


    1. Hi Blaine,

      The Nik Collection tools do seem to work fine as standalone programs. I find it easier to launch them from a ‘host’ app like Lightroom, but I don’t think it’s essential.

    2. Like many others since I updated to Photoshop CC 2018 my Nik software crashes after trying to apply the effect. I saw one post stating that the fix will be mid 2018??? I have been using Nik since it came out and use it professionally. I really can’t wait that long. Any help???

      1. Are you running it in MAC or Windows? Some time back, I found I had to abandon Windows for my photo-processing, because it kept freezing & crashing the software

  2. Rod,
    I found your excellent site while looking for a solution to my NIK software problem. My setup: PSCS6, MAC OS X 10.6.8 and NIK complete collection purchased in 2013. I generally launch the HDR Efex Pro plugin from Bridge “tools”. After merging the images I say “SAVE” and the saved image opens in PSCS6 in tiff format. This worked perfectly until a few months ago. Now when I say “save” it shuts down my PSCS6 and quits. I cannot download the NIK package again since it requires minimum OS X10.7.5. Unfortunately I cannot upgrade to that version because my 24 inch HP Designjet 130NR printer and some other equipment will not work on OS X 10.7.5. The current version of HDR Efex Pro is×64 (v1.2.8)

    1. What is the version number of the currently available HDR Efex Pro available for free download from Google?
    2. How do you set up the NIK software as a Standalone application? Now they are Photoshop plugins.
    3. MY PSCS6 works OK except when I use NIK so I think it is problem with a corrupted NIK application. What do you think?

    Any guidance and information is appreciated. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Ajit,

      The current version of HDR Efex Pro is 2.2.24, so it sounds as if the version you have is relatively recent. The Nik Collection had an auto-update feature, so it’s possible your version was upgraded without you being aware of it and has become incompatible with your system. That’s only a guess.

      Have you tried simply double-clicking the HDR Efex Pro app icon? It will run as a standalone app on my system, but if it doesn’t work on yours it could be another sign that your version is too new for OS X10.7.5.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know how to roll back Nik Collection plug-ins to an earlier version, sorry.

      1. Rod,
        Thanks for your prompt reply. I did some more digging around and followed up your suggestion to see if clicking on the NIK HDR icon will work. When I originally installed NIK it was as a plugin to Photoshop. Now the plugin does not work. But if I convert the RAW files to tiff then the Standalone works! The Standalone does not work with RAW files. I think the reason my version is 2.2.20 and not 2.2.24 is because my OS X is 10.6.8 and not 10.7.5 so it appears that Google did not update my software to an incompatible OS.

        Thanks again for your help.

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