Google Nik Collection review

hdr-efex-pro

HDR Efex Pro 2

HDR Efex Pro 2 manages to make HDR relatively easy. It still wraps it up in a bit too much jargon (some of it specific to this particular software), but it does at least produce a good variety of ready-made HDR presets so that you don’t have to get caught up in the manual adjustments if you don’t want to.

There are two ways to create an HDR image with HDR Efex Pro 2 – you can load a single image (ideally a RAW file) and use the software’s tone-mapping and HDR tools to pull out the shadows and pull back the highlights, or you can follow the more technically correct route and merge a series of different exposures. This is the route you’ll need to follow if the brightness range in the scene is too great for a single exposure, even with the extra dynamic range headroom of a RAW file.

HDR Efex Pro 2 does a good job of merging different exposures, removing chromatic aberration and controlling ghosting artefacts pretty well.

Once your exposures are merged or your file opened, you’re presented with a full image preview in the centre of the screen, an array of preset effects arranged in categories in a vertical panel on the left, and manual HDR tools stacked in a panel on the right.

There are 28 presets in all, and they offer a good range of effects and ‘looks’. They use the open image to display ‘live’ previews, so it won’t take you look to find a look that’s close to the one you want.

This is where you switch to the manual tools on the right for any fine-tuning, and these are organised into collapsible Tone Compression, Tonality, Colour, Selective Adjustments and Finishing panels.

The sliders in the Tonality and Colour panels are pretty obvious, but the Tone Compression sliders less so. Tone Compression presumable controls the extent to which highlights and shadows are equalised, with the Method Strength slider controls the combined effect of the HDR Method options below.

These consist of Depth Detail and Drama settings. These aren’t sliders as such because they have click-stopped positions corresponding to specific ‘methods’ which vary by type rather than by degree. For example, the Drama control offers Flat, Natural, Deep, Dingy, Sharp and Grainy settings which sound descriptive enough but give you no clue as to their purpose or technical basis.

So you end up rolling the dice with three HDR Method controls whose functions aren’t clear and whose interactions and permutations are almost endless.

It’s not hard to find an HDR ‘look’ you like with HDR Efex Pro 2, and it deserves proper credit for that given that many HDR tools are just too complex and difficult (and often ineffective). But the lack of explanation or method behind its HDR tools does leave you feeling you’re relying too heavily on luck or guesswork.

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.

    Blaine

    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 2.2.20.456×64 (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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