Google Nik Collection review

silver-efex-pro-01

Silver Efex Pro 2

With Silver Efex Pro the Google Nik Collection definitely hits a high spot. This is back to the regular Nik effects tool setup, with a big selection of ready-to-go presets in a panel on the left, backed up by comprehensive manual adjustments on the right.

You don’t need to get your hands dirty with sliders and checkboxes if you don’t want to, but if you do then Silver Efex reveals its true power.

This is the black and white conversion plug-in against which all others should be judged. It aims to replicate the look, feel and depth of classic black and white films and darkroom techniques and, unlike so many of its rivals, it succeeds.

There are 38 preset in all – not a huge number, but covering a very wide range of styles – and these are also organised into categories including Modern, Classic and Vintage. These all use the image you’re working on to produce a live thumbnail preview, so there’s no need for any click-it-and-see trial and error.

Each of these presets is created with a specific combination of tools and setting, which you can see in the tools panel on the right. This means you can quickly select a preset that’s close to the final effect you’re looking for and then tweak a couple of the controls to apply the finishing touches. Once you’ve created an effect you think you might want to use again in the future, you can save it as a new, custom preset.

A trawl through the manual tools reveals the depth of control you have over your images. There is a Brightness slider, for example, but below that there are subsidiary sliders for Highlights, Midtones and Dynamic Brightness, which applies an adaptive adjustment to produce a low-key or high-key effect without tonal compression or lowered contrast.

Talking of contrast, you get a regular global contrast slider, but you can also Amplify Whites, Amplify Blacks and apply a more diffuse Soft Contrast effect.

This depth carries on all the way through the toolset. You can add definition and ‘punch’ with a Structure slider, you can apply black and white ‘contrast’ filters by clicking a button or adjusting the hue and strength precisely, and you can simulate a wide range of traditional black and white films, with optional control over the spectral response, grain (and grain characteristics) and tone curve.

And you can finish off with toning effects, edge burning, vignettes and borders.

No black and white image is complete without a little dodging and burning, of course, and for this you’ve got the control points you’ll find throughout the Nik Collection. Here you can use them to darken or lighten specific areas, increase or reduce the contrast, boost the structure and even apply selective colourisation, re-introducing a hint of colour into your monochromatic images.

It’s not just the range of tools that makes this a great black and white plug-in, it’s also their effectiveness at recreating the drama, depth and boldness of classic black and white photography.

There aren’t many plug-ins out there which are truly great, but this is one of them.

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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