Google Nik Collection

This post is about post-processing photos and it’s a long post.

I often speak of post-processing. For the uninitiated, that’s taking a photo as shot (as it comes out of the camera) and tweaking it to hopefully make it more pleasing to view. 

For instance, this next photo . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . comes from this original . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

That’s shot like that because it’s easier to “bring out” details from areas that are underexposed than it is to recover details from areas that are overexposed. 

Here’s another of the same area with the original right after it . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

You’ll notice that the post-processing is not significant. These are the kind of adjustments that can be quickly and easily done in Lightroom. 

This next shot requires a bit more work . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Again, not a lot of processing. I need to straighten the photo and tweak the brightness and contrast a bit to give it some punch. 

Alaska Cruise 2012

All of the above are easy tweaks because the lighting was pretty good even if a little dark on the sides and with a sky too bright. Again, as long as I expose the photo by including some of the sky, I’ll have something easily manageable. 

However, some photos require a lot of tweaking and I have a number of fairly powerful tools that help me with that. But, all of them cost to buy. Some less than others, but you generally get what you pay for . . . except for the Nik Collection

You can read some of the history HERE but since few will click that, let me summarize. The original collection of powerful tools were priced at $500. Google then bought the software and began selling it at $150. Then, in March of this year, they announced they would no longer update or support it . . . but they made it FREE. That’s right. You can get what is an impressive set of tools for free. Here’s what you get:

Normally, you see “free” and think to yourself . . . TANSTAAFL!! Must be crap!

Au contraire, mes lecteurs. These are powerful tools used even by pros. Do a search for it and you’ll get a number of reviews of the package. If you take photos and if you post photos anywhere, you should download the package while it’s still available. 

I’m going to show a little of what you can do with the package using some of the photos from the Tracy Arm leg of our 2012 Alaska Cruise. The sky was overcast and the landscape a bit of a challenge because of the dark cliffs, the occasional piece of ice and the reflecting water. 

I had resolved to shoot three bracketed photos for each scene I wanted to capture; one underexposed, one at a normal exposure, and one overexposed. The idea was to use the HDR capability in Photoshop or in HDR Express (another software I own) and combine them into one nice photo.

Let me show you what the three photos looked like . . . no, wait. One more thing. My choice would have been to take five photos, two on each side of the exposure. Unfortunately, the D7000 is not a pro camera and only brackets three photos. The new version of the camera remedies that. Just to give you the difference, my D100 and D200 cameras bracket nine photos. 

Anyway, here are three of the photos. 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Neither Photoshop HDR nor HDR Express gave me anything I could use and I ended up using one photo from each group and tweaking them for THIS POST. Warning to them with bladder control issues . . . that’s a long post. 

However, I wanted to see what I could do with just the Nik Collection. It’s not a fair comparison because I’ve not used the tool and I started by jumping in and using the three photos and combining them into an HDR image (something I could not do very well with the tools I had back then). In the future, I’ll do a more head-to-head comparison. Anyway, here’s the output from the HDR Efex Pro 2 module with a few additional tweaks using the Color Efex Pro 2 module. 

Alaska Cruise 2012

This was the first time I used the modules and I didn’t know what I was doing. For instance, I don’t like the clouds (although in the original post they have a similar color), but as far as bringing out details of both the light and dark areas, it did great. It also easily handled the ghosting that plagued me in the other programs. Ghosting comes from the fact that the boat was moving and I hand-held the camera as opposed to using a tripod. That results? Each photo is slightly different and when you combine the photos, the images don’t line up exactly and you see “ghosting” artifacts from the misalignment.  

That HDR wasn’t bad, but it’s fairly grainy. I could’ve used the other module to remove noise, but frankly, I was mainly interested in the overall look. Still, if you want to see the details, the finished products for each set is in THIS SmugMug Gallery. 

I should mention the Nik modules have many adjustments and canned settings but at the basic level, you can easily apply simple tweaks. I could have spent more time playing with it, but I did all of these fairly quick (I’m old and I don’t know how much longer I have on this rock – I don’t want to spend all my time tweaking photos).

These three photos . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Gave me this . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

There are color casts there that I could have tweaked but, again, short lifespan. Plus, I was just learning stuff. (Note: for me, the best way to learn is to play with the sliders and try stuff to see what it does.) And, I had only three photos instead of five or even nine which would give the program more data to play with. 

I think I got better as I went along, but you be the judge. Oh, by the way . . . this is a long post. 

So, from these next three photos . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . I got this HDR version . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

This looks a bit soft because I forgot the rest of the processing, namely, sharpening and contrast. 

Now, each of the following photos come from combining three photos and then maybe using Color Efx 2 for some additional tweaks. I won’t put all the originals here but they are in the gallery at the bottom of the post (for them who care to see them). 

Here’s a different shot of the above that I think is a bit better. 

Alaska Cruise 2012

This next HDR merger comes from very poorly lit originals (it was overcast and occasionally very overcast) . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

That’s how it came out of the HDR module. I then tweaked it with the Color Efx 2 module. 

Alaska Cruise 2012

As usual, WP renders photo less than optimally . . . click the photo to see it in its own window and larger. 

Note that the second one is slightly “warmer” and a bit more saturated and has a bit more contrast . . . plus some other little tweaks here and there. 

By the way, the Nik software uses U-Point technology. You can click on areas of the photos and manipulate the settings for just those specific areas. You can set them all the same or adjust them individually. If you want to see it in action, there are YouTube videos you can watch. Search for “Nik collection control points” and you’ll get videos like this one.

That’s the other thing . . . lots of tutorials out there for this collection of tools. Powerful tools that are — I repeat — free.

Because I was playing around and wasn’t planning to write this post, I didn’t use the Control Points. Were I serious, I could have really tweaked these photos and make them even better.

Here’s an example of an HDR combination that I could not quite get to what I wanted . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

I tried Color Efx 2 but after a while, I stopped with this . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

I should have spent more time on it, but just to show you what I did for the original post . . . 

Well, now you’re thinking that the Nik collection is crap . . . nope. Let me show you another from the original post . . . 

Having narrowly escaped from having to re-enact the Jack and Rose crappy “die, already!” scene, I look back, and I think that we are now outside the Tracy Arm fjord.

By the way, that annotation is part of the narrative for the original post. It may not seem like it here, out of context, but that was some funny stuff there. Again, if you plan to read that post, make sure you empty your bladder. 

So, here are a few shots combining three shots in the HDR module for the same area as the above shot . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Tweak that a bit and we get  . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Again, these look better larger. 

Another final product . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . and another . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . and another . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Here’s one of a glacier in Juno as it came out of HDR Efx Pro . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . and after Color Efx 2 . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Now, there are other modules, and I’ve not played with them a whole lot.

The Silver Efx 2 Pro does a good job at conversions to B&W. It has some canned presets that are pretty good. So good that I ran all of the photos through various presets. Let me show you a few and the rest will be in the Gallery below. 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

See? I told you I was no good; I just have better tools than most people. BUT . . . now, you too can have top-notch tools and they are — did I mention it? — FREE!

A few pointers . . . these tools run either as stand-alone or you can call them up from within Photoshop and Lightroom and I assume other photo packages.

If you run it as a stand-alone and you load a photo or a group of photos, when you save, it won’t ask to save under a new name (at least not for multiple photos). Make sure you’re working on a copy of the original because it will be overwritten. I create a separate folder and copy the photos I want to edit in the folder and then I’m assured I won’t mess up the originals. 

Here is the color Gallery. For the HDR shots, I have the original three photos and then the combined HDR photos:

Here are the better B&W photos in a random order:

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at DisperserTracks.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
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Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Finally, if you interpret anything on this blog as me asking or wanting pity, sympathy, or complaining about my life, or asking for help and advice, know you’re  likely missing my subtle mix of irony, sarcasm, and humor.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Black & White, HDR, Photography, Photography How To, Photography Stuff and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Google Nik Collection

  1. renxkyoko says:

    The photos are gorgeous.

    Like

  2. AnnMarie says:

    It’s quite obvious that NIK is a great tool. The photos are spectacular and, when viewed in the SmugMug gallery, the B&W version right after the color photo, comes alive even more with all that great contrast. Very well done.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      I just poke them buttons and slide them sliders. But yes, as I explore the tools, I’m impressed with the breadth of capabilities. I’ll be watching a few videos and playing with it some more.

      Like

  3. oneowner says:

    I purchased the HDR Efex plug-in many years ago to experiment with HDR. Other plugins gave a gaudy HDR effect that was popular at the time. The Nik version was different in that it was a bit more restrained in the harsh HDR look and more realistic. I was shooting interiors and I wanted to balance the room light with the window view light. I got very good results but, like you, I wished I had more than 3 stops bracket on my D80. While I was using the HDR Efex others were using Silver Efex Pro 2 but it was selling for $200 (US) at the time and I thought that it was too much. I sent a note to Nik and they sent me a link to download the entire suite for FREE!!!. That was long before Google acquired them, too. I still don’t think you’ll find a better B&W converter as versatile as Silver Efex. Now that Google is abandoning these fine tools, I wonder how long they will continue to work as operating systems progress beyond their present state. But that could be years away so I would urge anyone to download the suite while they can. Some nice stuff here, bty! Nice work.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Until yesterday, I’d only used Silver Efx sparingly. Last night I played with it some more and this morning I processed a number of photos for Leanne’s Monochrome Madness.

      Impressive both with respect to ease and the results I got.

      Like

  4. great post, and I love Nik and used them all the time, however it appears to have some issues this week, when ever I try to use them they make my system crash and have tried on 3 different PC…….have you faced any similar problems?

    Like

  5. You’re right again; it is a long post!

    Like

    • disperser says:

      . . . and you not a photographer or caring at all about photography.

      You should have quit reading it after the first line, so any complaints you might have regarding this post should be expressed while standing in front of a mirror.

      . . . wait . . . is that a compliment? Are you complimenting me for it being a nice, long post?

      Eh . . . probably not. See the second paragraph.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful scenery! The mountains, water, skies, etc~! Wow! Thank you for taking us there!
    I enjoy seeing your process and the processing of your photos. It’s interesting!
    HUGS!!! :-)

    Like

  7. abushiestale says:

    Well forget Brian. I read right through. Didn’t understand most of it. I use Picasa 3 and I’m at the stage of not going to get anything else. – It took long enough to get a hold of that. But I do use it to tweak some of my shots. The question is always, what did your eye see? or are you using the technology to show viewers something that isn’t actually there? My humble opinion is that is was there all of it. You actually saw a myriad of pictures in your eye and you are just trying to put as many as possible into the one print.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Interesting perspective . . . I view it slightly differently.

      Humans manufacture memories based on emotions (how they feel at the time). My thinking is that I produce photos to match my memories of what I saw.

      Then again, we don’t see in B&W or any of the artistic renditions I offer. So, perhaps, it’s just playing around and trying to get something that will strike a chord in others. If they have a chord. And, if it can be struck.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. PiedType says:

    I was trying to stay with your technical explanations but quickly got lost in the beauty of the photos themselves. I’m afraid my technical expertise never extended beyond “underexpose by two stops to get the saturation you want.” Haven’t had a proper camera since the ’80s.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      If you aren’t a hobbyist when it comes to photography, it doesn’t matter.

      And all that was not really all that technical. for instance, with exposure, you do the same thing with your phone’s camera. Point it more at the darker area of a scene, and the photo will brighten as the camera in the phone will automatically adjust. Point it a bright area of a scene, and your preview will darken.

      If you cared enough, there are setting on your phone to change the exposure. Most cameras also have scenes (like beach, evening, portrait, backlit, etc).

      Like

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