Years ago the NIK collection was one of the leading plugins for lightroom and it was competing with the likes of ON1 and other plugins. The NIK collection was and still is my go-to plugin for creative ideas and attempts to make a boring image better. The sad part is that since Google purchased the NIK collection, not a lot has been done with it. By not a lot, I mean outside of making it free, they have not updated a single thing.
However, this is not such a bad thing as the plugin is well made and while an update would be welcomed, not quite needed at this point. This should not put you off from downloading it and adding it to your lightroom arsenal. It can help in a pinch and could make the difference between a boring photo and one that really has some pop. Before we get into the secrets there are a few things that you should know about the collection.
What NIK is NOT
I recently saw a discussion about the NIK collection recently and I realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about the collection. Some people thought that it was similar to lightroom (it is not) and others thought that it was a glorified set of crappy filters (it is much more than that). What you should be thinking is that the NIK COLLECTION is a set of tools to help you enhance your photos. They came out before lightroom and even photoshop could produce decent HDR and they added a lot more versatility when it came to editing black and white images. However, it is not the be all and end all if you are thinking that you can save some money by just using the NIK collection.
What NIK is NOW
The NIK collection is made up of 7 different plugins that work from both Lightroom and Photoshop. Each of the 7 plugins have a drastically different use, but the main thing that you should take away from this is that they only enhance your photo. By that I mean that the heavy lifting of sharpening and other basic adjustments should be done to the image either before or after. As of March 25th 2016, google made the entire collection free. This is good news for many of you who are looking for a decent HDR or noise reduction plugin.
Secret #1 Fake Fall
One of the little known filters inside of color Efex Pro 4 is “Indian Summer” Great filter but misleading name. It sounds like a warming filter from Instagram but it most certainly is not. What Indian Summer does is change the colour of the leaves to fake autumn foliage. With a slight adjustment you can change the season instantly. While it may not be 100% perfect it’s main goal is to help in those times where you need the leaves to pop. However, if you have the time you can turn green leave read or yellow. Do make use of the control points (see the image above) as it will turn pine tree the same colour as the rest of the trees and that that will give away the effect. Use the control point to remove the effect on the unwanted areas.
Secret #2 Tilt Shift Miniature Effect
Analog Efex 2 is something of an enigma. What I believe was an attempt at making a instagram-like retro camera emulator turned out to be something more robust when they updated it. Once you have opened the plugin, click on the camera that you are using and it will bring up a menu with all of the effects in it. Click on Bokeh and then look on the left and you will see a circle and a square with dotted lines. Click that one and it will apply the tilt-shift effect. You can tweak it a bit but just don’t go too crazy. You want to make it as believable as possible.
Secret #3 Realistic HDR
HDR has a bad reputation for making your eyes bleed unicorn poo and rightfully so. Many of my images do make people want to vomit rainbows. However, NIKs HDR Efex Pro actually is capable of making genuine realistic HDR images without the crazy halos and weird dark spots that other HDR editors make. It takes a little fine tuning but the key is in your tone mapping. If you stay towards the realistic setting when it comes to the HDR effect, try to keep the depth around normal. Also note that the structure slider works a lot better than lightroom’s clarity slider.
Secret #4 The Detail Extractor
Again jumping to Color Efex Pro 4, the detail extract does what it say and a bit more. It enhances the detail but also allows you to adjust the color saturation and contrast to give an almost HDR-like effect using a single image. Again this may not be to everyone’s liking but it does appeal to people like myself who are always looking for a bit of pop from their images.
Secret #5 The Structure Slider
As I mentioned before that the structure slider works a lot like the clarity slider inside of Lightroom. However, I find that it works a lot better than Lightroom’s because it actually does what it’s supposed to do and that is add more structure and detail to the image. If you crank up the clarity slider too much it makes your image look post-apocalyptic thanks to the messed up contrast and desaturation. However, the structure slider actually enhances the image. You can find this slider in most of the plugins found in the collection. It really helps bring out the detail in the image.
Well, there you have it. There are many more secrets to learn in this free collection. Now if you are wanting to learn the basics of lightroom check out my tutorial by clicking the button below.
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