In this post, I am going to look at other alternatives for editing your photos. First up is the Google Nik Collection.
You can download the software for free, for both Mac and Windows. However, Google has decided to no longer develop the software, so I'd recommend downloading it soon, just in case it no longer becomes available. I have used it over several years, and in the past, you had to pay quite a hefty amount to purchase it. It used to cost about $500! I think I bought it originally for quite a bit less than that, as part of some bundle (I think when I bought a flatbed scanner). Not so long ago, after Google took it over, they were charging $149 for it. I do remember that following a change of computers I somehow lost my install disc and needed to reinstall it. I contacted Google (who had only just taken it over and were still charging a fee for it) and they sent me a free copy! Well, I was of course, very happy. Great thing is, now everyone can get it for free.
If you do download the software, another great aspect about it is that you don't just get one program, you get a whole bunch of them; seven in fact! They are Analog Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Viveza, Sharpener Pro and Dfine. Taking a brief look at each, in turn, let's explore some of the features available to you in this comprehensive toolbox for the digital photographer looking to get the best out of their images.
Analog Efex ProThis program allows you to create images with the look of classic cameras, filters and lenses. Altogether, there are 14 tools available to help you achieve your desired look. Through the use of what are called 'control points,' you can selectively tweak your image using Basic Adjustments, Dirt & Scratches, Light Leaks, and Photo Plate Tools. In my experience, you can spend hours endlessly trying out the various tools and adjustments to create a unique result. You have been warned, if you get addicted, don't blame me!
Silver Efex ProIf you haven't guessed already, this one is for creating monochromatic effects (black and white). The software emulates almost 20 classic film types and you can tweak these even further using a variety of styles and effects. Again, the options are comprehensive and allow endless combinations. There is also a History Browser so you easily revert your image back to an earlier stage in the editing process.
HDR Efex ProDepending on your point of view, HDR images may or may not be your thing. Certainly, some folk seem to go for what I regard as 'over the top' effects that, to my eyes at least, look nothing like reality. However, like the rest of the collection, HDR Efex Pro offers several options and tools for tweaking your image. You are able to bring back lost highlights, open up shadows, and adjust tonality to achieve your desired result.There also a bunch of presets you can choose from as your starting point.
Color Efex ProColor Efex Pro come with 55 filters, allowing you to create a unique look. Again, with the use of control points, you can selectively tweak parts of your image, applying different filters to different parts. This part of the collection is the one to go to if you want to retouch your image, do colour correction or just apply some creative effects.
VivezaViveza is described as offering "Selectively adjust the colour and tonality of your images without complicated masks or selections" and it certainly offers plenty of options to do just that. You can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, red, green, blue, hue, and warmth. As with the other parts of the collection, you can also tweak your image selectively, offering almost endless possibilities.
Sharpener Pro is, of course, the part of the collection that offers options for sharpening your image. Using its various tools you can fine tune the sharpness of your image both globally and selectively. The Output Sharpener allows you to even fine tune your image for your printer or screen.
Last but not least, we come to Dfine. Dfine offers plenty of options to reduce noise in your image. You can apply noise reduction selectively to your image using, yes you guessed it, control points. this is probably an easier method than using layers and selective masks as you do in Photoshop. Many users will find it easier and that's probably why Nik chooses this method.
So, why not go ahead and download the software from here. Do it sooner rather than later as it may not be available forever.
In future posts, I will show you how to use each of these programs, with example images.