The Nik Collection celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year (created around 1995) although throughout its 25-years it has had somewhat of a bumpy road. It started off as a premium priced suite under Nik Software before it was acquired by Google in 2012 where it was sold for a reduced price, and eventually development was stopped and it was released for free. In late 2017 DxO acquired the Nik Collection and continued development.
The latest version (as of the creation of this blog post) was the Nik Collection 3, this consists of eight tools which include Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, Dfine and a brand new plug-in, Perspective Efex. With each of the tools working with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic and DxO Photolab as well as working across a range of third party imaging tools. It should be noted that the Nik Collection no longer includes PhotoLab which was split out in part due to complicated upgrade routes.
Among many of the new features within the Nik Collection 3 is the ability to work with Multi-Page TIFF images which in essence stores the original image as well as the edited image in the same file. This lets you undo your changes however, the trade-off is that it means the file-sizes are much larger.
Analog Efex Pro – Adds film-era camera, lens and film simulations to digital images.
Analogue Efex Pro is a film and motion effect tool which lets you apply film-era camera, lens and film simulations to your digital images. With this plugin you can apply a range of simulations to your digital images which go far beyond just that of a certain type of film. In the image below I have applied a black and white wet plate simulation to a landscape however, your ability to customize is almost unlimited with the ability to apply basic adjustments, lens distortions, bokeh, zoom and rotate blur, motion blur, double exposures, light leaks, dirt & scratches, photo plate, lens vignette, film type, multi lens, frames and levels & curves as well as combinations of these.
Color Efex Pro – Package of filters with lots of different effects e.g. HDR.
Color Efex Pro is a collection of color correction tools as well as creative filters designed to improve or enhance your photos, this can include through simple improvements or far more creative (i.e. HDR type styles). The software presents a range of “recipes” which are collections of filters. Filters vary but can include things like B&W Conversion, Contrast, Duplex, Skin Softener and much more. The power of this plugin is when combining multiple filters into a recipe which can be either a pre-defined recipe or a collection of your own filters which you save as your own recipe. In addition the plugin also includes the control point technology which allows you to apply filters in specific sections of your image rather than globally.
In the below image, I have applied the “Warm Sunset” recipe without any changes.
HDR Efex Pro – Specialized for processing HDR images.
HDR Efex Pro is a specialized tool to create natural looking HDR images from exposure brackets, or even with tone mapping and single images. HDR Efex Pro does not really compare to some of the dedicated HDR tools that currently exist, but then given you are getting a significant number of plugins for a similar price to a dedicated tool I suspect this might be perfectly fine for those people who want to do the occasional HDR image but don't want to spend a significant amount on dedicated tools which would likely be used sparingly.
The image below is a night show which was captured with a Nikon D610 and Nikor 24-120mm, the preset being shown is “08 – Dark”
Silver Efex Pro – Black and white conversion.
Silver Efex Pro is a black and white conversion plugin and is well known within the Black and White Photography space. Many have this misnomer that Black and White Photography is just about the absence of color when in reality Black and White is far more than a lack of color but rather also tonality, contrast and a range of other important factors. Silver Efex Pro captures more of those subtle factors to give you some of the best black and white conversions around.
Sharpener Pro – Image sharpening.
The Sharpener Pro plugin is an image sharpening tool within the Nik Collection. This works by pulling out just the right amount of detail from your images to ensure the photos are perfectly prepared for you to adjust and then guides you through the process of applying the right amount of sharpening. The power of this tool is the Selective Sharpening which allows you to change the amount of sharpening in a specific location. When compared to dedicated tools like Topaz Sharpen AI it is less powerful however, similar to the HDR Efex Pro given this is included in the bundle, I am sure many will be happy to use it and get more than enough use out of the utility.
In the below image I applied default sharpening to a picture of a Lizard for Display, there are lots of other Sharpening outputs though. Its hard to see as I did not zoom in but if you look at the Loupe (bottom right corner) then you can see the before (left) and right (after). One thing to be cautious about with many sharpening tools is that they can tend to introduce a little bit of what looks like noise, so often less is more :).
Dfine – Noise Reduction.
Define is a noise reduction tool, which is based on a wavelet noise reduction algorithm. This takes an image and transformed it into a map of spacial frequencies and then attempts to identify and remove the unwanted noise without impacting on the sharpness or presence of your digital photos. Similar to some of the other utilities I don't think this matches the ability of the dedicated and/or AI powered Noise reduction tools that exist on the market however, given this is in a package that is a similar cost to many of those tools I think it still has its purpose. One thing to watch out for with noise reduction tools is that if you push them too far, it can reduce the sharpness of your images so as always, less is often more :).
In the image below which was captured with a Nikon D610 and Tamron 15-30mm, I used the Define 2 plugin with its default / automatic settings. I think it has done a fairly good job, if I was going to adjust this I would probably reduce the noise reduction slightly as you have lost some detail out of the bridge (see bottom Right Loupe, Left = Before, Right = After) but nonetheless I think it still did a fairly good job.
Viveza – Color control.
Viveza is an interesting tool within the Nik Collection, this is essentially a tool that lets you adjust color either globally or using the control point technology. This control point technology allows you to very specifically adjust color in specific parts of an image, adjusting things like shadow color, warmth, hue and more. I have seen this described as dodge and burn but for color.
In the picture below, I took this to the extreme to show you what it can do. I selected a part of the pink / purple and adjusted the brightness, contrast, saturation, warmth and hue. This photo looks terrible but it does show how you can very specifically select a given color and change it accordingly. You can see more detail in the Loupe where Left = Before, Right = After.
Perspective Efex – Correcting perspective issues in images.
Perspective Efex is a new plugin to the Nik Collection 3 which lets you apply lens corrections, make perspective corrections automatically and manually, correct volumetric distortion from wide angle lenses, add edges into your frame and also provides a tilt-shift miniature tool. It should be noted that the lens corrections only work if the plugin is provided with an unedited image (e.g. RAW) from the host program.
In the first image it shows the changes made using primarily automatic corrections to volume deformation, perspective, horizon and crop. The left image is the before whilst the right image is the after. Although the changes are subtle you can see it has changed the crop, straitened the buildings and more. For fun the second image is the same image but with the miniature effect applied.
The Nik Collection celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year (created around 1995). The latest version (as of the creation of this blog post) was the Nik Collection 3, this consists of eight tools which include Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, Dfine and a brand new plug-in, Perspective Efex. With each of the tools working with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic and DxO Photolab as well as working across a range of third party imaging tools. It should be noted that the Nik Collection no longer includes PhotoLab which was split out in part due to complicated upgrade routes.
The Nik Collection is known for its four main tools; Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro and to a lesser extent Sharpener Pro, Dfine and Perspective Efex. I have found the most impressive to be Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro and the rest to a lesser extent. That is not to say that those tools are not useful or impressive, it is just that when you compare them to dedicated tools (e.g. Aurora HDR, Topaz Sharpen AI, Topaz Denoise AI) they are not as powerful but then again, the Nik Collection also includes these tools and the rest at a very competitive price which in some cases comes in at or less than one of the dedicated tools. If you are not doing lots of Sharpening, Denoise, HDR and more then it might make sense to forego the dedicated tools and just utilize what is within the Nik Collection.
I would happily recommend the Nik Collection to those who are interested in expanding their photo editing arsenal, especially those looking to emulate old style looks, black and white conversions and more. If you are interested in trialing or purchasing the Nik Collection, you can so do using any of the links in this article, or here.