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The Nik Nik effect


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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The Nik Nik effect

30 Dec 2020 9:33AM   Views : 544 Unique : 337


There are things that bring us secret joy, or secret shame, or even secret loathing, and I still twitch every time I have to write the name of my favourite and most useful plugin. Nik Efex. It gets worse if Iím working on an image that I donít want to convert to monochrome Ė Nik Color EfexÖ

OK, thatís the negative bit over. Letís deal with why I love the package, and the bits of it that I use. First recommended to me by Moira (mrswoollybill) for conversions to monochrome quite a few years ago, there are several different elements in Nik, and I routinely use three of them, with occasional use of other parts.


Nik Silver Efex is the mono conversion part, and offers a large number of presets, all of which are modifiable and adjustable, with the option to save your own customised versions. They range from a pretty straightforward mono conversion to high key, low key, pinhole and high contrast, all with twenty different tones and borders available. Again, I emphasise that everything is customisable, including the width and spread of the borders, so itís important to look and experiment if your learning curve is going to be less extended than mine has been.

I also use the output sharpening module, though only when I am posting smaller images on other sites than Ephotozine. A downside is that the default, after using any module, is a PSD file, rather than a JPG, so you need to convert for posting on the web! The default level of sharpening is excessive to my eyes, so I set up a custom form with less aggressive settings to avoid the gritty, wiry look that says ĎLook at me! Iíve been sharpened!í


Nik Color Efex addresses various possible types of style processing, such as detail extraction (bringing out nuances of colour and tone: used to excess it makes everything blotchy), adding fill light, or even a reasonable simulation of a Polaroid transfer. (Back in the days of two-part Polaroid film, very interesting effects were possible if you pressed a fresh Polaroid print against a damp sheet of paper, transferring the dyes for a grainy and imperfect version Ė it works a treat on images that lack sharpness, for instance).

Analog Efex simulates badly-processed colour film, and is occasionally useful to give a retro look. Overused, it pales rapidly, just like cheap colour emulsionÖ I very rarely use the part of it that adds scratches and water stains to the picture Ė Iíve spent enough time in the darkroom avoiding them to dislike them intensely!

There are noise-suppression and presharpening modules that I simply havenít opened: they may well be very useful to some, but I find that Photoshop, Elements, Affinity and Gimp2 are entirely adequate Ė and Iíve never cared much about noise and grain!


Thereís an HDR module, which can be used (Iím told) to combine bracketed images for a good result, though I think itís more often used to spoil entirely good images with a faux HDR look Ė usually lacking good blacks and with a heavy blue cast. If it floats your visual boat, thatís fine Ė but it switches off the bilge pumps and knocks a hole below the waterline in mine.

In most of the modules, thereís a feature called ĎControl Pointsí allowing you to make localised adjustments to brightness, contrast and structure. This may seem very limiting, given that the adjustment is to a circular area, but in practice, itís very useful. Thereís also a brush facility in some of the modules, to allow selective application (though at present, I canít see how this differs from using Layers in PS Ė probably because I am very much a Layers novice). The combination of control points and the brush gives additional options and control (Iím told).


Nik has had a chequered career, starting life with the eponymous Nik Corporation, and sold to Google in 2012. At one point, Google sort of forgot about it, and stopped developing it, and it was, for a while, free to download: and in 2017, DxO acquired the software and started further development, leading to an updated version a couple of years ago, and a third version recently, adding perspective control tools that adjust for lens distortion. I havenít pursued this because most of my lenses donít distort much, and there are pretty decent controls in Photoshop if I need them.

Nik operates as a standalone, or as a plugin with Photoshop, Elements and Affinity, though the latter may need a bit of fiddling about. I think that the previous (Google-era) version of Nik is still available as a free download, and to be frank, thatís got most of the really good stuff in it Ė I only upgraded last year after losing my previous version during a computer upgrade. There are more presets in the second version, but the best advice is play with the original, and see whether it works for you before upgrading.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
30 Dec 2020 9:36AM
There are too many effects to even scratch the surface of the range in a blog. As I see it, the package is worth having for even half a dozen effects that you really like and use regularly: the top image (Victoria98) shows toning and a border, the horse images are before and after using the 'detail extractor' filter. My friend Lydia was posing on Cannock Chase in high summer, but Nik has turned the foliage autumnal. Tinkerbella has had the 'pinhole' look applied, and the final gruesome image of me covered in clay and holding a remote release has my favourite 'look' from Silver Efex, a sepia tint with a retro border.

So glad I bought the set...
Chrism8 Avatar
Chrism8 16 1.1k 34 England
30 Dec 2020 10:15AM
And I thought you were enhancing your complexion John Grin LOL
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
30 Dec 2020 10:51AM
I must see what Imagenomic and that portrait software do to me - with and without clay...
James124 Avatar
James124 Plus
8 81 59 Portugal
30 Dec 2020 11:21AM
I love the Nik Collection. I use it as a fully integrated plug in with DxO Photolab. I use mostly SilverEfex and ColorEfex and all my recent b&w uploads have been done in SilverEfex
The filters in ColourEfex are effectively layers and can be turned on or off and take opacity adjustments too, very useful. The control points for local adjustments I've found easy to use once you get used to them.
For the other modules there is some overlap between Photolab and Nik, particularly as Photolab also uses control points.
I've just done a quick test with Pro sharpener - the file saved as a TIFF, but that's how I've set up my program.
Perhaps we could start a Nik group on the forum ?
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
30 Dec 2020 11:39AM
I use Nik lots as a plug in within Photoshop 2021, ( the old version I might add, which is still available of you look hard enough ) It does have a draw back though, it will crash P/S if you don't use the work around.
Colour Efex, occasionally Silver and the output sharpening...used carefully.
The HDR facility I find a touch on the harsh side of things but, using the resulting layer, it can be toned down somewhat.
The 'darken/lighten centre' is handy, again used carefully in moderation but you can always check the effects you have applied by clicking on the compare button at the top and remove/add some of the effects with the control points.
Still, most other post processing I do is done in Photoshop and my HDR stuff is combined in Lightroom.

Don't think I could do without Nik, if it ever stops doing what it does I guess i will have to pay for and download the new version Sad

It's like any applied effect, done gently and carefully it can add lots of different things to your workflow.

SlowSong Avatar
SlowSong Plus
15 11.1k 30 England
30 Dec 2020 11:41AM
I find it most useful for split toning. So easy to do.
woolybill1 Avatar
woolybill1 Plus
16 39 79 United Kingdom
30 Dec 2020 11:44AM
That covers all bases in my books, John. Moira and I adopted NikEfex at the same time, using both paid and free versions; we have seen no reason to update.

I have made the odd foray into ColorEfex where the film simulations (only the 'modern' ones) can speed up processing; it has another use that I'll touch on later.
At first I spent a lot of time trying Analog Efex, but almost exclusively the Monochrome option into which the occasional colour version intrudes; as you mention, the frames, dust and scratches rapidly pall. The colour film elements only serve to remind me what drove me back to black & white. I still look in now and again but never stay long. My occasional peek into HDR Efex usually leaves me back where I began; I ignore the other modules.
Silver Efex has been my default b&w converter since it arrived on the scene; I'm sure it was recommended to me by another epz member. As you say, it is almost infinitely variable: choose the preset that most closely resembles the effect you want, then tweak to taste. I usually start with one of the High Structure presets or Film Noir 1; Fine Art High Key, Pinhole or Yellowed get an airing on occasion; then I try a film simulation (I have my favourites . . .), sometimes a colour filter. Every stage is almost infinitely modifiable.
I always Save As a TIFF; I'll often play with the result a bit more before making a jpeg conversion. So long as you flatten the Nik image it can be saved in any format you choose.
A last word on ColorEfex: As the output from the b&w module is actually a colour file, once I have assembled a week's sequence for posting I re-open all in PS, open the first in ColorEfex and apply a picture frame. Once that is saved a single click on the Filter column is enough to apply the same frame to each in turn . . .

If you have read so far you are very patient!
Thanks enormously for your blogs; all make absorbing reading.


P.S.: A tale to bore you:
Years ago an epz member made a comment more or less as follows: 'I see that you create your black and white photos using SilverEfex. Yet you call yourself a professional!!!'

I didn't and don't. He did, although the single photo he ever uploaded suggested to me that 'professional' meant 'knowing which way up to hold the camera'.
My press-photographer father would have given his eye teeth to possess the darkroom equivalent of NikEfex; time meant money meant effort. Oh, well . . . Wink

altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
30 Dec 2020 12:12PM
I downloaded Nik when it was free. I use it with Elements & look into detail extractor a lot on colour images, and use it but not to the extreme (except for my own doodlings that do not get published.!). When converting colour to b/w Viveza is very good and versatile, useful for finding a balanced contrast in IR - still a problem for me.
Generally I do not go into Analog as I havent found a 'look' that I like.
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 37 8 England
30 Dec 2020 5:51PM
Still need to experiment more with the Nik software, it is very user friendly but the downside for me is knowing where to stop. I usually end up with 4 or 5 versions and can't decide which one to use.
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 89 Norway
30 Dec 2020 6:07PM

Quote:...but the downside for me is knowing where to stop. I usually end up with 4 or 5 versions and can't decide which one to use.

That's my biggest problem, too...
chataignier Avatar
chataignier Plus
10 254 15 France
31 Dec 2020 1:39PM
+1 for Nik silver efex, I too use it a lot
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
1 Jan 2021 3:48PM
I generally just use the SilverEfex module. I intend to take a closer look at ColorEfex and AnalogEfex which should make it into a blog at some point. There are, as far as I recall, a small number of settings that could be promising. Long winter nights and Tier 4 could be the catalyst.
I had no issue installing the free version into Affinity and it doesn't matter whether I use a jpg or tif to start with the end result is a jpg or tif. If I want to do further processing such as bring back some colour for example with a sepia toned image I need to create a separate layer first before using Nik. That may be different in the new version. Either way Ctrl +J is your friend.

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