Old Macau and Color Efex Pro

I am the proud new owner of a full set of the NIK Collection of software filters. This was a free upgrade as a prior purchaser of Silver Efex Pro. Yesterday I watched a few of the tutorial videos online and then decided to give Color Efex a go. I selected a shot taken recently in Macau. A Chinese herbal medicine shop, taken from the street.

Firstly I applied the following settings to the original file. Its not quite a bell curve histogram but not too bad.

File Settings

File Settings

This is what it looked like: (click for larger image)

Old-Macau-original

What I wanted was to see if Color Efex could bring out more using the filter called Detail Extractor. Without faffing about too much this is what it produced:

With Detail Extractor

With Detail Extractor

It seems to have muted the tones somewhat and boosted the clarity. Of course you can change the opacity of the filter and you can superimpose other filters or tinker with the file again after going back into CS6. The filter is in a new layer and you can easily delete it if you don’t like it in retrospect. To me it is bordering on a slightly grungy look that you get from badly executed HDR processing.

Here is an alternative process, using Alien Skin Exposure 4 and the Kodachrome 25 (sharp) filter. This is currently my favourite for natural history shots – the flower I photographed on Yim Tin Tsai was put through this one.

Kodachrome 25 (Sharp) Filter. Alien Skin Exposure 4

Kodachrome 25 (Sharp) Filter. Alien Skin Exposure 4

The easiest place to see the impact is the wooden panelling above the door way. Here the differences are most marked. Elsewhere they are more subtle. The Color Efex has dragged more out of the shadows than K25, which is nice but I could have rectified that with a simple curves adjustment on the K25 layer.

It is really a matter of personal preference. These layers however do make the files much bigger. My original file is 29mb. The Color Efex file is 235mb. You can flatten the file but then you can’t go back and play with it again later. I flattened the K25 file down to 727kb. Quite a space saving even on a 1 terabyte external drive.

I can see uses for the NIK  filters and lots of opportunities for experimentation but I suspect it will be Silver Efex Pro 2 that will remain my favourite filter, for B&W conversions. Any thoughts appreciated and apologies to those who are bored by the technical stuff.

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22 thoughts on “Old Macau and Color Efex Pro

  1. The Empress is well Em-pressed – I’m afraid the science/maths part freaks me out but it was fun to see the process using the different filters and the last picture is definitely sharper and appears more detailed. I like the colour too.

    I’ve been playing about with my macro this morning. A tiny toad in the outside bathroom was my subject. Unfortunately they are not all in focus so I need to ask Master Toad if he would mind posing again.

  2. I have used ColorEFex 4 for a few months and find it invaluable in various ways. My most used “filter” is Pro Contrast. Tonal Contrast is another favourite. Of course, Silver Efex 2 is my go to B&W conversion tool. However, I have never used Photoshop and cannot make any comparisons. Like any software there needs to be a lot of experimentation and this new ColorEfex4 makes it extremely easy(and reversible until you save).
    I would like to expound on this but I was out shooting at four this morning(now nearly 11PM) and need to stare at the back of my eyelids for a few hours.
    Happy Easter to you and yours!

    • Barry, Steve Gingold said much the same to me about favourite filters so those are two I need to get to grips with quickly. I am used to using control points so I can use them selectively I guess. I like how these integrate into Photoshop.

      Have a very happy Easter.

  3. I like the pic a lot. The (25) filter for sharpening produced the best clarity and color. I went back and forth over these pic 4-5 times. I wish that I had the time to learn all of the applications that can be used but I am doing good to get photograph and post thus far.

    Tonight I was going to work on spring blossoms from my yard. I could not get my pics over to the media file of WP. It seems I’ve got folders that came straight out of hell for when I try to open them there is nothing but mumbo jumbo looking back at me. I’m not sure if the virus did that, or the Windows 8 which I have no idea why it wants me to download the mess.I also am now using Google chrome as my primary browser so maybe my little ole computer is saying enough already. 🙂 I did not click on anything. I can go to my opening screen and click on pictures and see every folder and see the photos inside.

    But I will get the young dude to help me along with. Costco, I don’t know when my nightmares will end. I get into some of the d—- situations with this computer. 🙂

    Anyway, don’t worry about replying to my computer problems.or any of my other ramblings. People are, I’m sure,sick and tired of reading about my never ending problems. .

    • Yvonne, you are preaching to the converted when it comes to the frustrations of using PCs. I resort to the help line or daughter number 2, whichever is easier to reach. In honesty the Apple help line is extremely good and on the one occasion when things got really, really, bad, they escalated my problem through several layers until I found someone who fixed the issue. And they have never charged me a penny. I doubt if it is “user error” and I hope they fix it for you asap.Good luck. Hang in there.

      • Not for support. No matter how old the laptop or phone they have never charged me. I also dropped my iPhone for the umpteenth time recently and the back shattered. They replaced it about 20 minutes later and charged me less than 20 quid equivalent. I just walked in, the guy took it off me, came back 5 minutes later – looked like new. I think the phone is awful by the way but it synchs everything with my 2 MacBooks, and 2 iPads. But I bought Mrs. Ha a Samsung Galaxy something or other for her birthday (rather early) and we are testing that now to see how we like it to Apple. Who knows we may end up going Korean.

      • Just unbelievable. The cost of replacing my logicboard that was a known problem was more than a cheap HP to keep me going. The logicboard replacement took months. I suspect it was sent away.

        I rang Apple support about a totally simple issue and got no help. I think there was a three month free support line. I wrote some letters to both Spain and Ireland and received no response.

        The forums are a good source of info though.

        Regardless of all that, I am totally Appled out. An old iMac, a MacBookPro, two iPhones at one point before one got stolen.

        I guess it depends how you want to use the ‘phone. I can’t get apps here in Gib, so I use it for texting, ‘phone, some camera shots and emails. Occasionally I browse when in Spain and wish I hadn’t when Iook at the balance on my saldo. Oh and I use the weather, and the calculator, and the timer for using the pressure cooker, and the alarm, and ok I use it alot.

      • Thank you for the words of assurance. I was so put out last night I had just about talked myself into putting an end to my blog. Then I thought about Val and how she has gone out of her way to help me. We have become emails friends and I value that very much. So I reasoned that she might be a bit peeved with me if I quit since she has given me so much advice and fixed my blog for me when it was a mess. She had it done in a very short time.

        You are lucky to have daughter number 2 to help you.It is also a good thing when you have free tech support which I had with the new computer. But is was a matter of communication.

  4. What I found interesting, apart from the lesson in post-processing, was that you actually need to blow up the pictures to really see the difference between them. Or I did anyway. And doing that the third one does look good. I’m not a fan of HDR anyway, I like nice stark photos and the whacky colours in it (sorry for the non-technical term) just don’t appeal to me.

    My post-processing is extremely complex. It is, on the odd occasion I do it, boost saturation and boost contrast (a bit like your atmospheric shot of the village where I think I recall you boosted the sat). I should learn a bit more about it, but I don’t seem to have the time (!) or the patience. I’m thinking I should learn how to use the camera first, and then something else gets in the way, and, and, and …… *fades off quietly into the distance*

    • You’ll have to speak up, we can’t hear you.

      In honesty a lot of these software suites are doing all the complex bits for you. The trouble comes when you don’t like what they think you should like or you only want bits of it. Then you need to pick’n’mix or get into deeper waters. Its entirely optional. And of course you can just shoot jpegs and take what the camera gives you. Photography can be as simple or as complex as you (or I) choose.

      • That would indeed be the trouble. I want to be in charge, although I fail miserably with my Hals (Apple laptop and ‘phone) who fortunately are so thinking they informed me of the wretched hour forward for BST or whatever it is called in Europe. Of course I only shoot jpegs, raw has a rather different meaning to me. I need a quick pic to record a moment, although I would prefer some to be better than they are. I guess I am a rather simple person.

  5. I don’t know the software you’re talking about – is it something that goes with your camera or is it a program like Lightroom or Photoshop?

    If you use Photoshop, you’ll have access to the blend modes, yes? So, here’s a tip: duplicate the background layer twice. On one of them use Overlay and on the other use Screen. Adjusst the opacities of both layers til they’re how you want them. Those achieve similar effects to what you have above. I rely heavily on Overlay for my photocolouring adjustments when I’ve finished the main work. There – I gave you one of my ‘secrets’. *grins*

    • Thanks Val. These are plug-ins for PS, LR or Aperture but can be used stand alone. I shall try your secret tomorrow. Sadly I have no secrets to trade. I am an Adobe dunce 😦

  6. I have no experience to compare Alien Skin, but I think with a little more time you will like using ColorEfex. Combining filters rather than using one alone can make a difference. When you worked with Detail Extractor did you make adjustments with the contrast and saturation sliders? I don’t use the very often and usually just as a targeted adjustment. The contrast filters are very helpful.
    I will join you in the dunce corner with our caps as I have yet to learn LR. 😦

  7. Well- gotta jump in here. Val is one smart cookie and I’ve seen some of her work. She works magic on old photos or new ones. Very impressive. Now If if were as smart as she I could use her techniques but I am sort of like “roughly” I am satisfided with my pics if they are sharp but not as i would like so that depends on the better glass in the lens and all of that is in the future- maybe or maybe not.

  8. Sorry about the typo. That is supposed to be satisfied instead of satisfided. 🙂 Yep I got those smileys down thanks to you Andrew, plus a few other bloggers that were trying to help this old dumb a—!

  9. The Nik software collection is definitely a good tool to have in your box. I use Color Efex Pro (tonal contrast) on most of my images, as a starting point.

    Have you used Tony Kuyper’s actions? They’re another valuable set of actions and while they require a bit of learning, they’re definitely worth the effort.

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