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