Catch Up Post #4: NIK Suite

When it comes to post-processing I always start with Lightroom 4, and I have my workflow. I import, apply the Camera Standard color profile to everything I import, and then I start tagging the ones I want to work on and export out. I’ve always wanted to see where Lightroom was perceived to fall short and one area where I figure there would be some improvement would be in Black and White post-processing. I had heard great things about NIK Software’s Silver Efex Pro but I wasn’t ready to spend $200 for what would amount to be a Lightroom Plugin for what I use it for. 

And then Google acquired NIK Software. And I knew that was my sign I wouldn’t be purchasing Silver Efex Pro.

Let me tell you right now. I HATE Google. I despise Google. I haven’t used Google in nearly eight years. I use Bing, which is really the same engine in Yahoo, or I use Ask.com, but I would say in the past eight years I used Bing or its predecessor Live.com 99% of the time. It was a learning curve at first, but now I am an expert search engine user. It doesn’t hurt Bing has gotten much better.

Why do I hate Google? I’ll tell you why. All of it goes back to April 2005 which would reassure me it really has been eight years. And really it started the day before April 2005. March 31. I was just accepted for a transition internally within my company to a different and better position. One of my co-workers congratulated me on my acceptance and told me he was interested in seeing my résumé so he could craft his to be advantageous for submission for a similar position. I was walking around with an inflated ego at the time so I gladly gave him a copy. The next day was April 1. April Fools Day. And my co-worker decided to post my résumé to every big job website on the planet. With my real address, my real e-mail address, and my real home phone number. He informed the logic within those sites I was willing to take a massive decrease in salary compared to what I was earning at the time and I was willing to relocate, take contract work… Everything which a desperate person with good qualifications would want. I came home on April 1, not knowing this had happened to a full 20 messages on my home answering machine and 26 unique numbers on my caller ID.

Needless to say, my life was a bit busy those next few days, and that wasn’t because my 3 and 1 year old were both still in diapers. I had to change my phone numbers, my e-mail address, and I had to get all of the job websites to remove the résumés which wasn’t enough as most of the big search engines also have cached information and headhunters utilize this when they’re really desperate to fill a spot. Live.com, Yahoo, Ask.com, they all took my résumés out of their cache as soon as I asked. Google didn’t answer my calls. Google didn’t answer my e-mails. Headhunters still sent me mail, they were persistent enough to call my new unlisted and unpublished number. For weeks I got a call every day on average. Some days I’d get a break. Some days I’d get three calls. It took me hiring a lawyer to get Google to remove the résumés from their cache. A bit before then I had made the decision never to use Google again.

So fast forward seven years and a bunch of months later. Google acquired NIK Software earlier in the year. Then they pull a nasty trick and put the whole NIK Suite on sale. The NIK Suite (HDR Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2, Sharpener Pro 3, Dfine 2) was made available at $149.99 base, where there a million coupons online to drive the price down even further.

It took me a couple of days but I figured I was ripping them off at the price I bought the whole suite at compared to the price I almost bought just Silver Efex for, so my justification was made.

…And I have to admit, I like what I see so far.

Comp
SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/250s, +1EV
Post-Processed on the left with Lightroom, exported into Color Efex Pro 4 to produce the result on the right.

The layout of the tools are simple. Most of the tools have suggested filter settings and then you can tweak those how you see fit.

One of these days I’ll post a walkthrough but since I am hoping to post seven times today I want to just show some results. Here is Matt and Ashley redone using Silver Efex 2:

MattAshley
SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/80s
Post-Processed on the left with Lightroom, exported into Silver Efex Pro 2 to produce the result on the right.

One program I am having fun playing with is HDR Efex 2. I feel like I haven’t touched the surface of what I can do yet, but it is fun making ordinary landscapes look like Rockwell paintings. Here is my house with the “Structured 1” filter applied. No other changes.

compHouse
SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/1000s
Post-Processed on top with Lightroom, exported into HDR Efex Pro 2 to produce the result on bottom.

I haven’t done all of everything I can do quite yet. But prospects are up there. My first instinct was to go into my vast library of photos and redo all of them. And I did redo some… There’s more to talk about here but I also hope to post seven times today.

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