Nik Collection is a plugin for photo editing apps. However, many beginning photographers have difficulty in understanding how it works, is it free or paid, and how does it compliment other photo editing apps. In this article, I will seek to clarify how Nik Collection works and how to use Nik Collection.
What Is Nik Collection?
Nik Collection is a series of plugins that you install on your computer or Mac. You use Nik Collection plugins to enhance your photos so they look better. The plugins are very powerful and give you great control of how you can edit your photos. One of the features that make Nik Collection powerful is the ability to create precise masks very quickly using control points to create a selection mask. You can change things like tonality, color, sharpness and so on using sliders to enhance specific parts of your image.
Which Plugins are Included In Nik Collection?
Nik Collection includes 7 plugins which each have their specific purpose:
Color Efex Pro is a set of 55 comprehensive filters for controlling color, tonality, creative effects, that you can mix as you wish and apply to your images to achieve the artistic look you seek. You can apply the filters to the whole image, or limit each of them by using selection points.
Silver Efex Pro is a powerful black and white workflow plugin. Many expert photographers find to be one of the best tools for processing black and white images. Silver Efex Pro also includes 20 film emulations. Film emulations allow you to get that old black and white film look to your photos with little work. The power lies in the versatility and the ability to fine-tune the controls that matter for creating beautiful black and white images. Silver Efex Pro is one of absolute my favorite apps when it comes to processing black and white images and far supersedes Lightroom in my point of view.
Viveza is great for controlling light, color, and tonality in your photos. You can use Viveza to change the color of an object, enhance the amount of visible details in your main subject. Viveza is a powerful way to work with local adjustments because of the control points, which makes it very easy to create precise masks so the local adjustments only affect what it should.
Analog Efex Pro is a collection of different tools inspired by the analog age gathered into this plugin. It allows photographers to emulate darkroom techniques and old camera kits to get a perfect retro look.
HDR Efex Pro is a plugin that allows you to automatically blend multiple bracketed exposures into a single tone-mapped HDR image. You can achieve both subtle HDR looks with enhanced visible details or get full artistic HDR expression if that is what you prefer.
Sharpener Pro is a plugin that helps you sharpen your images no matter which stage of the post-processing your image is in. The plugin is fantastic for pre-sharpening, creative sharpening, and output sharpening, with more controls than many other photo editing apps offer.
DFine helps you combat noise in your images. The automatic noise profile in Dfine is very precise, making using the plugins almost a one-click job.
How Does Nik Plugins Fit Into a Photo Editing Workflow?
You can use one plugin as you please or include several plugins into your workflow, depending on the type of image you work on and what result you are looking for.
However, the recommended workflow or order of using the plugins is:
- Begin by applying the Raw Presharpener using Sharpener Pro 3.
- Next, use DFine to tackle noise issues.
- If you want to control tonal values, light, and color take your image to Viveza.
- If you want to apply special looks or effects add filter enhancements using Color Efex Pro.
- Convert to black and white image using Silver Efex Pro 2, if you want to process the image as a black and white photo.
- Finally, you can apply output sharpening using Sharpener Pro 3 to optimize the image for the correct viewing medium, like print, screen and so on.
If you want to apply a retro look, you can do so with Analog Efex Pro, which is best used at any time after removing noise (using DFine). For HDR image processing using HDR Efex Pro, you should do so right after noise removal (in DFine) for the best results.
You can find an in depth coverage of how to build an entire workflow using Nik Collection here.
What Photo Editing Software Support Nik Collection?
The updated Nik Collection version by DXO supports Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom. Furthermore, since the 2018 version Affinity Photo is also supported. From personal experience, I also know that Nik Collection by DXO works flawlessly from Capture One Pro 12, On1 Photo RAW 2019, and of course DXO’s own PhotoLab.
Can Nik Plugins Be Used As a Standalone?
Yes, Nik Collection can be used as a standalone product. However, you will get the smoothest workflow if you open your images from your preferred images editor.
Since Nik software collection of plugins intended to plug into other software, it doesn’t have features like image library management, a crop tool or rotating tool. It was never meant to have it.
You can run each plugin directly as a standalone product and open a specific image from the plugin. However, you will soon miss the basic image handling features that you have in your normal photo editor. Nik Collection plugins are not intended to be full photo editors.
How To Use Nik Collection from Lightroom?
From within Lightroom, you need to browse and find the image you want to edit.
Then right-click it and go to “Edit in…”, and then choose which of the plugins you want to edit the image in from the list that appears. You can choose Edit in… both from the Library module and the Develop Module in Lightroom.
In this way, you can make the global settings in Lightroom before taken the result into one of the Nik Collection plugins for further enhancement.
Note that to preserve a non-destructive workflow when you edit an image in one of the Nik plugins you will see a dialogue, where you choose which format to save the edited copy in, so the original RAW file from Lightroom remains intact.
Any additional edits from Lightroom allow you to edit a new copy or continue to work on the first copy you made. After making all the changes in the Nik plugin you have chosen to use, you click apply in the plugin to be taken back to Lightroom. The enhanced image already added to your Lightroom catalog just next to the original image. Using Nik Collection from software like Capture One Pro, On1 Photo RAW, Luminar and so on works similar to using it from Lightroom.
How To Use Nik Collection in Photoshop?
If you use Nik Collection from Photoshop, you can access it from Filters > Plugins Nik Collection > and then chose the plugin you wish to use.
Each time you open a Nik plugin and apply changes it is saved as a new layer. This makes it is easy to just hide or delete a layer in case you want to disregard the change to the image made by the Nik plugin.
Nik Collection also comes with its own Photoshop Panel, that allows you to access the plugins and then just brush in the results gradually. However, if you know Photoshop, you can also easily create a black layer mask on the layer created by the plugin and then gradually paint in the effect with a white brush using a low opacity.
Is it Free?
Nik Collection is no longer free. The new version of Nik Collection costs $69. Google acquired Nik Software back in 2012 and drastically reduced the price for the software to $149 from the previous price point was around $500. However, Google decided to discontinue the Nik Collection plugins and therefore made it free. Additionally they also stopped developing the plugins, adapting it to new software versions, and stopped offering support to existing users. The French company DXO later bought the Nik Collection from Google and updated the software to fit the newest versions of supported software.
How To Download Nik Collection?
You can buy and download the latest version of Nik Collection at DXO’s website.
What Are Nik Collection Presets and Recipes?
In some of the Nik Collection plugins like Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Analog Efex Pro, and HDR Efex Pro, you can save your preferred settings as presets. In Color Efex Pro though it is called recipes, because you save the settings from multiple filters as a recipe for getting the specific look. You can export and import your presets and recipes to share them between your devices with Nik Collection installed. You can also buy professional Nik Collection presets and Recipes and import them into the different plugins. Note that you cannot use Nik Collection Presets and recipes in Lightroom or any other photo editing app.
As you can see above, with the right presets or recipes you can get powerful results from just a single click. Afterwards, just modify the result to your liking.
How To Export Nik Collection Presets and Recipes?
To export presets and recipes, please do the following:
- Start by opening one of your photos in the plug-in you wish to export presets / recipes from.
- Find the custom preset or recipe, that you want to export. Hover the cursor over it until the icons appear. Then click the arrow icon in the corner.
- Select the destination folder to where you want to save the exported preset / recipe to. Exported presets and recipes will have the file-name suffix “.np”.
- Now the exported recipes and presets are ready to be copied and imported into a plug-in on one of your other devices. Or if you need to re-import them on your computer after a crash.
- These exported preset and recipe files are now ready to be imported into the plug-ins.
How To Import Presets and Recipes?
In order to import presets into Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro or Analog Efex Pro you should:
- Begin by opening the plugin you wish to add presets or recipes to.
- Next, go to “Imported” in the left side preset panel. (If you want to add recipes to Color Efex Pro, click “Recipes” before clicking “Import” in the left-side recipe panel.)
- Now you need to click the + icon right next to where it says “Imported”.
- Navigate to the folder with the presets that fits i.e. Silver Efex Pro.
- Select the .np preset files that you want to import, and click OK.
- Now the presets will be imported and available in the “Imported” pane of the right side panel.
Learn more about importing presets and recipes and common issues at the bottom of this product page Nik Presets Packages.
Nik Collection plugins are part of many professional photographer’s workflows for a reason. The plugins offer more controls that other photo editors lack. Furthermore, the U-point technology, where you use control points to create a mask is extremely easy and fast to use. This makes it a set of plugins that, in my opinion, should be part of many photographers post-processing workflow.