Here's another photo that I dabbled with, still with no clear idea of the entire range of possibilities of this software. This is a favourite image of mine, but brought down by being slightly over-exposed. (This was before I realised the value of shooting in RAW.)
Using only the Darken / Lighten Center filter, I improved the skin tones and detail on the dress.
Even though this type of correction is easily done in other ways in Photoshop, I used this to test whether I could use the nik Color Efex Pro filters for correction as well as enhancement.
APPROACHING THE SOFTWARE PROPERLY
The nik Color Efex Pro filter package comes with two PDF files. The first is a user guide and descriptive listing of each filter, and the second file is a sample book to show you what is achievable with the nik Color Efex Pro filters. The user guide is easy to follow and explains with clarity what can be achieved with these filters.
The nik filter can either be applied directly (through the Filter menu), or added as a Layer via the Automation Tools. When the effect is added as a layer, you can then brush it in to varying degrees via a layer mask. (Or via the Fill and Erase Tools, the effect can be applied to the entire image and then selectively removed.) Or you can press the Shift key while clicking on the filter you choose, and then the effect is immediately in place.
The preview screen works in real-time so that you can immediately see the effect of the filter, along with sliders that affect the filter's effect to various degrees. The preview panel is large and gives you a very good idea of how the effect will look, and you can also zoom in on the preview pane.The optimal range for every preset is shown as a subtle colour bar added to the slider. This recommended range is intended to help guide you in your choice of settings, but you can set it outside the range if you like the effect that you see on the preview screen. Numerical values can also be typed in. There are 4 single-click presets for each filter, so that you could save frequently used settings.
As you'd expect, there is a histogram display and image information dialogue available. Of great use is the extra histogram info and control at your fingertips in the advanced dialogue panel. Here you can set the controls for Protect Highlights, and for Protect Shadows. In this way you can bias the filters to specifically not blow your highlights, and / or retain shadow detail. A very useful tool.
Very importantly, nik Color Efex Pro allows you to work in layers. Thereby you can bring in the effect to a greater or lesser degree, and with the layer mask you can then obviously have the effect apply to only a specific area. ie, the application of these filters are quite versatile in how subtle or pronounced you want your desired effect to appear. Even if you're not all that au fait with Layers yet, it should be fairly easy to figure out what you need to do with the nik filters.
By now you shouldn't be surprised to learn that there is a User Defined Filter Option where you can customise and combine filters in ways that you prefer for future use.
After having played with the software for a few weeks now, I am very impressed with the software and the ways it can be used, from subtle enhancements and corrections to dramatically different looking photographs. Combining user-friendliness with the how elegantly powerful the software is, I'd have to highly recommend it for any photographer working in the digital medium.
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