Being a novice photographer still, my images need "saving" many times over. Whereas I see the subject and composition in my mind when shooting, I still have some good ole Photography 101 skills to learn to insure the best exposure and sharpness. For a couple of years I worked with Photoshop CS 3 and 4 to try to learn and master the subtle tools to improve my images. Although I had some success, it was frustrating taking the time and energy to get to the outcome I desired. I tried a few other plug-ins over the past couple of years, but not until I ran across Nik Software was I truly "liberated"! I am not familiar with other contemporary tools in the market today, but I know with Nik Software, I can achieve pretty much what I want and I do it in about 90% of the time needed in other applications. Easy, fast and highly effective.
Below is my review of Nik Software. I encourage everyone to give it a try. You can download the demo at www.niksoftware.com. They also have excellent tutorials and videos to show how easy the products are to use. Although a bit pricey it pays for itself over and over again. It frees me to do more out in the field!! I hope you find this review useful.
Nik Software Products
Viveza 2: This is the easiest and best tool for improving the image in regard to selectively managing colors, light and saturation. By simply using their patented U-point technology, all you have to do is select a spot and adjust sliders to the desired effect. You can enhance the entire image, or you can be extremely selective in certain colors and light. No masking!!! A picture that would take my 5 minutes to mask and adjust now takes me 15 seconds (unless you get very detailed, then of course longer!). It is extremely easy to use and understand, although it takes a little time to learn how Viveza does the adjustments. You can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, structure, warmness and other RGB colors to meet the requirements. Every image I edit now goes through a pass on Viveza as I do shoot in RAW and I find Viveza provides more flexibility then the RAW Editor in Photoshop. I cannot live without this.
Color Efx Pro 3: My second most used Nik Software product is this tool. It allows me to use filters to enhance the image in a variety of ways. There are three levels offered when purchasing this product and most of my filters are naturally in the most expensive Complete Edition. When you adjust an image in CEP3, you can select up to 52 filters with each filter offering a set of sliders and adjustments. For example, one of my favorite filters is the Darken/Lighten Center filter. Again using the U-Point tool, you click on the point in the image where you want to focus the light. You then can adjust the sliders to darken or lighten the area in and around the point. This really allows you to subtly adjust the image to shed proper lighting on the proper place in the image … much better than the standard vignetting, and much easier than dodging and burning in Photoshop. Another favorite filter set are the Glamour Glow filters for portraits (fantastic), Tonal Contrast, Brillance/Warmth, Midnight and simple filters, such as Foliage which brings out the greens in plants without effecting the other colors. It does take a little time to learn the uniqueness of each filter, but once mastered, you can edit your image in seconds.
The two mentioned above are part of my standard workflow process now. There are many other features in these two as well, such as brushing to brush the changes over the image. In addition, I use the following products to make other edits to my images.
Silver Efx Pro 2: To me, this is the best tool for monochrome image editing. As with HDR, the product defaults to several preset filters that list and allows you to select one (or add your own) and further adjust the image from there. I have produced fantastic results from this tool. SO EASY TO USE!!!
HDR Efx Pro: This was released last year. As I do like the challenge of HDR imaging, I found this product offered the greatest flexibility to work the image. I used PhotoMatix before, but HDR Efx Pro allows me to better manage the purpose of what I am trying to accomplish … many times meaning to get the NOT HDR look and feel. They have several preset filters that allow you to see what your image would look like when combining your multiple images. Just by selecting the images you want to combine, HDR will merge and effectively align the image to get excellent results. Their ghosting effects do a good job eliminating movements in images, too.
Dfine 2: With my new Canon 5D, I do not use this as I did before, but this is an excellent product for noise-reduction. I am not sure it is any better than others in this market, but I have been pleased with it.
Sharpener Pro 3: I do not always use this unless I wish to print an image. For standard monitor display, I feel this does an ok job, but with printing, it allows me to select the type of printer, image size, etc. and then effectively sharpens the image to meet those requirements.
I have been very brief above, but I encourage you to go to the Nik Software web site and see the videos and try the demos .... EASY and I cannot think of anything better. I was living in San Diego for many years until I moved to Singapore and Nik Software is located here. We had them visit our camera club a couple of years ago and that was it for me .... and for almost all the other club members. Highly recommended.
NOTE: Visit the album "Nik Software and Me" to see more examples of what you can achieve with the suite of Nik software and plugins.