It's been a while since I've worked as a pro-photographer, so I admit I haven't really been keeping up with the latest shiny woowoos. Apparently Google's Nik plugin collection has been something awesome for a while. That said, even if I had heard of it, it's not likely I'd have spent the $150 bucks or so on it to use it. I've been fairly happy using Lightroom, or even Photoshop Elements and, well, I'm cheap. (aint nothin' wrong with that, honey.)
Last week, however, Google announced that it was giving away it's plugin collection (if you purchased it already, I believe they're offering refunds.) and my favorite person in the whole wide world passed the information on to me.
Since I rarely pass up free thingies, I reached over and took a photo of Valentine while I downloaded the whole set. I did this because I was procrastinating on doing the dishes and, really, Michael should know better than to show me shinies when I have dishes to do.
My hot take: Oh my yes, do I <3 this. I <3 this with my whole <3.
This isn't really an in depth review, just my quickie recommendation. If you crave more, let your fingers do the googling. My only goal with this first photo, was to take a rather crappy and washed out phone photo and try to make it match reality as accurately as possible. The entire time I fiddled, I had Val next to me to compare color and clarity.
I'll admit, it's not as quick as doing a batch edit in Lightroom, but then, what I can do with these plugins feels pretty darn amazing. The multiple ways to sharpen and the noise reduction tools alone are phenomenal. But there's also a bajillion other gadgets in there that I'll have to take some time to dig into. (And sure, I know I can sharpen and noise reduce in Lightroom... this looked better, though. I'm not sure why. But check out the zoomed in photos below to see what I mean.)
The most obvious problem with the original picture was the incorrect color cast. Val is a genuine grey kitten- actually the shelter said she was "blue" but I think they were referring to what they were guessing her breed was. (personally, I think she's probably a mix.) Her fur is a very cool grey with dark and nearly transparent hairs that have a light grey tip- this is why her face and paws look like they're a lighter shade, the hairs there are shorter so the light tips are more prominent. The room I took the photo in had a lot of peachy pink light bouncing around, this caused the original photo to be washed out, and made Val's coloring a lot warmer than it really is.
This issue was instantly fixed, however, with the color cast fix in the Color Efex Pro plugin. A few more fiddles with other plug-ins- I believe I darkened the mid-tones and added some contrast to the high tones- and I was able to rid the photo of its washed out look and define her fur until I got a precise match. I also blasted the photo with the amazing sharpening tool, and then I was done. Et voila, a perfectly accurate photo of wee Val.
I'd like to work more on the Nik Collection to see what other effects it can provide- but my first impression is a good one. If you've got one of the adobe programs, PShop, Elements, Lightroom- etc, it's worth the download and the time to get to know it.
The only downside I can see to the suite is that there are rumors floating around that Google doesn't plan on supporting the plugin program after this free download. So there may be compatibility issues with the Adobe products in the future- and Google will likely not be offering updates to fix them. For now, though, it's a fabulous resource.