Nik Collection review: is Google’s photo editing plug-in bundle the best of its kind?

Nik Collection review: we put Google's new photo editing plug-in bundle to the test

How to use Nik Collection plug-ins with Photoshop & Lightroom

How to use Nik Collection plug-ins with Photoshop & Lightroom

With the exception of HDR Efex Pro 2, which doesn’t work with Elements, each of the plug-ins works with Photoshop and Lightroom, plus Aperture in Mac OS X.

As well as enabling global adjustments, they use Nik’s U-Point technology to enable selective adjustments to be made without the need to create masks or selections.

This is especially useful for applying sharpening selectively to target areas with detail, or reducing noise in areas of uniform tone.

We tested Nik Collection with Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC. While the installation was straightforward with CS6, we had to copy files into the correct folder to use it with CC. Google is working to address this issue in the near future.

Once the bundle is installed, the Nik Collection panel opens automatically as soon as Photoshop is opened. However, if you close this panel, it can be reopened via Filter> Nik Collection in Photoshop.

Clicking on any of the plug-in names in the panel opens the appropriate control panel, but if you convert the active layer to a Smart Object first, you will be able to use the plug-in (with the exception of HDR Pro 2) as a Smart Filter and re-edit any adjustments that you make.

The plug-ins don’t all work in exactly the same way, but most of them have presets that you can use to make global adjustments to your image. These can be used as they are or edited and saved for future use.

Silver Efex Pro 2 has some great preset options that replicate the appearance of particular monochrome films, such as Kodak 400 Tmax Pro and Ilford FP4 Plus 125. It’s also possible to apply a few edge effects or border to your images.

While the whole image can be easily adjusted, using the sliding controls in the panel on the right-hand side of the screen, the real strength of the plug-ins is the ability to make selective adjustments using control points.

These are usually added by selecting the Add Control Point icon, and then clicking on the appropriate area in the image.

The size of the area affected by the control point can be changed using the sliding control to the side of the point itself, at the top of the control point options.

However, the software makes the decision about what to select within that area on the basis of colour and brightness, and so on.

You can reveal the area being adjusted by scrolling down the panel on the right and clicking on the mask icon in the control point list.

It’s possible to extend the area being adjusted by adding numerous control points (or making duplicates), and then grouping them so that they can be adjusted as one.

You can also add additional points to make counter adjustments in different areas. One point (or set of points) may be used to darken the sky in a landscape, for example, while another may brighten the foreground and boost its contrast.

PAGE 1 – What’s in the Nik Collection bundle?
PAGE 2 – How to use Nik Collection plug-ins with Photoshop & Lightroom
PAGE 3 – How to make adjustments with Nik Collection plug-ins
PAGE 4 – Nik Collection Review: spec list & how it compares to other plug-ins
PAGE 5 – Nik Collection review: the verdict


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