Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 Review and Tutorial

Have you heard of Nik Software?  Have you heard of Color Efex Pro?  Looking for some filters you can apply to your photos to enhance them?  Looking for a way to bring life to your photos?  Read on, because Color Efex Pro from Nik Software might just be the answer you are looking for!

Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 Review and Tutorial  -  this product is awesome!!

I purchased the Nik Software Complete Collection several months back, and I must admit that I am completely blown away - these products are amazing.  I use them every day, and cannot even comprehend life without them!  My only question is: why did I wait so long to buy them??

If you are curious about HDR Efex Pro, you can read my review and tutorial on that product here.  

Ok, so here goes on this review...and keep in mind that I am not a big time techie, just a real user, so this is an overview of some of the filters but is not a super deep dive on any of it.  Nik Software always has webinars and good videos on their website, so check it out for more info!

Color Efex Pro - a collection of filters

Color Efex Pro is essentially a collection of filters, which you can use to make creative adjustments and enhancements to your photos.  If you get the Complete Collection like I did, you get 52 filters.  There are several that I use all the time - you will quickly develop some favorites!

The first thing to note is that although many folks out there use Photoshop (and these will operate as plug-ins to PS), I generally use Aperture as my primary product and have these plug into Aperture instead.  However, it works the same either way, so that's not a big deal.  I sometimes use PS Elements, but only on rare occasions.  Now that I have all these Nik products, I rarely have a need for PS anymore.  It's wonderful!

I will start with this image from Seattle, which is a somewhat abstract image taken of the Experience Music Project.  It's a very cool building and I just like the shapes.  Let's see what Color Efex Pro can do for us, shall we?

This is straight out of camera, but it is pretty flat right?  So the first thing to do is launch Color Efex Pro.  In Aperture I do that via Photos>Edit with Plug-In>Color Efex Pro.  See this screenshot...

Once I do that, I land on the main landing page for Color Efex Pro.  It looks like this (by default I always land on the first filter, known as B/W Conversion - I assume that's the case for everyone!):

You can see all the different filters and effects listed on the left side.  In the Complete Collection (which I recommend highly) you get 52 different filters - it's definitely worth it!  On the right side, you can move the sliders to make adjustments to the image, based on the filter you have selected.  What I mean is that the sliders vary depending on which filter is currently selected.

Here is another screenshot, which is a filter known as Glamour Glow.  It's my favorite!  I use this all the time, especially to finish off an HDR photo.  While the HDR process can really accentuate the hard lines and details, when you hit it with Glamour Glow you get this nice soft "glow" I guess.  Try it - it's cool!  Here it is:

The sliders on the right allow you to adjust the amount of the glow, the color saturation, and the glow temperature.  There are also some shadow and highlight adjustments there.

Another nice thing about Color Efex Pro is that you can easily compare your original image with the adjustments you have made so far, with either a split screen view...

...or a side by side comparison...

I use both of those views a lot.  I always get deep into my processing zone and sometimes don't realize how much I have actually adjusted the photo, so it's always nice to be able to make one click and compare it to the original!

Here's another sample filter, this one is called Tonal Contrast, and as you can see it can really bring out the details in a photo:

Some of the sliders on the right side for this filter include Highlight Contrast, Midtone Contrast, and Shadow Contrast.  I always tend to experiment until I find just the look I am trying to achieve with a photo.

Ok, here's one more (and sorry but I just can't show you all 52, I will be here forever instead of processing some of my work!).  This is the Graduated Neutral Density filter:

The sliders on this filter allow you to adjust Upper Tonality, Lower Tonality, Vertical Shift, Rotation, and Blend.  It's a great filter and definitely comes in handy sometimes!

Well, that was quick but as I mentioned this was intended as a fairly simple overview of the product.   There is just so much you can do with it - I highly recommend Color Efex Pro!  You will never regret having this product at your disposal!