The Nik Collection is now free. Is that a good thing?

The good, the bad, and why I'm nervous

Unless you are living under a rock in the photography world, you have heard that Google recently announced that they are offering the Nik Collection for free.  No, that is not a typo.  It is now free.  You can go get it here if you are interested:

If you don’t have it, you should probably go get it, considering it is free.  It is a great suite of products that will do wonders for your post-processing (though I have some concerns which I will get to below).

I have used the Nik Collection for years, and it’s a great suite for post-processing your images.  In particular, I have processed SO MANY IMAGES in Color Efex Pro (one of the products in the suite) that I could never count them all.  Literally, it was my go-to product for editing my shots.  I was dependent upon it.  It was where I spent most of my processing time.

Note that I said “was”.  Let me explain.

I first purchased the product suite many years ago, when Nik Software was still an independent company, and I spent maybe $500 on the suite (after the Google acquisition, the price was dropped to $149).  It was money well spent, and I don’t regret it for a second.  In fact, I had also purchased their iPhone app, Snapseed (for $4.99 at the time, which later became free under Google), and still to this day use it on nearly all my iPhone images.

In late 2012, Google acquired the company.  At the time, Google+ was going strong and with this acquisition it seemed that Google was getting serious about photography and embracing the photography community.  I was excited.

But over time I became a bit nervous about Google owning a product that I essentially depended upon to process my images.  That’s nothing against Google.  I like Google and of course use many of their products each day, but I knew in my heart that this whole photography thing would never be a big enough piece of their gigantic company to really “matter” to them.  Would they really invest in the tools with an eye on continual improvement?  Would this product suite be shepherded carefully into the future?  Would it even be around some years hence?  Let’s face it, they have a history of killing off good, well-known products.  And what is their strategy around photography anyways?  

So that is what has brought me to the present day, and here’s why I am nervous about depending on the Nik Collection: if they are giving it away for free, can we really expect them to continually provide updates and enhancements to the products?

This article says it well, and really cements my thoughts:

I think it’s doubtful that the Nik Collection will continue to get investment (assuming it has gotten any in the last few years).  They’ve been making money from it for several years and yet we’ve seen nothing new.  Meanwhile, other photo apps from other companies are continuing to evolve with the times.  New stuff comes out all the time.  Older stuff gets a facelift or even a full upgrade. 

Conversely, I see nothing new on the Nik Collection YouTube channel.  I see no blog posts about things you can do with Nik.  It’s a black hole, basically.  Now that it’s free, I doubt they will reverse course and start innovating.  What would be their motivation to do so?  I hope they do, but I doubt it.  It's kind of a shame, really.  It's been such a great product for so many years.  I would hate to see it wither, but I fear that it will.

You see, I have been down this one-way street before.

I was a heavy user of Apple’s Aperture product.  I loved it, and managed my entire library of photos in Aperture for many years.  It was a great product, early on.  I had version 2, then version 3, then...oh yeah.  There never was a version 4.  And that’s the issue.

Aperture was a tiny thing for big old Apple.  It wasn’t even remotely core to their business.  They stopped innovating and investing in Aperture, and it languished...and it didn't really matter to them.  Lightroom zoomed ahead to fill the void, and I felt like I was falling behind the times.  And no, I don't consider Photos a replacement for Aperture.  

So eventually, I made the hard decision to switch from Aperture to Lightroom.  I’m glad that I did.  Lightroom is amazing and they continue to invest in the product and add new features.  I use it every day and it’s fantastic.

So I’m now a little gun-shy about being dependent upon a company who hasn’t demonstrated a clear desire to innovate and invest in developing new tools.  It makes me nervous.  Sure, the Nik Collection may continue to be here for years to come, but will it grow and change with the times?  Will it get new features and product updates?  Will it work with new operating systems that come out?  Who knows.  I, for one, don’t want to wait around and have to scramble for a solution, should the Nik Collection begin a long, painful slide to obscurity.  I’m taking action now.

Farewell Nik Collection; Hello Macphun!

I’ve actually been looking for a replacement for Nik for a long time because of what I've said above.  To be fair, there is a lot to choose from, and it’s all good. I have used the majority of the Topaz Labs suite, and I like the products.  I have purchased the On1 Software bundle as well, and though I don’t use it much, I find it to be pretty interesting and powerful.  There’s a lot of stuff out there, and I have tried most of it. 

I have been casting around for the right solution for a while, but I have yet to find something that just feels right across the board.  Something that just clicks.  Something that suits my processing style, gives me new capabilities, causes me to stretch my imagination and skill level, and that is just plain fun to work with.

But I'm not searching anymore.

Recently, I reconnected with Macphun and I started working with their products again (I first tried their Intensify product a couple of years ago and loved it, but got distracted with life and stuff, and never got into using the full Macphun suite).  The first thing I did after reconnecting with Macphun was try out Aurora HDR Pro, which you can read about here.  I wasn’t looking for a new “HDR editor” but Aurora is so powerful that it has become my default editor for all my photos, HDR or not.

But even so, it wasn’t until I really dove into their entire product suite that I realized this is the path forward for me.  I have seen the light!  :-)  The products are so powerful yet very easy to use, and after just a few weeks I am very comfortable with them and using them all the time now.

They offer everything that I was getting out of Nik Software, and then some.  Macphun is a young and growing company and they are continuing to innovate and bring new products to market (Aurora HDR Pro, for example).  I'm loving their products, and I’m excited about what lies ahead.

Here is their product list and what it does for you:

  1. Aurora HDR Pro - create amazing HDR photos, easily add layers, textures and more
  2. Intensify - easily enhance Structure, Sharpness, Detail, Contrast and more
  3. Snapheal - easily remove unwanted objects from your photos
  4. Tonality - a powerful black and white conversion tool/photo editor
  5. Focus - pro lens effects, blur, motion, tilt shift, etc
  6. Noiseless - powerful noise reduction
  7. FX Photo Studio - a large collection of filters and effects

I highly recommend that you take a look at the Macphun product suite.  (Note that it does only work on a Mac, so if you are on Windows, sorry.)  You can find everything you need to know on their website.

It has rejuvenated my post-processing, streamlined my workflow, and brought a new level of fun back into the time I sit in front of my computer (which admittedly is a lot).  Now when I sit down to process some photos, I am excited about the creative possibilities with the Macphun suite.  It makes me think differently about my images, and that's a good thing.

I’ve already shared a few videos on YouTube that I made about using Aurora HDR Pro, and I will continue to add more, including the other products as well.  I will write more about it here on the blog and create more instructional content, as I get deeper into the Macphun suite.  So, stay tuned and come back often.  ;-)

And although it may sound like it, I'm actually not trying to tell you that Macphun is the answer for everyone.  It happens to be the answer for me, and I highly recommend you give it a try.  But, you may be in a different place than I am, and that's cool.  I've spent a lot of time trying out different product suites, or "flipping rocks" if you will.  You will probably want to do the same.  We all have different needs. 

Try Topaz Labs.  Try On1.  Try something.  Sure, go ahead and download the Nik Collection, because it is a nice product suite, and you can't beat the price.  I'm just offering up my opinion, which is that I wouldn't get too dependent on it.  It would suck to invest tons of time learning it and using it, only to find out that you are on a ride down a dead end street.  You never know if it will be around tomorrow.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me a note via the Contact Form or just leave a comment here.  I’ll do my best to assist.  Good luck in your search!