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It would seem that I’m a bit of a fad follower these days. For Christmas last year, I was gifted the Perfect Photo Suite Upgrade containing the Perfect B&W software and it was used it almost exclusively, until, for my birthday (April 2), the NIK Collection dropped in my lap. The main want in this collection was Silver Efex Pro 2 – for some reason, conversions with software seem to get deep, richer blacks than other tools, and the structure slider is amazingly awesome for use in both black and white images, as well as use in Luminosity Layers in color pics, bringing out some serious detail and tonal range!
What I didn’t expect was to be using the color plug-ins from NIK, Color Efex Pro and Viveza, as much as I am. Now, Perfect Effects still has some presets in it that I like and will use them when the image calls for them, but otherwise, the NIK tools are satisfying everything I need and using the control points has really become easy and comfortable. For color images, the Viveza tool is used for basic, but selective, editing, like exposure and structure. Then, presets in Color Efex Pro are applied for stylization.
Here’s a typical color image workflow. Basic exposure editing in Aperture, then export to Photoshop Elements 11. Depending on the image, the next step is either Viveza for specific exposure and structure application, or to Silver Efex Pro for a high structure luminosity layer, typically masked selectively in PSE11. Either of these two options help to either balance or establish the base exposure of the image and both have been amazing at illuminating shadow detail! Today’s image, a sunset on The Mississippi River in Hastings, MN, started out (see below), where the shadows had little detail. A simple control point applied to the rocks in Viveza pulled out all of the detail and structure I needed to get the desired look!
Back in PSE11, we then select Color Efex Pro for stylization, which is typically found in only a couple of presets. First is Brilliance and Warmth to get the desired color - this preset is typically applied globally. Depending on the image, I might apply a graduated ND or polarizer globally, as well. Then my favorite, tonal contrast, is applied to bring out the details and is almost always applied selectively with control points.
Once back in PSE11, some dodging and burning can take place if desired, then it’s on to Topaz DeNoise to clean up any noise, then back to Aperture for finishing edits and cropping. It’s a pretty simple workflow and one that’s become relatively quick too. More than anything, the ability to take single images where compromise had to be made due to exposure and balance it out so that it looks more real than anything tone mapped is quite exciting to me. I’m loving the NIK Power!