If you don’t watch the wonderful webinars and training videos that all the major plug-in makers are offering, you are really missing out on some great tips for using their software. Recently Nik released a really great video titled “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software and Photoshop Elements, presented by Mike Moats” and is located at Nik Software On Demand Center. Mike Moats (he has a really interesting blog) shows how he changes up the workflow from what one might normally do with the Nik products. He first applies Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) and then Nik’s Viveza. He is never quite sure what the CEP4 filters will do to an image. Since the Viveza plug-in adjusts the color and light of an image, it does make sense to apply it after adding CEP4 filter changes. Note: All my CEP4 settings for images are listed at the end of the blog.
I bought the Viveza plug-in when it first came out and everyone was singing its praises. I must confess that after getting Lightroom, I hardly used this plug-in. Now I think I was crazy not too! This video refreshed my memory on why this is the great little plug-in that everyone was raving about. The reason this image pops is that Viveza is able to pin-point small or large areas on the image and adjust it individually – adding in a bit of detail, or toning down a certain color. He teaches you how to set the Control Points that Nik is famous for to get exactly the results you want. In this case, both the saturation and structure control point sliders were individually adjusted on the butterfly and flowers without affecting the background. This is very similar to Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s adjustment brushes, but with much better control and more variables available. It absolutely made a huge difference to all of the images in this blog. See the comparison below showing the layer with Vizeva filter turned off and then on. Seven control points were set to get this effect and no Global Adjustments were made. Both plug-ins can be applied to the same Smart Object layer and all image control points are saved for each plug-in on this layer so you can go back and adjust a slider if you do not like the results. The final processing involved cloning out some of the brown spots on the leaves and sharpening the body and wing lines of the butterfly.
The pink daisies are in a container on my front porch. CEP4 and Viveza (using 11 control points) were both used along with OnOne PhotoFrame weathered wood frame (see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog for website).
This last image is a different shot of my carnation and daisies Christmas flowers. The original image required me to duplicate the original layer and apply a Gaussian Blur at 9.1 pixels to block out the distracting background. A layer mask was added and the flower painted back into the mask with a black brush. Then the CEP4 and Viveza (with 17 control points) plug-ins were applied. OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 05 was added along with the Sharpen Tool and a Curves Adjustment Layer.
As you can see, by using the control points to your advantage, very interesting images can be attained. The Viveza plug-in definitely helps sharpen up a slightly soft image. And by setting control points with Structure at -100, the background can be smoothed almost like a gaussian blur effect. If you own either or both of these plug-ins, definitely take a look at this video. Even though he is using flowers and close up photography, he illustrates how to use the control points very well. I learned a lot and am very happy Nik released such a good example of how to use their products…..Digital Lady Syd
CEP4 Settings for each of the images:
The Monarch Butterfly image above was first adjusted in CEP4 with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 26%, Contrast 37%, Saturation 53% and Effect Radius Large); Darken/Lighten Center using #1, Center Luminosity 28%, Border Luminosity -100, Center Size 53% and centered on butterfly head); and Bi-Color User Defined (Opacity 7%, Blend 17%, Vertical Shift 41%, Rotation 46 degrees, Upper Color R66 G68 B98 and Lower Color R184 G103 B4). I would never have thought about using a Bi-Color User Defined filter without viewing this video, but it really enhanced the oranges in the wings and brought out the pink in the flower.
The Daisies used Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 86%, Contrast 78%, Saturation 39% and Effect Radius Large); Bleach Bypass (Brightness -2, Saturation -20%, Contrast 50% and Local Contrast 50%); and Cross Processing (Method L02 and Strength 45%). This example uses similar setting to his first example.
The Christmas Flowers CEP4 settings were: Bleach Bypass (Brightness -6, Saturation -2%, Control 27%, and Local Contrast 65%), Darken/Lighten Center (#1, Center Luminosity -10%, Border Luminosity -27%, Center Size 44% and Place Center just below red carnation), and Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 36%, Contrast 6%, Saturation 21%, and Effect Radius Large with control points in background to remove effect).
Since I have been giving such glowing reviews to their newest competitor into the black and white plug-in world (Topaz Black & White Effects), I really should show you why, if you totally love black and white images, this is the plug-in you want. I was reminded by a webinar sponsored by NIK and featuring Dave Devitale called “The Creative Edge in Digital Photography” (the sound quality on this video was not good), that Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) really does give wonderful results. The interface is familiar and similar to the other great NIK plug-ins so it makes getting up to speed really fast. The presets give you excellent quick looks at the different effects and make it easy to get a pleasing result without a lot of adjusting. NIK really knows how to put together a great plug-in and this one is no different. It’s biggest drawback is the price.
St. George Street in St. Augustine was processed in black and white due to a large contrast in the original image. A simple workflow was followed and was a pretty basic use of NIK’s SEP2. Clean up your image, duplicate it and make it a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Create Smart Object since SEP2 remembers your plug-in settings and control points), got to Filter -> NIK -> Silver Efex Pro 2 and look at the presets. The 015 Full Dynamic (harsh) preset was chosen as a starting point. An Orange color filter was used and Sensitivity colors were adjusted for the image. Toning 4 was added. Back in Photoshop the standard layers were added: a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast, a Sharpen Tool layer, and a basic layer style for the framing. That’s it and you get a very nice black and white image.
This image followed a slightly different technique that Moose Peterson, the famous outdoor photographer recommended in a NIK video called “Finishing Techniques Using NIK Software.” The original image was processed in ACR and then brought into Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and in SEP2, the Full Dynamic Smooth preset was applied for a starting point. Moose prefers this preset. Then he duplicates the black and white layer and opens up the NIK Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in – he likes the Neutral Density filter where he can adjust the tonality of the clouds. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer is added and its layer mask filled with black – it is then painted on with a 20% white brush to darken the foreground and add detail to the clouds. For a better explanation check out the video which is very good.
Above is the current Casa Monica Hotel (was the Cordova Hotel in 1888 when it was opened) in St. Augustine, Florida, and one of the grand old hotels of city. I have used this technique before when processing color images – a color image is opened, the layer duplicated and turned into a Smart Object, and the top layer is taken into the SEP2 plug-in to create a black and white effect. (See next image explanation for settings used in SEP2.) Once back inside Photoshop, different blend modes are tried for the black and white layer. In this case, the Screen blend mode was selected at 59% opacity. A Curves Adjustment layer was added. Finally a New Layer was created for use with the Sharpen Tool where I went over the edges of the building and some of the window details. I love the final postcard look – perfect for this type of historic building. The SEP2 settings listed for the next image are exactly the same for the hotel except the Image Border is Type 13.
This is of the backside of run down storefronts in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. I loved the slight touch of color and texture that came through in this image. The workflow was very similar to the one used on the image above – except this time the blend mode was left to Normal at 70% opacity. It gives a very different look even though the same oo5-High Structure (Harsh) preset was used in SEP2 with slightly different settings applied. Different Control Points were used to add extra contrast in localized areas and the green leaves were darkened using a Control Point. In the Film Types section the Orange Filter was used and in the drop-down, Film Type Kodak ISO 32 Panatomic X was selected as a starting point. The creamy color is achieved using Toning 14. A slight dark vignette was created and Image Border Type 2 was added. Be sure to create your own preset at this point if you find some settings you like by clicking on Add Preset and name it. In Photoshop the Sharpen Tool was used on the ironwork to bring out the detail a bit more and a final Curves Adjustment Layer was added.
The Tomorrowland Sign is an example of using two different layers for your effect. Duplicate your original layer (CTRL+J) and turn off the top layer. On the bottom layer, a Topaz Adjust Spicify preset was applied to the image. This gives the really bright and edgy look of the actual sign. Now on the top layer, go to SEP2 and convert your image emphasizing how you want to the background of the image to appear such as softening the lines. Once out of the plug-in, add a Layer Mask and carefully mask out the Tomorrowland Sign. The final step involves going to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur to make the black and white background a softer feel so it does not compete with the colorful sign for attention. I believe this is a really nice way to apply the SEP2 plug-in for a different look.
I hope this gives an idea of what can be achieved with what is considered the best black and white plug-in ever created. I have enjoyed trying some photos in this program and I would suggest that if you like black and white, it is worth a trial download to see what you think. Enjoy yourself and try out some new looks and techniques…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Same Image-Different Plug-in
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2
Same Image-Different Look!
NIK Color Efex Pro 4, Topaz Lens Effects, and OnOne PhotoFrame 4.6
The original image was of a shop on St. George Street in St. Augustine. My Vivid Drawing Look preset (see my Tidbits Blog “Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe“) in Lightroom was used with some luminance color adjustment before being brought into Photoshop. In NIK Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4), the Darken/Lighten Center filter and Film Efex: Vintage set to Film Type 27 was added. The layer was copied and Rasterized to get rid of the Smart Object (right-click on layer and select rasterize) and then the Topaz Lens Effect plug-in was used. The Fisheye Lens Effect was applied using 73% distortion amount and adjusting all the Image Adjustment sliders. A New Layer was added above and the Sharpen Tool was used to locally sharpen parts of the image. Finally the “acid burned controlled 05” OnOne PhotoFrame was added to finish the look. This is a crazy look but it shows what an interesting result you can get by stacking the plug-in effects on one image.
Photomatix Pro 4, NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust 4
This image is of the famous pedestrian St. George Street in St. Augustine, Florida. It was processed as an HDR in Photomatix Pro 4.0 and then brought into two of my favorite Photoshop plug-ins: NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust. To get this vintage artsy effect, six CEP4 filters were stacked into a recipe (Darken/Lighten Center, Brilliance/Warmth, Tonal Contrast, Image Borders, Dark Contrasts, and High Key in that order); and in Topaz Adjust 4, a preset was created from a Topaz video on “Rick Sammon’s Top Topaz Tricks, Tips, and Techniques” that used the Spicify preset to create a soft artsy effect.
NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0, Topaz Black and White Effects, and OnOne PhotoFrame 4.6
All my favorite plug-ins were used on this one. The Flagler Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine is one of the beautiful places to see while enjoying the city. NIK CEP4 was first applied using my Pseudo HDR1 preset from my blog “Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4” with an additional white Vignette filter. It was then toned down by using the Topaz Black and White Effects plug-in. The Albumen Collection – Aubergine preset was used as starting point and then adjusting the Basic Exposure settings and setting the Transparency setting to 0.58. Back in Photoshop this layer was set to 59%, a New Layer was added and the Sharpening Tool was used to bring out the edges on the tops of the little towers, and finally the “acid burned controlled 15” preset from OnOne PhotoFrames was added in a matching cream color. These three plug-ins really do go hand-in-hand to create some stunning results!
It is a lot of fun to use these plug-ins! It is even more fun to mix and match! I use the OnOne PhotoFrames a lot because it can enhance an image that lacks some pizzazz. It is very great that the colors can be changed easily and sampled from the image to match the colors in the image. I also like Topaz Black and White Effects and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 as my two favorite creative plug-ins. Topaz Lens Effects does a great job of recreating the fisheye look without having to buy an expensive fisheye lens – there are several other effects in it that can be a lot of fun to try out. See below for my other blog links to these plug-ins for further information on how to use them.
Try stacking some of these effects – you will be surprised what great results you can create! Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd
Related Digital Lady Syd Blog Links:
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in – A Real Winner!
NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 – First Try!
The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter from NIK CEP 4
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro Pseudo HDR Recipe
Yep, it can actually do a pretty nice job of creating an HDR effect. I am providing you with the information needed to get the same effect so here we go. The image above is of the inside of one of the most beautiful libraries you will ever see, the Minsk Library in Belarus. I love the results and how Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) has turned this image into a reasonable HDR look with just a single image.
To create this effect, the following steps were done:
1. First process the image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom to adjust tone and contrast. On four of these images, I used my SJ-Vivid Drawing Look preset as a starting point. Gives a nice starting point for a pseudo HDR effect.” Then adjust the exposure or any other settings to get the feel you want. (To get the actual settings, see my Tidbits Blog “Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR & Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe.”)
2. Next, either open the image as a Smart Object directly from ACR or Lightroom, or convert a duplicate layer to a Smart Object (right click on layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”) before opening the plug-in. This is really an important step since CEP4 will save your settings and control points when working on a Smart Object layer.
3. Go to Filters -> NIK -> Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. My SJ Pseudo HDR1 recipe can be downloaded here. NOTE: Appears the link will not work if the download button is pressed directly, but if you right click it and select “Save Link As”, it will download. (To import, go to the Recipes section on left and at bottom click on the Import button, then navigate to file – it is put in the Imported section, or put the file in this folder for Windows Users: [User Name]\AppData\Local\Nik Software\Color Efex Pro 4\UserPresets). The Detail Extractor may need to be adjusted, especially if the image has too many artifacts or too much noise – try setting the Effect Radius to Large in this filter. Other filter effects may be added such as a Vignette or Color Effects. For settings, click on my Tidbits Blog link above in Step 1.
4. Press OK button to apply the filters . If you do not like the results or want to add another filter, change settings by double-clicking on the actual plug-in name (Color Efex Pro 4) underneath the Smart Object layer. If you click on the symbols to the right of the line, a Blending Options (Color Efex Pro 4) dialog box appears where the opacity and blend mode of the plug-in results can be changed. (Try this out to get some more interesting effects.) Can also paint with black on the Smart Filters layer mask to reduce the effect of all the filters applied to the layer.
5. A noise filter may need to be applied at this point. It can be done right on the Smart Object layer – the filter will be added on top of the Color Efex Pro filter. Not all images need it, but it can happen whenever you are doing an HDR type effect. (If you do not have a noise reducer, the image can be brought back into ACR by using Dr. Brown’s script as explained in my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script” and using the Noise Reduction panel – I do this all the time and it works great!)
Basically your image is finished unless you want to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast or add a layer style stroke or border around the outside. Many resources say to sharpen the image at this point – try it but watch your noise carefully.
Once you have the Pseudo HDR1 recipe in place, it is very easy to get good results. Just remember to use a Smart Object so you can go in afterwards and tweak a slider or two or add another filter to the stack if you want.
This Tower of London image was first processed in Lightroom using the SJ Vivid Drawing Look preset. Once in Photoshop but before going into CEP4, clouds were added onto a layer above the image from my SJ-Clouds brush set, and then a layer mask was created to paint out any overlap. A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) which was immediately converted into a Smart Object. This image was created using my recipe as in the first image, but then a Bi-Color User Defined filter was added to make the sky and clouds bluer (Upper color a blue R94/G111/B155 and Lower color off-white R192/G192/B192) – it started as an ugly gray.
Another good example of what you can do with just one image in CEP4. This image just used the Pseudo HDR1 recipe. I did adjust the Detail Extractor slider in that filter and that’s it! The original image was adjusted a bit in Lightroom using no preset before bringing into Photoshop. The image was taken at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Oahu, Hawaii.
This beautiful Great Egret was processed in Lightroom with the SJ Vivid Drawing Look preset and then in Photoshop using NIK’s CEP4 plug-in and the recipe provided, but also adding Vignette Blur and Vignette filters. Back in Photoshop a layer mask was added to selectively sharpen just the bird.
This image (of me and my photography buddy, Gary, at the Old Drugstore in St. Augustine) uses the same Lightroom Vivid Drawing Look preset and CEP4 Pseudo HDR preset. I am actually shooting into a huge mirror on the wall!
I really wanted to present the range of images that can be converted into a fairly convincing HDR effect with just one image. I hope you get a chance to try this recipe out and see what you think. This may be the easiest way to get that pseudo-HDR look that I have found! I will show several other examples over the next few weeks – it is really easy to do and gives a nice look to just about any picture. Once again, it goes to show why this updated plug-in from NIK is really great!
Hope you enjoy the recipe and let me know what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd
Related Blog Links by Digital Lady Syd (or click under Categories – HDR Effect):
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
Another Pseudo HDR Image with NIK CEP4 – Got to Love the Effect!
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects
The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter From NIK CEP 4
Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – First Try!
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Anyone who has followed my site knows that I am a big fan of Photoshop plug-ins. I remember wanting a copy of this plug-in’s first version. NIK is still one of the best companies making Photoshop plug-ins and this new upgrade does not disappoint! Here is a link to their product site.
The new program now allows you to stack filter effects – in CEP 3.0 you had to exit out of the plug-in and come back in to apply a different one. Now, instead of saving individual presets for each filter, you save recipes which contain the settings of each of the stacked filters. For example, this image contains the following filter effects: Detail Extractor (one of the new filters and why the details in the leaves are sharp), Foliage, and Vignette Blur. I still used my border from OnOne PhotoFrames though.
The image above of Metal Chris at DCHheavyMetal.com on The Mall in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, was first processed in Photomatix Pro 4 using five shots to form this HDR image. Then the final tone-mapped image was processed with Color Efex Pro 4 using a new stack of these filters: Darken/Lighten Center, Brilliance/Warmth, Tonal Contrast, and Image Borders. Finally I sharpened the image using the Photoshop’s High Pass Filter at 9.1 Radius.
In this Orlando Building image an HDR feel was actually created by the stacked plug-in effects: the Detail Extractor (I really like this new effect!), Brilliance/Warmth, Vignette: Lens, and Bi-Color User Defined filter effects. I first used Photoshop’s Lens Correction to straighten the buildings before processing. Afterwards, the image was sharpened using the High Pass Filter with the sky painted out so no sharpening occurred on the clouds which were looking overprocessed. The original of this image is shown below to show you what a change these filters can make to an image.
See my Tidbits Blog “NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – First Try!” for another example of this new plug-in.
What I Like
- The ease of use of the plug-in. It always comes up quick and it is easy to see what the original vs. the filter looks like. Now there is a new History section where you can go back to a previous state of filter application. Be aware that, just like in Photoshop, once you exit out of the plug-in, the History states disappear even when applying the plug-in as a Smart Object.
- There are several new filters that are totally terrific! Many of the older filters have also been updated. Here is a link showing all the filters in the plug-in that can be sorted to show the new and updated filters.
- Love the fact the filter effects can be stacked and saved to be reapplied on another image as a Recipe.
- Most of the effects have an opacity slider so you can tone them down a bit if they appear too strong.
- The Control Points are fabulous as always. Place a Plus Control Point to add the filter effect to a specific area and a Minus Control Point to remove the effect from a certain area. The points have the ability to not remove the effect from radically different adjacent regions so your image always looks right. The opacity for these control points can also be set and several points may be added to an image. Very quick to adjust. CEP 4 lets you copy all the set Control Points from one filter to another one – this has been a real time saver for me!
- Canned presets are now viewable with suggested settings to get a good starting place for each effect.
- The ability to drag the effects into a different order gives some very different looks.
What I Don’t Like
- The biggest issue I have is that you have lost the ability to set a preset for each individual effect. Instead you have to save it as a recipe. Unfortunately you do not have the ability to stack several recipes – if you change to a different recipe, you lose all the filter effects you had set before. The work around is to stack all your favorite filters with your favorite individual filter settings into one large recipe, then selectively delete effects you do not want to apply to the image you are working on. I contacted NIK Technical support regarding this issue and this was their response “Unfortunately, no, there is no way to bring your Color Efex Pro 3.0 presets into Color Efex Pro 4. I do see what you are saying about having a preset for an individual filter in addition to the recipes. It would improve and expand workflow capabilities, so I will put in that recommendation to our development team!” This is a big problem in my mind. A large number of Recipes will have to be generated to cover all the presets and scenarios for all your images.
- It is very easy to forget to click the “Add Filter” button. If you go to another effect, you immediately lose all the currently stacked filters and their settings – there is no warning note. I have lost my settings several times by forgetting to do this. (I have watched several videos where the instructor has done the same thing!) The work-around is to remember to click on the History section to restore it immediately.
- When you save a recipe, you do not retain the Control Points you have set. It would be nice if you had this option so you can reapply the settings to a similar image since you now can apply them to several effects at the same time. The partial work-around for this is to make your layer a Smart Object before going into the NIK Color Efex Pro plug-in, then you do not have to save the recipe or the control points – just apply the filters. This is only good for the current image. (To see what settings and points were applied, just double click on the Color Efex Pro 4 line, and they can be adjusted.)
- Need to remember to Save Recipe if you plan on using these same filters on another image. Here is a partial work-around. If image is converted to a Smart Object before applying the plug-in, you can access the settings and control points from image by going back into the filter later (see 3 above). Now you have the opportunity to save the filter stack as a Recipe (without the control points) that can be reused on other images. I am already starting to build up a huge amount of Recipes so this could get to be a real problem after processing images for several weeks.
- The new Image Borders filter is nice but still not up to the OnOne PhotoFrames level. Still a nice edition for quick processing and I give them kudos for trying to make it easy.
- It is not a cheap plug-in but then again, it offers lots of options.
Well, if NIK could fix a few of the problems I mentioned above, Color Efex Pro 4 may be the best plug-in ever made. Their effects are top-notch and they have added 7 new and very good filters to this version. (See my Tidbits Blog “The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter From NIK CEP 4” for information on just this one new filter.) They also updated several of their other filters although I have not had much time to play with all of them. The Brilliance/Warmth filter has a new slider called Perceptual Saturation that is fabulous. This was always a favorite effect of mine to begin with and now it is even better! I will be exploring some of the new filter effects in my Tidbits Blog in the next few weeks as I believe they deserve more attention than just a passing look.
Try downloading the Trial Version and see what you think. I believe you will be as impressed as I am…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blog:
Use NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 Together to Create Fabulous Landscapes!