Friday, March 29, 2013

Playing With The Nik Software Suite

As most of you know, Google has had a sweet Suite deal for the complete Nik Software Suite this week. I used to have a copy of Nik Color Efex Pro 2, but I never really used it. I’d sort of lusted after Silver Efex Pro but, seeing as I don’t do a lot of B&W, I couldn’t justify the expense. When Google offered the entire suite for $149.00 US I could resist. I looked for an email saying I had registered the Color Efex recently enough to qualify for upgrading to the suite for free, but didn’t find anything along those lines in my email history. Oh well. Today’s image has been pushed and pulled in almost every piece of the software. Just checking what each one does and where it might be useful. I finally stopped fiddling with today’s image because it reminded me of a lot of images found in church bulletins. It might be a truer B&W and printed on a parchment colored paper to get the sepia effect, but today’s image is pretty close to what you’d see. To see the gyrations done to today’s image, hit the “Read More”.

The first thing I tried was Nik HDR Efex Pro. I had a set of images from a Saturday afternoon walking around Stockbridge Massachusetts. That’s the long time of home of Norman Rockwell and the location of the Norman Rockwell Museum. The first trick was figuring out how to get the set of images into HDR Efex Pro. I selected a two stop under, a two stop over and a “normal” exposure in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (LR4). Couldn’t find anything there to go directly to HDR Efex Pro. Maybe it would go from a set of Layers in Adobe Photoshop CS6. Nope. With the Layers in CS6 I did get a dialog box telling me to tell the Nik software where to find the individual images. Ah ha! Went back to LR4 and brought the three images in as separate images. Then HDR Efex Pro could be told to use the open files. I would up with the typical HDR image with an unreal sky.

 I took the “normal” exposure image and layered it with the HDR image. Did an Auto Align Layers (Edit/Auto Align Layers) to take out any tweaks the HDR software might have introduced. A very slight, but noticeable, jump was made. That Auto Align Layers is handy as heck when messing with altered Layers.

 A Mask was made using the Calculations (Image/Calculations) dialog box based on the Blue Channel. It was a fairly easy Mask to make. The Hard Light Blend Mode produced a good B&W mask of the trees. The church itself looked quite a bit like a Kodalith and was easily painted in with a Black Paint Brush (B). With the Alpha Channel Selected (Select/Load Selection) a New Layer Mask was applied to the “normal” exposure Layer.

Then it was back to LR4. Adjustments in Clarity, Vibrance, Contrast and HSL produced a good color image. I looked at it in Nik Define, Nik Viveza, Nik Silver Efex Pro, Nik Sharpener Pro, and Nik Color Efex Pro. Basically, I fooled around a bit in each one and Cancelled out. That was until I got to Silver Efex Pro. There there’s a Preset in the Vintage Group called 036 Antique Plate. A couple slight (very slight) movements of the Global Brightness, Contrast and Structure sliders and we were where we are. (???)

I’ll have to do a little more playing with the Nik Suite, but it looks like it will become part of the workflow around the Gallery.