nik Color Efex Pro 2

All Photos © 2004, Howard Millard, All Rights Reserved

nik Color Efex Pro 2 Quick Look
· 75 filters
· $299.95 (Street price)
· True Light processing

Further Information
nik Color Efex Pro 2
http://www.nikmultimedia.com

Last year I reviewed the extensive range of effects available with the original version of nik Color Efex Pro (CEP) here. Now, the makers of this versatile plug-in collection have added 32 new filters, an improved interface, support for 16-bit images, the ability to apply effects to selected portions of a photo, and powerful controls to preserve highlight and shadow detail. Whether you want to inject spectacular special effects or enhance your images while maintaining realism, nik CEP 2 offers impressive and wide ranging choices.

These 75 digital photographic filters work inside any program that accepts Adobe Photoshop specification plug-ins, including Photoshop Versions 5.5 through CS, Elements 1 and 2, Adobe PhotoDeluxe, Photoshop LE, Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Corel Painter and PhotoPaint, Ulead PhotoImpact and Microsoft Digital Image Pro. Through easy to use preset style choices and slider controls, each filter can be carefully tweaked for a wide range of effects, variations and combinations.

New Features
In addition to the striking new filters described, the first thing you'll notice about Version 2 is an improved user interface with a large, zoomable preview. You can choose to show a pair of before and after images, or one larger image, which shows the applied effect filling the preview window. To check how the effect compares with the original, simply click the On/Off button at the top of the window to toggle between large views of the effect and the original instantly.

1. This original was shot outdoors on a very overcast day with the Canon Digital Rebel in Raw format. Model: Riley Messina.

Furthermore, nik has added valuable features to control the tonal range of your images. At the top left of each dialog box, below the filter's name, click on "Advanced" to bring up the Advanced panel. At the top you'll see a histogram of your images (just like Levels in Photoshop) which shows the distribution of tonal values in your photograph, highlights on the right, shadows on the left, midtones--where else--in the middle. Below this are two sliders to fine-tune and preserve the detail in your photo. Increase the value of the Protect Highlight slider to preserve detail in the brightest portion of the image. Conversely, to protect detail in the darkest parts of the image, increase the Protect Shadows value. As you move these sliders you can monitor their effect in the histogram.

2. The first thing you'll notice about Version 2 is an improved user interface with a large preview.

To a similar end, Version 2 includes what nik calls True Light processing "designed to preserve the relationship between colors, contrast, and details in the image to provide more natural film-like results." Integral to each Version 2 filter, this approach is said to prevent banding and preserve fine detail.

3. To warm up the overcast light, I used the nik Reflector: Gold filter with the settings shown in #2. You can control the light intensity and falloff, as well as the angle of the reflector and the position of the source light. Note how the filter has brightened her skin and hair, creating a healthy glow and transforming the cloudy light to a late afternoon sun effect. Model: Riley Messina.

Rather than applying an effect to an entire image, one way to distinguish your work is to apply effects or filters to only portions of it. The new Selective module enables this, and you don't even have to draw selections. Simply activate the feature, select any filter from the Selective palette and "brush" on the effect by dragging with your mouse. You can both paint and erase the effect digitally. If you have a Wacom graphics tablet, you have the added control of pressure sensitivity. Note, though, that the Selective feature is available only for Photoshop and Elements.

The new Selective module enables you to apply any effect to only portions of an image without having to draw selections. Simply select a filter from the Selective palette and "brush" on the effect by dragging with your mouse. You can both paint and erase the effect digitally. If you have a Wacom graphics tablet, you have the added control of pressure sensitivity.

If your digital camera can shoot in Raw mode, I recommend that you use this capability, especially for contrasty scenes and difficult lighting situations. When using the Canon 10D and Digital Rebel, for example, I can open and save the Raw files from these cameras in Photoshop CS as 16-bit files. These contain tons more information than conventional 8-bit files, which means you have a lot more exposure latitude, and can perform multiple corrections and effects with virtually no damage to the file. Nik CEP 2 now supports 16-bit files, so you can enjoy this benefit when applying the nik filters.


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To try the nik Infrared: Black and White effect, I opened this color shot of a New York City park with the Empire State building in the background. Then, from the Photoshop CS filter menu, I chose the nik Infrared: Black and White filter, bringing up this control box. I chose style 4 under "B/W Infrared Method" and adjusted the sliders as follows: Lighten Highlights 33, Brightness 40, and Contrast 50. The settings in #5 rendered this dramatic, mysterious and ethereal infrared landscape effect #6.

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