The new software is here! NIK Color Efex Pro 4

I got my updated version of NIK’s Color Efex Pro (v.4) this past week and finally got around to loading it.  Some new filters added (particularly some film emulators), modifications to existing filters and some other new features makes the upgrade worth it.

One feature is the filter stacking, new to this version.  In prior versions to apply multiple filters in this tool you picked one, adjusted, saved, picked another, adjusted, saved, etc.  Now you just pick filter, adjust, pick another filter, adjust, etc. and the software stacks them until you save the image.  You have full control over each filter in the stack while building the stack.  I use these in Photoshop and save my images as PSD format files, which means I can go back to the image later, open it, and have full control over the filters to make adjustments.

Any time software developers add this type feature they usually send along some presets, already developed combinations of tools you can apply with a single click.  I took a look at some here and like them as a starting point although sometimes the first application looks pretty good.  Here’s an example:

RAW file, converted with "soft landscape" preset

RAW image straight out of the camera, converted to JPG

The soft landscape preset is a stacked filter set, combining the effects of a graduated neutral density filter, brilliance/warmth adjustment, tonal contrast adjustments, lens vignette, and pro contrast.  What it does for me in this image is make the subject more obvious by darkening the lower right side of the image, brightening up the road, and sharpening the details in the ground a bit.  The RAW image is pretty flat (as I’d expect right out of the camera) and the converted file pushes your eye toward the deer and warms up the overall tone.

All this from one click instead of the five separate adjustments in previous versions.

One other feature is a History stack, similar to the one in the Develop module of Lightroom or in Photoshop.  While in the tool you can see what all you’ve done to an image and edit the history if needed.  Finally, there is a Recipe group where you can save custom filter stacks you create for application to other images.  A great amount of personalized control in an already powerful editing tool.