Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unleashing (amateur) power with Nik Software

I'm a bit of a digital tinkerer, I admit it. Hey, a guy's gotta dabble now and then! Sometimes in goofy GarageBand compositions, other times video. Occasionally building web sites and blogs, but since I started working at Nik I keep coming back to images.

Up at the Digital Imaging Conference '08, sponsored by InfoTrends, I found myself with an extra hour in the hotel room after the festivities and decided to "tinker" with an image of my son Ethan. Putting Photoshop CS3 and some of the Nik Software plug-ins to work, here's what I came up with - bear in mind, I definitely belong to that not-so-exclusive club of AMATEURS! ;-)

ORIGINAL IMAGE
The original image wasn't too bad, but the face is muddy, the background distracting and there's simply no "life" in the colors of the face. Believe me, there IS life on Planet Ethan!



Original NEF file coming up in Adobe Camera Raw (naturally, I click "open image" without any adjustments - I'll be using Nik Software for that, thank you!).

Default window showing the Nik Selective Palette with each of the plug-ins, ready for action!

Decided first to ensure there was no noise in the image by invoking Dfine 2.0. Dfine analyzes my image automatically and all I do click one button to "make it so." There are controls to more selectively apply noise reduction, but the tool does such a great job at NOT dorking up an image (i.e. making it softer where it shouldn't), I usually just tell it to de-noisify the whole image.

After a Nik filter has been applied, a new layer is automatically created.

Next, I thought I'd brighten Ethan's face, give it a little warmth, redden his lips, blue up his eyes and darken up the backdrop a bit with Viveza. About 6 clicks and 30 seconds!

Here's the same image with a split screen and showing a U Point powered Control Point over Etho's right eye. Control Points are ultra-easy to use: click the mouse on the area you want to enhance and move a few sliders. U Point "automagically" selects the area without any complicated selections or layer masks.

Now that I have Noise and Color/Light corrected, I'll turn my attention to (2) Color Efex Pro 3.0 filters, each accessed through this handy-dandy tool palette.

Ahhh... Glamour Glow, one of my favorites. It produces an other-worldly feel of glow and comfort and wisdom. Note the controls for Glow Temperature, Saturation, etc.in the upper right. Again, move a few sliders to get the look I want and I'm outta there.

Back in Photoshop, you can see the the Dfine 2.0, Viveza, and Color Efex Pro 3.0 layers are visible in the Layers palette on the lower right.

One of my other fav filters is the Bleach Bypass filter, giving Etho a look from the movie "300." How cool is that?!!

Finally, I decided that this picture merited a trip into our Silver Efex Pro, winner of the Best Imaging Software of the Year at Photokina 2008 (awarded by Chip Foto Video Digital magazine, one of Germany's largest). Note the handy presets on the left side for quick results and a myriad of choices on the right that give you infinite control.

In this screen shot, I'm choosing a venerable Kodak B&W film type. The software will actually recreate the image using the grain of the film I select - cool!
THE RESULTS
With a few clicks and sliders, I've been able to dramatically enhance the photo pretty quickly in (4) distinct ways, starting with Viveza which I used as the basis for the following (3) images. Here are the "before and afters:"

Before and after with Color Efex Pro 3.0 (Glamour Glow)

Before and after with Color Efex Pro 3.0 (Bleach Bypass)
Before and after with Silver Efex Pro

Editing images of people I love is very satisfying. It's definitely a new hobby for me and one that any family "memory-keeper" can dig - the investment in cost and time can pay off ten-fold (ego satisfaction, great prints, greatimages to share, etc.).

The Nik Software tools are free to try at www.niksoftware.com/downloads. The free versions work for 15-days, and can be used in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Aperture.

1 comment:

Jody said...

I love, love, love my nephew! Ok, and his creative Dad.