Upgrading spontaneous portraits with the Nik Collection

6 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

I like shooting people. Especially at events where they don't notice it. And even with me shooting at F2 or F1.8 on a Canon 5D mark III -thx Wouter for upgrading the company to a IV leaving an unused III- it often still gets noisy.

Now I don’t mind noise, but if you get the option to take it out it’s awesome. So Jorg pointed me to the Nik Collection tool set. The software has been bought by Google who made it free and it integrates nicely with Lightroom.

Nik has a complete set of tools but a few stand out for me:
* Define removes noise
* Sharpen pro sharpens images
* Color Efex has some nice color effects for after editing

Other nice ones are:
* Viveza for selective color editing
* Analog Efex to give you digital photo’s a retro feel and
* Silver Efex for retro or modern black and white edits

Testing the Nik toolset

But I would like to explore Define, Sharpen pro en Color Efex with two sample shots. The first photo was takes at a Tesla event and I will show you the 3 stages of the edit.

Remove noise with Define

First I removed some of the noise. The photo was taken at ISO 640 so noise was pretty low, but still the effect was nice. I left all the setting on the Define defaults and this was the result.

Sharpen with Sharpen pro

Next up was Sharpen pro. I set the adaptive sharpening to 40% since we are talking faces here, ending up with this result.

Soft skin with Color Efec

Next up was Color Efex. In Color Efex you will find the Portrait tab and one of the options there is Dynamic Skin Softener. I do not want to overdo it here so I set color reach to 10% and all the details to 5%.

I then exported the images to .jpg at 100% and made cut outs using other software to create the before and shots you’ve just seen. Those images where exported at 80% quality to keep it useful for the web. Below you will find the end results of each fase as 100% quality, so images are roughly 5Mb each.

Since your browser does the scaling you might want to look at the full original and end result. The eye and hair is sharper and the skin is nice and soft. After some experimenting with other photo’s I find the differences very subtle and visible at the same time.

Another test image

The second test image is shot during the day, so no noise reduction is necessary. I started with the sharpening of the image using Sharpen pro at 35%. I then applied the Soft skin effect from Color Efex with all settings on 5%. This was the result.

You will see the hair on the right is sharper as are the eyes. The skin is just a little softer.

Or look at the full original and end result.

Love the Nik collection, the web hates HQ images

So the Nik collection is easy to use and the end results are subtle and nice especially when you zoom in. But that also brings us to a strange conclusion. You are not looking at these images zoomed in. You are looking at them cropped and made suitable for the web. And once you do that you loose nearly all those differences. So yes, use the collection. Just put the end results on the web as HQ as you can.


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