Have you ever wondered how some photographers seem to capture and create absolutely stunning photographs? Have you attempted to recreate what you’ve seen online only to fail time and time again? Have you seen wedding and landscape photos that are simply magnificent and wondered how in the heck the photographer did it? Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret. Oftentimes, these results aren’t acquired by talent alone. They’re acquired through, yes, talent, but they’re also achieved by the use of great equipment and crafty software.
If you haven’t been around the photography and image editing industries for too long, you might not know about these types of secrets. Don’t worry, you’ll learn about them soon enough. And as a matter of fact, if you finish reading this very blog post, you’ll learn about one such tip.
There’s a piece of software out there that’s totally free to download and use. It’s called the Nik Collection and it’s owned by Google. In its original state, this software (a plugin) was offered for around $500 by a private company. In 2012, Google purchased the company and the price dropped to $150. Since April of 2016, the price dropped even more and it’s now free. For what you get, I’m telling you right now that free is a great price. You actually can’t beat it.
So, what is the Nik Collection? It’s a collection of image enhancement filters that you can use with Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. As of this writing, the filters in the plugin include Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, Silver Efex Pro and Viveza. While I’ll get into what each of these filters does and how to use all of them in later posts, I’d like to focus on just one today – Color Efex Pro.
Color Efex Pro is a package of filters that allow you to quickly add tons of different effects to a photo. You can add film effect, color effects, lighting effects and many more things. The plugin operates inside of Photoshop, sort of like Camera Raw does. It opens in its own window where you can make your changes. When you’re finished, you can apply the edit and at that point, Photoshop saves whatever it is you did as a new layer that you can apply more traditional effects to. It’s very simple to learn this plugin and in later posts, I’ll be covering all the ins and outs. Today though, I merely want to show you where you can find the download link and how to go about setting things up.
Where to Find the Nik Collection
Just to let you know, when you download and install the Nik Collection, you get all the plugins I mentioned above. I chose to use Color Efex Pro for this post as an example because of its popularity. If folks, perhaps, download, install and use that particular plugin, they’ll try out the others as well. That’s a good thing.
If you visit the Google Nik Collection page, you’ll find all sorts of information. You can learn about each product and also make the download.
Downloading the Nik Collection
To download the product, simply click on the blue Download link at the top of the page. When you do this, a small drop-down will appear that asks which operating system you’re using – Windows or Mac. Click on whichever is appropriate. After you do that, the executable (.exe) file will download to wherever on your computer you have set for downloads to be stored. Typically, if you haven’t changed this setting, this will be your Downloads folder. In my case, since I modified my download target location, I’ll see the file on my Desktop. The file is approximately 429MB, so it’ll take some time, depending on your internet connection.
Installing the Software
Since I work on a Windows machine, I’ll go through the installation procedure I’m using. If you have a Mac, the steps are very similar, so you shouldn’t have any problem following along.
Begin by finding the .exe file. If it’s downloaded to your Desktop, this should be easy. If you’re using Google Chrome like I am, you can either open the file or show the folder it’s located in via the download bar at the bottom of your browser.
If it downloaded to your Downloads folder, you can easily find that if you click on the File Explorer folder icon in your taskbar at the bottom of your desktop. Click the folder and then find the Downloads folder in the left column. To access your Downloads folder on Mac, open your Finder and click on the Downloads folder, which is most often in the list on the left. The file will end in “.dmg.”
If you’re inside a folder, go ahead and double-click the file. Since I accessed the file via the download bar, I clicked on Open. Once this happens, the installer will take over. It’ll open and ask you which language you want to use. Choose your language. Then, it’ll ask for your installation location, operating system and a few other things. Since everything was already correct, I kept hitting Next until the installer was finished. That was it. Very simple.
Just a reminder – when installing this set up plugins, you’ll need to exit out of any applications it will be installed into first. In my case, I had Photoshop opened, so I closed it before launching the installer.
How to Access the Filters
Again, I’ll be covering all aspects of these filters, so please subscribe to my email list to receive those posts via email. For now, I’ll merely instruct you on how to find the plugin.
If you open a file into Photoshop and then click on the Filter menu item, you’ll see the list of available filters. Down towards the bottom, you’ll find an option called Nik Collection. If you roll over that with your mouse, you’ll see all of the available filters.
And that’s it. I think that was pretty easy. I hope I explained how to download and install the Nik Collection put out by Google. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!