Mar 082011
 

I was checking out local photography courses here in Denver the other night and I came across a curiously named one-day seminar called the “NIK Workshop.” I had no idea what NIK was so I clicked the link.

It quickly became apparent that NIK was some sort of software used for retouching digital photos. When I looked at the before and after samples on the page I was completely blown away. I’ve been engaged in digital photography and workflow for over 10 years and I had never heard of NIK, yet here was a product that was performing miracles in color, lighting effects, sharpening, converting to black and white, and all the other stuff that I’ve struggled with in Photoshop for all these years.

Completely intrigued, I went to the NIK Software website and downloaded a trial copy of Viveza 2, an extremely versatile tool that makes it easy to adjust lighting, exposure, contrast, detail (they call it “structure”) and much more in all or part of your image. What’s more, Viveza seamlessly folds your adjustments across the image so that even if you make a local change in one corner, the rest of the image still looks right.

Within 30 minutes I had my own pair of before and after photos, a recent sunset shot I took in Bora Bora. Last week I spent over an hour futzing with levels, curves, saturation, etc. in Photoshop CS5 on this very same image, but was never quite happy with the result. After only 10 minutes in Viveza 2, I created the masterpiece I was looking for. Check it out:

Sunset - Before

Sunset - Before

Sunset - After

Sunset - After

Pretty stunning! And all this with no selections, layers, layer masks, or any of that other nonsense that makes Photoshop powerful… but a pain.

Here’s a portraiture example. The first image is OK but not really very flattering or interesting. The background is blown out and the subject is slightly underexposed… looks like a typical, mediocre, amateur backlit portrait:

Portrait - Before

Portrait - Before

Here’s the same image after 5 minutes with Viveza 2. Now we’re talking! The background no longer looks washed out… I was able to recover a decent amount of detail and color in the water. At the same time, I brightened the model’s skin tones to make her almost glow against the background. It almost looks like I was using fill flash and umbrellas. Much better!

Portrait - After

Portrait - After

I can’t believe that in all these years I’ve never heard of NIK software or their products. I purchased the full suite and it has completely revolutionized my workflow and re-energized my creativity when retouching photos. I find it especially useful for salvaging poorly-lit or uninteresting portraits, but it’s great for landscapes and other subjects as well. It works like magic, the way I always wanted Photoshop to work. Highly recommended.

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