Saturday, September 3, 2016

Playing with NIK Software

I spent time today talking with two of my fellow photo-club members and as usual we wound up on the subject of workflow processes.
We started talking about the software we used.  We all had NIK software mostly because it is now free to use.  Thank you Google.  The software also works well with Photoshop and Lightroom.
In using NIK, one of the tips I picked up was to use a bleach filter early on in the process.  A bleach filter will do what bleach does - remove a lot of color.  Clean up the stains.  The filter will also sharpen and tone compress a lot of the photo.  In my limited experience (this afternoon) the filter seems to do a much cleaner job of sharpening and compression.  In the process, you can add color back  - and the color stays where you want it - that is no compression halos.
For my testing purposes, I'm using a photo of a church door I shot earlier this year in Flint.  Nothing reacts better to tonal compression that rock/stone and wood.  
This is the original RAW image.

The image is about as sharp as it will get naturally, I used a tripod.  As with RAW images, this is a bit flat and dull.  This is what the camera sees before going through some Nikon processing to make it a bit more pleasing to the eye.  This is the starting point.
My first step is to use the RAW editor to use the camera correction to straighten the image and lighten it up a bit.

In the next step or layer, I will add the bleach filter.

As with bleach, it has removed what looks like a layer of color.  Looking at the door in the center, you can now see wood grain definition.  The masonry looks like a sharpening effect was used, but was much easier than trying to find that right amount.
Next step will be to add some color back in with the Brilliance/Warming filter.

I like the way the color of the door has started to return.  When the new door lays is compared to the pre-bleach layer - you can tell the difference.

With a lot of work, I might be able to get the same result using multiple filters.  With this flow, there is no halo and the wood grain and masonry grain really pop.
I usually don't use - or haven't thought much of using this next filter, but for this photo it works.  The filter adds a bit lo light to the center.  it is basically the same as a vignette, but more of a circular pattern.  And in this case, I just want to accentuate the doors and this does the trick nicely.

So I now have the door where I want it color-wise and relatively speaking.  I'm on the final stretch here.  And because it is me, I need to add an HDR effect.

Now I've got the HDR effect I like.  The color is really close but going to give it just a little warm boost.

Clearly that last add of a warm is personal.
This is the final product up against the original.

If I was going to do more, I'd clean up the snow.  The HDR processing doesn't really do snow any favors, I like the pure white that is in the original.  I'd use masking to fix the snow.  That's about it for this image.
For this purpose, I like using the bleach filter.  That allows me to keep the sharpness of the photo through other adjustment layers.

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