NIK HDR Efex PRO Changes Everything

I’m experimenting with NIK’s new HDR Efex Pro software and it makes it soooo easy to do high-dynamic range images.

HDR images are showing up everywhere. Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs blog (That’s one of Trey’s photos of the waterfall.) is a great place to explore what HDR photography looks like as is Eduardo Chacon’s site.

Also, if you look closely lots of magazines and newspapers (although the press photographers are loathed to admit it) are using HDR on some of their feature images.

Essentially all you have to do is shoot three or more images with differing exposure values (+2  0  -2  for example) that are of the same subject (best done with a tripod but handheld is possible) and open them all at the same time in Lightroom, Aperture, or Photoshop (64-bit only for now in PS) and then open HDR Efex PRO….and stand back because that’s it 🙂

HDR Efex Pro has a whole series of presets on the left side of the screen that change the basic look of the HDR image. Very cool. Plus there are the regular NIK HDR tool bar on the right side of the screen so you can make custom changes that suit your image.

So how do I know so much about HDR photography all of a sudden? I took advantage of NIK’s free online seminar on HDR this morning and believe me – HDR Efex Pro rocks and it’s so simple, even I can’t screw it up. (NIK hosts free online seminars that will show you how to use all of their products. NIK’s products are easy to use and really, really effective. They make me look like a much better photographer than I really am! How’s that for honesty 🙂

As most of you know, I have the entire NIK collection including the Nikon only Capture NX 2 RAW editor (which I still think is THE BEST RAW editor for Nikon’s proprietary NEF RAW files) and I also have the companion Colour Efex Pro 3 software that rocks with NX2.

Now I do get asked a lot at club meetings which software is best and since I have Photoshop CS4, Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom 2 and 3; NX Capture 2, Picasa (from Google); IPhoto (for Mac) and I had Corel Paintshop Photo Pro I can state unequivocally – it depends 🙂 and you get what you pay for.

If you want to use the NIK collection (highly recommended for both its ability to make your images look better and ease of use) then for me it’s either Lightroom 3 or Photoshop.

Now I find Lightroom 3 as my go-to photo editor for my special events photography where it’s not unknown for me to shoot a thousand or more images that need editing and processing right away.

Yes you can do that in Photoshop but Lightroom 3 is also a very sophisticated data base that helps me keep my images safe and at hand. And, truthfully, I almost never use Photoshop anymore. Graphic artists and photographers working on single images love Photoshop and for good reason. You can do ANYTHING you want in Photoshop. But I have much more modest needs.

What I usually want to do is process hundreds of images quickly and professionally and I don’t want to take all day doing it. That’s a Lightroom 3 job.

So what’s with Capture NX2? When I am working on individual images – especially landscapes – then it’s NX2 for me and NIK’s Colour Efex Pro 3. The U-point technology is way cooler than Photoshop layers IMHO. It’s lightyears faster to work with and produces terrific results and costs $250 as compared to $800 for Photoshop.

I’ve never used Aperture for Mac but the NIK collection works with it and Aperture is highly regarded by professional shooters. NIK’s collection is $360 here in Canada and Aperture is $214. Finally Photoshop Elements 8.0 for Windows (and it works for Mac too) is $100 and NIK’s software is compatible so this is the least expensive solution.

What I recommend is to purchase or use one photo editor until you know why you might want to buy something more expensive. For most of my work anyone of the above would do but if I had to pick one it would be Lightroom 3 for its overall versatility and price point at around $370.

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