What Happens Post Nik?

When the last version of Photoshop CC broke one of the view mechanisms in the Nik Collection, I knew that the end was near. The plug-ins still work just fine, but there are a couple of situations where previewing doesn’t work correctly now. 

The posting on the Google site for Nik pretty much says it all: "We have no plans to update the Collection or add new features over time.” In other words, when Nik really breaks due to some OS or Photoshop update, the end will have officially arrived.

There’s no way to predict when that will happen, but it will happen. 

The problem is this: all the plug-in makers are really shooting at Lightroom these days. That means that they’re no longer focused on plug-ins per se, but would rather have you buy their full-featured offerings. 

Curiously, most of these full-feature products can work as Photoshop/Lightroom plug-ins, but personally I don’t really see the point of that, as you’re working “after the demosaic.” I use plug-ins for a specific purpose, such as sharpening (e.g. Nik Sharpening), removing noise (e.g. Nik Define), converting to black and white (e.g. Nik Silver Efex Pro), or altering particular contrast ranges (e.g. Nik Color Effects Pro). 

For awhile, Macphun’s Web site basically hid their old plug-in products while their full converter/editor Luminar was being introduced. My favorite Macphun product is Intensify, and I use it as a plug-in in replacement of Nik Color Effects Pro because it gives me more control over the things I’m trying to change. Fortunately, the Macphun plug-ins are back (Menu, Other Products). But they are Mac only still.

But I wonder how long the plug-ins will hold on.

Adobe has this history of adding things to Lightroom/Photoshop that keep rendering some plug-ins to the scrap heap. Even a mediocre implementation in the main Adobe product seems to have big financial impacts on third party plug-ins that do a better job. Which is probably why all the plug-in makers are expanding outwards into fuller products. 

So let me take a moment and suggest my very favorite plug-ins at the moment, while you can still get them:

  • Macphun Intensify (Mac only)— It presents as a bunch of preset options, but don’t get confused by that. This is not Instagram filter effects, this is a powerful tool with very interesting abilities. It takes a while to learn what you can and can’t do with it, and how to use it (I feel a tutorial coming on). Two keys to using this tool effectively: (1) when you find an effect that you like, get out of the presets and into the adjust mode; you can fine-tune anything that Intensify does, and you’ll need to do that in order to keep from it doing heavy-handed things; (2) note that you can layer effects; that’s right, there’s a layering system built into this plug-in, and it’s the way I usually work, first addressing larger changes I want to make and then layering up more specific changes to certain things (e.g. shadows). 
  • Piccure+ (Mac/Windows) — Okay, first things first: it’s slow. Particularly if you need to dial it in for an image as opposed to using the defaults. But it does a type of sharpening—deconvolution—that pulls out detail in ways you won’t get from the edge-detect sharpening tools. Frankly, I’d say that it’s the only way you’re going to actually see what your lens/camera combination is actually capable of, at least if you’re a pixel peeper. Be sure to follow their instructions, though: don’t crop before applying this tool (I feel another tutorial coming on, as using Piccure+ changed my workflow).
  • Greg Benz’ Luminosity Masking Panel (Mac/Windows) — If you like working on your data in different luminosity values, which you should if you’re trying to push/pull contrast, then Photoshop users absolutely should have a tool like this one. There’s a simple free version of the tool, and a much more nuanced and useful for-money version. Be sure to watch all of Greg’s tutorials before trying to dip in and add this tool to your workflow, though. This tool can be used in a heavy-handed and bad way, or in subtle and highly useful ways. 
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