The Essential Nik Color Efex Pro Filter

by Robin WhalleyApr 19, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

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The Essential Nik Color Efex Pro Filter

I’ve personally been using the Nik Collection and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 for well over a decade. In this time, there is one filter that I use with nearly every photo I edit, which is why I consider this filter to be essential. In the following video, I share what that filter is and demonstrate how effective it is.

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If you have watched the video, you will already know that my essential filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 is the Pro Contrast Filter. If you didn’t watch the video (and I suggest you do) here are three reasons why I think it’s so important.

Correct Colour Cast

If you’ve already looked at the Pro Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro, you will know there are only three sliders. The first of these is the Correct Colour Cast slider which is simple but exceptionally effective.

When the slider is positioned to the left at the default value of 0%, it doesn’t have any effect on the image. As you move it to the right, it begins to correct the image colours. The further to the right you move it, the stronger the correction becomes, until it reaches the maximum value of 100%.

The way this adjustment works is to analyse the image to identify if there is a colour cast present. It then removes this colour as you increase its strength. Here’s an example showing the slider set at 0%, 50% and 100%.

The difference between the three images is subtle but is probably seen most in the sky and on the rocks where there is a slight red tint. Often moving the slider to the maximum value creates too strong an adjustment in specific areas of the image. It’s therefore best to use the filter with Control Points to apply the adjustment selectively.

Correct Contrast Slider

The Correct Contrast slider is a traditional contrast adjustment which makes dark tones darker and light tones lighter. Color Efex Pro determines if a tone is dark or light by comparing it to a midtone grey.

The default position for the slider is on the left with a value of 0%. As you move the slider to the right it increases the level of contrast in the image until it reaches the maximum value of 100%. Here is an example showing the slider at 0%, 50% and 100%.

Most of the time, you will probably correct the contrast in your images in the RAW processing step. The reason we find the slider in the Pro Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 is that you may find you want to increase the contrast after using the Dynamic Contrast slider.

Dynamic Contrast Slider

The Dynamic Contrast slider adds a special type of contrast called Local Contrast. What makes this so special is that it affects the midtones in the image whilst preventing the shadows from turning black and the highlights from turning white.

The effect of this slider can be seen in a few ways. The first is that it makes the detail in the image appear clearer. The second is that it can open the shadows in an image to reveal hidden detail. Thirdly, it can darken the highlights in an image to also reveal more detail. Here is an example of the slider’s effect on an image at 0%, 50% and 100%.

Of course, all this detail enhancement can cause problems in in areas like the sky, where it will emphasise the structure of clouds, sometimes making them appear false. Because of this, it’s best to use it in combination with Control Points.

Summary

As I hope you have seen in this article and video, the Pro Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro is extremely effective and versatile. This is especially true when it’s combined with Control Points, and you apply the filter multiple times. If you didn’t watch the video, I really would encourage you to do so.

You can also learn how to use the many filtes of Nik Color Efex Pro in my book “Mastering Nik Color Efex Pro”, available in the Lenscraft book store.

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