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Transform a Dull Scene with Nik Color Efex Pro

In this video I demonstrate how you can transform a dull scene with Nik Color Efex Pro. The transcript for the video is also included below.

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Robin Whalley and welcome to Lenscraft.

Today I’m going to be looking at processing a recent image using Lightroom and Nik Color Efex Pro.

I shot this image earlier in the week. It’s a view from the summit of Mam Tor at sunrise.

The weather conditions were less than ideal. It was freezing cold. There were high winds and a clear blue sky.

The sky was completely empty, so I had to rule out the usual wide-angle compositions. I did consider going home but decided to try some images with a telephoto lens. My idea was to use it to pick out details in the landscape.

The camera I was using is a Fuji X-T2 with a Fuji 35-140 f/2.8 lens. The camera was tripod mounted because of the longer exposure times and the wind.

I also had a Kase Wolverine, 3 stop reverse grad filter on the lens. I lined this up over the sky as the cloud on the horizon was quite bright when compared to the ground.

What initially caught my attention in this scene was the line of trees and soft colour in the sky. It’s not a great shot, but rather than chalk the trip off as a failure we’re going to process the image for today’s video.

What I’m aiming for is an image with strong pastel colours and which gives the feeling of a cold, frosty morning with possibly a hint of mist.

I’m starting with the RAW file in Lightroom which you can see on screen now. At this point no adjustments have been made.

I’m going to start by changing the Camera Calibration setting. The Lightroom default is “Adobe Standard” but the Fuji colour profiles are usually better. Two I particularly want to try with this image are Provia and Astia.

Both are quite nice, but I prefer the Astia. It seems to open the shadows a little more than Provia.

When you’re your own files, you won’t see the same profiles as I’ve shown here unless you’re working on a Fuji RAW file. It’s the type of camera the RAW file was shot with that determines the available profiles. If you see the word “Embedded” here, your editing an image file like a JPEG or TIFF, rather than a RAW file.

The next step is to adjust the sliders in the Basic panel. Here I want to reduce the contrast in the image and lighten the shadows. I’m going to keep the adjustments I make subtle as the image already has a nice feel to it.

Now I’m going to sharpen the image using the Detail panel.

Because this is a Fuji RAW file I’m using a high Detail setting with only a small increase in the Amount. Using a high Amount setting tends to cause the wiggly worm effect when processing Fuji RAW files.

I’m also using the Masking slider to prevent the Detail slider exaggerating noise in the image.

Looking at the noise reduction, I’m turning off both Color and Luminance noise reduction. The Fuji is very good at handling noise. Applying noise reduction will only soften the image and remove fine detail.

Next, I’m going to adjust the Sky and then the ground using the Gradient filter.

First, I add a gradient filter to select the sky.

I’m then going to add a small amount of Dehaze. This is a great way to help emphasise the sky, but at higher levels it can enhance any noise there.

To help avoid this I’m setting the Sharpness slider to -50. This removes the sharpening applied in the Details panel from the sky. If I used a greater reduction than -50 it would cause a blurring effect which I don’t want.

I’ll also add a little warmth to the sky as well as a small increase in the saturation.

Now I can create a second selection for the ground.

Here I reduce the colour temperature and add some Pink.

I can also lighten the Shadows.

Finally, boost the saturation. Here I can be quite aggressive as there isn’t much colour in this area of the scene.

I then make a final check to view the adjusted image side by side with the original.

I’m happy with this so I take the image into Photoshop for more editing.

In Photoshop I’m going to apply the Nik Color Efex tool. The Nik Collection is a great set of free image editing plug-ins for Lightroom and Photoshop. Recently DxO acquired these from Google and are working on a new release. I doubt the next release will be free so if you haven’t downloaded the free Nik Collection yet, you really should.

The first filter I’m going to apply is the Tonal Contrast. I’m using this to help bring out the detail in the frosty field.

As the adjustment is being applied globally I’m going to add negative controls points which remove the effect from the sky.

The next filter is then the Detail Extractor which again will help bring out the details in the frosty field.

Here I’m going to select the large detail as it keeps a more natural look than extracting lots of fine detail.

Finally, I’m going to apply the skylight filter. This gives a nice warm feeling to the sky.

In this image the sun is coming from the left of the frame, so I will add slightly more warmth here by using a control point.

I also add other control points to the sky. This limits the effect to only being applied where there is a Control Point selection.

I’ll now apply these filters and return to Photoshop.

The way I have Nik set up is so that each time I apply one of the Nik tools, it creates a new layer.

I’m now going to apply the Color Efex tool again to add a fog effect to the field. I’m doing it like this, so I can paint the effect in selectively rather than relying just on the Control Points to make the selection.

In Color Efex I’m going to select the Fog filter and pick one of the methods.

Method 3 looks quite nice with this image.

I’m going to apply this to the ground area using a couple of Control Points.

Once I’m happy I apply the changes and return to Photoshop. This is where I’m going to selectively brush the fog effect into the image.

At the moment the fog effect can be seen across the entire image, but I want to limit it to just certain areas.

To do this I add a mask to the new layer and invert it by pressing Ctrl + I on the keyboard. This causes the effect to be hidden.

Now select the Brush tool and load it with white paint. Set a soft edge and low Opacity of around 25%.

I can now paint over the mask to show the fog effect from the layer.

Let’s check this against the starting image.

You can see it’s been substantially improved.

I hope you found this interesting.

I’m Robin Whalley and you’ve been watching Lenscraft.

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