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Essential References for NIK Software

Last July, in my blog on Nik Viveza 2, software, I made reference to Nik Software Captured, The Complete Guide to Using Nik Software’s Photographic Tools, by Tony Corbell and Josh Haftel, and recommended purchasing it as the then only available “documentation” on how to use Nik’s suite of plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom. Since then, the long awaited, Plug In with Nik: A Photographer’s Guide to Creating Dynamic Images with Nik Software, by John Batdorff finally arrived. In between, I downloaded Robin Whalley’s Viveza: The Secret to Creating Breathtaking Photography, available only as a Kindle ebook. Robin has since published another Kindle eBook, How to Avoid and Remove Image Noise with Nik Dfine 2. There is one other print book I am aware of: HDR Efex Pro After the Shoot, by Stan Sholik. This book is available as a Kindle book. Amazon also offers a 2-book Kindle series which combines the Nik Software Captured and HDR Efex books. I won’t be purchasing the HDR plugin, or commenting on it, here. I have concluded that I prefer Photomatix software and workflow for the very limited use I make of HDR software.

Little written documentation exists on the implementation of this very useful software

I own, and have read, Nik Software Captured, Plug In with Nik, and Whalley’s Viveza Kindle book. I will download his Kindle Dfine book in the near future. The internet and the ever-growing ability of “everyman” to create video, and text on a computer screen and make it freely available worldwide has forever changed the way we document and teach the use of new technology. 10 years ago, my local Barnes & Noble bookstore had several shelves packed with printed reference books on all kinds of software, from simple presentation to several-hundred page tomes. Today, that has dwindled to a few feet of shelf space, most of it dedicated to business and utility software. The photographic book section is very sparse. Amazon’s virtual (and virtually endless) “bookshelves” are better, but even there, technology is creating some pretty hard turns in the road. There are fewer and fewer print books. And, it has been years since any software application has shipped with printed documentation (indeed, the norm is that it doesn’t ship at all—it is downloaded). I get that. It is immeasurably less costly, and is essentially available on-demand, 24/7. I created and sell my own electronic book (Photographing Vermont Foliage) and could never have done it with a print book.

In my view, Nik Software Captured is the best of the bunch

The point of the foregoing digression is that little written (print or ebook) documentation exists, either by Nik or third-party authors, on the implementation of this very useful software. It helps that it is reasonably intuitive. But as “old-school” as I am, I miss being able to go to the bookstore and spend an hour browsing the print books to find the one best suited to my learning style. It is what it is. The above books represent the sum-total of available print references on Nik’s estimable software suite. Fortunately, for those so-inclined, there are 100’s of video “tutorials” on the web. My problem with that is mainly that it is difficult to weed out the useful from the “chaff.” It seems like a rather inefficient way to learn to me. My “print” references allow me to look at the index in most cases and drill directly to the issue I am trying to understand or master.
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Nik Software Captured

In my view, this one is the best of the bunch. I think it’s fair to say (repeat) that each of us learns differently. I have always learned most effectively from self-study, primarily by reading and trying what I read. And, importantly, my mind works best when someone explains not just how to do something, but how and why it works. I like to “get under the hood” a bit, so to speak. So, having detailed, well-documented text is an important factor to me. Nik Software Captured is still currently the best reference of that type. They begin their book by explaining the entire suite’s “editing environment,” including, importantly, a chapter explaining the basic technology of Nik Software; its “U-point technology.” After this basic explanation of how the software works, they do a program-by-program explanation of each of the plug-in programs in the Nik Suite. Finally, they take a Landscape Image and Portrait Image example and work through how they believe each plug-in can be used to enhance the image. This book contains the most detailed explanation of Nik Software available.
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PLUG IN with NIK

When I purchased Nik Software Captured back in July, 2012, I searched Amazon for any books on Nik Software. The only print versions available were “Captured,” and books on HDR Efex. However, there was a book that was to become available in late Fall, by John Batdorff. The publication date for Plug In with Nik was extended a number of times and it would be nearly a year before I received my copy. After the wait, I have to say I was mildly disappointed in the result. Again, to beat a proverbial “dead horse,” we do learn differently. For those who might just want to get in and start using the software, John’s book is a good start. The book does not have any explanation of the Nik “environment,” nor much detail about “U-point” technology. There is brief, non-technical mention of it in the beginning of the book. When I first downloaded Viveza, I began using the control points immediately. But there was a certain blindness to that, as I really needed to have an “under-the-hood” understanding of what the control points were doing and why. And I found that after reading the explanation of the “U-point technology,” in Nik Software Captured, I had a better understanding of what the control points and adjustments were doing and how to use them. So, I see this as a weakness in Plug In with Nik.

I see this book as a useful companion to Nik Software Captured

In fairness to John, he “owns” the approach in his introduction. He notes that he is a photographer first and likes the ease and simplicity of the Nik approach to post-processing (in contrast, I might just enjoy the time I spend in front of the computer screen equally to the time I spend in the field).

Plug In with Nik, thus, gets right to the point and after a brief and non-technical introduction, launches immediately into the software modules. I think its fair, here, to observe that there is no single reference out there for any topic that contains all there is to know. Consequently, I find my learning is an accumulation from a number of resources, often including multiple books. This is a good example. While it seemed to me that Plug In with Nik, made some assumptions about things a user should already know, there were lots of explanations of things in each section that had not been covered elsewhere (including in the Nik Software Captured book).

If I only could recommend one book, this wouldn’t be it. But I have come to regard this book as a “Tips and Tricks,” type book and a useful companion to Nik Software Captured. I would still recommend it (particularly at its relatively modest price point) as an addition to your reference library.
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Viveza: The Secret to Creating Breathtaking Photography

This book is only available as an eBook in Kindle format. That’s o.k. for me, as I have the Kindle reader installed on my iPad.  🙂 The $2.99 price tag on this book makes it hard to argue against. Again, I view this book as a good “Tips and Tricks” type book which doesn’t go into much technical detail, but has lots of “how-to” information. It is restricted only to using Viveza, and does not cover the Nik “environment,” or any of the other Nik modules. I have every expectation that the newer ebook, dealing with Dfine will be similar. These books are not going to be the “essential documentation” you are looking for to cover the technical and “how-to” aspects of the Nik operating environment, but they will be useful companion pieces.

None of this software is going to “create” beautiful and compelling images. It’s up to you to do that

One quibble I have (however hackneyed the observation may seem): Both Batdorff and Whalley seem to imply that with Nik’s estimable software plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom you will “create” compelling images. Both use that phrase in their titles. To seasoned photographers, it is evidence that this just isn’t the case. Compelling images will come, first, from good, interesting composition and second, from good technical technique during the capture phase of image-making. All post-processing software, whether it is Photoshop and Lightroom, or plug-ins like Nik (or any of the other competing plug-ins, many of which I understand are very good) is designed to help us optimize the output of these images. The pixels are there. The enhancements in programs like Nik software simply make the post-processing easier and perhaps more technically effective. But for anyone who is just getting into this area; don’t fool yourself. None of this software is going to “create” beautiful and compelling images. It’s up to you to do that!

Verdict:

Nik Software Captured:   Recommended

Plug In with Nik:                 Suggested

Viveza ebook:                    Suggested

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