Filters have been part of photography since, well, the start of photography. I remember using everything from vaseline smeared on glass to panty hose as a filter in the days of film. And with the switch to the digital world filters are still with us but these days they are just as likely to be software based and used in post production.
It is not hard to find software filters online, in fact there are millions of them around – and the majority seem to be pretty average. But there are exceptions.
About 5 years ago I purchased a set of Nik Photographic filters called “Color Efex Pro”. They weren’t cheap – around $US200 – but the collection contained 30 filters with everything from neutral density and colour graduated filters through to vignettes and print film effects. Importantly the filters can be applied selectively to parts of the image using specific control points.
The collection was a plug-in for popular photo editing software like Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. To be honest, many of the filters could be replicated using Photoshop but nowhere near as quickly or seamlessly. And not to the same quality unless a lot of time was spent playing with layers, channels and blending modes.
Over time Nik developed a whole range of plug in tools – one that sharpened, one that removed noise, one that made colour to black and white changes controllable and one which could adjust brightness, contrast and saturation in specific areas of images. They were very clever filters but each one cost another $US200 – $US250 so the appeal of them, to me at least, wained.
About 2 years ago Nik were bought by Google and development of the collection has continued under the new owner. The really good news is that the price has come down – to $US149 – for all 7 filters. They are now fantastic value.
It’s rare for me not to use at least one Nik filter on every image I process through Photoshop – delivering anything from modest to quite dramatic results.
Some samples of what can be done are below.