I like to feel I’m getting good value from the software I use, whether it’s on a stand-alone or subscription basis. I was never a fan of subscriptions, but I’ve seen the light and realise that Adobe provide excellent value as they continue to develop new features without charging for updates or increasing the subscription fee…for now. When I find any software that makes my workflow better and helps me to create a great final result, I like to share this with other photographers. For years, I’ve been using Nik software (before Google bought it and offered it for free) and found several of their filters – especially the pro contrast – very useful, so I promoted it in my workshops and magazine articles.
After DxO bought it from Google in 2017, they launched the Nik Collection in June 2018. I had to buy it again to continue to use it, as DxO wouldn’t honour previous licences. As a user, I’m not concerned with who owns the software as long as it does the job, but just because the ownership changes I’m expected to buy it again? It’s beginning to feel like I’m being taken advantage of as a consumer.
If you’ve been using the 2018 Nik Collection, in June 2019 you would have had a pop-up alert telling you to upgrade your software…at a cost! Even if you don’t want to upgrade you can’t stop the alert from appearing every time you launch the software. But was it worth paying for the upgrade? After taking it for a test run, not much is new that isn’t present in other software; the graphic interface has been given a facelift, but the same wrinkles are still present inside. The filters still add noise to the image, which you then have to remove using Define2… but there’s something that’s much better for removing noise which I’ll come to later.
For Christmas, I treated myself to a 2020 5K 27 inch iMac which comes with the new Big Sur OS. I bought a slimline iMac back in 2012 and it’s performed very well, but I thought the new processor and 5K display would be a huge boost to my everyday work. The display is incredible. I never realised my images were that sharp! I did a clean install of the various software programs that I use and to my surprise Nik wasn’t supported on the new OS. When I contacted DxO they said it will not be supported and that I should use an old OS.
Well, that’s really practical; essentially DxO are forcing me to pay for an upgrade in order to continue to use their software that I’ve had less than 2 years use out of and paid twice for already! In my opinion, that’s little more than extortion. There wasn’t any gesture of goodwill on their part and it wouldn’t have taken much to keep this customer happy. Instead, I will now make a point of telling photographers not to use the Nik Collection, as it seems like DxO are just doing a money grab without really making any major advances in their software. If you’re a new user to Nik, no doubt you will find the filters a benefit, but if you’re already a user, I can’t help but to think DxO have no respect for their customer base by continually making them pay for upgrades that really are not beneficial. And that’s why I won’t be using any DxO software again.
Well, that’s really practical; essentially DxO are forcing me to pay for an upgrade in order to continue to use their software that I’ve had less than 2 years use out of and paid twice for already! In my opinion, that’s little more than extortion. There wasn’t any gesture of goodwill on their part and it wouldn’t have taken much to keep this customer happy. Instead, I will now make a point of telling photographers not to use the Nik Collection, as it seems like DxO are just doing a money grab without really making any major advances in their software. If you’re a new user to Nik, no doubt you will find the filters a benefit, but if you’re already a user, I can’t help but to think DxO have no respect for their customer base by continually making them pay for upgrades that really are not beneficial. And that’s why I won’t be using any DxO software again. Rant over!
In complete contrast, Skylum, the developers of Luminar, are a very progressive company that are in tune with their customers. As an affiliate, I’ve dealt with the folks at Skylum over the past year and found they really care about producing the best software package to help photographers get the most from their images. They are quickly on their way to becoming one of the market leaders in photo-editing software. In the words of Skylum’s chief evangelist, Rich Harrington, ‘Luminar is amazingly simple and simply amazing.’ With the recent introduction of Luminar AI, Skylum are proving to be an innovator of new software rather than resting on their laurels.
As I go back through my collection of images, I now look with fresh eyes at the advancement of software and improvement in my own processing techniques. I often get asked in my workshops what is the best processing software to use. To be frank, there isn’t one program that will do everything exceptional well, so I use a variety of different programs. By using just one program, you are limiting your capability and creativity. It would be like an artist only using one colour or one medium.
I’m going to rework an image of Wharariki Beach at Sunset in New Zealand that I made back in 2016 using Luminar 4, Photoshop and Lightroom. Each one of these programs excels in different ways, so I chose this image to show several techniques that you might be able to apply to your own.
7. Save the file in Photoshop, and it will go back to Lightroom. There is just one last thing that is bugging me about this image and it’s something that you must pay attention to when you have a reflective surface in any of your own images – make sure the reflections match. And, especially if you’ve retouched something out of the subject, you have to remember to remove it from the reflection. In this case, I wanted the reflection of the cloud to match the colour of the sky. All I did was use the grad tool from the bottom at the angle over the cloud reflection and reduced the exposure by about 1 stop as reflections look strange if they are lighter than the subject. Then I used the colour picker and chose a colour that came as close as possible to the colour in the cloud.
So there you have it. It’s quite a transformation from the RAW file and, in my opinion, a big improvement on how I originally worked up the image. It brought out detail in the sea stack that I didn’t even think was there. All dues to Luminar 4 in getting the best from the file and if you haven’t tried it yet I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to download Luminar 4 – use my promo code ‘Tom’ to save some money. It’s reasonably priced anyway with no subscription and free upgrades. Unlike DxO’s Nik collection. Oh, did I mention I’m not using Nik any longer?
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