Color Efex Pro 4 by NIK software is a plugin that provides an excellent set of enhancements for color correction, retouching, and creative effects. The plug in works with Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Color Efex Pro 4 is available in Complete edition with 55 filters, or Select edition with 26 filters.
The interface is pretty simple, yet very intuitive. On the left side is the Filter / Recipe panel and on the right is the adjustment panel, both of which can be toggled with the Tab key. Once the image is “exported” from Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture the default filter is applied – Professional Contrast.
Applying a filter to your image is fairly simple, select the filter from the list and it’s immediately applied to the image. You can preview the image in three ways; single image view (after), split preview with slider and side by side view (which can be viewed either side by side or above and below).
Once the filter is applied you can make your own adjustments in the adjustment panel on the right. Each filter has different options, ranging from the intensity, tonal range, area, shape, to the filter opacity.
You can also apply filters to only a selected area. For example only to the young couple faces in the sample image I used. To do so you can click on Control points (+ sign) and click on the area of the image you want to apply the filter.
The filter adjustment sliders will appear, the top slider is the size, defined by the visible circle while adjusting, while the bottom slider is used to adjust the opacity value. Control points can be copied and pasted/applied to different areas of the image, without need to go through the same process multiple times.
Once you have applied one filter you can apply additional filters by clicking + Add filter. You can stack filters as layers and then switch on or off individual ones to suit your preference.
One very cool feature is that you can combine various filters and save them as a recipe for later use. So instead applying 5 filters to each of your photos from the same session, you can only apply them to the first one and save the recipe. Once you have the recipe you can apply it to the remaining images from your session, significantly reducing your processing time.
Just like in Lightroom, you can show the clipped highlights and shadows, go to the histogram and click on the small icons on top to toggle either shadows or highlights or both.
Once all filters are applied and adjusted you can click on Save. This will Save the image version in the parent application, e.g. Lightroom and is now ready for further action such as additional adjustment or/and export.
Color Efex Pro4 costs AU $ 199.95 (US $ 199.95) at the time of writing this review and can be purchased via NIK Software website.
I was initially a bit skeptical about the price tag, but after using Color Efex Pro 4 for about a month I believe that if you are even half-serious about your photography, the price is just about right.
Currently NIK software have a special via their Australian website where you can purchase HDR Efex Pro + Silver Efex Pro + Color Efex Pro 3 (with free upgrade to Color Efex Pro 4) for AU $ 199.00. Buying these products individually would cost AU $ 499.85 so the package is a no-brainer.