Why I use Nik from Photoshop

Views at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA
Views at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA. Four images shot with a Canon 400D, merged in Lightroom and edited in Photoshop using Nik Viveza and Color Efex.

Recently I posted a video on You Tube explaining why I like to use the Nik Plugin’s from Photoshop rather than Lightroom. This came about because in all my Nik videos I start with a RAW file in Lightroom This is then converted to an image that I edit in Photoshop. A couple of people asked why and so I recorded the video for You Tube.

The video has been very well received but given it’s only had a few hundred views. To ensure everyone has access to the information I decided to also post this blog. Whilst I am referring to the Nik Collection in the video, the same argument applies to most filters.

The problem I have when using a plug-in for Lightroom is that you can end up creating lots of new files. This can be hard to manage and quickly becomes messy. If you are working on a RAW file you have no option but to convert the RAW file to an image before editing it with (what Lightroom calls) an external editor. This creates a new file, duplicating the original RAW file with adjustments.

After you have edited your image, you may need to apply a second filter to the image. When this happens, you have the option to work on either another copy of the image file or apply the adjustments to the image you created previously. The first option creates yet more image files. The second provides no “back-out” in case you make a mistake; you would need to start again from the RAW file.

Photoshop is better option as each adjustment filter can be applied as a new layer. The Nik Collection even has a setting you can use to automatically.

Once you are working with layers in Photoshop, other options are available to you:

  1. You can reduce the opacity of the layer if you find the effect you applied is too strong.
  2. You can use layer masks to hide or reveal areas of adjustment in the image. For example, you might like the sky in the adjusted image but not the rest. You could use a layer mask to hide the adjustment but then paint back the adjusted sky. You can even create quite complex masks using luminosity and channel mask techniques.
  3. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you can convert layers in Photoshop to Smart Objects. When you apply a Nik filter to a Smart Object, all the settings you apply in Nik are saved, including control points. This means when you save your finished image as a PSD file, you can open and adjust the settings in your Nik filter, even moving control points.

If some of this doesn’t make sense, watch the video below. If you want to know more about the Nik workflow, look at my book “Nik Efex from Start to Finish”.


2 thoughts on “Why I use Nik from Photoshop

  1. Interesting and a great idea. Thanks!

    However, while CR in Lightroom and Photoshop are essentially the same, I’m much more familiar and comfortable with LR’s CR interface. I also want to make it easy to keep LR as my catalog. So – getting to the same place – I think my workflow will be to do my initial edits in LR, then choose ‘edit in Photoshop,’ then go to filters/Nik Collection from there. Then, after my work in Nik and any further edits in PS, when I “save” my file, it will save it back to LR. If I want to do further edits down the road, hitting ‘edit in Photoshop’ (“edit the original”) gets me back to the same place with all layers still intact. Or I can apply some finishing LR editing and export (yes, I know that would cause another copy to be made should I later decide to return to PS from there – but that would be a rarity).

    That’s one extra step at the beginning, but saves a bunch of time down the road vis a vis the catalog and my learning curve.

    But thanks for this tip – I’ve already added it to my workflow.

    1. Hi Steve, I think you missunderstood me. I don’t use Camera RAW but Lightroom. I then switch to Photoshop in exactly the way you described. I’m going to post a further video as there have been a few questions coming in. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

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