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01/02/2011 08:48:12 PM · #1
I am still new here and probably going over the old ground but I would appreciate help on this.

I am trying to work out the best setup for post-processing of photos. Since Lightroom 2 came out I have decided against upgrading my old copy of Photoshop 7, especially that I got free Photoshop Elements with the Canon camera. Photoshop CS5 while being the defacto standard for editing has a long learning curve and lots of features I would never use. Photoshop Elements is quite OK when I need to use layers.

So my current setup is:
Lightroom (with many presets, it is the best tool I have had for standard photo editing!)
Photomatix (for HDR, also with some good presets)
Photoshop Elements 7 (I don't normally use it for photo editing, only if I need to add text or combine images or do something fancy)

I have downloaded Nik's and Topaz plugins for Lightroom as they seem to be the most recommended at DPC. They are basically collections of tools for specific jobs but there is quite a lot of overlap amongst them.
My questions are:

1. what features of HDR Efex Pro are superior over using Photomatix plugin with Lightroom?
2. which is more versatile and gives better results - Nik's Dfine or Topaz DeNoise?
3. as above - Nik's Sharpener or Topaz Detail or Topaz InFocus?
4. again - Viveza or Topaz Adjust?

The others seems to have less overlap like Topaz Simplify or Nik's Silver Efex. And the most important question:
- which are the top 3 plugins you use most of the time?
01/02/2011 09:06:41 PM · #2
You will probably get different answers depending on what an individual has chosen. I can give my own opinion on the noise reduction software, however.

In the past, I tried some trial versions of Noise Ninja, Neatimage and an early version of Topaz Denoise and decided that the investment in such software did not offer me much improvement over the noise reduction built into PaintShop Pro. A discussion and some comparison tests in the Topaz group on Flickr showed that PSP actually has some very good noise reduction included. The latest versions of Topaz Denosie are much improved and I may have bought it if I hadn't been given a free license for being in the Beta test.

I'm sure the other Noise reduction makers have not been sitting idle, however. Biggest difference to me seems to be features and the way it works, and which one has the features that you will find useful.

My 3 most heavily used plugins are: Topaz Denoise, Topaz Adjust & Nik Silver Efex.
01/02/2011 09:12:04 PM · #3
I also use paintshop pro and find myself using both the denoise that is included and Topaz Denoise. I use topaz adjust (in light quantities) and topaz denoise A LOT.

I own photoshop and find that paintshop is much easier to use.
I have never used Silver Efex. hmmm might have to give it a try.

I also use Xero a lot when I am wanting a certian look though it does not have a noise remover it has some other great features and its free to use.

I just got lightroom because my soon to be sister in law who is a graphic artist and a photographer swears by it... I cant comment on it because I have only used it 2 times so far.
01/02/2011 09:59:21 PM · #4
In my opinion, the nicest thing about Nik's stuff is the ease of application. There is no real masking to worry about, and it speeds up a lot of things for me. While I still have ReMask from Topaz (Version 3.0 just came out, FYI) and use that for anything where I HAVE to mask, the ability to quickly and easily adjust things using the control points from Nik's products is awesome. Silver EFEX PRO is the best and most user friendly BW conversion tool I've found, so I use that exclusively for BW. Color EFEX has some really useful features that I use as well. My most common plugins are Topaz Detail, Silver Efex Pro, DeNoise, Color Efex, ReMask, and Photomatix for HDR (I would try HDR Efex but my system is 32 bit and I currently use CS4, not Lightroom... still waiting for the 32 bit version). Those cover pretty much everything I need to do. I use Nik Products when I want to use the U-Points or when I want to do BW, and I use Topaz Detail/DeNoise more generally for images.
01/02/2011 10:33:04 PM · #5
My current products of choice are LR3, PSE8, PSCS5 and the complete set of Nik products. I switched from Photomatix to Nik HDR Pro after seeing how much easier it was to use, the presets and the control points. My upgrade to CS5 from Elements was due to a deal I received and the fact that I can now work a file in 16 bit instead of 8 bit I had to use with Elements. As for noise I switched from Noise Ninja which I loved to Nik Define because it seemed to do a better job of leaving detail where I needed it and worked well with both Elements and now CS5 and masking. I have no experience with Topaz so can't compare but I find Nik products well worth the money.

For what it is worth LR3 does a pretty good job with global noise adjustments and sharpening. About the only Nik product I don't use much is Sharpener as I tend to still use PS for that. And as most who use it will tell you Silver Efex rocks.
01/03/2011 12:56:18 AM · #6
i use both NIK and Topaz products regularly

my most used are: Color Efex, Silver Efex, In-Focus, and Adjust. i do however have the complete NIK suite and remask, adjust, in focus, and detail.

for noise solutions if i owned the full version of Topaz Denoise i would use it over NIK Dfine. i have used both (Dfine more extensively since i own it) and find that topaz does a better job at preserving what i actually want to preserve. it is not as smooth as NIK but i like the texture that it does leave behind because at <100% it gives the appearance of greater sharpness.

for sharpening i was a HUGE fan of the NIK sharpener until the very first time i used in-focus. i think in-focus RULES. as with any sharpening it can EASILY be overdone (easier than NIK sharpener) but the estimate blur function is unreal in its capabilities. i have been using it on at least 3/4 of my recently processed photos and its really gives them the edge that i love.

so i guess my summary would be:

Noise- topaz if you dont mind a little left over grain that makes the picture look sharper when reduced in size. NIK if you want it smooth as butter.

Sharpening- in focus if you have a good eye for what is too much sharpening. NIK if you feel like you might tend to overcook some things.

hope that helped a little.

-Max

ETA: i prefer adjust over viveza. i feel like viveza is WAY more versatile and customizable but i do all of my toning by hand anyways. the role of adjust/viveza in my workflow is in pre-post-processing (i realize thats counter intuitive) to give and initial tone and contrast adjustment BEFORE i start tweaking the details. if you want to do your detail work with a plugin, choose viveza. if you want a fast broad-scope improvement prior to detailed tweaking; choose adjust.

Message edited by author 2011-01-03 00:59:57.
01/03/2011 04:14:51 AM · #7
I have Aperture 3, Photoshop CS4 (with Neat Image). I have all the Nik plug ins for Aperture and Photoshop.

I hardly ever use Photoshop, I use it where making selections is essential (less often than you might think once you get the hang of using the additive and removal control points in Nik).

I sharpen manually using the Aperture Brush, sometimes I'll use Color Efex Pro's Tonal Contrast filter or add structure with Viveza 2. For global sharpening I use Apple's excellent preview tool (I always do my final sharpening, colour adjustment and resizing with Preview).

For noise reduction I mainly (mis)use The Dynamic Skin Softener tool in Color Efex Pro, picking out the colors I want to soften, using control point to protect areas. For global noise reduction I round-trip the image to Photoshop to use Neat Image.

Top 3 plugins:

1. Viveza 2 - takes a while to appreciate but once you begin to use it, especially to 're-light' areas. The 'structure' control point slider in this second version makes the upgrade worthwhile.
2. Color Efex Pro - Film Effect, Glamour Glow, Tonal Contrast, Bleach Bypass, Paper Toner are all well used by me.
3. Silver Efex Pro - so flexible... You always get the monochrome conversion you want (unless it is Basic editing!!)

Message edited by author 2011-01-03 04:16:09.
01/03/2011 04:40:47 AM · #8
I've just started working with Nik HDR Efex Pro (my first Nik plugin) and I'm thinking it's going to replace Photomatix Pro as my HDR weapon-of-choice. Wonderful interface, much more intuitive, and the control points are a real plus... I've been using it as a single-exposure tone mapper up to now, first as free trial and then I went and bought the dang thing last night. Can't sleep in the wee hours, so I've been dredging old multi-exposure HDR images out of archive and re-processing with Nik, and it's really, really good, a lot easier to get natural results from it.

R.
01/03/2011 07:08:36 AM · #9
Originally posted by marnet:

I am still new here and probably going over the old ground but I would appreciate help on this.

I am trying to work out the best setup for post-processing of photos. Since Lightroom 2 came out I have decided against upgrading my old copy of Photoshop 7, especially that I got free Photoshop Elements with the Canon camera. Photoshop CS5 while being the defacto standard for editing has a long learning curve and lots of features I would never use. Photoshop Elements is quite OK when I need to use layers.

So my current setup is:
Lightroom (with many presets, it is the best tool I have had for standard photo editing!)
Photomatix (for HDR, also with some good presets)
Photoshop Elements 7 (I don't normally use it for photo editing, only if I need to add text or combine images or do something fancy)

I have downloaded Nik's and Topaz plugins for Lightroom as they seem to be the most recommended at DPC. They are basically collections of tools for specific jobs but there is quite a lot of overlap amongst them.
My questions are:

1. what features of HDR Efex Pro are superior over using Photomatix plugin with Lightroom?
2. which is more versatile and gives better results - Nik's Dfine or Topaz DeNoise?
3. as above - Nik's Sharpener or Topaz Detail or Topaz InFocus?
4. again - Viveza or Topaz Adjust?

The others seems to have less overlap like Topaz Simplify or Nik's Silver Efex. And the most important question:
- which are the top 3 plugins you use most of the time?


I use LR2 and PSE6 as my main software and on top of that I have the complete Nik's software and Topaz Bundle as well as photomatix. SO to answer your questions in my personal opinion here you go:

1. Nik's has better control and more settings. Since getting HDR Efex Pro I haven't touched photomatix
2. By far, for me at least, Topaz DeNoise is far superior
3. Have not tried InFocus but between Nik's and Topaz I use Topaz Detail much more often
4. Viveza no question. Of course they are not really the same animal but for most circumstances I use Viveza.

Again these are just my preferences and YMMV
01/03/2011 03:19:55 PM · #10
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

I've just started working with Nik HDR Efex Pro (my first Nik plugin) and I'm thinking it's going to replace Photomatix Pro as my HDR weapon-of-choice. Wonderful interface, much more intuitive, and the control points are a real plus... I've been using it as a single-exposure tone mapper up to now, first as free trial and then I went and bought the dang thing last night. Can't sleep in the wee hours, so I've been dredging old multi-exposure HDR images out of archive and re-processing with Nik, and it's really, really good, a lot easier to get natural results from it.

R.


How much noise do these programs make for HDR? I've been using Dynamic-Photo HDR and noise can be a real problem even at 100 ISO.
01/03/2011 03:28:58 PM · #11
don't know about HDR.

Denoise -- highly, highly, highly recommend topaz denoise. Excellent program.

I use NIK silver Efex for b&W

love topaz adjust

love viveza. I think adjust and viveza are two different programs and are used to two different purposes -- I'd get both.


01/03/2011 04:00:25 PM · #12
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

How much noise do these programs make for HDR? I've been using Dynamic-Photo HDR and noise can be a real problem even at 100 ISO.


Any HDR program is going to amplify noise, it's the nature of the beast. Nik HDR Efex Pro seems less noisy than the others, but this may just be because I am using it a little less aggressively, I don't know. You pretty much HAVE to use noise reduction in conjunction with HDR though.

Here's a remake of my "Escape" photo, from RAW through Nik HDR Efex, using control points, single exposure tone mapping, no noise reduction needed on this one:

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/30000-34999/30861/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_928103.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/30000-34999/30861/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_928103.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Here's a remake of a Maine sunset, true HDR from 4 exposures, moderate noise removal required in sky:

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Earlier processing, with Topaz Adjust and with Photomatix Pro, respectively, linked on comments sections. You'll notice in the sunset remake I'm having a MUCH easier time with color consistency where the sun is brightest. The overall color shift towards the warm is a choice I made in reprocessing, not endemic to the software, however.

One thing about Nik HDR Efex is that they seem to have two sets of menus: on the left are various presets, and these are interesting and provide good starting points, but on the right is another list that gives different "HDR Methods", and these all seem to use actual different *algorithms*, not just juggling of the various different sliders for different effects. So it's fascinating to play with. You'll see a sort of underlying misty softness with crispness on top of it, in the escape photo, and that was one of these "methods", then custom adjusted.

R.
01/03/2011 04:37:41 PM · #13
Thanks ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Bear_Music. I think I'll have to download the trial when I've got a bit of time to play with it.

I love that sunset.
01/03/2011 04:49:58 PM · #14
Hmmm, I use photoshop CS (just CS, no number) and photomatix, and that is it. My noise reduction is guessing with gaussian blur. So I am glad I stumbled upon this thread. I've always heard about Nik Silver Effects Pro, but the more I look into the whole line it would change my workflow and end result entirely, and for the better.
01/03/2011 05:00:32 PM · #15
I have Neat Image and Topaz DeNoise (just got that one) and it's amazing...both are really good...but I will admit that using Topaz DeNoise is effortless and very efficient...

I still haven't figured out the Topaz InFocus...still playing with that...don't really see "wow" results from that yet....

And finally I have Topaz Adjust...what an amazing tool this has turned out to be...

I use LR3 and PSE8 for all my photo processing...LR3 is amazing with the cropping and curves in comparison to PSE8 and I haven't even touch the real use of it I'm quite sure...

Personally I think that PSE8 has alot of power...not as much as CS/? but it does what I want it to do...

I drool over the Silver Efex over and over...one day I will add that to my "collection" I simply can not at this point afford the whole pkg...but I can dream..

by the time that I get a couple more pkgs from Topaz I could have bought the whole suite...but what amazing tools they have turned out to be...very pleased with Topaz
01/03/2011 05:30:08 PM · #16
Thanks everyone. All very useful comments. I have one more question:

Are there any presets or features in both Nik and Topaz that are not allowed to be used under Advanced Editing rules? For example, fog effect - does this introduce a new object?
01/04/2011 02:30:38 AM · #17
Originally posted by marnet:

Thanks everyone. All very useful comments. I have one more question:

Are there any presets or features in both Nik and Topaz that are not allowed to be used under Advanced Editing rules? For example, fog effect - does this introduce a new object?


Under Advanced Rules, I imagine you could get in trouble with a lot of them if you really go crazy. The control points in Nik COULD be used to create or eliminate features, especially with some of the filters in Color Efex Pro where you can "add" light sources. But this danger is evident in all editing programs, and really shouldn't be something that is held against either set of programs. Otherwise, they are legal. Refer to the discussions about changing the viewer's description and what is and is not a notable feature for a clarification beyond this.
01/04/2011 10:19:16 AM · #18
Originally posted by spiritualspatula:

Originally posted by marnet:

Thanks everyone. All very useful comments. I have one more question:

Are there any presets or features in both Nik and Topaz that are not allowed to be used under Advanced Editing rules? For example, fog effect - does this introduce a new object?


Under Advanced Rules, I imagine you could get in trouble with a lot of them if you really go crazy. The control points in Nik COULD be used to create or eliminate features, especially with some of the filters in Color Efex Pro where you can "add" light sources. But this danger is evident in all editing programs, and really shouldn't be something that is held against either set of programs. Otherwise, they are legal. Refer to the discussions about changing the viewer's description and what is and is not a notable feature for a clarification beyond this.


It's in Basic Editing that you REALLY GET INTO TROUBLE....I really thought I was following the rules on one and got Dq'd as I obviously didn't really understand what I could or couldn't do...you can use them in basic...but be very, very careful one step in the wrong direction and...well you get the picture...lol
01/04/2011 11:21:25 AM · #19
Originally posted by marnet:

Thanks everyone. All very useful comments. I have one more question:

Are there any presets or features in both Nik and Topaz that are not allowed to be used under Advanced Editing rules? For example, fog effect - does this introduce a new object?


With basic editing you can't use the control points at all - most of the global filters are alright but I certainly wouldn't use any filter than applies a differential effect over the image so avoid:

Bi-color filters
Darken/Lighten Center
Graduated filters
Graduated Fog
Graduated Neutral Density
Graduated User Defined
Reflector Effects
Vignette
Vignette Blur

Also, take care using the other 'less subtle' filters if they would radically change a viewers description of the image
01/04/2011 02:49:12 PM · #20
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

I've just started working with Nik HDR Efex Pro (my first Nik plugin) and I'm thinking it's going to replace Photomatix Pro as my HDR weapon-of-choice. Wonderful interface, much more intuitive, and the control points are a real plus... I've been using it as a single-exposure tone mapper up to now, first as free trial and then I went and bought the dang thing last night. Can't sleep in the wee hours, so I've been dredging old multi-exposure HDR images out of archive and re-processing with Nik, and it's really, really good, a lot easier to get natural results from it.

R.


Just went to download the trial and I see it's not compatible with Photoshop Elements:(
01/04/2011 02:49:59 PM · #21
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

Just went to download the trial and I see it's not compatible with Photoshop Elements:(


I didn't realize you used elements, sorry...

R.
01/04/2011 02:56:24 PM · #22
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

Just went to download the trial and I see it's not compatible with Photoshop Elements:(


I didn't realize you used elements, sorry...

R.


No need to apologize. At least I thought to look before trying to install it.

Sooner or later I'll have to get the REAL Photoshop, but 2010 was a really expensive year.
01/04/2011 03:40:18 PM · #23
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:


Sooner or later I'll have to get the REAL Photoshop, but 2010 was a really expensive year.


For me Lightroom is the REAL Photoshop for photographers. Highly recommended and works with all Nik plugins including HDR. And it is much cheaper! I think many people stay with CS5 because they are used to it and/or they like a lot of local post-processing, masking, layers etc.
01/04/2011 04:31:52 PM · #24
Originally posted by marnet:

Originally posted by GinaRothfels:


Sooner or later I'll have to get the REAL Photoshop, but 2010 was a really expensive year.


For me Lightroom is the REAL Photoshop for photographers. Highly recommended and works with all Nik plugins including HDR. And it is much cheaper! I think many people stay with CS5 because they are used to it and/or they like a lot of local post-processing, masking, layers etc.


Thanks. That's something to think about. But Lightroom PLUS Nik HDR Efex Pro is still going to come to quite a lot of money. I'm not sure I can afford all that so soon after buying the 7D.
01/04/2011 04:46:24 PM · #25
I would highly recommend Lightroom as your first purchase before any other programs. The ease of workflow and the time it will save you is well worth the money. If you can get it at an educational discount, even better.

If money is an issue, Artizen HDR is a decent HDR program for less money than Nik or Photomatix. I think I like Photomatix a little better, but I've gotten nice results from Artizen and it only costs $45.

As much as people rave about Nik's Silver Efex black and white conversions, I didn't find much in it that I couldn't do with Lightroom 3. It just seemed like a bunch of presets for different looks that could be achieved with LR. Nik just made the process faster. Granted, I only tried the trial, so I didn't get to delve deep into the program.
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