Nik Software have made awesome plugins for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture for some time now, but recently the search giant Google acquired Nik and all the goodies they have created.  Of course there has been the usual palaver on photography blogs and social networks about the pros and cons of a huge company like Google buying out a much smaller one that is creating an amazing product, but I’m going to leave my two cents out of that debate for a change and just let you know about one of the obvious benefits of this arrangement.  Up until last month, each of Nik’s plugins cost roughly between US$99-199 each.  The entire collection cost about US$500 depending on whether you had a discount code or not.  Google have decided to take a completely different approach to pricing the Nik Collection and you can now buy the ENTIRE collection of plugins for $149.  Epic.  Needless to say, if you’re a photographer and haven’t heard about this already, you need to seriously look at your social networking abilities.

I’ve tried out a couple of Nik’s plugins in the past, but never made any commitment for some reason.  After using their free 15-day trial for only about 3 days, I’m sold.  I decided to test out one of the plugins on an older image to see how it worked and get an idea of the improvements on the previous version that I tried.  HDR Efex Pro 2 is obviously used for creating HDR (high dynamic range) images.  I launched it straight out of Adobe Lightroom 4 and took it for a spin with a landscape photo from Lake Peten Itza, Guatemala.  This is my initial basic edit in Lightroom, followed by what I came up with in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2:

Lake Peten Itza Landscape, GuatemalaBEFORE: Basic edit of a single exposure in Lightroom 

Lake Peten Itza Landscape, GuatemalaAfter: Five-exposure blend edited with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2

The difference speaks for itself. Creating this kind of image without using Photoshop would have been virtually impossible without a plugin like HDR Efex Pro 2.  Of course there are alternatives, some of them very good, but to get this and a bunch more amazing Nik plugins for this price, and to be able to use them seamlessly between Lightroom and Photoshop is pretty hard to beat. If you’re considering buying the Nik Collection, you can still use coupon codes for a limited time to get a further 15% off.

What do you think? Have you tried any of Nik’s plugins or any alternatives? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or share a link to your images created using HDR Efex Pro 2.

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