Top 5 Nik Collection Filters to Improve Your Landscape Photos

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One of the best image editing programs available right now happens to be free. The Nik Collection by Google is a desktop photo editing software that was recently declared free of charge earlier this year. Today, the Nik Collection makes available over 55 filters that do everything from old camera and film simulation, to image sharpening, noise reduction, and basic retouching and correcting of photos. Of these many filters, there are 5 within the Color Efex Pro 4 toolset  that are particularly useful for landscape photos. This article will highlight these essential filters and why they are so valuable.

Nik Collection Color Efex Pro free photo editing software

Note that all tools and filters within the Nik Collection contain certain points that can be individually controlled to apply the filter effect as little, or as much, as you desire. You can also add the effects of several different filters, so be sure to play around with as many as possible to achieve the look you’re after.

#1 – Pro Contrast Filter

Have a photo that needs higher levels of contrast without sacrificing detail? The Nik Pro Contrast filter tackles this problem with three filter settings that you can tinker with.

  1. Correct Color Cast reduces any inherent color cast in an image, such as the orange hue the sunrise casts onto the water below.
  2. Correct Contrast offers general contrast adjustment.
  3. Dynamic Contrast delivers the most pop by boosting contrast in flat areas of the photo. The latter feature is also demonstrated in the Polarization After photo below.
Nik - Pro Contrast 1

Before

Nik - Pro Contrast 2

After – with the Pro Contrast filter applied

Nik - Pro Contrast

#2 – Polarization Filter

For landscape photographers, the circular polarizer is a must-have glass filter that enhances blue skies and reduces water glare. It is often said that the effects of a polarizer can’t be replicated in post-production. But Color Efex Pro 4 offers a pretty impressive Polarization effect that can be applied to any photo, even if it was taken without a glass circular polarizer.

There are two Polarization filter settings that can be tweaked: Rotate, which simulates the effect of physically rotating the glass filter in front of your lens, and Strength, which controls how much of the filter effect is applied.

Nik - Polarizer 1

Before

Nik - Polarizer 2

After – with Polarization and Pro Contrast filters applied.

Nik - Polarizer

#3 – Skylight Filter

This handy filter simulates a glass warming filter by removing any blue color cast and applying a warming effect to your photo. Control the strength of the filter to determine how much warmth is added.

Nik - Skylight 1

Before

Nik - Skylight 2

After – with Skylight filter applied

Nik - Skylight

#4 – Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Similar to the glass circular polarizer, the graduated neutral density filter is a staple among landscape photographers as it helps lighten or darken just a portion of an image. Think about a landscape with perfectly balanced land and blown out sky. That is a job for the graduated neutral density filter.

There are five different settings to play with for this filter. Upper and Lower Tonality let you adjust the brightness of the top and bottom portions of the image, Vertical Shift controls the placement of the filter’s horizon, while Rotation adjusts the angle of the horizon filter. Finally, Blend helps integrate the filter effect in a more natural way.

Nik - ND Grad 1

Before

Nik - ND Grad 2

After – with Graduated Neutral Density filter applied.

Nik - ND Grad

#5 – Reflector Efex

Nik - Reflector FX 1

Before

The reflector is a favorite photographer’s tool that has also been simulated by a Color Efex Pro 4 filter. Use this filter to control light in your image and open up shadows.

The Method setting allows you to choose from Gold (warm), Soft Gold (milder warm), and Silver (neutral) lighting colors. Light Intensity controls the amount of reflector light added, Light Falloff controls the abruptness of the lighting effect falloff, while Position controls where the falloff starts. Finally, Source Direction lets you choose where the reflector effect begins.

Nik - Reflector FX 2

After – with Reflector Efex Soft Gold filter applied.

Nik - Reflector FX

Over to you

There you have it! Five handy filters within the Nik Collection’s Color Efex Pro. It’s again worth noting that there are many more filters within the software, and each can add as subtle or dramatic an effect as you desire. At the very least, this photo editing software is available for free, so it’s worth trying out if you haven’t already.

What are your most used filters within the Nik Collection for your landscape photos? Let me know in the comments below.

Read more from our Post Production category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a prolific blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • purchase ku

    wow can you do it

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  • red rackham

    Thanks for posting this article. Nik Collection sure could become helpful tool for photo editing 😀

  • CactusOne

    Great suggestions for editing landscape images, any reason you did not include the Detail Extractor?

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  • Smarter than Your Average Bear

    Awesome thanks – I’ve been using NIK for a couple of years but never tried the Reflector

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  • Nice tips! I’m gonna have to give the NIK stuff a try.

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  • Thanks for the great article! I’m blown away by the sheer number of filters in Nik Color eFex Pro that I just end up using Tonal Contrast 90% of the time. It would be great if you did a follow-up article about some of the other filters (if you haven’t already).

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