Update: The free version of Google Nik Collection is no longer available to download. We'll be reviewing the new, premium version of the package soon.
Google Nik Collection is a set of seven premium photo-enhancing filters that can be used as Photoshop plugins, or as standalone programs. The suite was originally priced at US$500 (about £380, AU$650), but is now available to download and use free.
Google Nik Collection includes the following tools:
- Analog Efex (retro filters and effects)
- Color Efex (hue and tone)
- Silver Efex (monochrome)
- Dfine (noise removal)
- Viveza (selective color editing)
- Sharpener (image sharpening)
- HDR Efex (high dynamic range)
Some of these might sound simple, like Silver Efex, but each one is a whole digital darkroom dedicated to a specific technique. Creating great monochrome photos is an artform, requiring careful manipulation of contrast and brightness to bring out the best in your subject. Silver Efex not only lets you tweak these settings, it can also simulate the look of various branded films, apply grain, and replicate the effect of manual dodging and burning.
Sadly, in late May 2017, Google announced that it will no longer be updating Nik Collection or adding new features.
Google Nik Collection won't appear in your Program list after you've run the installer, and you won't find any desktop shortcuts. Instead, you need to track the filters down using Windows Explorer. Provided you've used the default location during setup, you'll find them in C:\Program Files\Google\Nik Collection. It's also worth noting that some don't have an 'Open' button – you need to drag your photos onto the filter's icon in Explorer instead.
Make sure you back up your images If you're using the filters as standalone apps rather than Photoshop plugins, because the original files will be overwritten when you save the changes.
Each of the seven apps lets you edit photos individually or in batches, and includes a list of presets that can be adjusted manually to suit your tastes. You have an impressive degree of control, and if you're particularly happy with your bespoke settings you can use the 'Custom' button the left to save them as a new profile.
Viveza is one of the most interesting tools in the bundle, letting you control color and exposure settings in your whole photo or just selected areas. Click 'Add a control point' to select a certain color, then move the brightness, contrast, saturation and structure sliders and you'll see areas of that hue change independently of the rest of the image. The effects can be subtle or incredibly striking – it's entirely up to you.
It's amazing that these seven powerful image editors are yours to use completely free. Download them today, start experimenting and bring your photo collection to life.