Go Beyond the Presets!

“Morning Sentinels” ©2012 Jason P. Odell (click to enlarge)

Here’s a photo from last summer in eastern Colorado. I used Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4 to duo much of the processing. As many of you know, most plug-ins come with a variety of presets. I also include numerous custom presets in my Nik Software guides.

Presets are great for two reasons. First, they help you quickly apply styles and effects that you like without having to re-create every step from scratch each time. This is especially true with Color Efex Pro 4, where you can create “Recipes”– stacks of multiple filter effect combinations. Second, presets let you see what kinds of filters and settings deliver the results you like best. This is extremely helpful when you’re learning new software.

Despite their usefulness, settings presets can get you into a rut. While I certainly like the presets I’ve developed for Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4, those are my personal preferences. I develop these presets with the intent to nurture my readers’ own creative style. I encourage you all to consider presets as starting points, and not the endgame.

Here’s an example. I started with a RAW image from my Nikon D3s, and sent it into Color Efex Pro 4. My first step was to apply my “Grunge Portrait” recipe (included in The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4). But then I went and modified some of the settings, and added in additional filter effects to get the look I wanted, including the Varitone and Skylight filters. I dragged the Vignette step to the end of the filter stack and tweaked the setting to be less extreme (the original settings were based a portrait shot).

Original RAW image
I started using my custom “Grunge Portrait” recipe in Color Efex Pro 4 to lay down the initial filters I wanted to use.
I applied additional filters in CEP 4 and moved the Vignette filter to the end of the stack.

I finished off the image with a mild ND Grad filter effect in Lightroom 4 to darken the uppermost part of the sky.

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One thought on “Go Beyond the Presets!”

  1. What are the steps before you sent it into color efex 4? Raw conversion in NX2 > tiff > LR4/A3/PS > efex4?

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