As much as I like using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 image editing software for processing my NEF files, I also really like using Nik Software’s plug-ins. Currently, only Color Efex Pro 3 works natively within the Capture NX 2 environment. However, I was recently having a discussion with one of my contacts at Nik Software, and he mentioned an interesting fact: the Lightroom implementations of Nik’s plug-ins can essentially be made to work as “stand-alone” applications, and launched directly from Capture NX 2. This is because Lightroom doesn’t really support “plug-ins,” instead it supports external editing applications. The upside of this design is that if you have the Lightroom version of a Nik plug-in installed, you can send it TIFFs or JPEGs directly without using Lightroom or Photoshop!
Here’s how to make Nik Plug-ins work with Capture NX 2 as external editors:1) Install the Lightroom version of the Nik Plug-in you are interested in.
2) Open Capture NX 2, and go to Preferences–>General.
3) In the General Preferences view, under “Open With Application,” click the Browse button. Navigate to your Applications folder, and find the “Nik Software” folder. Choose the application you are interested in. Note that you may need to open a folder called “xx for Lightroom” to find the application icon.
4) Click OK.
Now, when you open a NEF in Capture NX 2, you can edit it and then send it to Silver Efex Pro (or another tool) by choosing File–>Open With. Capture NX will save a TIFF version of the NEF and send it to the plug-in. Edit the file using your plug-in, and then click the “Save” button. Note that with this option you will not have the ability to re-name your TIFF file; the Nik plug-in will save the modified file as a TIFF. You can then open the modified TIFF in Capture NX to do any finishing work.
The biggest benefit of this “feature” is that you don’t need to own Photoshop or Lightroom to get the fantastic powers of this plug-in. The downside is that you must convert to TIFF, and there is no way to save the Nik effects non-destructively (similar to how the plug-in works for LR and Aperture). If you reopen the TIFF file in Capture NX 2 for further adjustments, you can always save that file in NEF format to preserve the steps from your Edit List non-destructively.
Another alternative for using these plug-ins as “stand-alone” applications is to directly launch the application and then open a TIFF image into it without using Capture NX. Because these applications weren’t designed to be stand-alone, they do not have a File–>Open menu (with the exception of HDR Efex Pro). That means, you’ll need to open an image (TIFF or JPEG) from your browser (I have Photo Mechanic set up to do this) or by dropping the image file icon into the application icon in your dock (Mac OS). Remember, the file will be over-written by the plug-in, so make sure you don’t run this procedure on your “master” image files. This is especially important if you work with JPEGs, as you don’t want to over-write your original image file.
To get the Lightroom version of Nik’s plug-ins, you have two options. You can buy the full version of each plug-in individually (expensive), or you can buy the Nik Complete Collection for Lightroom, which gives you all the Nik Plug-ins for $299. This gives you Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Sharpener, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro (coming soon), and Viveza 2. As always, I recommend downloading the 15-day trial version of the software before you purchase it to make sure that it works on your machine. Since these products weren’t designed to be “stand-alone,” you’ll want to test them out first to make sure they work properly.
Remember, USA customers get 15% off when purchasing from the Nik online shop when you use coupon code JODELL at checkout.