On March 24, 2016, Google made their latest version of the Nik Collection of photography tools freely available to download. The collection comprises Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, and Dfine.

f8aa8eea90429dada2ef2c7f978c325d_7cN6je1FUQPugDhEbEXjyXPxVXZg6It’s quite a package and I’ve been enjoying it.

The Nik Collection is based on seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities—from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects, to image sharpening that brings out all the hidden details, to the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images.

I’m especially fond of working with Silver Efx Pro. It makes enhancing texture a breeze. I also tend to go overboard with contrast with Photoshop alone.

Silver Efex Pro 2 has four sliders for adjusting contrast. The Contrast slider is similar to the one in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. The Amplify Whites and Amplify Blacks sliders let you increase contrast in the highlights and shadows respectively. There’s also a Soft Contrast slider that increases contrast but in a more passive way.

And, if I get carried away with the Contrast sliders and lose detail in highlights and shadows, Silver Efx Pro has two Tonality Protection sliders that help bring back detail in clipped areas. They seem to have my back.

There are six more outstanding plug-ins in the Nik Collection to learn and experiment with. Here’s some advise: Don’t download the collection on a school night. If you find it as intriguing and as much fun as I do, you’ll feel like hell the next morning.

Here’s the download site for Google’s Nik Collection. Enjoy.