Use Nik Plug-ins Inside Nikon NX Studio
Here’s a non-standard way to use the Nik Plug-ins: from Nikon’s free NX Studio. This is an easy way to vastly increase the power of Nikon’s free program. By the way, other plug-ins can be added with these techniques, but only if they’re a plug-in that is an “.exe”. The “8-bit filter” plug-ins (.8bf) aren’t compatible.
The Nik plug-ins require input files to be converted into jpeg or (preferably) 16-bit TIF format; they can’t use raw-format files. If you want to use NX Studio, you can stick with RAW (NEF) format, and have it convert them into 16-bit TIF prior to running the plug-ins. If you’re interested in quality results, please skip using either jpeg or 8-bit TIF files. You can always use NX Studio to convert the 16-bit TIF results into jpeg as a final step before display.
Nikon has abandoned Capture NX-D, which was also able to use the plug-ins. That program was slightly more sophisticated than NX Studio, because it had the ability to automatically convert the raw format into TIF/JPEG before calling a plug-in. Now, you have to manually convert the raw format before you can use the plug-ins. So much for progress.
To convert your raw NEF photo into TIF, just select the photo and then click File | Export. Select the option to save it as 16-bit TIF format from the dialog that pops up.
Convert your raw photo into TIFF format
Be aware that all of the plug-ins except HDR Efex Pro 2 will overwrite the input TIF file when you save the results via their “Save” button.
How to run NX Studio with Plug-ins
Nikon’s NX Studio is a somewhat limited, but free program. Because Nikon keeps NX Studio current, it knows how to use Raw-format files from its most recent cameras, unlike my beloved Capture NX2. Although it can support “control points” and the auto retouch brush to increase its power, the plug-ins such as Silver Efex Pro, Viveza 2, Dfine 2, Sharpener Pro 3, and HDR Efex Pro 2 can greatly expand NX Studio’s power.
Register your plug-in first
I am assuming you have already installed your plug-ins. As of this writing, the plug-ins are available from DxO.
You’ll need to locate where the plug-ins were installed. On my computer, they are installed into folders beneath “C:\Program Files\Google\Nik Collection”. I’m using the 64-bit versions, but Nik has also provided 32-bit versions for programs/operating systems that cannot support 64-bit.
Before you can start using the plug-ins, you need to register them in NX Studio. As shown above, begin with File | Open With | Register…
Add a new plug-in
Highlight “Open with Application”, click “Add…”
Next, click “Other…”
Navigate to where your plug-in is located
Select the desired plug-in executable, then click “Open”. Now, you can run the added plug-in from NX Studio.
Select the desired plug-in to edit your TIFF photo
If you’d rather, you can edit the selected photo by right-clicking it and then selecting “Open with” and select the (registered) plug-in.
You will probably get an error dialog that complains “Error: Unsupported Image format”. This error alludes to other files in your folder that are raw format. Just acknowledge these errors, and then you’ll finally get to your plug-in to edit your photo.
Running Silver Efex Pro 2 via NX Studio
In the example above, the photo is being edited in Silver Efex Pro 2. After saving the results, you can then edit it further after you return to NX Studio. If you’re done editing, then you can also save the photo in jpeg format.
Once again, be aware that the TIF file auto-created by NX Studio will be overwritten by the called plug-in when you click the plug-in “Save” button.
The Nik plug-ins are more generally useful and flexible than most people think. They make a great combination with NX Studio, particularly since it’s a bit limited in the editing feature set that it natively offers. Plug away.