The Ideal Workflow With The Nik Collection

A common question among Nik Collection by DxO users is which filters should be used first. With sharpening, noise reduction and creative filters at your disposal, what’s the ideal order to run them in to get the best possible result?

In brief, it’s actually pretty easy, and quite logical when you think through it. You may not be using all of these tools, but the order should be:

RAW Decoding and global corrective edits Pre-sharpening, with Sharpener Pro Noise Reduction, with Dfine HDR, if it applies, with HDR Efex Pro Corrective edits, with Viveza Creative edits, with Color Efex Pro and/or Analog Efex Pro Black and White conversion, with Silver Efex Pro Output sharpening,  with Sharpener Pro Starting the ideal workflow with the Nik Collection by DxO

The idea is that we start with an image that’s as sharp as it can be. Strip away any noise that is there because of a high-ISO shot or even noise that’s been enhanced by pre-sharpening. Apply any corrective edits (exposure adjustment, retouching, cropping, etc.). Do the majority of the creative work. And if you’re going to B&W and want to add any effects that aren’t part of Silver Efex Pro, do those before the B&W conversion. And then do a final sharpening pass that’s optimized for screen or print at the exact size (and in the case of print; paper type) that your audience will see.

Here’s a real-world example! I’m going to be using Adobe Photoshop as the host for the image, because with Smart Objects, that gives me the most flexibility throughout the process. You could also send your photo from Adobe Lightroom CC Classic, from DxO PhotoLab, or any other host app that supports the Nik plug-ins. In the event you’re using Adobe Lightroom CC (the cloud-based version), while you can’t access the Nik plugins from within Lightroom, you can do your global corrective edits and then open a Photoshop file. This will give you access to the entire Nik Collection. 

Here’s the photo I’ll be working with:

Opening the RAW file in Photoshop

When you first open a RAW file in Adobe Photoshop, you start in Bridge, which is your RAW decode process. I like to do as much work as I can to the RAW file, which for most photos means DxO PhotoLab or Adobe Lightroom. But I know I’m going to apply a bunch of Nik tools to this one. So I’ll start with Adobe Photoshop so every adjustment can be a smart adjustment that can be re-edited at any time. It’ll make for a big file, but I like the flexibility. 

For this particular photo, there isn’t much to do. It’s well exposed, but some of the highlights — notably on the white paint over his eye on the right side of the image where the sun is hitting — are a little bright, so I’ll bring those down with the Highlights slider. 

Then to create the PSD file, you could just click Open Image. But if you hold down the Shift key, that button becomes Open Object, creating a PSD document with that photo as a Smart Object. This means you can go back and re-edit the RAW file at any time if

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