Plug-in Review – Nik's Viveza for Lightroom

Plug-ins are getting really popular these days. I see this all the time in comments, forums, and questions from people I meet. Everyone asks about plug-ins lately. Now, since more and more of them seem to be integrated with Lightroom I figured I’d start picking away at some of the popular ones and doing a quick review on them. There’s also a quick 2-minute video demo but I had a couple problems with the video. As soon as I sort them out, I’ll post the video so check back later in the morning.

This time around we’ll take a look at the newest LR plug-in: Nik Software’s Viveza Plug-in for Lightroom 2. It was just announced last week and already has a lot of chatter around the industry. First off, I’m a big fan of Nik’s filters. True story: when I had to wipe out my laptop a couple months back and reinstall everything from scratch, Nik’s plug-ins were one the first things I installed after installing Photoshop. The Viveza plug-in has been on my favorite list for a while and I think it’s actually one of the easiest plug-ins to use too. Okay, now on to the review.

Who
As I mentioned, this one comes to us from Nik Software. Nik Software makes a lot of other popular plug-ins like Silver Efex Pro (for black and whites), Color Efex (for special effects), and Dfine (for noise removal). They also make Capture NX – the full photo editing program.

What?
Nik’s Viveza is a plug-in that’s extremely simplistic in nature. If you think about it, what are the two biggest keys to your photos besides the subject? Color and light. Viveza let’s you drop these little control points (dots) on to parts of your photo. Then you control how big of an area they affect. Finally, you can increase the brightness, contrast or enhance color of whatever you dropped the control point on.

How?
Viveza uses something called U Point Technology. The idea behind it is that you don’t have to worry about selections or masks (things that typically take the most time in Photoshop). You simply drop the control point on to an area in the photo and then selectively control that color or tone in the photo without affecting everything else. In practice, I’ve found it works very well and most of the time it saves me a lot of hassle. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect though. I have seen some spill over from the control point area into surrounding areas but it’s always been minimal in the photos I’ve used it for. All in all, I’ve been really happy with it when I need it.

viveza1

Why?
There’s a few reasons you’d look at a plug-in like Viveza.
? The main one is time. Using the photo above, if you wanted to brighten the brides dress you’d simply drop a control point on it and increase the Brightness setting. You don’t have to select or create any sort of mask to do this. And you don’t have to worry about using the Adjustment Brush tool in Lightroom (or Camera Raw) to brush in a small area to brighten it without affecting everything else.
? The other reason a lot of folks like Viveza is because it has a significantly easier learning curve vs. Photoshop and/or Lightroom. Not everyone who works on photo is a Photoshop wiz. With a plug-in like Viveza, you can easily show an assistant how to enhance the brightness or color of one part of a photo, without teaching them the nitty gritty details of Photoshop or Lightroom.

How Much?
If you already own Viveza, then the Lightroom plug-in upgrade is free. If not, Viveza runs about $250. It’s a little steep, I know. I’ll be the first to say it because I know somebody reading will :) As a professional photographer, I can tell you that you WILL make your money back. Think of it this way. Say Viveza saves you 5 minutes per image in time of brushing and masking in LR or PS (and I think it easily saves you that much). Then after 60 images you’ll have paid for the product (I’m assuming a $50/hour rate). If you’re not a pro photographer or making money from your photography then you’ll need to figure out if it’s right for you and your budget. If making great photos is a passionate hobby, but you don’t necessarily enjoy the tedious selecting and editing process, then Viveza may enhance your enjoyment of photography and post-processing. Again, that one’s up to you.

EDIT: Holy Crap! I just realized late this morning, there’s a NAPP member discount running until March 16. You’ll save $100 off the price of Viveza so that takes it down to $150. I still think the collection (mentioned below) is the best deal though.

One more thing about cost. Viveza will run you $250. However, you can get the entire Nik LIGHTROOM collection (Color Efex Pro, Dfine, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Viveza) for $299. The key here is it’s for LR only, not the Photoshop plug-ins. Not bad for an extra $50 though.

The Verdict
The Good: I really like that Viveza integrates seamlessly with Lightroom now. No longer do I have to go into Photoshop just to go into Viveza. Now I can go straight there from Lightroom.

The Bad: One of my biggest hang-ups with the plug-in isn’t really with Nik’s software, but with plug-ins in general when it comes to Lightroom. See, they all basically open a separate program (all plug-ins, not just Nik). I’m really looking forward to the day when plug-ins make me feel like I’m still in Lightroom. Now, to be fair, this isn’t Nik’s fault at all and any plug-in I’d review would get the same comment. But I really want my LR plug-ins to use the Lightroom interface and not make me “feel” like I’ve entered into a totally different program.

Here’s the deal. I think Viveza rocks but don’t take my word for it. Download a free demo. I tell every one that asks me about plug-ins that all companies offer a free trial. So use it. Try it out. If you like it, you’ll be hooked and it’ll be some of the best money you’ve spent in a while. If you don’t find yourself using it a lot during the trial, then you just saved yourself 250 bucks.

Click here to download the video

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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33 Comments

  1. “But I really want my LR plug-ins to use the Lightroom interface and not make me ?feel? like I?ve entered into a totally different program.”

    Matt….I want even better than that! ;-) How about you don’t have to go into a separate program at all and create another file which is “baked” and than imported into Lightroom…..how about you work on the file IN LIGHTROOM; much like you would use the Targeted Adjustment Tool. Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ ’bout! ;-)

    Keep up the great work!

    Cheers….

    Todd in Chicago

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  2. If you are a NAPP member there is a significant discount for Viveza at the NAPP website. If the $249 is a road block this may make a difference.

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  3. Thanks for this information with the Nik Vivexa plug in, but it looks like the software supplied in Nikon Capture which I bought at great expense and gave up using and went back to Lightroom as it was difficult to use and kept crashing! I am new to plug-ins and wonder if its possible to plug-in Capture to Lightroom and if that would help rather than buy another software? does that make sense? Thanks I love this site for learning

    Cheers Chrissy

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  4. thanks a lot matt,
    i still have a couple of issues though. People who bought viveza for PS will get this bundle for almost free…whereas I have bought SilverEfexPro for PS and will get no discount for the LR version. This is what I got to know from the NIK support team. It seems unfair to me,

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  5. Am I just nuts? Seems to me that $249 is a bit much for a Plug-in?! Seems like I bought Lightroom for that price … I mean it’s a nice plug-in for sure .. but it’s still a plug-in .. and a plug-in should not warrant a full-stand-alone-application price.

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  6. I’d love to see native plug-ins working in the LR interface too. My understanding, though, is that Adobe are reticent about offering developers this route as they are concerned about losing the totally non-destructive editing paradigm (which is key, and admirable of course). I currently use OnOne stuff, and it?s actually a pain to use in LR. I just pop it in Photoshop instead. Frankly, I’d rather they wait to create these pseudo-plug-ins until Adobe give clear direction on what they can do with the rendering engine in Light Room.

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  7. OK, $250 by itself it way TOO MUCH. But if I can get the whole bundle, I amy just do that. It is only money. I lost that much in the market last week, so why not lose it on something that I like a lot!

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  8. OK, I am back. What is the downside/upside of getting the plug- ins for LR vs PS? PS package is a lot more expensive. Do we lose anything by just getting the LR plug in?

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  9. Chrissy – you could go into Lightroom prefs under External Editing and set up Capture NX as an external editor.

    RJS – Don’t buy it :)

    Kevin – Yep, that’s the problem. Everything has to be non-destructive on the raw file. I’d actually be totally fine if they rendered the file and let me do what I want to with it. I’m going to go into Photoshop to do it anyway.

    Christopher – You ain’t kidding man. I think most people would be happy if they just lost $250 during the week. I’m thinking we all lost more then that between 9:30 – 9:35am on Tuesday.
    Also, the LR plug-in will apply the effects directly to a TIFF copy of the photo. The PS plug-in will let you apply it to a separate layer so you can do all that fancy Photoshop stuff to it if you ever wanted to. I’m ok with the flattened copy though.

    Thanks,
    Matt K

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  10. The main thing you lose with the plugin versus the Photoshop version (and Aperture users have already been through this, since the nik plugins have been available for Aperture for several months) is that you lose the ability to go back and change your settings after the fact in the Lightroom plugin.

    If you roundtrip a photo to Photoshop, use Viveza there and save the image, you can always edit the original again and make changes to what the plugin did, as the plugin creates a separate layer for its changes. With the Lightroom plugin, once you commit the changes, you can’t go back and change them – you’d have to start fresh from the RAW photo, or start from the altered version with no ability to change what you did the last time you edited the photo with the Viveza plugin.

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  11. Matt,

    I have Capture NX (not NX2). What is the functional difference in how the Viveza plug-in works vs. the capabilities of NX control points? I am not asking how a plug-in works generically (I understand that and use them all the time), but what added function there is to Viveza that I may be missing?

    Thanks,
    Bill

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  12. On the cost issue, as a not-quite-former Aperture user (I’ve switched to Lightroom, but if Aperture 3 is killer, nothing is saying I won’t switch back), I’ve already been around this with the plugin developers. The problem is that their pricing model is based on being used with the much-more-expensive Photoshop, and they’ve been loathe to alter that for the less-expensive Aperture and Lightroom.

    In nik’s case, they do at least offer the full set of plugins for both Aperture and Lightroom at 1/2 the price of the full Photoshop suite. However, you can’t buy just one plugin at a reduced price. This is even worse with Aperture, since that sells for $199, so Viveza is actually more expensive than the base package you are using it with.

    Other plugin producers (ie, Noise Ninja) only offer the Aperture plugin in a bundle with the Photoshop plugin, which seems counterintuitive to me. It’s nice to offer a freebie to your Photoshop users, but there’s a whole other group of people who want the capability to use some of these things without ever touching Photoshop, and the plugin producers don’t seem to have a model to deal with that yet.

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  13. While it seems a really useful plugin to have available with LR, as others have said, the cost (at least for an non-pro) is way too high in relation to LR.
    I still have Lightzone in my toolbox and it seems to me that it offers some of the targeted adjustment capabilities of Viveza. It’s just a pity that continued development of LTZ seems to have stalled some time ago. Still, rather than spend some money……..

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  14. Chrissy – I gave up Capture NX as well until just last week when I got the idea from Matt to use it with LR as an alternative to Viveza. So I upgraded to NX2 for $99 and it works great on my MacBook Pro. I have added it to my work flow. With web pricing as it is you can now get NX2 for about half the list price – which to me is a bargain.

    All – Go back a few posts to the one Matt did last week about Viveza. The product manager for Nik software outlined their strategy for the entire product line in the comments section. Much to look forward to this spring!

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  15. On one side, I am pleased that Viveza has both Lightroom and Photoshop versions that come together. On the other hand, I was really bummed when I downloaded the program and found that it does not work with CS4, only older versions of the Photoshop.

    I am feeling like a got screwed on this one.

    Do you know if there are plans to introduce a CS4 compatible?

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  16. Oops. I take it back. The Read Me file only mentions CS2 and CS3. However, it installed perfectly into CS4.

    I am sorry for the confusion.

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  17. Really, what would be ideal is if this all worked within LR non-destructively with RAW. Seems archaic to create a TIF copy.

    $250 to edit non-destructively in LR and I’ll purchase it in a second!

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  18. NIK Software as a whole is an amazing product. Many that don’t have it should probably go ahead and INVEST in this wonderful little helper with a big impact on your final product. The other unfortunate side to plug-ins in LR is that many companies have not adopted te 64bit processing way of the future and if you have installed the 64bit version of LR you are…well out of luck! Not only would it be nice to see Adobe make it easier for developers to make fully compatible plug-ins to stay within the program, but it would AWESOME if these plug-in companies would begin incorporating 64bit version of their stuff with their software or as an optional download! Thanks Matt for all you great stuff! Keep it up!

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  19. So I downloaded the trial and all I have to say is WOW! I’m having fun and talk about easy. Now I’m not overly proficient in PS or Lightroom but this so easy to use and would have a tremendously positive affect my workflow.

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  20. Hi Matt,
    An important note regarding the Lightroom collection from Nik, it appears to be available only in the US and Canada, choosing a different country shows the collection is only availble for Aperture. Seems odd (and unfair), any ideas why this is so? In any case, something else to think about if you live elsewhere.

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  21. Kevin Mullins Photography wrote:

    “I?d love to see native plug-ins working in the LR interface too. My understanding, though, is that Adobe are reticent about offering developers this route as they are concerned about losing the totally non-destructive editing paradigm (which is key, and admirable of course).”

    But isn’t that just the point? If you’re going to use a plugin/filter in LR, you are now forced by the nature of how Adobe exposes the architecture, to break that non-destructiveness. Ideally, it’d be non just that a filter’s tool work inside of LR, but that it’s right there in the side panel working on non-destructive data just like LR’s built-in tools are.

    As a (hopefully temporary) half-way solution, I’d even be happier if it just creates that 16-bit TIF internally and invisibly (instead of having to create a copy for editing), but stores all the settings and keeps them linked to the master file. That’s my other big complaint about Nik and many other filters used in LR, you get one shot at doing what you want, but as soon as you’re done editing, there’s no going back except to start from scratch. Gone are all your adjustments and control points.

    So, even though ideally you’d still be operating on RAW data directly, it’d make it a lot easier if these filters kind of simulated non-destructiveness, especially if you want to use the whole Nik suite. Let’s say you start with Dfine noise reduction, then B&W conversion with Silver Efex, then Sharpen Pro at the end. That’s a lot of image copies and a lot of work wasted if you want to go back and tweak something later. Since all the Nik filters operate on TIFs, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to store the settings then dynamically turn them on or off anywhere in the chain (forcing an automatic re-render), or allow you to jump back in and make edits.

    Bottom line is it’s really frustrating that we have this wonderful tool in Lightroom, and these wonderful Nik (and other) plug-ins, but using both together turns out to be a real PITA and a workflow-killer, when it just shouldn’t be that way. As it is right now, that’s all that stands between me shelling out $300 for the full Nik LR suite. As the author points out, this appears to squarely be Adobe’s fault and should be priority #1 for version 3.0.

    Better yet, they should just buy Nik and integrate their tools into LR, I would gladly pay for that!

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  22. Hi Matt,

    I have one for you I just loaded the installer for the whole suite of NIK plugins. Now I want to edit a photo in Silver Pro Efex and the plugins are no where to be found.

    Any ideas?

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  23. I purchased all the NIK software About Aug 2009 as I like u-point technology– BUT the caveat is this. Go to my photo gallery and you can download from the ALBUM named ” CAPTURE ….. and you will notice, although, I brought up the fact the the EXIF data capture time is modified each time any of their programs are applied in Light Room version 2.6., the excuse is that it is due to a problem regardless of whiich platform ( operating system you use )– MS, MAC, Adobe and NIK, this problem which no one can fix was the word I received today. WELL, if you shoot a wedding with four cameras synced with time; and, you apply any NIK software plug in, do not try to sort by capture time… even after using only one program of NIK, example, Define 2. Of course, you are saying, you could always name first, and then sort by name after apply plug-ins from NIK — AND that is not the point — The point is that THE EXIF CAPTURE TIME SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED !!! especially without notifying you !!!
    I utilize CS4, LR 2, Aperture, other programs, including onOne plug ins…
    They did not mention anything about refunding monies, although I bought the NIK software that can be used in CS4, Light Room 2.6, and Aperture’s latest version.

    Best wishes in this every changing world of digital ( photography etc… )

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  24. Never used the Viveza, but can’t you do exactly the same with Nikon’s Capture NX2? The whole Capture NX2 software costs as much as this plugin!!

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  25. I think I just have been acknowledged about this topic
    at job 1 day ago by a colleague, but at that moment
    it didn’t caugh my attention.

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