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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.