The Most Frequently Asked Question At Photoshop World

I just got back from Photoshop World and it’s my first day back in the office. I’m working on a new video today (which should go up tomorrow), but as I was prepping I thought about Photoshop World. Usually, I get bombarded with questions about Lightroom (and I still did). In fact, I was asked so many Lightroom catalog management/organization questions that I’m going to create a Kelby Training class on just that topic. But this time another question was clearly the winner:

“Matt, what do you think about Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro?”

Now, please chime in with a comment if you agree or have seen a demo of HDR Efex Pro, but I swear, I couldn’t walk 50 feet without some one asking that question. Now, maybe this was because I taught 3 HDR classes at Photoshop World so people were coming to me with that specific question. But Nik had some killer demo’s at their booth too, which I’m sure generated a lot of buzz.

Anyway, here’s my thoughts. I predict that HDR Efex Pro will be the best-in-class HDR software on the market. I’ve used it for about 2 weeks now, and I like it a lot.

What I like:
• The Nik interface that I’ve grown accustomed to
• Lots of presets with a decent size preview thumbnail
• Adding Control Points let’s me get much more of my post-HDR work done in one place
• The fact that the word “Gamma” is nowhere to be found 🙂
• The “HDR Method” setting rocks! It let’s you get a lot of different HDR styles from one adjustment

What I don’t like:
• Too many presets (you can however switch to Custom view to hide them)
• I wish the HDR method setting showed you a preview before you clicked on it

As I mentioned before, I think this software will end up being one of the favorites out there. When Nik Software creates a product, they make it solid. That said, my advice to people will be similar to my advice to them when it comes to Black and White and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro plug-in. You have to REALLY REALLY like HDR to spend the extra cash on more HDR software. Especially when Photoshop CS5’s HDR is very good and it already comes for free with CS5. If you do the occasional HDR image then you may have a hard time justifying the extra cash. If you’re way into HDR (like I am) then it’ll make a more compelling case. In fact, I’d go ahead and earmark some money now because I’m pretty sure you’ll want to buy it when it comes out. As always, I suggest you download the 30-day trial when it becomes available and give it a try for yourself before you make the decision. See ya!



  1. Jeremiah True 25 November, 2010 at 08:43 Reply

    I use CS4 and found the HDR methods in PS to be very lackluster. Photomatix is interesting but I am not a huge fan of it. I downloaded the trial of Nik HDR Efex and was very pleased with the interface and results. I went to a seminar presented by Nik near Boston and it sold me.

    I don’t want to use HDR as a crutch for not taking well exposed images and I have found some situations where it didn’t work as I had expected. Overall, though, I think there is a real use for this product in my professional and artistic photography.

  2. Leif 16 October, 2010 at 20:51 Reply

    Matt, this is a question on preparing an image for HDR, either through Photomatix or, now HDR Efex. I’ve been in the habit of resetting the default RAW settings in Lightroom (brightness, contrast, sharpening) to zero on each of the exposures I’m exporting to the HDR program. Is it necessary or recommended? Is that something you do?

    Re HDR Efex, I’ve boughtt it & played with it a bit & I like what I see; however, I also agree with Don Simpson’s comment about them getting all of their other programs converted to 64 bit.

  3. Toni Vaughan 8 September, 2010 at 22:58 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I love HDR, in fact more than 90% of my work in the last 2 years are HDR images. I agree with your thoughts on HDR Efex Pro. I have been impressed with all of the Nik products so far and from what I’ve seen in the webinars and PSW demos of the HDR Efex Pro is that it will become a leader in HDR processing. I already pre-ordered the plugin, can’t wait till it ships!

  4. gerry slater 8 September, 2010 at 09:30 Reply

    I heartily encourage you to do a Kelby video on catalogue organization for Lightroom. If you dont have an efficient workflow, it can quickly become a nightmare. Your help here would be really appreciated.
    In the matter of HDR, you have done a great job of reviewing it in the past. I used Photomatix for a whle, based on your first videos. Now I am quite happy with CS5. I know you guys are tight with Nic, and I have nothing at all against their software. But please give HDR Expose a comparison look as well. The .BEF file format has some definite advantages, but as usual I look to you for the last word. Until then I will stick with CS5.
    One last thing—when can we expect your Layers book revision for CS5. I think it is one of the best Photoshop books out there and has not been given nearly enough press.

  5. Dennis Zito 7 September, 2010 at 23:42 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I thought this question would be asked! I’ve watched three Webinars on HDR Efex Pro, and like you said this is going to be first class!

    I hear what you’re saying about CS5’s HDR, but I can’t seem to get the results you talk about. I’ve watch your training course at Kelby Training and reviewed it a couple of times, but I must be missing something. I’ve taken the same photos and ran them through Photomatix and CS5 and I get the best results from Photomatix. This comparison is before final touch up with LR or CS5.

    If HDR Efex Pro is anything like Color Efex Pro, it’s worth the purchase. Oh, Dan Hughes in his Webinar indicated that there will be an upgrade price of $99 for folks who have all five Nik Plug-Ins. They have to be registered with Nik though.

    Thanks for bring this to our attention!


  6. John Swarce 7 September, 2010 at 17:45 Reply


    I second David’s suggestion on catalog management in Lightroom 3. With two computers running LR3, I have different folders for different sets of photos that need to all be in one spot. I am in the process of getting them combined onto one external drive with a back-up on a second one. A quick how-to would be helpful! I have Scott’s LR3 book and he does touch on this (as you probably did in the Boston Lightroom tour and I don’t remember it!), but seeing it on the screen would be terrific.

    As far as HDR goes, I have CS5 and I have tried the Photomatix trial. I like it, but haven’t done enough shots that would benefit from getting a new program. I will check out any trial version that comes out, though. If it is anything like Silver FX Pro, then I should be wowed.


  7. Steve Thompson 7 September, 2010 at 17:12 Reply

    I’ve had a chance to use it (a few examples on my blog) and really applaud Nik for this one. I was a little of the “a little too little a little too late” attitude when I heard Nik’s announcement in light of the HDR/Tome Mapping inclusion into CS5, but having used the plugin, it really is fantastic. Matt, you are absolutely right, it does eliminate some of the post-HDR-processing need and it’s pretty easy to get a really nice HDR image that doesn’t go crazy (oh, you CAN go crazy if you want) and tweak to taste.

    With everything that CS5 can do, as well as the new built-in features of LR and even Aperture 3, I really find myself using specific plug ins less and less. But I think Nik Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro and now HDR Efex Pro are gonna stay.

  8. John Swarce 7 September, 2010 at 15:59 Reply


    I agree with David above. I have a laptop and a desktop with Lightroom 3 installed on both (upgrade from LR2). I made the big mistake of having different photos on both computers and now I am trying to get them organized onto one external hard drive with a back-up copy on a second. A lot of photos to move and organize (6 years worth!). I have Scott’s book and it briefly talks about combining files (and I bet you covered this at the Boston Lighroom tour and I didn’t follow it close enough), but a tutorial would be helpful.

    As far as HDR, I have tried the Photomatix trial, but since I have CS5 and I don’t use HDR too much (yet), I am happy with what I have. I will take a look at the NIK software demo though!


  9. Marshall Cant 7 September, 2010 at 15:32 Reply

    I have ‘been’ to three of the Nik HDR Efex Pro webinars and I must say, “I can’t wait until it’s available!” I don’t usually get too jazzed about release dates, they happen when they happen, but this one has me pumped.

    I have asked during the webinars two specific questions as well as posted them after the fact but still haven’t heard from Nik.
    1) Does the HDR Efex Pro create a layer as it does in the other Nik plug ins?
    2) Does it function in full 32 bit and offer the option to save the .hdr (or similar) file?

    The waiting is killin’ me!

  10. David 7 September, 2010 at 15:28 Reply

    Sorry not a question on hdr…….

    But, very much would like to see an advanced catalog management/organization video!!! How to fix things that are a mess. Images on different drives backed up several times on different drives,some maybe not at all. some managed in LR , some not.Some with a different catolog,missing images……..
    What I need is to clean up,delete, move files,new folders,archive,perhaps a new completly new catolog…somewhere I read to bring images in as virtual copies to tell if you have duplicates? I guess what I need besides a beer is What are the exact steps to get everything re-organized, back into LR, when to, what to archive and how to easily find again…..basicly a do over.

    Thanks again for all you do

  11. JayM 7 September, 2010 at 15:16 Reply

    I’ll definitely be checking it out. Photomatix 4 will still give it a run, but I’ve always found Photomatix to be a bit of a challenge to get things right. I’ve been unable to get the results I want with CS5 and have no problem with an extra plugin. Just hoping that the de-ghosting algorithms in HDR Efex Pro will be up to snuff.

    Can’t release soon enough!

  12. Tod Grubbs 7 September, 2010 at 15:02 Reply

    I have been bitten by HDR, have my copy pre ordered and can not wait! I have the same feeling as Jacques on the other software and may not upgrade it if the Nik version is a good as the other Nik software I currently use and what I saw on the webinars.

  13. Ken Toney 7 September, 2010 at 14:09 Reply

    Had an awesome time in Vegas (already bought next year) and I went ahead and prepurchased the Nik HDR. All the Nik plugs are great! I hear of folks re-layering originals back into the HDR photos, can you talk about this on one of your shows? I will try and forward a tweet that explains what I’m attempting to do.

    • William Beem 8 September, 2010 at 09:35 Reply


      I mask in parts of original images to my final result all the time. When I’m ready to process the tonemapped image, I also load all of the orignals (usually 5 exposures, in my case).

      I’ll put a layer mask on the tonemapped version and click it off to see if there’s an area that looks better on the original. I just cycle this through all five originals and merge them as necessary, and then toss whatever’s leftover. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll finish the image in Photoshop like any other photo.

  14. Jacques 7 September, 2010 at 13:56 Reply

    I’ve watched two of Nik’s webinars, the latest done by Rick Sammon, and I have to agree that this software looks like it will likely end up in my collection, especially since I am an HDR freak. In fact, I’m hoping it is good enough to allow me drop another product I currently use.

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