August 24, 2010: Anyone who tried squeezing through the crowds at this year’s photo trade show while Nik software demonstrations were taking place will be aware that there’s a bit of a buzz around this new image editing suite.
It’s both a tool for photo retailers to use in store to expand their print service range – easily producing superior black & white prints, for instance – as well as a product to sell to their enthusiast and pro customers.
Nik software – distributed in Australia by CR Kennedy (and 35 percent owned by Nikon!) – is actually a series of Photoshop plug-ins – filters that offer one-click fixes to bring out the detail in skies, or soften skin tones, or transform a colour image into excellent greyscale.
It has competitors, Alien Skin and OnOne fo example, but Nik is king of the plug-ins. Adobe doesn’t even see Nik as a competitor, but a support product.
‘The more there’s a rich ecosystem around Photoshop, the more it helps sell Photoshop,’ an Adobe vice-president recently told USA Today. ‘It helps us to make more customers happy.’
There are five modules: Silver FX Pro (sophisticated greyscale conversion); Dfine (noise reduction); Color FX Pro; Viveza (light and colour control); and Sharpener Pro. Alternatively, photographers can buy the suite of modules in a bundle. Prices range from $150, to $800 for the ‘Ultimate Bundle’, compatible with Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom. A new High Dynamic Range module is next cab off the rank.
Since its introduction to the Australian market just over a year ago, Nik software has attracted, and been enthusiastically endorsed by some of Australia’s best photographers, such as leading wedding/portrait shooters Yervant Zanazanian and Marcus Bell.
The software is currently sold in-store by pro resellers such as Vanbar, Foto Riesel and Borge Imaging, along with a few larger Ted’s and Camera House outlets. It’s also available online at www.niksoftware.com.au.
‘It’s been huge,’ said CR Kennedy national sales manager, Marc Payet. ‘We are pretty happy with penetration around country.
‘It’s really suited to the specialist channel and pro dealers, as it needs to be demonstrated. There’s no point in just having it sitting on the shelf.’
The beauty of Nik software, according to Payet, is that ‘it takes 5 minutes instead of 50 minutes it would take doing the same thing with Photoshop’ and the user can work selectively on one section of an image without unwanted effects on the whole.
This means that pro photographers working on a batch of images can make subtle improvements they probably wouldn’t have the time to affordably achieve in Photoshop.
What requires a thorough working knowledge of the use of Layers in Photoshop is a one- or two-click routine with Nik.
‘It really completes the offer for DSLR sales,’ said Payet. ‘And if dealers are already selling Photoshop, it complements what they are doing.’
The ‘secret ingredient’ in Nik software is ‘U-Point-powered Control Points’ (see www.upoint.com) which eliminates the need to create complex selections, masks, or layers.
With simple click and drag functionality, photographers can work directly on the image to control virtually any aspect of their photographic edits.
According to US reports, Nik is planning software next year aimed at the consumer market: programs that won’t be attached to Photoshop but will offer the same ability to quickly enhance photos, with more precision and control than currently being offered.
Payet agreed that the development path for Nik software would bring it ‘closer to the consumer end of the market.’
‘A standalone version? It might evolve to that,’ said Payet. He said an academic version was currently being launched, and the schools market was beginning to show a lot of interest.
CR Kennedy and Nik plan a national tour around Australia in November, featuring dealer and staff demonstration nights. Nik’s marketing program revolves around maintaining a regular presence at trade shows, camera stores, even camera clubs – anywhere photographers converge. (There were actually two separate demonstration areas at the aforementioned 2010 Australian photo trade show.)
The company has teams of people who travel around the world demonstrating the software.
‘Education is our marketing,’ noted Nik Software’s CEO, Michael Slater.