Google bought NIK Software – is this the end of great looking photography?

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Google acquires NIK Software

Today NIK Software announced that they’ve been acquired by Google – and the photography world is in turmoil. The comments range from “Hope you have better luck than those before you…” to “Congrats and good luck!” and anything in between.

John Arnold of PhotoWalkthrough.com has written a post about the 7 stages of Nik/Google grief where he even quotes me, saying “I see it as an opportunity to do more education around how to get great b/w conversions without the help of NIK” – and that pretty much reflects my stance on the topic.

Spanish Mill

First, let me say that I love NIK’s plugins, I own several of them and I have used them a lot, especially some of the plugins in the ColorEfex collection. Pro Contrast anyone?

But before you despair, the acquisition doesn’t mean that all your NIK plugins will all of a sudden vanish from your system. You bought them, you own them and at least for months, if not years, you’ll be able to use them.

The acquisition doesn’t even mean that NIK Software’s plugins will go away at all. Who knows what Google has planned for them?

There are also alternatives. John Arnold points out the plugins by Topaz Labs and OnOne Software. I haven’t used either, but I’ve heard good things.

But most important: even though NIK Software’s plugins are great and their U Point technology makes things fairly easy, you’ll be able to get a lot (if not most) of what the plugins do out of the on-board tools that you already have.

Tab Two

If the NIK plugins should go away, I see that as a huge chance for educators to teach photographers what’s going on behind the curtain. With all these plugins, we have forgotten how to do things ourselves. The automatic mode is just oh so convenient.

Let’s for example have a quick look at NIK’s Pro Contrast filter. The secret of good contrast is in knowing how to properly set the black point of an image, how to read a histogram and in knowing what exposure zones the different things look best in. Do you know where an old person’s white hair should be on the histogram? Or the black hoodie a model is wearing? Learn these things and you’ll never have to resort to anything but your eyes and a tone curve.

Paper Mill

Once you know the basics, you’ll be able to achieve excellent results with pretty much any tool that you have access to. Which is why for the last three years I haven’t actually used NIK tools, not even on the pictures on this page. I didn’t have to.

So let’s learn together! Let’s use this as a chance to expand our horizon and make ourselves a little more independent of all the tools that do seemingly magical things that often we can achieve in other ways.

Your thoughts?

  • Alex Murphy

    I don’t believe that their professional plug-ins will go away. Eventually though they will transition to the web, using “server-side” supercomputers for fast rendering. Trey Ratcliff just posted a wonderful write-up on G+ about what he thinks the future holds. As a Google user I’m personally very excited: https://plus.google.com/+TreyRatcliff/posts

  • http://twitter.com/unnecessaryEv1l Hail Sagan

    Your assumption that Google is Microsoft and that a “buyout” means destroying the competition. I didnt assume any of this when I read google bough NIK. To me it just seems Google wants something for their G+ phone app and integration into Picasa. NIK’s snapseed is a perfect competitor for this. End of story imo.

    The plug ins are a seperate business category and Snapseed just utilizes some of that technology.

  • http://chrismarquardt.com/ chrismarquardt

    I don’t assume a buyout.