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Book Review – The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4 by Jason Odell, Ph. D.

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The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4 is a book about using the Nik Software product Color Efex Pro version 4 plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture. Color Efex Pro is a comprehensive set of enhancements for color correction, retouching, and creative effects. It allows you to stylize your photographs, retouch portraits, and extend your creativity.

The Photographer's Guide to Color Efex Pro 4

The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4 is presented in digital format which gives a lot of flexibility in that it incorporates live hyperlinks that can take you to other pages in the book, or to references on a website. This is an eBook, and it is 234 pages in length — as with all of the Luminescence of Nature Press books, you are authorized to have a copy printed through a commercial printing service. It is also iPad compatible.

• “Introduction” takes a look at what Color Efex Pro 4 is, what it can be used for, and how really unlimited the number of options that you have when you work with it. It also explores the reason for using filters for your photographic work as well as the reasons why you would want to. It finishes up with the author’s objectives in writing this book and what you can expect to get out of it.

• “Getting Started” begins by looking at the host environments that Color Efex Pro 4 works in and what the capabilities and limitations that exist in each one. Next you will look at how to run it in each one as well as running it as a stand-alone program – although this is not officially supported by Nik Software.

Next, you are taken through the entire interface and control areas. This includes all of the panels as well as how to add filter effects and then how to combine them. From here you walk through local adjustments such as control points using the brush tool, and advanced layer blending modes. Then you will see how to save effects into presets. Finally, you will learn about workflow considerations such as creating flat images from raw files to achieve maximum results as well as working with Smart Object Layers in Photoshop.

• “Effects Filters” dives into the filters that come with Color Efex Pro 4. Keep in mind that there are two editions of the program – “Complete” which contains all 55 filters, and “Select” which contains 25. While he covers all of the filters, the author designates the ones that are only in the complete with an asterisk. In this section he organizes the filters into functional groups – Core Color and Contrast, Special Color & Contrast Filters, Graduated Filters, Detail Filters, Softening Filters, Lighting Effect Filters, Darkroom Effects Filters, Film Emulation Filters, and Finishing Effects Filters.

Each of these is further broken down into sub categories. At the start of each section, the author describes the reason they fell into the particular category, what kind of images that they work well with, and how he uses them in his own work. Included with each filter is a photo with a before and after image so you can see clearly what the filter does.

• “Example Images & Recipes” takes the filters that you learned about in the prior chapter and really puts them to work on real-life images. In this chapter, the author has put together a set of custom recipes that will enhance common photographic situations. These recipes are included with the download so that you can import them in to your copy of Color Efex Pro 4 and use them on your own images.

The recipes are broken down into a number of categories. These include portraits, landscapes, wildlife and nature, and creative effects. Again, within each grouping are several subgroupings that provide specific treatments. For example, within the portraits you have a standard treatment, soft treatment, film treatment, high-key treatment, and much more. Each one describes the focus of what is trying to be accomplished, the filters that were used, the name of the custom recipe file within Color Efex Pro 4, as well as a before and after image.

I found that The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4 was very well written, logical in flow, and easy to follow. I also found a few things that I didn’t know, and I have been working with Color Efex Pro since the first version came out. I like the full color nature of the images and in the recipes section.

At 234 pages, the book really covers everything about Color Efex Pro 4 just about as deeply as one can for a product of this nature. I also found that it worked really nice to that the author worked with just a few images so that you could see the real differences in the recipes as opposed to a lot of various images.

The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4 comes as an eBook in PDF format and can also be read on Apple iPad and other eBook readers. While it is secure, the author not only allows you to print a copy, but in the licensing of the book he lets you take it to a printer to have it professionally printed as well. The book is available at Luminescence of Nature Press for $24.99 USD. If you are using Color Efex Pro 4 or are contemplating getting it, I would very highly recommend The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4 to really learn how to work with it effectively.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.