Nik Color Efex Pro 4 ‘Skylight Filter’

In Learning Center, Tips and tricks, Tutorials by jfischer1 Comment

If I had my way, I would be traveling the country, hiking the back country, up before dawn and waiting till the last glimpses of fading light fade from the sky in search of that mystical ‘perfect light’.  However, reality is, I have a day job to pay the bills, pay for some travel a few times a year, and my photography gear.  Till someone wants to pay me to go in search of that perfect light, I’ll have to make do with what Mother Nature throws at me on those days where I am up before dawn and out past dusk.  Add to that shooting in RAW does not capture colors as vibrantly as you recall seeing them standing before the scene – and there are times when a software solution is the answer.

In the header image, much of the color in the sky was brought to life using the Skylight Filter.  This is Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake in Oregon.

Devil's Punchbowl - Oregon Coast
Devil’s Punch Bowl – Oregon Coast near Newport, Oregon.  Skylight Filter helped warm not only the sky, but also the foreground rocks to a more pleasing hue

Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 has a wonderful little effect filter called ‘Skylight Filter’.  Drop it into almost any photo taken during the morning or evening hours and instantly the sky and foreground light up with warm beautiful light.  Clouds take on more color, foliage is warmer, and the sky finds more pinks as well.  While it can’t create perfection out of a photo taken at 3pm in the afternoon in the middle of the summer – it’ll certainly take good light and give it some punch towards awesome.

Palm Trees
The golden hues were largely lost in this photo until the Skylight Filter was applied to the lower left corner and the clouds.  The effect is dialed down to nearly zero in the blue regions to prevent them from becoming too purple.

I usually keep the filter’s effect percentage down to about 15-25% – above that and things become too warm, too blown out in places, and generally unrealistic.  My usual work flow for ‘creative processing’ in Color Efex Pro 4 is to select somewhere between 2 and 5 filters, all layered a low strengths (and often either at reduced opacity and/or with control points) to make subtle changes which over all create a look I call ‘Enhanced Reality’.

C-47 Nose
It’s not just for landscapes.  A little Skylight Filter on this shot of the C-47 at the Alliance Airshow in Addison added a lot of warmth and depth to the early dawn light shining off the aircraft.