Give digital images an analogue twist

By Geoff Harris

Looking for a fun and creative editing challenge during the lockdown? Here’s how to use Analog Efex Pro, a great way to add old-school film effects to your digital photos.

The latest version of Analog Efex Pro, part of the Nik Collection by DXO, is one of the best ways to add some beloved creative effects from the glory days of film photography to the latest digital images. It is a powerful and sophisticated creative suite, rather than just a collection of filters and retro effects, so here’s how to get started with the program – best of all you can try for free for 30 days. See nikcollection.dxo.com

1) Getting started

As with Silver Efex Pro, which you can learn about here the best way to work with Analog Efex Pro is to open it from a compatible raw image editor, in this case Lightroom. Before opening the image in Analog Efex Pro, however, I worked on the overall exposure, shadows and highlights, along with noise reduction and sharpness. Choose Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.

2) Choosing the ‘Camera’

With the image opened in Analog Efex Pro, you can immediately see the effect of whichever ‘Camera’ (a collection of analogue presets) is selected along the left-hand side. By default, the category Classic Camera appear first. The Classic Camera collection is a good starting point, but as we will see there are many more. Classic Camera 4 works well as a foundation for our shot from a Japanese temple.

3) Making adjustments

As with Silver Efex Pro, you can either apply global adjustments which affect all the image, or local adjustments, which just work on specific parts. The Global Adjustments include things like brightness and contrast. To make specific local adjustments, use the Control Points: simply click and drag them on the part of the image you wish to target, in this case the statue’s face. From here you can also adjust contrast, brightness, detail and so on, via sliders. You can add numerous Control Points to an image, or duplicate and drag to another part of the image.

4) Adding vignetting

Also useful are the Vignetting tools, which are a quick and easy way to add a classic portrait effect – the corners are darkened to focus attention on the main subject. You can control over the shape of the vignette (circular or rectangular) according to the format of the image along with the amount and size, so it’s well worth experimenting with.

5) Getting to grips with grain

The grainy look is fundamental to a lot of analogue photography and it is easy to add grain effects to digital images using Analog Efex Pro. Simply move the Grain per Pixel slider up and down for a very grainy look, or a much harder and cleaner one. You can also control other aspects of the digital grain's appearance from here, so it is well worth a play.

6) Trying other analogue effects

We started off with ‘Classic Camera,’ but there are many more Cameras to try. Click the arrow next to Classic Camera and up pops a lot of more options. ‘Motion’ is particularly interesting as you can get some nice-looking motion blur effects, but don’t get too carried away or your image can look a bit contrived.

8) Go vintage

The Vintage Camera option is also great for adding some tasteful old-school vignetting and bokeh (background blur) effects. As our screen shot shows, you have quite a lot of control over the shape and quality of the bokeh, as well as the bokeh style: this program is like an onion, revealing many new layers as you delve into it.

9) Other cool Cameras

Multi Lens is an an easy way to make a triptych or quadtych (a single image with three or four panels). You are limited to just one image, but you can move around to highlight different aspects and get some attractive prints by using this effect. Another neat Camera is Wet Plate, which mimics the look of 19th century Wet Collodian photography. Once you have finished, click Save and you can go back to working on your image in Lightroom (or another compatible editor) and then save out in the normal way.

Buying and using Analog Efex Pro

The Nik Collection 2.3 collection comes with six other tools for editing and sharpening your images, including Silver Efex Pro for superb black and white conversions. You also get a full copy of DxO Photolab 2 (Essential), a cut-down photo editor which also works seamlessly with the Nik programs. The whole suite retails at £125 and can be downloaded directly from the DxO website (Mac and PC).

See nikcollection.dxo.com/ where you can also find out about the system requirements.

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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