Last Updated: June 5, 2014
Analog Efex Pro 2 was recently released by NIK Software (who are now owned by Google). I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, and as pretty impressed, so I thought I’d put together a tutorial to give people an overview of this software.
I should point out that Analog Efex Pro 2 is free if you are an existing NIK customer (as I am), so it’s well worth a download. If you’re not an existing customer, you can get the entire NIK suite for only $149 at the moment, which is a real bargain compared to the old price.
What is Analog Efex Pro 2?
Analog Efex Pro is basically a software plugin that lets you digitally simulate the look of old analog cameras and films, meaning you can take an image with your modern day camera and give it a stylised hipster-friendly aesthetic. You can use this plugin with either Photoshop or Lightroom.
Film simulation is extremely popular at the moment, with VSCO film presets offering a similar product, albiet one that works slightly differently. I’m a big fan of VSCO, but After Efex Pro 2 is also a very capable package.
If you’ve used other NIK Software packages before (like Color Efex Pro or Silver Efex Pro), then you’ll immediately be at home with the After Efex Pro workspace. If you’ve not used these before, then not to worry, as it really is very user-friendly.
I’m using AEP2 from within Photoshop, so to get the workspace you see below, you need to select Analog Efex Pro from within the Photoshop filter menu.
On the left are a number of ready-made presets, all offering different looks, click one and see if you like the results, on the right are the controls to tweak and customise your own settings.
When working with other NIK software packages I nearly always stay sway from the presets, and use my own custom settings, but in my short time with Analog Efex Pro 2 I’ve used a couple of the presets that I quite like as a starting point, and then customised them to my taste. As I use the program more I’m sure I’ll cook my own recipes, and then save them as custom presets to save time in the future.
The custom settings on the right-hand side fall into four main categories (shown below), basic adjustments, dirt and scratches, lens vignettes, and film type.
The first panel, basic adjustments has four main sliders that are pretty self-explanatory, the first one, detail extractor is worth mentioning. The detail extractor basically increases contrast at a very local level, this can really bring out texture in your image, but push it too far and the results can look a little noisy.
I personally never push this past 40%, usually around 20%. You can always increase overall contrast with the dedicated slider provided.
The dirt and scratches panel (shown above) has a range of styles that simulate damaged film, you can vary the strength with the slider at the top of the panel. I personally don’t like this feature at all, so turn it off completely (by un-ticking the box on the top left).
The lens vignette is again very self-explanatory, you can vary the strength, shape and size of the vignette with the three sliders provided.
The last panel, film types (shown above), has a whole host of options. Firstly you can of course choose from various film types, changing these can have a pretty dramatic effect on your tones in your image. You can vary the amount of fade, and also adjust the amount of grain in your image.
The proof is in the pudding, so below are a few before and after samples that I’ve cooked in After Efex Pro 2. In summary, I really like this package, it won’t replace VSCO presets for me, but I will certainly continue to use AEP2 alongside them.