Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2

As much as I like using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 image editing software for processing my NEF files, I also really like using Nik Software’s plug-ins.  Currently, only Color Efex Pro 3 works natively within the Capture NX 2 environment.  However, I was recently having a discussion with one of my contacts at Nik Software, and he mentioned an interesting fact: the Lightroom implementations of Nik’s plug-ins can essentially be made to work as “stand-alone” applications, and launched directly from Capture NX 2.  This is because Lightroom doesn’t really support “plug-ins,” instead it supports external editing applications.  The upside of this design is that if you have the Lightroom version of a Nik plug-in installed, you can send it TIFFs or JPEGs directly without using Lightroom or Photoshop!

Here’s how to make Nik Plug-ins work with Capture NX 2 as external editors:1) Install the Lightroom version of the Nik Plug-in you are interested in.

2) Open Capture NX 2, and go to Preferences–>General.

To launch a Nik Plug-in directly from Capture NX, use the "Open With Application" preferences.

3) In the General Preferences view, under “Open With Application,” click the Browse button.  Navigate to your Applications folder, and find the “Nik Software” folder.  Choose the application you are interested in.  Note that you may need to open a folder called “xx for Lightroom” to find the application icon.

Choose the Lightroom version of the Nik plug-in you want to launch from Capture NX 2.

4) Click OK.

Now, when you open a NEF in Capture NX 2, you can edit it and then send it to Silver Efex Pro (or another tool) by choosing File–>Open With.  Capture NX will save a TIFF version of the NEF and send it to the plug-in.  Edit the file using your plug-in, and then click the “Save” button.  Note that with this option you will not have the ability to re-name your TIFF file; the Nik plug-in will save the modified file as a TIFF.  You can then open the modified TIFF in Capture NX to do any finishing work.

After choosing "Open With" from Capture NX 2, Silver Efex Pro launches and opens a TIFF version of your image.

The biggest benefit of this “feature” is that you don’t need to own Photoshop or Lightroom to get the fantastic powers of this plug-in.  The downside is that you must convert to TIFF, and there is no way to save the Nik effects non-destructively (similar to how the plug-in works for LR and Aperture).  If you reopen the TIFF file in Capture NX 2 for further adjustments, you can always save that file in NEF format to preserve the steps from your Edit List non-destructively.

You can open the resulting TIFF file in Capture NX 2 for further refinement.

Another alternative for using these plug-ins as “stand-alone” applications is to directly launch the application and then open a TIFF image into it without using Capture NX.  Because these applications weren’t designed to be stand-alone, they do not have a File–>Open menu (with the exception of HDR Efex Pro).  That means, you’ll need to open an image (TIFF or JPEG) from your browser (I have Photo Mechanic set up to do this) or by dropping the image file icon into the application icon in your dock (Mac OS).  Remember, the file will be over-written by the plug-in, so make sure you don’t run this procedure on your “master” image files.  This is especially important if you work with JPEGs, as you don’t want to over-write your original image file.

To get the Lightroom version of Nik’s plug-ins, you have two options.  You can buy the full version of each plug-in individually (expensive), or you can buy the Nik Complete Collection for Lightroom, which gives you all the Nik Plug-ins for $299.  This gives you Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Sharpener, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro (coming soon), and Viveza 2.  As always, I recommend downloading the 15-day trial version of the software before you purchase it to make sure that it works on your machine.  Since these products weren’t designed to be “stand-alone,” you’ll want to test them out first to make sure they work properly.

Remember, USA customers get 15% off when purchasing from the Nik online shop when you use coupon code JODELL at checkout.

41 thoughts on “Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2”

  1. Mr. Odell,
    Thanks for the update.
    Using the Lightroom versions of Nik Software is an interesting work-a-round, but not nearly as good as using a real plug-in (like Color Effects Pro).
    It would be grand if Nikon and Nik could agree to produce plug-ins for Capture NX. Until then I suppose more and more NX users will opt for Lightroom.
    Thanks for your terrific web site, your books and your pod cast.

  2. John-
    Actually, Lightroom users do not get a non-destructive option with the Nik plug-ins, either. The only way to apply the plug-ins non-destructively is to use Smart Filters/Objects in Photoshop CS, or CEP3 in NX2. Considering the cost savings over the full version of Photoshop CS4/5, NX users might find this work-around a nice way to implement some of the great Nik tools without having to invest in another platform.


  3. Jason,
    Your advise is much appreciated. The reason I’m sticking with NX is because it is non-destructive. I may take your advice and get the Nik suite, and use your work around, even though it’s not as elegant as true plug-in’s would be.
    Thanks again

  4. Jason, this rocks! a super tip … finally I have a way to use some other plugins directly, like Sharpener, directly with Capture NX2.
    Step one: perform all post processing steps in capture NX2, after the final crop go directly (open with) sharpenerr and perform your output sharpening. Great

    Thank you very much!

  5. Hi

    I tried this with Dfine. It opened a tiff from the Nef in Dfine but after I saved it Dfine closed and I couldn’t find the tiff in the NX2 browser. What am I doing wrong? I have the preferences set up as ‘place open with Tiff file in: Same as file.’ Where would the tiff be?


  6. Whoops

    Just found them in view nx. Just started with NX2. I’ve got some learning to do. Next thing on my list is to buy your e book and sort out some sort of workflow!

    Thanks Richard

  7. Richard-
    I’d check your star/ratings filters in the NX2 browser and make sure that you’ve also enabled TIFFs to display instead of NEF only.

  8. Would you use the 64 bit version if you were going to try this with CNX2? It doesn’t sound a lot different than how I use SEP now. I process the nef in CNX2, save as tiff or jpg, open Photoshop Elements, do the Silver Efex stuff, resave as a B&W.
    The way I understand the above is I would process my nef in CNX2, use open with (HDR, SEP, etc), do the work and then save file. Other than some extra files is there a downside to this? This seems to be a fairly nice solution to using your products.

  9. Mike-
    NX2 is 32-bit. The 64-bit versions of the Nik plug-ins are only of value if you have a 64-bit OS. That way, they get access to more memory, etc.

    The difference between using NX2 and sending files to Elements vs. just using the Nik plug-ins would be that you couldn’t do layered TIFFs without Elements. If you are looking for “finishing” adjustments, like B&W, sharpening, etc. then this implementation works just fine, with the caveat that the changes are not editable once you leave the plug-in. Only Photoshop CS3+ allow you use Smart Filters and retain edits non-destructively in a TIFF/PSD format.

  10. I just tried the Lightroom demo, registered it under the PSElements one I have been using, and it worked from within NX2 just great. Looking forward to working with this. I can’t seem to find where I can download the HDR program. I don’t have much need for the dfine or sharpen and i have CEP for NX2 so the only one I would want at this time is HDR (if it is better than Photomatix 4 which I have.) Any idea on the HDR demo? Thanks for all your help currently and in the past. The best online class I ever took was your SEP one about a year ago.


  11. Sorry to keep bothering you but I would like to try the HDr program. I have been able to download it and install it to the x86 folder but I can’t get it to open. On the install it doesn’t show any program associated with it, but I can’t get it to open stand alone. Any ideas?

  12. You were right, I had it set to nefs and jpeg only. Now it works great and the tiffs come back into the nx2 browser.

    Thanks a lot


  13. Hello Mr. Odell!
    One month ago has got Capture NX2 with plug-in Color Efex Pro 3.0 and from this point on I can not use filters for the reason that NX2 takes off at a choice of any of filters. Technical support Nikon has suggested to address in Nik Software, but Nik отписывается without the real help. At me Mac OS 10.6.4. If you have possibility to help me council, I will be very grateful to you. I live to Russia and service at us Russian. In advance to you it is grateful.

  14. It’s a nice workaround but I’m waiting for the actual plug-in for NX2. Why won’t NIK develop it?

  15. This is a Cool Idea….so I took it a set further. I made a Batch file that works in windows that opens up a command window that ask for a keystroke “P” opens Photoshop
    “S” opens Silver Efx Pro
    “D” opens Dfine

    That way I have multi choices to pick from instead of just one.

    I can email the batch file
    jwhphoto at insightbb dot com

    probably could be done on a Mac but I have no idea how

  16. If you’ve installed the Lightroom version of the plug-in, you should be able to open it directly from the Applications folder. I’m on the Mac platform, so I can’t test your configuration.

  17. When you use “file –> Open With” to send a Tiff image from CNX2 to the other Nik plugin, does it use 8-bit or 16-bit tiff?

  18. This is AWESOME! I’ve been wanting Silver Efex Pro, but not wanting Lightroom or Aperture. Now I know what to ask for for Christmas. 🙂

  19. I purchased the Complete Collection and used the go around tip you kindly provided here. Everything worked great except that whenever I opened a plug in, it kept asking for to activation key every single time. Do you have any idea how to avoid this? Thank you for your help.

  20. Are you connected to the Internet while registering? I can’t think of a reason why you’d be prompted to register more than once. You might consider contacting Nik Software tech support.

  21. I have experienced the same thing as Eunice (i.e., prompted to enter product key) but only when I drag an image to the application icon on my desktop. I am not prompted for the product key when I use the “open with” option within Capture NX2.

  22. I’m using the Mac platform
    Model Name: iMac
    Model Identifier: iMac11,3
    Processor Name: Intel Core i3
    Processor Speed: 3.2 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 1
    Total Number Of Cores: 2
    L2 Cache (per core): 256 KB
    L3 Cache: 4 MB
    Memory: 4 GB
    Processor Interconnect Speed: 5.86 GT/s
    and are having mega problems running Capture NX2 i.e. crashing and freezing particularly when using selection tools and some with plug-in Color Efex Pro 3.0 does anyone else have this problem, or any ideas.

  23. already seen this trick in your ebook but if i am not wrong, only one application can be added to open with.
    Generally it is photoshop, so it is tedious to replace the photoshop path to sep2 and back for every image
    waiting for viewnx2 update and nx3 (with cep4 new filters for nx3 ???)…


  24. I don’t remember exactly what or how I did it but in my ‘Select adjustment’ drop-down are listed both the Color Efex 3.0Stylized and Traditional with a arrow to slide out to select the option you want and do your work right there in the NX 2 window with the standard array of opacity and selection tools. I thought there was a place to tell Capture where plug-ins are but no can find.

  25. Well, this didn’t work for me at all. I installed the lightroom version of HDR efex pro 2 and set it as the program to use with “open with” in nx2. Nothing. Windows just reports “HDR efex pro 2 has stopped working”. I’ve also tried it as a stand alone – same result – and as an *.8b* type extension in paint shop pro – same result. If anyone has any idea why this should so spectacularly fail for me when everyone else is having fun with it, please let me know.

  26. Matt-
    You can’t use HDR Efex Pro as the “Open With” application. You need to first batch out TIFFs from CNX2. Then, open the LR version of HDR Efex Pro and use File–> Open to select your files manually.

    The “Open With” command works for all the other Nik plug-ins, because it’s for single images.

  27. Hi Jason,

    Do you know if the Lightroom version of of the new CEP4 will work with NX2 this way also?

  28. Hi Jason,

    Are you still using CEP3 plugin for Capture NX2 after installing CEP4 for Lightroom on the same computer? I can see a potential advantage of retaining CEP3 because of the non destructive NEF editing, so I was wondering if it was possible to have both installed and still be able to use CEP4 as an external editor?

  29. Hi, you have another soluction very friendly for to use Nik programs suite with – View NX2 – were you can open all app/programs and not only one ,as NX2 .
    Thank you Jason for your solution ,Nikon Europe/Nital Italy put only link to Nik filters for to buy them , but they don’t explain how to use them friendlies !

  30. I tried it exactly, as you explained and it works great. At first I didn’t think anything was happening, until I looked in the folder and saw that the Nik Software created a .tiff file. Excellent!

  31. Mr. Odell, After the Goolge take over of NIK software is there any other compitbility with NX2? If not, is the Color Efex Pro 3 still availible?

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