Video: Using HDR Efex Pro with Capture NX2

I’ve been swamped with emails and feedback about my new eBook with Tony Sweet, The Photographer’s Guide to HDR Efex Pro.  One common question is “Can I use this with Capture NX2?”

The answer is yes and no.  Nik’s HDR Efex Pro won’t open NEF files on its own, and it doesn’t run as a native plug-in to Nikon’s Capture NX2.  However, the Lightroom plug-in version of HDR Efex Pro can be used as a stand-alone application, as long as you send it RGB images (TIFF or JPEG).  I recommend sending 16-bit TIFFs to HDR Efex Pro, and you can use Capture NX2 or any other RAW converter to do it.

Here are the basic steps for using HDR Efex Pro with a 3rd-party RAW converter.

  1. Apply generic global RAW conversion settings– set sharpening to “None” or “0”  and use these settings in a batch save to TIFF format (16-bit is best).
  2. Launch the Lightroom version of HDR Efex Pro
  3. Open the image series in HDR Efex Pro: File–>Open Exposure Series
  4. Tone-map the image.  You can learn everything you need about tone-mapping in The Photographer’s Guide to HDR Efex Pro.
  5. Save the tone-mapped image as a 16-bit TIFF.
  6. Open the tone-mapped image in Capture NX2 and save it as a NEF to preserve any further adjustments, like sharpening.

To see how it’s done, watch my instructional video, Nik’s HDR Efex Pro with Nikon’s Capture NX2 on YouTube!

12 thoughts on “Video: Using HDR Efex Pro with Capture NX2”

  1. James, can you use your influence to get the company NIK that they bring out Silver Efex pro as a plug in for CNX2? They said to me no because Nikon has to asked that. But I really doubt that adobe has asked the same for all the plug-ins for PS, Lightroom, elements. Hope you can.
    I’m still only using CNX2 for my NEF’s, still the nicest results. regards, peter

  2. Jason, is there still hope for NX3 or has Nik really abandoned us? It just seems weird that NIK won’t even support their own plug ins.

  3. You would be better off asking Nikon about this. This is not a Nik issue, as Nikon owns the code to CNX2. HDR Efex Pro is not a “plug-in”– it’s actually a stand-alone application. That means Lightroom and Aperture users do not get non-destructive editing with their versions of the plug-in, either. CEP 3 for NX2 is indeed non-destructive.

  4. Hi,
    thank you for the description of the “work around method” to uso HDR Efex Pro. It is really a nice piece of software.
    But it does not work with my system “Capture NX2, Windows 7”. The tif-files generated by HDR Efex can´t be read in NX2, if you used sets of more than one pic in HDR Efex Pro. ACDSee can read the all tifs generated by the nik software.
    Do you have a solution?
    Thanks from Germany,
    Ekkehard Below

  5. Ekkehard-
    First, make sure you have version 1.1 of HDR Efex Pro, which is a maintenance update released late last month. Normally, NX2 can open 16-bit TIFF files without any trouble– unless they have layers or an alpha channel. I’m not aware of HDR Efex Pro creating layered TIFF files, so I’m not sure what might be happening. You might try to see if ACDSee can save a flattened copy of the TIFF file and then open it in NX2.

  6. Thank you, Jason for the quick answer.
    Yes, I´ve got the latest version of the software.
    The resaving of the pic in acdsee works, but it´s one more “walk-around”.
    Looks like there´s a problem with directly taking the output of HDR efex pro – very nice software – directly to NX2.
    Maybe there will be a solution soon. Best way would be the nondestuctive way of using NIK products in NX. I´ve told it Nikon europe at least twice last months.

  7. Jason,

    I have the same problem as Ekkehard. I cannot open .tif files generated by HDR Efex Pro 1.1. in Capture NX 2.2.6. All file types are selected in the browser and while it shows the file, it does not generate a preview. When you try to open the file in Capture NX you get a message saying it cannot load the file. It can load other TIFF files, but not ones created by HDR Efex. I know you have mentioned finishing your HDR image processing in NX2, so maybe you are doing something different that we are missing. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  8. Don-
    Open the TIFF in Photoshop (if you have it) and see if it has
    a) Layers
    b) Alpha Channels

    It shouldn’t, but those parameters are usually why NX2 can’t open a TIFF.


  9. Jason,

    Thanks for the quick reply. I don’t have Photoshop. I used Lightroom. I have tried two different methods. Saving NEFs as TIFFs and importing them into Lightroom, then exporting to HDR Efex. I also imported RAW (NRW and NEF) to Lightroom, then exported the RAW files to HDR Efex. Same result. I haven’t tried bypassing Lightroom on the way to HDR Efex. I will try that and see if it works. Perhaps Lightroom adds layers or Alpha Channels. I’ll keep you posted.

    I do like HDR Efex Pro over Photomatix. Much easier to use.

  10. Jason,

    When I create an HDR image using the method in your video, then Capture NX2 can open the TIFF file created by HDR Efex Pro. It must be something that Lightroom does with the images before they go to HDR Efex that causes the problem.

  11. As mentioned above, CNX2 allows you to select an external editor. In the past I have always set it to Photoshop in case I wanted to edit, rather than adjust. However; as CNX only offers one external editor, what if you have many possible choices? Silver Efex, HDR Efex, Dfine, Raw Pre Sharpener, Output Sharpener, etc?

    The solution is to create a small batch file, or a dot bat file, that will offer a DOS or Command window with a menu. I got the code from John Holthaus (aka jwhphoto) and then amended it to suit my Win7 64bit system. While it is specific to my Win7 64bit set-up, it may be of use to you as a starting point.

    The download link below relates to a go.bat file that I have placed on my desktop. In CNX2 I have set it up as the external editor. When I go to ‘Open With’ in CNX it starts the bat file and then offers me a choice of which program I want to run, like this –

    P – for Photo Shop
    S – for Silver Efex Pro
    D – for Dfine
    H – for HDR Efex Pro
    C – for Color Efex Pro
    R – for Raw Pre Sharpener
    O – for Output Sharpener

    on reflection I don’t know why I included CEF Pro as it is already in my CNX! But I hope this example bat file will be of some use. All credit is to John Holthaus (aka jwhphoto) who was kind enough to share his code for his set up, which I have changed to suit mine.

    I am not a programmer, but I was able to sort out the program file address location or path by simply clicking on ‘Properties’ and copying the file location.

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