Analog Efex Pro is one of the plug-ins in the Nik Collection. It works as a plug in with Lightroom Classic and Photoshop but it can also work as a standalone program or as an external editor with all sorts of other programs like Capture One, Exposure X and more. It’s designed to recreate the look of old-fashioned films, film cameras and darkroom techniques, and offers a wide array of filters that can be combined into presets, or ‘cameras’, including some you won’t find anywhere else.
If you haven’t used Analog Efex Pro before, this guide will help you get started. The Analog Efex Pro interface uses some different jargon here and there, but its layout is quite logical once you know where you need to look for the tools you need.
Here’s a numbered annotation of the interface, with more details below. Just click on any annotation heading to expand the explanation.
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1. Cameras (presets)
Analog Efex Pro calls its presets ‘Cameras‘, but they are simply preset effects like those in other programs. They are organized into categories, so you use the Cameras section at the top of the left tools panel to choose your category. Here, it’s showing ‘Vintage Camera‘. category. Each ‘camera’ uses a predefined set of tools, but you can choose the tools for yourself with the Camera Kit option. Read How to use the Analog Efex Pro Camera Kit for more.
2. Camera (preset) thumbnails
When you choose a Camera category, its ‘cameras‘ (presets) are shown as thumbnail previews of what your image (main window) will look like if you choose that preset. All of these presets are created using combinations of Analog Efex Pro’s adjustment and effects tools. You can see which ones have been used in the tools panel on the right.
3. Custom & Imported presets
You can create and save your own Analog Efex Pro presets, and they will appear in this Custom panel – you click on any of these panel headings to expand them. Below this is a panel for Imported presets. It is possible to export Analog Efex Pro presets for other people to download and import. You can download and import these Life after Photoshop Analog Efex Pro presets.
4. Compare & Zoom options
You can use the Compare options on the left to compare the original image with your edited version, with the option of split-screen or side-by-side views. Over on the right are the Zoom options. The Zoom magnification is set to 100% by default, but you can choose other zoom percentages with the small drop-down menu to the right of the button.
5. Basic Adjustments
In the right tools panel are all the tools used to create the current image. The Basic Adjustments panel will be used for almost all of them. This is where you’ll find basic Brightness, Contrast and Saturation tools, but there’s also a very useful Detail Extraction slider for bringing out shadow and highlight detail and enhancing detail rendition in general. You can also apply these adjustments selectively using Control Points, so it’s possible to apply basic adjustments separately to different areas of the picture.
Here’s an example of one of the Analog Efex Pro tools in action. The Bokeh panel has options for creating elliptical blur to separate a subject from its background, or horizontal blur to simulate a tilt-shift or ‘miniature’ effect. When the Bokeh panel is active, it displays a gadget on the image for position and adjusting the bokeh effect.
7. Light Leaks
Light Leaks can add a hazy glow to the edges of pictures, as here, or more definite light leak effects, as if shooting with an old camera that isn’t properly light sealed, or working in a darkroom that’s not properly blacked out. In Analog Efex Pro, only one panel is open at a time. When you click a panel header to open it, other panels are closed.
8. Lens Vignette
Lens Vignettes are a very common way to simulate old cameras. A negative value darkens the edges of the picture, like an old lens, while a positive setting lightens the edges, like an old print. When this panel is active, you get an on-screen gadget to position and adjust the vignette effect.
9. Film Type
Analog Efex Pro doesn’t attempt to simulate classic film types and brands in the same way that other programs do, but it does offer a range of Film Types organized into categories including ‘Warm‘, ‘Cool‘, ‘Subtle‘, ‘B&W Neutral‘ and ‘B&W Toned‘. You could use these Film Types on their own, but you’re more likely to use them in combination with other effects.
Frames (or borders) are a great way to complete an analog ‘look’ and Analog Efex Pro does offer quite a good selection. Make sure you know what size or aspect ratio your final image needs to be before you apply a frame, however, because if it’s cropped differently you will lose part of the frame.
11. Loupe & Histogram
The Loupe view shows a magnified area of your picture so that you don’t have to use the Zoom settings, though (personal opinion) it’s really not very useful. The Histogram panel is useful, though, because it can warn you if your adjustments are clipping the shadows or highlights, or your image is not filling the tonal range. Arguably, though, you should judge images in Analog Efex Pro purely according to how they look, not their technical quality.
12. Save options
When you’ve finished working on your photo, clicking the Save button will export a processed version of the picture and send it back to the host program that you used to launch Analog Efex Pro. The Nik Collection 3, however, offers a new option. Checking the ‘Save and edit‘ later box will produce a double-layer TIFF file which also contains processing instructions, so you can return to Analog Efex Pro later and pick up where you left off with your last settings still displayed and fully adjustable. The only downside is that this does create large files, typically well over 100MB.