The Nik Collection is a popular and powerful set of plugins to enhance your photo editing and make local edits more efficient. Google purchased the company behind these plugins a few years ago, but recently made the Nik Collection free for everyone. The catch is that the Nik Collection is meant to work within Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom or in Aperture on the Mac. Fortunately, I and others around the web have found a way to still use the Nik Collection plugins without any additional software! They can be opened as individual applications, though they may have some limitations.
There are many ways to launch these plugins as their own applications. One method is to simply locate and open the exe files (Windows) on your computer, then open your photo in the application. The problem with this method is that a couple of the plugins don’t offer a method to open a photo within the application. The more reliable method is to right click your photo you wish to edit, then choose Open With. From here, you will browse your PC for the Nik Collection plugins by navigating the following folder path, unless installed them in a different location:
- Program Files
- Nik Collection
- Choose the folder of the plugin you wish to use
- Choose the exe file of the plugin you wish to use
- NOTE: The 64 bit versions will perform better and be capable of using more resources if your PC has them to offer
Note that the Nik Collection can’t edit or open RAW photos. There is one plugin for sharpening RAW photos, but the rest require a compressed photo file format, such as jpeg, tiff, or png. Be sure to convert your RAW photos to another format prior to editing with the Nik Collection.