Home How-To Image Processing Mastering Control Points
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mastering Control Points

Harness the full potential of Nik Software’s unique image-enhancing solution

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Far easier to use than the complicated layers and masking implemented by Photoshop and other workhorse imaging applications, Nik Software's U Point technology for highly controlled and efficient selective image editing is exceedingly simple to use and yet totally powerful in capabilities. Available throughout Nik Software's highly regarded suite of image-editing plug-ins and in Nikon's Capture NX 2 imaging software, Control Points, powered in the background by Nik U Point technology, allow you to directly enhance or adjust specific areas of an image with a fun, easy-to-understand interface. Performing image edits is literally as simple as pointing to an area, clicking and then adjusting sliders. Changes are even previewed as they're made.

U Point technology works by placing Control Points, bull's-eye-like anchors that allow you to perform image edits to extremely precise, localized areas. These Control Points act as the central hub for the technology, with a descending rung-like series of sliders for adjusting color and light information in your digital image. The areas of the image affected can be as small or as large as you wish, and each time you place a Control Point, it automatically will work in the background to retrieve RGB image information and surrounding values in order to calculate a variety of parameters like hue, saturation, brightness and image details. What this means is that the U Point technology will figure out which portions of the image you're trying to adjust, and it will use that information to perform sophisticated enhancements in order to bypass much more complicated methods like layers, masks and manual use of the Selective Tool. Additional Control Points translate into additional information, as well, so the more you add to the overall image, the more refined the intelligent blending functions will be.

USING CONTROL POINTS
Control Points feature simple sliders that you drag to strengthen or reduce adjustments. The very top slider of the Control Point sets the total diameter of the area you'd like your settings to affect, with a subset of sliders beneath that lets you adjust the properties of color and light. Control Points are unique to each plug-in in which they're used, but some of the many adjustment possibilities include red, green and blue values, as well as hue, saturation, brightness, contrast and warmth. The top sliders in most cases provide control over Exposure, Contrast and Saturation. In other programs, there are more options that you can unlock by clicking the drop-down arrow beneath the top sliders. In HDR Efex Pro, for instance, you'll also be able to work with Structure, Blacks, Whites, Warmth and Method Strength.

Adding a Control Point is as easy as clicking your cursor over the area you'd like to manipulate. To deselect a Control Point, click outside of the Control Point in the image. Once placed, a Control Point can be returned to simply by clicking on it again, and refining adjustments is as simple as readjusting the sliders. To change the position of a Control Point, grab the Control Point whether closed or open with your mouse and then drag it to the new location. All slider settings will drag with it, and you'll see changes previewed to the new area as you move them. Command-clicking will allow you to select multiple Control Points.

The Control Point acts as the center of the area to be adjusted, but Control Points are more sophisticated than that in the way that they blend enhancements into an image. They use the nearby information of the surrounding area to enhance only the aspects of the image that pertain to the Control Point. Adding a Control Point to the sky, for instance, and then setting the diameter to include the entire image will let you make changes to the entire sky while ignoring other aspects that you don't want to alter, like clouds or branches that have protruded into the area. Conversely, adding a Control Point to the clouds or branches will allow you to adjust all branches or clouds in a scene without making changes to the sky.

In the Nik plug-in interfaces, the Control Point Panel will give you even more features and review possibilities. Control Points are labeled in order of placement, and you can check or uncheck the boxes to review the changes each Control Point performs on your image. Similar to masking in Photoshop, the Show/Hide selection for all Control Points highlights the area of your image that's being affected by each Control Point. The amount of the image influenced by each Control Point is also shown with a corresponding percentage. Additionally, you can duplicate Control Points for repeating changes to another area of your image, which then can be adjusted as needed for best matching the new surroundings.


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