Mastering Control Points

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.


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.

Selectively editing an image with numerous Control Points also will work to your advantage in two ways. First, more precise control over smaller portions of the image will still provide better results. Secondly, the more Control Points you add to an image, the better job they will do at analyzing the image information in the background, giving you better results overall. Also, sometimes it’s faster to apply a global adjustment to the entire image. Control Points then can be used to reduce those adjustments to smaller areas of the image.


First introduced in 2006 with Nikon’s Capture NX photo-editing software, Control Points have been further refined over the last few years and now can be found in eight different imaging applications, including six plug-ins. These Nik plug-ins include the Dfine 2.0 noise-reduction plug-in, the HDR Efex Pro high-dynamic-range plug-in, the Viveza 2 image-editing plug-in for working with light and color, the Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in for digital filter effects, the Silver Efex Pro 2 black-and-white processing software and Sharpener Pro 3.0.

Nikon Capture NX 2

Capture NX 2 includes several unique U Point-powered Control Points such as Color Control Points, Selection Control Points, Black, White and Neutral Control Points, as well as the Red-Eye Reduction Control Point for quickly removing red-eye from a portrait or candid shot. List Price: $179.

Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0

Color Efex Pro 3.0 utilizes Control Points to selectively apply an extensive variety of digital filters to your image and its subjects. Color Efex Pro 3.0 Control Points are designed to be applied to these filters after the other image enhancements have been made, and there are three editions available with 15 filters, 35 filters and 52 filters. List Price: $99 (Standard Edition); $159 (Select Edition); $299 (Complete Edition).

Nik Dfine 2.0

In Dfine 2.0, Control Points can be set for selective contrast and color noise reduction to correct for luminance and chromatic noise, respectively. By working selectively within each area of your subject and image, you can quickly reduce noise without reducing sharpness throughout the rest of the image. List Price: $99.

Nik HDR Efex Pro

Efex Pro
combines multiple exposures (or a single exposure multiple times) into a single image that’s able to include detail in the shadows, midtones and bright areas of an image. Control Points allow you to fine-tune the sandwiched exposures with control over tonality, color and even the strength of the HDR. List Price: $159.

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

Concentrating on tonality and contrast, Silver Efex Pro 2 uses Control Points to address brightness, contrast and structure in your black-and-white images. List Price: $199.

Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0

The Control Points in Sharpener Pro 3.0 are built for working with structure, local contrast and focus, as well as the output sharpening strength. List Price: $199.

Nik Viveza 2

For working with tonality and color, Viveza 2 uses Control Points to adjust brightness, contrast, color and structure. Viveza 2 added the Group button, which gives the ability to refine global changes to an image by adjusting a group of Control Points at the same time. (Grouping is also available in HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro 2.) The Structure enhancement, also added in Viveza 2, refines details and textures, and a new Shadow Adjustment slider controls details in the darker areas of the image. List Price: $199.

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