If you go to the landing page for Google’s Nik Collection, it now has a banner announcing that development of the tools has ceased. They’re still available and still work, but if and when they break on some future update to Lightroom or the operating system, that’s it.
That they did this should surprise nobody. The writing’s been on the wall almost since Google bought the company that published Nik back in 2012, their primary interest being an IOS app that had capabilities now built into Google Photos.
I used to be a huge fan and user of the Nik tools, but as the capabilities of Lightroom improved and they added features, I ended up needing to use it less and less. I have a personal favorite image that needed 6+ hours of work in Photoshop with heavy use of the Nik tools — especially Viveza — to process into what I wanted. About a year ago, I went back to the original and processed it again in Lightroom and had a fresh version of it in about 20 minutes using only built-in tools.
That in a nutshell is what happened to Nik. It was a set of features that existed because the other processing tools of the day either couldn’t do them or required a lot of photoshop knowledge and needing. Today’s photo processing tools have overtaken this, and in my case Lightroom’s radial fill feature ended the last reason I might use a Nik tool for processing.
Actually, that’s not quite true: I still prefer Black and White conversions in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro, except that if I do it in Lightroom, I still have all of the processing available because I’m not having to create a TIFF version that I can’t then go back and tweak as easily; the cleaner workflow of working only inside Lightroom wins out over the better UI and conversion choices Nik offers.
I went and looked to see the last time I used Nik on an image. It turns out it was in 2014 when I was using the sharpening tools for some print projects. Today, I do that in Lightroom. too.
So last night I went in and deleted the Nik tools from my disk, with a bit of sadness but also a realization that I won’t miss them. They had a good life, but they died not of neglect from Google, but from the market realities caused by Adobe’s commitment to improving its tools.
If you look at the market for these kinds of plug-ins, there’s very little market left. Nik’s major competitor, OneOn, now gives away their tool set and is primarily working on and selling their Lightroom competitor, On1 Photo. Topaz Labs is still selling their suite of tools, but they’re expensive, which indicates to me they just don’t sell many units these days.
I’ve seen a couple of calls for Google to open source the tools. I think if they’d planned to do that it would have been done when they announced the end of development. In reality, the time for these tools has passed.
I’m going to pour one out for the Nik tools and honor their memory, but then I’ll pour out a second to honor the progress that made them unnecessary and as appreciation for how much less hassle I have in my processing workflow because of the improvements over the last five years.
Thanks, Nik, for everything over the years, including showing Adobe the way forward in ways to process images that we now take advantage of every day. It was a great run.