The Importance of Google Acquiring Nik Software (Cloud-rendering, workflow-efficiency, more)

Below is a show we did with the Google Photos team a few hours after the announcement…

The Importance of Google Acquiring Nik Software (Cloud-rendering, workflow-efficiency, more)

This is an exciting move from Google, and another indication that Google takes photography very seriously. Most of the silicon-valley-bubble-press probably does not know much about Nik Software, and doesn’t realize that this is a company built by and for professional photographers. Even though their software is designed for “pros”, I’m confident in saying that 90% of their customers are amateurs who are using these same tools to make them look like pros! Nik makes amazing tools, and I am really looking forward to seeing them bleed into my daily life of using Google+.

Now, the significance of this acquisition should not be overlooked. This is not like, say, the United States acquiring Puerto Rico (think FB and Instagram – where Facebook is a social-network of people acquiring a smaller social-network of people) but instead, this is like the United States buying Lockheed Martin.

It is interesting from a “Google Engine” standpoint, in that it is clear that a future direction will be server-side image manipulation.

The #1 question I have been getting is “Will Google kill off Nik’s client-side products?” I asked this in the video interview above and the Google Photos team said that “It’s business as usual” – good news!

I know some people say that “Moore’s Law is dead” – but I don’t think so if you look at it in a different way. Maybe I’ll make a Trey’s Corollary to Moore’s Law in that the effective computing power for any human will continue to double every two years. That is, your computer itself does not have to keep getting faster if you are actually using hundreds of computers around the web to do your computation instead. For example, when we record our weekly show, Trey’s Variety Hour, on YouTube Live and Google+, we are no doubt using dozens of other CPUs located around the world.

And this trend will continue with photo editing. Many rigorous tasks can be completed on the server side, and this will become even more common as we use more and more mobile devices. I already have many photos that are automatically uploaded to the Google cloud, and there are countless tasks that the servers can do on my behalf such as sharpening, noise reduction, fixing blown-out skies, enhancing shadows, and all the other little algorithms that can be used to make photos look “better.”

The Secret Crystal LakeThis remote lake was so icy cold.  You would think it's about 33 degrees or something, right?  It felt like absolute zero.  I dropped a little piece of my tripod in here and my hand almost froze off trying to retrieve it.In the distance you can see where the glacier comes into contact with the glassy lake; it gives a sense of the epic scale here.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.
(Above, one of my photos from Patagonia where I used Nik Software during the post-processing)

Obviously, I’m a big fan of post-processing. I think that the way you process an image allows you to put your personality on top of the image itself. Besides just being “fun”, it is a wonderful way for people to explore their own sense of self-expression online.

Pretty much all serious photographers know about Nik Software. They make many many different products! For example, there is a very fun “Color Efex Pro” that is like Instagram on designer-steroids. They also make “Silver Efex Pro” where they analyzed the Black & White processing techniques of the Old Masters and put them all into this easy-to-use product. And one of their recent releases is a very competent HDR processing package called “HDR Efex Pro.” How each of these products will show up within the Google infrastructure is a mystery, but I bet those guys will figure out something cool.

I think I will insert a “feature request” into the middle of this little analysis, if I can be so bold. After all, I’m not a journalist or anything… I’m just an artist that likes to use technology to make beautiful things. Anyway, since the velocity of images is going in one direction (more images every year), it is clear that soon I’ll be auto-uploading hundreds or thousands of images per day. I’m already snapping a ton with my Android phone, and Google Glass is going to take that to a whole new level. When I’m with my kids, I’ll have my Glass auto-shooting every 5 seconds! So, then the problem becomes curation and post-processing. I’d love it if this mass of images was auto-selected to go to a “Daily Highlights” folder based on composition, lighting, smiles, and this sort of thing. And perhaps a random set of filters can be used to post-process them in addition to keeping the original version. Over time, the Google Cloud would get to know which filters I like in different stations, and it will get smarter and smarter the more I use it.

The Google+ platform is already a great haven for photographers of all skill levels. To me, this adds to their tradition of creating a beautiful fusion of technology and people. The technology is fun, efficient, and powerful, and the social side allows artistic humans to create the social and cultural “glue” of the internet itself.

(Below are some photos that have seen the delights of Nik Software)

The Long Road to New Zealand This is one of countless beautiful roads that crisscross New Zealand.  I'm afraid I've forgotten exactly where I was when I took this photo!   I know that is very lame, but I bet people around here can help me pinpoint the area.As far as the camera settings, this is the kind of shot you can get with something called "compression," a method where you use a zoom lens and zoom in quite far.  It takes images in the distance and makes them larger than life.- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Romantic Evening in the AlpsThe best time of day.  (To me.)When you are in a new place and there are too many things to see and do.  There are too many places to eat and explore.  There are too many streets and alleys to visit and photograph.  This is a good thing.  It is a nice feeling of being overwhelmed by it all.  So, in these times, there are no bad decisions.  Just go whichever way the night takes you... get lost and find pretty little things.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this entry at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Mountains Forever During the Yosemite PhotoWalk, the sky was beyond belief for the first few nights.  The second half of the trip had fairly mundane skies.  So, I was happy I went out there and got a lot of shots in the beginning!I’m often optimistic about the “future” of the trip, assuming that the sunsets will always get better and better.  This rarely is the case, so I don’t know why I’m consistently optimistic about the prospects.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Rocks Near and FarA few nights ago I went for a walk along the water’s edge here in Queenstown. About one out of ten nights (or, as far as I have measured), there is a clear night with a bright pink light that shoots up from behind those mountains. It’s really quite a sight.I went down to the edge of the lake and buried my tripod legs in the frigid, icy-clear water. Even though the color of the light was so nice, in the end it was not as interesting as the light itself.- Trey RatcliffRead the entire post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

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