Using the Nik Collection in a Stand-Alone Mode?

A complete set of Nik Collection tutorials can be found here

This is a question that comes up regularly

I, among others, have answered it multiple times

Some folks never heard of internet searches 😉

After Google released the newly branded Nik Collection

The same questions began all over

Folks, at this stage the *only* things  Google changed

The name – now Google Nik Collection

The update method – auto update, like it or not

The price – $149 for all six collection programs

Individual programs no longer available

The programs themselves are identical

to when they were called Nik Software


Read on for how to run the Nik Collection programs

in stand-alone mode (without PS, or LR , or Aperture)

Note well – there are a few “gotcha’s

Read carefully


 Click to enlarge

6-14-2013 12-35-50 PM

Sunrise – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Went back  4 consecutive mornings (up at 4:30)

Waiting for this scene

Sun intentionally “cupped” under the tree branch

6-14-2013 12-53-05 PMTripod & Grad Neutral Density filter

While I was writing this post

With HDR Efex Pro open as a stand-alone

I opened this image (HEP, alone in the collection, has a File menu)

I quickly (5 seconds each) used presets to create the above

A single exposure; not a bracketed set


First – disclaimers and cautions

Pay close attention or you may irrecoverably lose your files!

1. Not intended to be run alone (although they can)

These programs were never intended to be run stand-alone

Driven mainly by Lightroom which doesn’t use plug-ins

This means if you have problems don’t expect support!!!

2. RAW files can’t be used

In spite of appearances to the contrary

No Nik program will accept a RAW file

If you missed my previous explanation of this, read here

Obviously this means you must

Use jpeg or tiff files as input to the “stand-alone” program

3. There are no menus in an open stand-alone program

Except for HDR Efex Pro as shown here

6-14-2013 8-55-08 AM

Without any menu how do you work with image files?

A good question (to be answered in the next section)

The answer for now is VERY CAREFULLY!

Failure to heed the caution can quickly lead to



As soon as you click the SAVE button

ZAP – original is overwritten!

Make a copy before you start!!!

As shown above, HDR Efex Pro is the sole exception

It does have a minimal File menu

6-14-2013 9-19-19 AM

To quit a program (except HDR), you use the

Cancel or Save options at the window’s bottom right

Every time you finish an image (either cancel or save)

The program closes & you must start over for the next

6-14-2013 9-24-06 AM


I’m willing to take my chances, Ed

How do I run a Nik Collection in a stand-alone mode??

It’s simple

1. Navigate to the folder containing the

Desired program’s executable file

NOTE – executable, NOT plug-in

a. I’ll illustrate with Window’s File Explorer and Color Efex Pro

b. Mac users will have to translate as appropriate

Click to enlarge

6-14-2013 8-23-11 AM

2. To repeat: you’re looking for the executable, not the plug-in

Don’t bother looking in your PS, LR or Aperture folders

Find a Google folder containing a Nik Collection folder

The yellow highlighted line above tells it all

If you used the default Nik Collection installation

The above is exactly what you should see

3. Drag & drop the image to be processed

On top of the executable file entry line you just found


Voila – the program is running just as it would within a host

(until you’re ready to save and/or exit;

you read that part above, didn’t you??)

Note – if you open the executable first and

then drag the image into the program’s window

It won’t work (at least not on my Win 7 PC)

If you own either PS, LR or Aperture –

I don’t recommend doing this

There’s no reason plus there’s the potential file loss

There is one exception

It’s if you use PS Elements and have none of the others

HDR Efex Pro will not run in PSE

Stand-alone is your only option

Fortunately HEP has its minimum File menu

to keep you out of trouble

That’s it!

It’s very simple really

I added all of the extra stuff because nothing is fool-proof

Fools can be very foolish if not held by the hand 😉

A complete set of Nik Collection tutorials can be found here


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