Today’s Question: I often use Nik filters (especially Silver Efex Pro for black-and-white). I can apply them from within Lightroom (via “Edit In”) or I can first send the picture to Photoshop and apply the filters there and then bring the work back into Lightroom. Is one way better than the other?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In terms of the net result for your photos, there is really no difference between these two approaches. However, my personal preference is to send the image to Photoshop and apply the filters from there, primarily to provide greater flexibility in case I decide to apply more than one filter to a given photo.
More Detail: Whether you send a photo directly to the plug-in software from Lightroom or first send the image to Photoshop, the result will be a derivative image, typically in the TIFF file format (though sometimes PSD or JPEG format).
The reason I prefer to use Photoshop is that this approach provides greater flexibility in the event I choose to apply more than one filter to an image. If you want to use two different filters from Lightroom, you would create two derivative images in the process. So, for example, if you create a black and white interpretation of a photo using Silver Efex Pro, you would then have a TIFF image based on your original capture.
If you then decide you want to apply some additional effects using, for example, Analox Efex Pro, you might send the black and white TIFF image from Lightroom to Analog Efex Pro. In the process, an additional TIFF image would be created. The result would include your original capture plus one TIFF for the black and white version of the photo and another TIFF for the version that includes the Analog Efex Pro filter effect.
By sending the image to Photoshop first, you will only have a single derivative image, even if you make use of multiple filter plug-ins. You could create each effect as a separate layer in the TIFF (or PSD) image, so that you’re preserving all of the effects individually but without creating multiple derivative files.
If you tend to only apply a single filter effect using a single plug-in, there’s really no reason to use one approach or the other. Whichever approach you feel is easiest and provides the best flexibility for your particular workflow is perfectly fine. That said, as noted above I do prefer to include Photoshop as part of this workflow in order to provide greater overall flexibility in my workflow.