Google Awesomely Makes the Nik Collection Plug-ins Totally Free and Everybody’s Pi$s@d!


OK, not everybody, but I was surprised to see how many people were complaining after Google’s awesome announcement that they were making the entire Nik Collection of plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom, available for free download. FREE!

Of course, there are lots of questions after this announcement, so let’s do a quick Q&A on the topic to take us into the weekend.

Q. What is the Google Nik Collection? 
A. Here’s how Google themselves describe it:

The Nik Collection is comprised of seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities — from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects, to image sharpening that brings out all the hidden details, to the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images.

Q. So, you use these plug-ins?
A. Absolutely. Daily. I’ve been telling people for years that the Nik Collection is the pro photographer’s secret weapon.

Q. So let me get this straight — Google takes this amazing plug-in collection, which they were selling for $149, and they announce it’s now free, and some people are already hatin’ on them?
A. Oh, Absolutely. Welcome to the Internet, where lots of people are literally just waiting to be outraged about something. I’ve always said if you stood on a street corner and passed out free $100 bills, you could literally count the seconds before someone came up and said, “Are you kidding me? Where am I going to break a $100 bill? Can’t you give me five $20s instead?” 

Q. Like, what kind of stuff are they saying?
A. Stuff like: “So if I bought it in 2015, I’m f#@$d right?” or “…bit pissed as i paid full wack just over a year ago and not even partial refund. Will be the last google product i buy if they just keep giving things away”  or “Very disappointed, I bought it in 2015. Nice you make it free but you should refund your previous licenses.”

Q. Haven’t they had the use of this software all this time, before it was free?
A. Yes.

Q. So why are they so mad?
A. Apparently Google didn’t have five $20s. (see my answer to the 3rd question above).

Q. Isn’t this awesome that they’re giving this incredible plug-in package away for free?
A. I think it is. A lot of folks who could never afford it will now have access to it. I think that’s awesome!

Q. Does this mean that future updates for this collection have ceased?
A. Based on what I’ve read, I absolutely think that is the case, but I haven’t confirmed it with anyone inside Google yet.

Q. So, what if I download it today, and then there’s a major Mac OS or Windows update down the road and then it doesn’t work anymore. Will Google do an update to fix it?
A. Not as best as I can tell, so use it today and enjoy it for as long as it works.

Q. But that’s not fair!
A. You’re right. You should ask Google for your money back from that free download. Oh…wait…

Q. What if I bought it back in February? 
A. Google said they are automatically giving full refunds to anyone who bought the collection in 2016.

Q. Are you certain about that?
A. The older I get, the more I realize I’m not certain about anything, but that’s what they said in their post.

Q. What if I bought it back in December and I missed the cutoff?
A. Then you only had to pay $37.50 a month to use it until now, which for this suite is totally worth it, but that is still kind of a bummer. I’ve bought stuff the very week before it goes on sale. It happens, but you’ll get past it.

Q. Can’t I write angry comments about how unfair that is?
A. Absolutely, and you should use a lot of cuss words!

Q. Will that help?
A. Not one bit.

Q. Will Google ever release a Nik Collection Version 5?
A. I would love that, but based on their post about why they are making it free, it seems fairly clear that their desktop plug-in days are over (that was my take on it anyway). However, if they do one day come out with a new version, I imagine they would charge for it; I would definitely buy it, but I imagine it would be worth it.

Q. So, do you know something secret here?
A. I do, but it’s not about version 5. The secret stuff I know is about the supposed 1969 Apollo moon landing, and the plane that never crashed into the Pentagon, and the JFK assassination, but I’m not at liberty to say, because they’re watching me. They’re always watching.

Q. Were there any nice comments on Google’s announcement post?
A. Thankfully, there were many tucked in and around the whining. Some very grateful folks, and I was happy to see that.

Q. What was your favorite?
A. This one from Ray Akey:

“Funny to see all the reactions on this one. Free software is good for everyone, no matter what, especially when it comes from a company known for their excellent plugins because a lot of shareware and freeware is crap! Personally, I have only used SilverFX and it is a pretty nice piece of software. I’ll glady download and check this out. Thanks Nik and Google! Whiners: Poo!”

Q. That guy rocks, right?
A. Right! I love his attitude.

Q. So, where can I download the free Nik Collection?
A. Here’s the link.

Q. Should I write a mean comment here on your blog for taking the side of the non-complainers?
A. Believe it or not, there are bigger fish to fry in the world today than you complaining that somebody is getting something for free that you had to pay for a year or two ago. Instead, you should be happy that a good thing happened to a lot of photographers all over the world through this gift from Google. If you bought it beforehand, you should be thankful for the time you got to use it and how awesome it made your images look; you should not expect that Google will ever provide a free update to this free software, but know that you’ll still be able to somehow carry on.

Be thankful that there are brilliant geniuses that created this software in the first place, and that Google is so successful they can give it away to us for free, and instead of focusing on the negative side of things, why not take a deep breath, be glad you’re alive; enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday. :)




  1. Well written, Scott. Hilarious, unbelievable. Those who purchased the software previously (like me!) can be proud to have contributed to the development of an excellent application.

      1. I suspect most of the “rational” people that are pissed off about it, are those who think this is the death of the software. They should at least consider open sourcing it, or selling it off some else, rather than let it it die.

      2. I purchased the sofware when it first came out in “parts” and have a lot in it. I am not compaining but it’s a big part of my workflow and I would be happy to pay for an upgrade, I hope Google will rethink this at the point the software quits running on an upgraded platform. I know a ton of folks that use it now, dumping the R&D sounds irresponsible.

    1. I had jumped on here to say the same thing. I’d purchased a few versions of this in the past and I’ve been happy to support a great company/tool and I’m really happy that other photographers will have access to this tool now.

  2. Like always Scott, your humor is priceless. I love the NIK Software and use it regularly, in fact it’s my go-to plug in for most shoots. I love the Tonal Contrast mixed with Darken/Lighten Center.
    In 4 months Photoshop World will be over. I’m very excited about Moose’s PreCon schedule.
    See ya soon Buddy!!

    1. Thanks Mike. I agree – their Tonal Contrast rocks. I love Darken/Lighten Center; Detail Enhancer; High Key; Pro Contrast, and about a dozen more just in Color Efex Pro. As for Moose’s PreCon, you were lucky to get in – it’s already sold out! :)

  3. Nicely done Scott! Love you’re Q&A style of making sense through absurdity. I’ve had Nik since you first recommend it … way back. I use it all the time. So, I’ll continue to use it until is stops …


  4. As they say in these parts, ‘nowt so funny as folk’. I got a free set a couple of years ago or three through an amazing Glyn Dewis class in Halifax (Yorkshire not Canada). Brilliant to get the updated version. Thanks for pointing it out. I’d missed it.

    1. Thanks Simon – I was fixing that one (and four others) while you typing that. I appreciate the heads up – I’m kind of famous for those. It’s what happens when I blog late at night. Ah, who am I kidding? It’s what happens when I blog. :)

  5. Given that I bought this as a present for my wife and she down loaded it on the 29th Dec I should be miffed to say the least but given how much we have spent on bodies, lenses, bags, tripods, filters, film, lights, days out, hotels and holidays to get to places, fuel, even food when out this is a very minor cost in the total context of getting a picture worth hanging on the wall. The real upset is that support may end as the tools have done wonders for Sues pictures adding that extra bit she has been looking for. What I would say to all is download it now and put the file somewhere safe just in case you have to load your machine again…

  6. No complaint here. I bought it before because of yours and Matt’s recommendation. They had great customer service when I goofed up on things. I sit in admiration that they are offering this wonderful product for free. How can anyone complain about that. Grrrr


  7. I downloaded it right after I saw the announcement and already used the SilverEfex module. I was overjoyed with the news because I was getting ready to purchase it. Thank you Google and Nik.

  8. Trolls, in this case, are morons. Then again, if I just spent $300 on a Nest thermostat and four months later they were giving it away for free, I would probably be pissed. I know, I know. It’s not apples to apples. :-)

  9. AWESOME of Google to do so, I have shared it to my local photogs today as have many.

    I actually got my copy FREE thanks to a KelbyOne subscription promo last year, which made my mind up to jump on to Kelby One from another learning resource. I good decision which I have continued with.

    Great post Scott as ever. Have a good Easter.

  10. Great article Scott. I think there are a subset of photographers that aren’t pissed it’s free but pissed that this signals the end of a great companies product line – NIK Software. I wish the guys that started that would start up another company and build more great tools for photographers because they were the best.

      1. Let me know when they have Windows versions. Photoshop runs best on my Surface Book.

  11. I have used NIK software for years! I love it! I believe I bought it when it first came out (I have the download CDs) – and then bought the download each time I purchased a new version of PS and computer (so 3 times I think since the licensing is only good once). No complaints, it’s a business people and I LOVE the software so I was always willing to pay the people that created and continued to update it. Much like photographers set their own rate for their high quality art, Google has the right to price their own products or even give them away. I was so excited to be able to get this software for free yesterday! Thank you Google!

  12. Amazing that people complain about something they bought more than a year ago. I paid full fare before Google bought Nik, but I didn’t complain when Google lowered the price to $99.

    Why? Because I remembered something you said during a Photoshop World panel about blogging a few years ago. The line you said was, “You can make bank running a blog.” Then you mentioned people who could make a car payment or more with their blog.

    I took that to heart and became an affiliate with Nik and started making money. Definitely enough that paid for the software. In fact, I ranked #1 on Google at the time for “Nik Software Coupon Code” to go with my account.

    When Google dropped the price, I thought my commissions would go down. They did, but the number of commissions shot through the roof! In a few weeks, I earned enough to buy a mid-range car. Made for a nice vacation to St. Lucia and a trip to Vegas the following week for PSW, with plenty left over.

    I’ve done the same thing with Adobe, ON1, Topaz and MacPhun. I buy my own software and then sign up for the affiliate program. In a little while after, I’ve at least earned enough to pay for the software. Everything else is a bonus. I just wish Google hadn’t closed its affiliate network. That thing was a gold mine.

      1. Another way to look at it. That one tip you shared in the blogging panel paid for every PSW I ever attended. I was lucky to be in the right place with the right spot on Google search results.

  13. I got the Nik Collection for FREE when I renewed my membership with KelbyOne. So will KelbyOne give me a refuuun…. oh wait a minute. Nevermind.

  14. I think you are burying the lead. NIK Collection days are numbered. I’m not so much upset that it’s free now, but I am very upset about what that means. I also use NIK Collection everyday and am not looking forward to a time when I can no longer use it. I’m upset that Google bought NIK, only to shut it down a few years later. Maybe they’ll make it open-source or sell it to a company that wants to continuing developing it. I’d hate to think of this software going the way of Pagemaker and Freehand.

    1. I hear you – it will be a sad day for me when it no longer works with our computers, because it’s an important part of my workflow. That being said – some of the original folks from Nik started and they are creating some amazing stuff over there. The type of stuff Nik used to do back in the day. Check them out.

      1. I’m of a mind not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m grateful for the free Nik software and will enjoy using it for as long as it works, hoping that by the time that happens someone will have created something even better, which is still known as progress. Thanks, Scott, for your ongoing positivity.

  15. Thank you for the post on this Scott!!! I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading in comments after Google announced this… well, it’s the internet- I wasn’t that surprised. I considered this such a blessing! I’ve loved the NIK software since before Google bought it. Was really expensive then and I couldn’t afford it. I was actually going to purchase it pretty soon anyway. $149 is nothing when you consider the power breadth of this collection. I wonder how many of those whiners sold their services or photos using the NIK stuff in post. They probably paid themselves back for the purchase 5x’s over. Our entitled society is so frustrating to me nowadays. Okay, now I’m ranting… enough of that!

    Scott, keep up the good work! I know this year has started out with you having to make really hard decisions. But, running a business is hard! I lift you and your Kelby family up regularly in prayer. That God would indwell you with wisdom in all you do. I appreciate the tools that you bring to us, for FREE on a daily basis. Thank you!

  16. I don’t mind that it’s free. I bought individual plugins from Nik before Google bought them out, then bought the entire suite once Google dropped the price.

    The only sad thing here is that Google bought Nik which kept them from creating more innovative software for us. Adding the Snapseed technology to Google+ photos wasn’t worth the trade.

    As far as the continued development goes, there hasn’t been any since Google bought Nik in 2012. The plugins still work just as good now as they did then.

  17. I can’t decide whether this is hilarious (which it is- very well said!), or sad- it’s just amazing what people find to complain about. If the worst thing that happened to you lately is that you were able to afford a program that now is offered to people who cannot, count yourself blessed.

  18. hmm, didn’t someone on The Grid a few months ago say that this was going to happen? I think it was either a guest from Google or he was from Nik.

  19. Unfortunately, I think you’re right that further development of Nik probably isn’t gonna happen. I’d be happy if it were kept up to date to be compatible with the next versions of OS X, PS CC and Lr, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  20. It seems the wrong people are upset. I understand that many photographers purchased the products for $500-600 with the idea (promise?) that they would continue to develop and improve the products. There might be occasional upgrade charges, but the product would not languish and then disappear a couple years later. I remember when the purchase was announced, you predicted the demise of the product. It probably took longer than you (we) expected but still a pretty good call.
    A friend likened it to buying a long term pass to view the Mona Lisa for $500 only to have some billionaire buy the museum because they liked a different piece of art. They drop the price of the pass to $149 but let the building fall into disrepair. Then, they take a low resolution photo of the Mona Lisa and put it up for free. Not long after, they burn the painting. Overly dramatic but not a bad metaphor. Sure we can go elsewhere but how long will it be before Google does the same thing to OnOne, Macphun and Topaz?
    The only people that benefit are the ones that didn’t care about the product until it was free.

    1. I cared. I just couldn’t justify the cost as a very enthusiastic hobbyist. I’ve bought heaps of software and subscription-based services which were then turned a free for all.

      I’ve bought groceries the day before a sale at the supermarket but you don’t see me regurgitating a steak I had previously thoroughly enjoyed for dinner and storming the shops demanding a refund because “the only people who benefit are the ones who didn’t care” about eating steak the day before.

  21. Lol nicely done. I plan to get them and have fun with them while they work. Probably the only actual down side with this is that Google will not be making new versions. Ah well hopefully the team is hard at work on something else great. I cannot wait to see what it is.

  22. What I don’t like about this is that giving things away for free has a price. What about companies that make competing products, like ON1? I would think that moves like this hurt them as more people will download the free stuff. Just think if in what you do for a living others started to just do it for free. Would you be happy about it then?

    Also sad to see a product I own going by the wayside.

    Now as there are two sides to a story, I do like the fact that this helps people who don’t have the money to buy it, as it gets creative tools in the hands of more people.

    But overall this tendency of giving things away for free winds up devaluing the honest work of people who do great work but don’t give it away for free. Any yes, I know for example that a good photographer is not going to be put out of work by a bunch of apertures (wow – look what spell check did there – I meant amateurs) taking photos for free, but remember that Nik was up there competing at the top. If you are up for a job and an equally respected photographer is up for it too, and they will do it for free, guess who is getting the job. And guess what happens to the going rates.

  23. I’m not mad, Scott, that they are giving it away for free, but I am deeply disappointed that Google bought the company and apparently intend to toss it in wastebin. I, like you, depend heavily on the software, and without continued support someday soon I will boot up my computer, note that a new version of PS is available, install it, and find out that Nik no longer works. On that day I will mourn, much like I did when they changed the tonal contrast in CEP a few versions ago. Keep up the good work.

    1. Exactly as you said. Too god sofware to stop further development . May be Adobe can buy the lycence and include in future versions of Photoshop, just an idea.

  24. Anything that improves the current state of photography (and value?) is fine by me. I know a lot of people that will be very happy about it and I’m one of them. I’ve had the software since Nik created it. I bought every upgrade. Now I can be happy that some of my friends can afford to try it :o)

  25. I’ll just issue a “we told you do…”, Scott. The outrage that went on when Google bought Nik in the first place, some of us said “Google doesn’t buy software, they buy patents.”.

    If memory serves, you did a nice fluff piece back then about how we were all paranoid. Also I think I recall you having google nik people on podcast shows debunking fears – perhaps it was on D-Town.. It’s been a while.. I’m sure they actually meant it at the time. If only they made Prozac for megalomaniacal patent grubbing companies like Google. :)

    Yes it’s nice that they are giving it away at least. I’ve hooked up two of my less fortunate friends who cannot afford the software with the URL to download it and they’re thrilled..

    I own the Macphun products and while they show great promise,

    1) they are not cross platform
    2) they lack the control point technology, which I am sure is a patent that google owns now. and layers, while powerful – is just not the same..
    3) We told you so..
    4) I have yet to make an HDR that I actually like in Aurora..

    I was not aware that Macphun was Nik employees breaking out on their own – good for them!

    Fortunately we are at a point where Photoshop versions are pretty incremental in releases and there’s no giant new technology looming like 128 bit computers where filters traditionally explode (i.e.: 16->32, 32->64)

    Nik as it stands now could last 3-4 years before Apple does something to break the filters. (I would bet through on 2ish years knowing Apple.)

    At that point I’ll be having to consider running Nik inside a virtual OS X machine with vmware. Because of HDR Efex and Silver Efex.. I have developed a workflow there that produces insanely good results and i never want to lose it.. :(

    If Google for some reason does surprise the heck out of me, and produces future updates – which I would love to be proven wrong over.. I welcome an “I told you so” from you. But I just don’t see it happening..

  26. I’ve had the NIK plug-ins since 2014 and love them so much that I haven’t updated OSX on my imac just in case the NIK plug-ins aren’t compatible! I notice on the NIK page that it still says that their products work only with OSX 10.10. Has anyone tried them using El Capitan (OSC 10.11)?

  27. I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! I was going to pony up for Alien Skin, but now I may not need to! WOOOOOT! I am especially excited to use Silver Efex. I’m planning some black and white shoots over the next few weeks and have been pining for a way to really make the most of my images. YAY!
    *throws a dance party in her office chair*

  28. Thank Scott!

    This is an awesome software toolkit for post processing. I use it as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. There are too many fabulous things you can do with it, and it’s easy and intuitive to use. “Buyer’ beware’: this toolkit is fabulous if you know how to use it. It doesn’t make bad pictures wonderful (artsy, maybe) or a bad photographer good ? Lucky for us, Nik has its own YouTube channel with many extensive tutorials. Just try and download. It’s FREE, so it will never hurt to do so.

    Hope the development doesn’t stop now it’s free and Google is focussing on Google photos instead…

    The refund for 2016 works, I already received my money back within a day. Great service but continue updating Google!

    See examples of my pictures post processed with the Nik collection:

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