Posts tagged with Silver Efex Pro

Can B&W tell the story better than colour?

See Derrick Story Webinar: A Fresh Look with Familiar Subjects in Black and White a bit of  B&W, a bit of Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Martin Bailey podcast on Silver Efex Pro 2

Via Nik’s monthly newsletter I just came across Martin Bailey’s Podcast 297 : Silver Efex Pro 2 Walkthrough & New Features. Martin’s a Brit who has become Japanese and is based in Tokyo, and in the video I think he hits most of the right points about the software and delivered in a sensible tone (I think I detect a bit of a Scouse accent). I’d heard of him before but never really dug around his site or appreciated quite how much is there.

The Silver Efex video is well worth listening to, and he’s got a 15% off link if your credit card starts tingling.

Silver Efex Pro, smoking

People seemed to like the previous set of Silver Efex Pro re-enactment images, so with a bit more experience of the software, I thought I’d post another set of pictures with similar treatments.

This time they’re from a couple of events in October. The first ones come from a weekend when “my” regiment garrisoned the Tower of London. Even if for me the Tower is a building I used to pass every day on my walk to the office, it’s still quite a privilege to spend a couple of days photographing there, and for the re-enactors it’s about as sexy a gig as you can get. What made it especially poignant for these guys was that the regiment, the Tower Hamlets Trayned Bandes, is closely modelled on its 17th century predecessor which was raised in that part of London and guarded the Tower during the war. And it’s not every day you get to take weapons and gunpowder into a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the Queen keeps her bling, is it?

The pictures were corrected in Lightroom 3 but finished in . . .

Silver Efex Pro 2 experiments

I’ve been experimenting a little with Silver Efex Pro 2 recently (in connection with the second edition of my Advanced Black and White book) and thought I’d post a series of re-enactment images, mostly taken over the last few months, that I took through SFX2 after initially processing them in Lightroom.

As you see, I added various tones and there’s a lot of use of control points, particularly with the selective colour option which I found very easy to limit to just faces. I also added fancy borders and was struck by how helpful the Vary Border button proved to be. I usually mistrust auto or lucky dip buttons, but here you do choose the basic border style but can then add a little bit of variation into the effect.

On the other hand, the problem with Silver Efex Pro 2 mangling keywords remains (UPDATE October 2011’s update v2.002 resolves this problem). And note, it’s not Lightroom’s fault (“I don’t agree with Nik” as we Brits might say) since it can be reproduced without any Adobe software on the computer. That this . . .

Silver Efex Pro 2

I’ve never been one who photographs in colour and occasionally dabbles with black and white. It’s very much the other way round, and I often look at pictures I’ve left in colour and think they’re rather monochrome anyway. But I’ve never seen doing a lot of b&w work as a reason why I would want to buy Nik’s Silver Efex Pro (SEP) or any of the other dedicated black and white plug-ins that it has now overshadowed. It’s not that I felt SEP1 deficient in any way – quite the contrary. SEP1 was a very polished piece of software, produced good results quickly (even if I doubted the film simulations), and I could certainly see why people liked it so much. I simply felt its price was steep, and I’ve not feel any real need for it.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing Silver Efex Pro 2 and these seem to be the new features:

History Browser – good, session-only and like Photoshop except with more detail,
Amplify Blacks and Amplify Whites – I remain neutral about this
Visual Presets – thumbnails on . . .

Silver Efex Pro 2

I plan to try out Silver Efex Pro 2 shortly and we’ll see if it changes my old view of it (good software but overpriced), but for now see Bret Edge’s short tutorial showing how he used Silver Efex Pro 2 for a black and white picture:

The great thing about Silver Efex Pro 2 (and all the Nik plug-ins, for that matter) is that it affords tremendous creative control to those of us who aren’t and never will be Adobe Certified Experts.  I like anything that allows me to spend more time outside making images and less time chained to my desk.

That’s OK, but you really don’t have to be an ACE to do great black and white quickly with Lightroom or Photoshop…..

B&W from different angles

There’s an interesting comparison of doing black and white in Capture One 6, Silver Efex 1, and Lightroom 3 by Mike at The Intuitive Lens. It’s a two parter with Capture One vs Silver Efex and then both vs Lightroom. I’m not sure it proves much, if anything, other than one if one tries to do so one can produce similar results in different products! Leaving settings at default is a little odd, and there’s no real attempt to use the b&w conversion process to separate neighbouring colours into distinct tones – eg those in the left woman’s blouse or between the brown briefcase in the foreground and the middle person’s red sweater. Why didn’t he use Lightroom’s targeted adjustment tool, for example? I’d argue that it alone produces better b&w images because you’re keeping your eyes on the image. But it is an interesting exercise.

Update

See discussion here and here.

My view tends to be that there are no jacks of all trades and skilled hands can squeeze the same “objective quality” out of each app. So my emphasis is less . . .

Mileage varies

Ben Long reviews Silver Efex Pro and correctly points out one of its best features

The Black and White adjustment in Photoshop is very good because it allows you to make changes to specific color values in your image. The problem is that if you tell it to darken the blue tones in an image, every blue tone will be altered. Silver Efex scores over Photoshop?s built-in Black and White [JB: or Lightroom or Aperture] because it can alter tone and contrast of specific areas, based on color, but constrain the alteration using an automatically created mask.

You could achieve the same effects in Photoshop using multiple Black and White adjustment layers, each configured differently and constrained using hand-built masks.

That’s what I do, and I don’t find it too troublesome.

At the moment Silver Efex Pro’s probably the best b&w conversion and grain utility around, though its film & grain recipes don’t take account of differences resulting from choice of developer or your agitation method (you can create your own recipes if you’re really anal). It also costs $199 – even as someone . . .

Silver Efex Pro

Doing a lot of black and white, I thought I’d give Nik’s Silver Efex Pro Aperture plug-in a quick trial. I’ll be mischievous and say that like other so-called Aperture plug-ins, it’s better described as a strap-on – it’s an external editor that’s launched from Aperture and which sends it a rendered tiff file. But the “integration” is smooth enough – you select some images in Aperture, choose the menu command Images>Edit With, and they’re opened in the Silver Efex Pro’s modal window.

Presets are down the left, a set of adjustment panels are down the right, and you can set up a Before/After comparison – all rather Lightroom-style. Adjustments mimic the effect of coloured lens filters, the colour sensitivity of well-known b&w film stocks, and control the level of grain. You also have dodging and burning via Nik’s U-point, and various toning or split-toning effects. Overall, Silver Efex worked well enough, and I particularly liked how you can vary not just the grain size but also its softness (I always liked high acutance developers like Rodinal for the gritty look).

I . . .