Nik Silver Efex 2

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
This isn't a review, more of a recommendation for digital shooters looking for a good black and white converter. I'll start by saying that I love good black and white shots, but getting good results with digital has always been challenging. Maintaining or even enhancing natural contrast has always proved to be difficult, especially when trying to maintain a good tonal range,...that was until I gave Silver Efex Pro 2.0 a try. The results I'm getting are really good. The level of output quality and control over the image is incredible, and using the plugin is super easy and intuitive. It even incorporates the zone system into the software! I don't know what kind of voodoo magic Nik packed into their algorithm but what ever it is, it's working for me. They even have film stocks if that's your thing. And unlike most film replicators I've tried, these actually look pretty close to the real deal.

Here's a few shots that I've ran through the software to give you an idea of what it can do.















 
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bucketosudz

Explorer
Very Cool Trevor! Thanks for posting this, my wife just picked up a new camera this spring and I was curious what types of Black and White we could come up with. It makes doing Scrimshaw and other drawing projects so much more enjoyable with crisp B&W photos.

Is the Canoe photo yours? Love it!
 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
Thanks, yeah they're all mine. The software is really great, there's so many options and ways to take a photo within it, but the real beauty for me is the control and output quality. I may actually start approaching images thinking in terms of black and white conversions.
 

Michael Slade

Untitled
Thanks, yeah they're all mine. The software is really great, there's so many options and ways to take a photo within it, but the real beauty for me is the control and output quality. I may actually start approaching images thinking in terms of black and white conversions.
My suggestion if you really REALLY want to learn how to make good B&W digital conversions is to take a class in B&W darkroom photography. Either that or go to as many museums/exhibits as you can and become very familiar with what a good gelatin silver print looks like.

Starting to think in monochrome is a good place, but knowing what you are truly visualizing and striving for in the end will help even more.
 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
Here's a look at the tonality controls, this coupled with the selective control points are the best parts of this software.
 

taco2go

Explorer
Beautiful shots Trevor and I agree about the tonal palatte. I'm currenly just using the conversion in LR3 but am interested in Silver
HOWEVER, and I've noticed this on their promo pages as well, I don't particulary like the ghosting at the edges (a la HDR), also more apparent in pics 4 and 7 on your examples,
Are there tools to minimize that? The photo with the crocs appears the most natural (if one can say that about B&W :))
 

taco2go

Explorer
I may actually start approaching images thinking in terms of black and white conversions.
I'm finding that it stretches a totally different part of the noggin. Challenging for me at least, but I am totally darkroom illiterate and Michael's point is well taken.

Couple of my recent attempts- maybe it's time for a B&W thread...





 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
HOWEVER, and I've noticed this on their promo pages as well, I don't particulary like the ghosting at the edges (a la HDR), also more apparent in pics 4 and 7 on your examples,
Are there tools to minimize that? The photo with the crocs appears the most natural (if one can say that about B&W :))
Not sure I know what you mean by ghosting Joash. Could you expand a little? Obviously they aren't exact but I'm wondering if the ghosting you are seeing is present with #4 and #7's colour variants as well. There's no ghost removal tool within the program, it mainly consists of advanced tonal and contrast sliders, control points, and colour filters.


 
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taco2go

Explorer
Hey Trevor I downloaded the free trial- it's great. I wish LR had that handy U Point control. :)

Re Ghosting, It is probably more accurately described as a Halo artifact, not ghosting (which I think is a similar artifact that results when separate exposures are not aligned perfectly in HDR)

In many HDR images there is a very light halo around the edges of subjects - in particular dark subjects against the sky. It is likely an effect of the tonemapping algorithms in programs like photomatix. . It often adds to that HDR effect. Silver may be doing something similar in some of it's presets Here's an example of mine- overcooked of course.



In pic #4 you can see something similar bordering the gentleman's right shoulder profile and along the lateral aspect of his LEFT leg, more so where it borders the cabbage patch -more subtle here.
You may also notice it around the clump of banana leaves in the distance, frame right. And it's definitely less apparent in the color version.

In pic 1 it's around the stern of the canoe- but that could be from vignetting.



Some more conjecturing:
I may be completely wrong, but I think HDR software also does this on a much finer level (ie. any points of contrast) in a picture to make it "pop" out more.
It maybe also one of the reasons why it also removes the natural degradation in tonal intensity and clarity with distance. Can you see this when you compare the color and B and W pics in #7? The buildings?
 
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Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
Ah, I see what your saying. That's not the software, that's just me doing selective dodging and buring. You'll see it in some peoples black and white work. I don't see it in the building but I do see in on the man. It doesn't bother me because the goal for my black and white isn't a literal translation. I also think small screen compression compounds the "halo" effect. If you check out the award winning work of Louis Montrose, Larry Louie, etc you'll see the same thing with some of their work. It's just a creative choice. I wouldn't use my work as any sort of indicator of what the software does. The software does a great job if you're looking to do more literal translations without any dodging or burning.



 

Pathfinder

Adventurer
I have had Silver Fx for a couple years, and still find I rarely use it. I think about it, but stick with the old standards.

I learned to do my monochrome conversions via the old Channel Mixer manner, or the more recent Black and White converter tool in Photoshop.

I can understand the ease of the presets in Silver Fx, and use them sometimes, but do not feel any disadvantage with the Black and White conversion tool in PS. I learned to do luminosity blends with the R,G, or B channel to control the contrast range in my images, and the technique just carries over to my B&W conversions.

Some links to conversion methods can be found here - http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=114917
 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
There's a lot more to Silver Efex 2 then its presets, the presets are simply fluff for those without a vision of their own IMO. The underlying algorithms of the contrast and tonality adjustments are extremely powerful and blows away anything you can do in LR or even CS alone, without mass adjustments.
 

ywen

Explorer
Trevor, I hope you don't mind me taking one of your pictures and ran it through Alien Skin Exposure 2.

I love that software.. both the color and film effects are excellent IMO.. this is what I came up with starting out with their Tri-X 400 preset...

 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
No I don't mind at all, I love seeing what other people do with my shots. Did you play with it at all beyond the preset? Just for poops and giggles I dropped the same image you used back into Silver Efex and stapled the Tri-X 400 preset to it. Here's what the software rendered on its own for comparison.
 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
Here are a few more I converted using Silver Efex. I really love the dynamic brightness adjustment, I think that's my favorite part of the software. It allows you to adjust the overall brightness of the image while holding the highlights, yet still giving you the ability to fine tune those highlights, as well as the mids, and shadows independently, it's really slick. Has anyone else test drove the software yet?






 
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