I spent many years in real darkrooms back at the beginning of my career in photography. I think that having that background allows me to have a deeper appreciation of what is possible to do with digital images today on a computer. We are living in a golden age of photography where the possibilities for creating incredible images is near limitless.
While programs like Lightroom, Aperture, and Photoshop are quite capable of creating excellent black-and-white images, Silver Efex Pro 2 offers incredible diversity along with simplicity for the user. Anyone who is serious about black and white photography needs to try this excellent plug-in.
Luckily, there is a 15 day free trial of the software that allows you to test the full version with no limitations.
Intuitive Flexibility and Versatility
This software can be as intricate or as simple as you would like it to be, making it a solid choice for both amateur and professional photographers.
Some of my favourite features of the software are the possibility to emulate types of film, adding filters, total control of “film” grain, controlling image structure, one-click toning, and Nik’s U Point® Technology. While I’m using Silver Efex Pro 2 as a Photoshop plug-in, you can also use it as a stand alone product or in Lightroom and Aperture.
Let’s take a closer look.
The workspace is divided into 3 basic parts:
- The Presets
- The Image Preview
- The Adjustment Panel or Tools
While you get a somewhat passable result in the neutral, there is no one button solution to creating a striking black and white image. The quick and easy way is to test some of the presets. If you want a quick conversion then one of the dozens of presets may very well be all you need to use. If however, you are more like me, then starting with one of the presets is a good place to begin before fine tuning the image with the robust adjustment tools at your disposal.
Each preset contains adjustments in brightness, contrast, structure, tone, film grain, and more. The serious photographer can use some of these presets as a starting point but will want to edit and fine tune the image more specifically to his or her needs.
Less is more
As with so many other image editing plug-ins (as well as in Photoshop itself) going to the extreme possibilities can lead to destructive results to your image. Knowing when to stop is one of the keys of producing high-quality digital photographs. The controls in Silver Efex Pro 2 are extremely in-depth yet simple enough to use.
In this panel you control the typical brightness and contrast within the image. Two excellent features within this panel our dynamic brightness and soft contrast.