For professional-strength black-and-white conversion made easy, it’s hard to beat Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro. Version 2 includes several improvements that allow more control over fine details, plus new tools to add image borders or bring back color in a specific area.
In addition to global enhancements, Silver Efex Pro 2 makes use of Nik Software’s innovative U Point technology to allow local adjustments using Control Points, perfect for tricks like opening up shadow areas without blowing out nearby highlights. There’s no masking involved—just drop a Control Point, set its effect radius, and use simple sliders to adjust brightness, contrast, detail and more.
Maybe the most impressive technology in this software is something you don’t see—the complex math that’s going on behind the scenes. Silver Efex Pro 2 analyzes your image and adapts its adjustments accordingly to preserve and enhance details, enabling new features like Dynamic Brightness, which varies the amount of brightening adjustments in different areas of an image based on the surrounding tonal values, allowing you to easily boost levels in dark areas—without affecting highlights—by means of a simple slider control.
Silver Efex Pro 2 installs as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 and CS5, or Photoshop Lightroom 2.6 or later on Windows systems. Macintosh users also get compatibility with Photoshop CS3 and Aperture 2 or later. Both versions are 32-bit and 64-bit compatible. List Price: $199 (full version); $99 (upgrade). You can download a free 15-day trial to demo the software. Contact: Nik Software, www.niksoftware.com.
These buttons let you quickly switch between full-screen view or views with either the preset browser or history browser. The history browser is particularly helpful—you can compare your original color image to the results of the various adjustments you’ve made using the split-screen controls. Split-screen options include a vertical or horizontal division on a single image or side-by-side before and after.
Launch Silver Efex Pro 2, and your image is automatically rendered in black-and-white using the default Neutral preset, but you can choose from 38 preset "looks," ranging from traditional to extreme. The presets affect tonality, as well as sharpness, grain and toning. You also can save your own combinations as custom presets to use again with other images.
Fine-tune the look of the image with simple sliders to adjust Brightness, Contrast and Structure. The Structure slider is particularly interesting: It analyzes the objects in your photo, defines their edges and increases contrast within the objects without affecting their edges. The result is sharper details without edge haloing and artifacts. Submenus for each of these global adjustments let you further refine them—this is where you’ll find new controls like Dynamic Brightness, Amplify Blacks and Whites, Soft Contrast and Fine Structure.
This panel lets you add Control Points, Nik Software’s innovative solution for localized corrections. Add Control Points to your image, and you can make adjustments to the image within a radius that you specify with a slider.
To replicate the effects of a traditional colored glass filter, simply click one of the preset colors or expand the control panel to manually adjust the hue and strength of the filter.
Here, you can replicate the grain and contrast of 20 popular film types from Kodak, Ilford and others, or customize your own look with adjustments for Grain, Sensitivity and Levels and Curves.
Once you’ve perfected your black-and-white conversion, you can put some final touches on the image to make it really pop. Several toning presets are available, including popular effects like sepia and cyanotype. You also can add a variety of borders, from traditional to artistic borders, which replicate the effects of a filed negative carrier or emulsion transfer, or add a vignette.