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.