Though any good photo editor will include tools for black-and-white conversion, plug-ins and specialty apps go a step further for more control and additional special effects that can add an extra creative dimension to your images if you do a lot of black-and-white work. Here are some of the most popular apps with specialized capabilities for black-and-white images.
1) ALIEN EXPOSURE 7
Designed to bring the retro look of analog film to your digital images, Alien Skin’s Exposure 7 designers analyzed film and photo archives under a microscope to develop accurate grain patterns across the dynamic range for each film type. Pro photographers from around the world were consulted about the look and feel of film stocks down to the barely discernible details. From this research, Exposure 7 offers over 450 presets—both color and black-and-white—including Kodak T-MAX, Agfa APX, Ilford Delta, Daguerrotype and Wet Plate.
In addition to the wide variety of preset options, Exposure 7 provides personalization.
The control panel displays slider tools for basic exposure, saturation and contrast adjustments. Exposure 7 also offers all the creative focus controls and lens simulations of the Alien Skin Bokeh software. This allows the manipulation of focus, depth of field, tilt/shift perspective and motion blur looks. As you experiment with textures, borders and light effects, all previews are displayed at full size. List Price: $149. Contact: Alien Skin, alienskin.com/exposure.
2) DxO OpticsPro 10
DxO OpticsPro 10 has many features for use in processing your black-and-white images. Among the Atmosphere presets is desaturation, allowing you to create your own black-and-white presets. PRIME de-noising technology analyzes the image structure to differentiate between noise and details, preserving texture and saturation. The Clear View tool analyzes color components and local blacks to eliminate unwanted heat haze and smog. Smart Lighting tools accentuate details while restoring both over-and underexposures, with separate adjustments for highlights, midtones, shadows and blacks. Optical corrections include distortion and chromatic aberration while improving sharpness and offering vignettes. Integrated printing lets you print directly from the software, producing full prints or contact sheets. List Price: From $99. Contact: DxO, dxo.com.
3) MACPHUN TONALITY
Created by pro photographers, Macphun’s Tonality has been designed for easy black-and-white photo processing regardless of skill level. For use as stand-alone software or as a plug-in, Tonality provides over 150 presets ranging from Dramatic and Portrait to Film Emulation. The Adaptive Exposure control lets you adjust brightness while maintaining maximum dynamic range. Toning controls offer the ability to set individual color filters to use with black-and-white toning through both Luminance and Saturation controls.
Other tools include one-click black-and-white HDR, glow control, lens blur emulation, vignettes and borders. The Pro version adds extra layers of control with layer blending modes, a zone processing system, histograms, and upgraded vignettes and borders. Mac only. List Price: $17.99 (Standard), $69.99 (Pro). Contact: Macphun, macphun.com/tonality.
4) ONONE PERFECT B&W 9
With Perfect B&W 9, onOne Software has collected tools that are designed to correct common, specific problems and presents them in an easy-to-use visual format so that you can create your perfect black-and-white image. Available as a stand-alone app or a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements or Aperture, Perfect B&W 9 now has a wide selection of brush tools. Perfect Brush allows you to brush on an effect, maintaining edge detection with soft edges such as clouds and hair. Improved Brightness Brush, Contrast Brush and Detail Brush provide corrections in specific areas of your image. The Targeted Brightness tool controls the brightness on color-based photos and the Selective Color Brush paints color back into the photo where desired.
Additionally, the software offers customizable presets along with a Smart Photo tool. This allows for re-editing your photos while keeping your previous settings so that you can continue making changes another day. The new Noise Reduction tool now selectively reduces noise in key areas, such as shadows or highlights. Version 9 also offers printing directly from the software with live previews. List Price: $59.95. Contact: onOne Software, ononesoftware.com.
5) SILVER EFEX PRO
Part of the Google Nik Collection, Silver Efex Pro is heavily influenced by traditional darkroom tools. Dynamic Brightness gives full control over highlights, midtones and shadows. Add depth through contrast with soft contrast, amplify black and amplify white controls. Thirty-eight presets are divided into Modern, Classic and Vintage categories, and include 18 popular film types that are browsable with an active scroll wheel. Presets can also be imported. The built-in History Browser shows you processing progress and allows comparisons from different stages of edit. Image folders can be batch processed with your favorite saved preset. List Price: $149. Contact: Google, google.com/nikcollection.
6) TIFFEN DFX 4
Tiffen provides a complete digital filter and effects system for both still photos and video with the newly updated Dfx 4 software. With an improved interface for optimal preview size and new keyboard controls, Dfx 4 has just added 93 historical film processes and 30 motion picture film stocks. The software’s digital filter selection also replicates Tiffen brand optical lens filters. The ability to process images through a 32-bit floating point lets you manipulate the image’s dynamic range without clipping. The new edge-aware algorithm provides added control for applications such as smoothing skin, and a new Curve Tool gives personalized control for individual RGB values and shadow/highlight control.
Dfx 4 is available as stand-alone software; a photo plug-in for Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom and Aperture; and as a film/video plug-in that runs with Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5, and Avid Editing Systems 64-bit. It’s also now available as two separate OFX plug-in packages: Dfx OFX Standard for Sony Vegas and DaVinci Resolve Lite and Dfx OFX Pro for Assimilate Scratch, DaVinci Resolve and the Foundry’s Nuke. List Price: From $129. Contact: Tiffen, tiffensoftware.com/products.
7) TOPAZ LABS B&W EFFECTS
Topaz Labs has a large selection of photo effects, artistic effects and utility plug-ins that are co
mpatible with Photoshop CS4+, Lightroom, Elements 6+ and Adobe Creative Cloud. The B&W Effects plug-in prides itself on excelling at three conversion categories: tonal contrast, authentic grain and darkroom-inspired effects. Tonal contrast gives you control of the dynamic range with its advanced adaptive exposure technology. The authentic grain conversion gives you many looks from popular film grains that were scanned from original film. Darkroom-inspired effects include over 80 presets separated into several collections including Albumen, Cyanotype and Platinum. Topaz Labs includes free upgrades for all of the company’s plug-ins. List Price: $59.99. Contact: Topaz Labs, topazlabs.com/bweffects.