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Software Review – Silver Efex Pro 2 – From Nik Software

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Silver Efex Pro 2 is the newest version of Nik’s digital photographic filters for creating black and white images within Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Why would you need a product to create black and white images when you can do it in Photoshop already? To create a high quality image in Photoshop can take a number of masking and conversion steps and that can take time.

Not only is Silver Efex Pro 2 a black and white converter, but it contains Nik’s premier U Point technology that gives you pinpoint control over what you want to do. No longer are you limited to working with global changes and masking to accomplish your goals. Rather, now you can precisely control specific areas of your image with a couple of clicks of your mouse.

Basically, the Silver Efex Pro workflow works like this. From inside Photoshop, open an image, and open Silver Efex Pro 2 from the Filter menu which will open the Silver Efex interface. By default, the Style Browser with sample thumbnails of your image will appear on the left hand side of the interface. On the right side are the enhancement controls.

Once you select your style from the left that most closely represents what you want to accomplish, you can use the enhancement control options on the right to make global adjustments to the image. These include controls to adjust the Brightness, Contrast, and Structure.

Next you can use the U Point Control Points to selectively control where each filter is applied to the images. This allows you to control the effect without having to use selections and/or masking. By placing Control Points on an image, you can control Brightness, Contrast, and Structure to fine-tune certain areas of your images independently of the rest of the photo.

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

The next set of controls are the Color Filters. These work much in the same way that traditional color filters work when used with panchromatic black and white films; objects of the color of the filter are lightened while objects of the opposite of the filter’s color are darkened.

Then you have the film type selection. Here you get 18 different film types based on the most popular black and white films. These include ISO’s from 32 to 3200 and film types from manufacturers like Agfa, Ilford, Kodak, and Fuji. For each you can control grain, sensitivity, and tone curve.

Finally, you have the Stylizing section which allows you to add tints and tones as well as dodge and burn the image. Here you can add a classic vignette, burn the edges, or perform an unending set of tasks by using the collection of stylizing tools, or creating your own new looks.

So what is new with Silver Efex Pro 2?

History Browser – gives you the flexibility to experiment, with the always-on ability to maintain a history of what you have done to your image. You can step backward through any of the adjustments you’ve made on your image by simply clicking on a previous state. Using the unique History State Selector, you can compare the current enhancements to any other state in the history browser.

 

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
 

Dynamic Brightness – ensures that different areas of your image receive different brightening adjustments, based on tonal values of each area. It even adjusts brightness independently for each dark area by easily applying adjustments precisely to the level desired.

Amplify Blacks and Whites in your image for greater impact by increasing the presence of highlights and shadows adaptively throughout the image. Unique contrast effects are easily achieved without blocking up darker areas of an image or blowing out lighter ones.

Structure and Fine Structure control brings out even more visible detail in the smallest structures, details, and textures of an image without creating an over-sharpened look.

Soft Contrast – adds contrast to an image by applying contrast to different areas of the image in a dynamic way. By intelligently adapting contrast to image details, Soft Contrast achieves a softer mood or feeling in the photograph.

Natural Borders – an entirely new set of algorithms that incorporate organic elements to create unique, natural, and random image borders. This is a modern interpretation of classic darkroom borders and offers virtually infinite possibilities.

Multi-threaded, 64-bit GPU Processing now takes full advantage of the latest system hardware chipsets and acceleration found in advanced displays, saving you time and effort with lightning-fast, efficient processing.

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

I really love History Browser and the ability it gives you to really play with your settings; the Dynamic Brightness and the capability to bring out details; the control that you get with the Fine Structure settings; and the GPU processing, which really make this a must-have upgrade. The natural borders are just the cherry on top!

Silver Efex Pro 2 is another great upgrade to your photographer’s tool box. I love the ease of use and the flexibility that this plug-in gives me. What would take a lot of work traditionally in Photoshop, is accomplished in a fraction of the time. Want to see more? Check out the series of lesson videos that Nik has put together. Better yet, get the 15-day free trial and play with it yourself.

At $199.95, Silver Efex Pro will pay for itself many times over. If you own version 1, the upgrade is only $99.95. If you purchased it after 12/06/2010, the upgrade is free. If you want to do black and white and do it with spectacular results then I highly recommend Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik Software.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.