Silver Efex Pro is the latest addition to Nik's collection of digital photographic filters and effects for Adobe Photoshop. This is a brand new product that is aimed at creating dynamic black and white images by offering the traditional tools of the darkroom while including the flexibility and precision of digital photography.
Not only is Silver Efex Pro a black and white converter, 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.
What do you need to run Silver Efex Pro? System requirements are Windows 2000 Pro or better, Mac OS 10.4 or better, 512 MB, and Photoshop 7 through CS3 on Windows, CS2 and CS3 on Mac, Photoshop Elements 2.0 or better on Windows, 4.0 and 6.0 on Mac, or any image editing software program that accepts Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins.
Basically, the Silver Efex Pro workflow works like this. Launch Photoshop, open an image, and open Silver Efex Pro 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 the 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 and contrast, and structure sliders.
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.
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 the opposite of the filter's colors 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 ISOs 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 gives you control adding tints, tones, as well as allowing you to dodge and burn the image. Here you can add a classic vignette, burn the edges, or perform an unending set of task by using the collection of stylizing tools, or creating your own new looks.
If you are using Adobe Photoshop, you also have the ability to use a powerful selective tool. This gives you access to Silver Efex Pro and allows you to brush filter effects into your image using any brush available in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Layers and masks are created allowing you to apply enhancements to precise areas of your image.
While it is easy to like the preset styles, what makes this so strong a feature is the ability to modify and add styles to your collection so that when you get something that you like, you can use it again and again. You can also export the styles as individual styles such that you can share amongst friends as well. You can even fine tune a style and use the update feature. If you have Dfine 2.0, Viveza, or Color Efex Pro 3.0, the installer will update the existing Selective tool which lets you access all of these plug-ins from the same Selective tool.
I think that Sliver Efex Pro is another great addition to the 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, but from now until September 15, 2008, every copy of Nik Silver Efex Pro sold in North America will include a free sample pack of Gekko Fine Art Collection inkjet papers from Pictorico. This includes two sheets each of 4 paper types: Award winning Gekko Green (Glossy), Gekko Blue (Luster), Gekko Red (Cotton), and Gekko Black (Matte). If you want to do black and white and do it with spectacular results then I highly recommend Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software.