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The Monochrome Special - part 7 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

by Tom Lee Published 01/04/2009


Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro

Tom Lee investigates

Many third-party plug-ins have been provided by various manufacturers for all sorts of things, but rarely do they 'do what they say on the tin' or offer value for money. Although there are numerous ways to convert images to monochrome or black & white, (I've even developed some of them myself ), only one plug-in has performed for me the way I needed it to and offered me the ability to save or fine tune my selections to various types of images.mono 7

Nik Software produce several plug-ins for Photoshop, one of which is a dedicated monochrome conversion tool for producing black & white or toned images called Silver Efex Pro. If you already own other Nik software tools, the operating interface slots in under the other programs to keep them tidy. The inset shows Silver Efex under my Existing Colour Efex module in the floating palette. When the image you want to convert is live, then simply click the activation button in the palette to open the main interface.

At first glance it looks a complicated affair with more whistles and flutes than you can shake a stick at! However, Nik has provided some online tutorials, available from their website, to explain the interface and show you how to set various sections to accommodate your favourite way of working - much like the workspace in Photoshop. Silver Efex is quick and easy to use but ultimately customisable and you have the ability to save your settings as favourites, so it's almost as easymono 8 as clicking a button to achieve your result in seconds

The easiest way of doing a quick conversion is to choose a pre-set from the left-hand pane to get you in the right ball park with the central window showing your chosen result. If you like it just click OK and you're done. The other panes allow you to make subtle changes to the tonality, contrast, the emulation of red, orange or yellow filters and the heart of the system that sets it apart from other plug-ins - the Grain Engine.

Most Photoshop conversions to monochrome look very similar, no matter what method is used, however, Silver Efex utilises a Grain Engine to emulate the structure of many different types of film emulsions. There are several pre-sets built into the program for ease of use but careful use of the sliders can generate your own personal look. The usual method for getting the film look is to add noise from the Photoshop filter palette, however, Nik claim to have studied hundreds of film types and created a unique system to mimic that 'old fashioned' print feel.

The picture of Effie the trumpet player was taken on very high ISO (6400) and even on the Nikon D3 it has some noise in the shadow areas. The use of a high grain structure and harder contrast has masked what noise there was and the final print looks as though it was taken on a normal highspeed monochrome emulsion. The Boatman needed a more subtle treatment and therefore I used the Antique Plate, standard setting, but lowered the brightness and increased contrast to give me the desired effect.

The final verdict was a very user-friendly plug-in interface to give a wide variation in finished looks quickly and without the grief. A result!

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1st Published 01/04/2009
last update 18/07/2022 16:31:49

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:49 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022