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Silver Efex Pro 2: Fine-Tuned Black and White Photos

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This article is the second of five that focuses on plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. Silver Efex Pro is Nik Software’s answer to a professional Black and White photography workflow, offering a wider range of options for controlling contrast, details, and creative toning than the standard tools offered in Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture. Here, Photoshop expert Dan Moughamian, author of Adobe Digital Imaging How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques for Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3, and Camera Raw 6, shows how the customization of three different preset types can yield different Black and White looks for your photos.
Antique Plate 1

Antique Plate 1

Our final example shows a more creative item, Antique Plate 1 from the Vintage presets, which creates a look similar to films used in the early and mid 1900s to create the warm, grainy look often found in the work of Josef Sudek and others. The preset is shown unaltered in Figure 12. Notice that in addition to some Global Adjustments, a film grain effect and Finishing Adjustments to the color have been applied as part of the preset.

Figure 12 The Antique Plate 1 preset takes you back to the early to mid 1900s, producing a classic film look for your photo.

For this workflow, I decided no changes to Global or Selective adjustments were required, as the overall contrast and detail were good. So my first step was to open the Color Filter panel, which simulates the look you would get if you were to screw that type of color filter onto the end of your lens. Here, clicking the Red filter did two things: it brightened up the brickwork slightly, and added contrast and detail into the flowers (Figure 13).

To create an “in-between” effect, drag the hue slider between any two colors, then use the Strength slider to determine how pronounced the effect is. (Note that there is no means currently of seeing which filter you have selected.)

Figure 13 Using the Color Filter panel can help to revive contrast in your image, based on the colors that are present.

Next I opened the Film Types panel and zoomed in to 100% magnification, and panned over an area of the window that had a range of light-to-dark tones in order to examine the film grain effect that had been applied. I decided it was a bit too subtle to be seen clearly at small screen and print sizes, so I reduced the Grain Per Pixel value from 414 to around 350. This has the effect of making the grains appear relatively “larger”, and I also increased the Hardness value of the grain slightly (Figure 14).

Figure 14 Adding a more pronounced Grain effect within the Film Types controls can give an “old school” look to your shots.

Under the Sensitivity setting I also experimented with the color sliders to mimic film types that might be more sensitive to particular colors in the scene. Here I modified the overall tonality by reducing the Red and Yellow values (since there is a fair amount of both in the original image), and the violet value to make the purple flowers (in the original scene) darker than the others.

The next step for this “old school” workflow was to open the Finishing Adjustments panel and zoom back out so I could see the entire image. Within the Toning controls, I switched the Sepia preset (from the Toning pop-up menu near the top of the window) from Sepia 2 to Sepia 3, to add a more pronounced color effect. I also increased the Strength setting slightly to add more yellow overtones.

Notice as you change this setting, the Silver Toning and Paper Toning Sliders will move as well. Last, I changed the custom Vignette setting to Lens Falloff 3 (from the pop-up menu) to make that part of the styling a bit less stark, especially in the bottom-left corner. All of the Finishing Adjustments are shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15 Silver Efex Pro’s Finishing Adjustments allow you to tweak the overall color toning as well as other styling such as vignettes that have been applied.

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