Black and White with Silver Efex

Black and White with Silver Efex

I’ve been shooting a lot of black and white images lately, using techniques ranging from infrared conversion to black and white with Silver Efex. For this who don’t already know Silver Efex is the black and white conversion plugin that comes as part of the Nik Collection.

Black and White with Silver Efex

I wanted to see how much I could improve a simple black and white conversion by processing the RAW file in DxO PhotoLab 7. Both applications have similar controls, as you might expect, but it occurred to me that giving Silver Efex a better file to work on might yield better effects.

My priority initially was to produce a sharper more lifelike representation of the scene without going Old Testament! In the end I produced three pictures on a scale approaching the biblical without, I hope overdoing it!

Video

Manual Conversion from RAW

So I processed one picture with minimal adjustments in Silver Efex, I don’t use a filter, instead I built the picture up using just the controls in Silver Efex for a custom conversion. I used global adjustments to raise the midtowns and add contrast. I amplified the blacks a little and added soft contrast as the photo was taken in a rainstorm.

I also added some blue filter and corrected the mid tones after that, finally I added a hint of warmth and a slight vignette using filters in Silver Efex. Lastly I added a control point to draw attention to the area the main shaft of light is illuminating.

Clean Conversion using DxO PhotoLab 7 for Details

For the second round I processed the picture in PhotoLab with a view to optimising the image for black and white processing. I added Deep Prime Noise removal.

I added Smart Lighting set to slight, I opted to leave Clearview out entirely and used the selective tones to boost the mid tones and highlights. At the end of this pass I added clear view in a control point to sharpen the area the light was falling on. In Silver Efex I repeated more or less the same processing steps I’d done with the previous picture. The result was a much cleaner conversion with more detail.

Dramatic Conversion using DxO PhotoLab and Silver Efex

Finally I went “full biblical”. I’ve always liked the drama of a stormy sky and this particular picture with the sun breaking through the clouds in the immediate aftermath of the storm is a gift for that type of conversion.

Essentially this involved creating more contrast while protecting the highlights, bringing much more clarity to the backlighting of the clouds as well as to the shafts of sunshine hitting the mid-ground.

Summary

I preferred the last conversion to the others, while it’s closest to the first one it has a lot more detail, looks sharper and better defined as well as adding a boatload of drama.

Every filter in Silver Efex can be created manually, but this makes the filters a good place to start if you know where you’re heading. You can choose a stronger effect and reduce the appropriate settings or a weaker one and amplify some of the settings, it doesn’t seem to. matter which way you go.

A few other lessons learned from all of the conversions, perhaps the most useful being that protecting the highlights in Silver Efex produces a better effect than reducing the highlights after the conversion.

Download the Software

Nik Silver Efex is part of the Nik Collection, You can either but or download a trial version from the following links.

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