Nik Software Silver Efex Pro Review

silver_efex_pro_box 2420 w.jpg

This week I’m reviewing NIK Software’s Aperture and Photoshop plugin, Silver Efex Pro. While I really like Aperture, its black-and-white conversion leaves a lot to be desired. One thing is certain, all black-and-white conversion is not created equal. There are no hard and fast rules on exactly where to assign your grey and without savant-like abilities, you can destroy the look of your photograph with careless conversion. I know, quite simply, because I have done it.

My solution to this problem has always been to do the conversion in Photoshop. It has all sorts of interesting tools like the channel mixer that allow you to tweak your black and white conversion to your heart’s desire. The problem I keep running into is Photoshop’s unrealistic assumption that I have a clue what I am doing. Sure. I watched the screencasts, read the books, and sacrificed old film canisters to the appropriate photography gods but my results were still spotty at best. Silver Efex Pro takes the voodoo out of black and white conversion.

Silver Efex 3420 w.png

After activating this plug-in, it opens a large pane with your image. On the right are a variety of sliders and buttons to allow you to manually adjust and on the left are a series of previews applying different professionally developed black and white filters. The workflow usually starts on the left where you can look through the various preset styles. These vary from the neutral to the artistic. There is also a nice antique effect with the crinkled edges of old photographs. The interface allows you to preview the images giving you a nice feel for what to expect.

Silver Efex Left Pane.png

Once you’ve chosen your preset you can further tweak it using the sliders and buttons on the right side of the preview. These include common settings like brightness and contrast. It also has some more exotic controls like shadows, highlights and colored filters changing the tinge of your black and white photograph.

Silver Efex Right Pane.png

The editing doesn’t stop here though. Once you know you are in the ballpark you can perform local adjustments. That means if there is just one part of the image you want to adjust while leaving the rest alone, you can. Silver Efex Pro remembers the original colors and allows you to use this to your advantage. For example, one photograph I was processing was of my daughter with a red brick wall behind her. Using the control point technology of this application, I was able to identify the red brick and adjust its black and white conversion so as not to interfere with my daughter’s image. The application left the rest of the photograph untouched. This is a really powerful feature. You can select multiple control points in any image all with their own controls. Before long you will be fine tuning your black and white image with more granularity than you thought possible.

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Speaking of granularity, if you want to give your image a film grain look, it comes with a pre-defined set of film types that can give your photograph that film look. It is an impressive list and it is fun seeing the changes brought by different film types. There is also a series of sliders that allow you to manually adjust the grain, sensitivity, and tone curve if you want to do it yourself.

Film Grain.png

Once you have your image just so, you apply your changes and it drops you back in Aperture with a new image in its black and white splendor. Silver Efex Pro costs $200 and while that may seem a bit steep for a black and white converter, the results I am getting with this application are breathtaking. I could Vulcan mind-meld with a Photoshop guru and I still don’t think I could do better with black and white conversion than I’m getting with Silver Efex Pro. Even if you don’t have the money to spend on this, download the free 15-day trial of Silver Efex from NikSoftware.com so you can see the dramatic results available with the control point technology. It is a lot of fun.

You can listen to this review on Surfbits Episode #185.

25 Comments Nik Software Silver Efex Pro Review

  1. klarue@niksoftware.com

    Nice review, David, and thanks for the kind words! Love the bit about “taking the voodoo out…” and Vulcan mind-melding with PS gurus! LOL

    Early on when we were beta testing the software, I did a B&W conversion of an image I shot at dawn of a pier in Ventura, CA. Really, and effortlessly, turned out pretty nice, even though I don’t consider myself anything but a rank amateur. I ended up posting it on my blog and got an offer to buy a print of the image – blew me away!

    Anyway, I just also wanted to mention that there are instructional videos on the Nik site under the Learn tab. Thanks again for checking out Silver Efex Pro.

    Cheers,
    Kevin (from Nik Software)

    Reply
  2. klarue@niksoftware.com

    Nice review, David, and thanks for the kind words! Love the bit about “taking the voodoo out…” and Vulcan mind-melding with PS gurus! LOL

    Early on when we were beta testing the software, I did a B&W conversion of an image I shot at dawn of a pier in Ventura, CA. Really, and effortlessly, turned out pretty nice, even though I don’t consider myself anything but a rank amateur. I ended up posting it on my blog and got an offer to buy a print of the image – blew me away!

    Anyway, I just also wanted to mention that there are instructional videos on the Nik site under the Learn tab. Thanks again for checking out Silver Efex Pro.

    Cheers,
    Kevin (from Nik Software)

    Reply
  3. klarue@niksoftware.com

    Nice review, David, and thanks for the kind words! Love the bit about “taking the voodoo out…” and Vulcan mind-melding with PS gurus! LOL

    Early on when we were beta testing the software, I did a B&W conversion of an image I shot at dawn of a pier in Ventura, CA. Really, and effortlessly, turned out pretty nice, even though I don’t consider myself anything but a rank amateur. I ended up posting it on my blog and got an offer to buy a print of the image – blew me away!

    Anyway, I just also wanted to mention that there are instructional videos on the Nik site under the Learn tab. Thanks again for checking out Silver Efex Pro.

    Cheers,
    Kevin (from Nik Software)

    Reply
  4. klarue@niksoftware.com

    Nice review, David, and thanks for the kind words! Love the bit about “taking the voodoo out…” and Vulcan mind-melding with PS gurus! LOL

    Early on when we were beta testing the software, I did a B&W conversion of an image I shot at dawn of a pier in Ventura, CA. Really, and effortlessly, turned out pretty nice, even though I don’t consider myself anything but a rank amateur. I ended up posting it on my blog and got an offer to buy a print of the image – blew me away!

    Anyway, I just also wanted to mention that there are instructional videos on the Nik site under the Learn tab. Thanks again for checking out Silver Efex Pro.

    Cheers,
    Kevin (from Nik Software)

    Reply
  5. klarue@niksoftware.com

    Nice review, David, and thanks for the kind words! Love the bit about “taking the voodoo out…” and Vulcan mind-melding with PS gurus! LOL

    Early on when we were beta testing the software, I did a B&W conversion of an image I shot at dawn of a pier in Ventura, CA. Really, and effortlessly, turned out pretty nice, even though I don’t consider myself anything but a rank amateur. I ended up posting it on my blog and got an offer to buy a print of the image – blew me away!

    Anyway, I just also wanted to mention that there are instructional videos on the Nik site under the Learn tab. Thanks again for checking out Silver Efex Pro.

    Cheers,
    Kevin (from Nik Software)

    Reply
  6. posteanonyme@gmai.com

    I am using this plug-in along with others. Note that Nik software has started offering a bundle of 5 of their plug-ins including the one that you reviewed. I find that with these plug-ins I am now using Aperture 99.9% of the time and probably no longer need to use Photoshop or a similar program as much.

    The price for the bundle is $299. http://www.niksoftware.com/completecollection/usa/entry.php

    Reply
  7. posteanonyme@gmai.com

    I am using this plug-in along with others. Note that Nik software has started offering a bundle of 5 of their plug-ins including the one that you reviewed. I find that with these plug-ins I am now using Aperture 99.9% of the time and probably no longer need to use Photoshop or a similar program as much.

    The price for the bundle is $299. http://www.niksoftware.com/completecollection/usa/entry.php

    Reply
  8. posteanonyme@gmai.com

    I am using this plug-in along with others. Note that Nik software has started offering a bundle of 5 of their plug-ins including the one that you reviewed. I find that with these plug-ins I am now using Aperture 99.9% of the time and probably no longer need to use Photoshop or a similar program as much.

    The price for the bundle is $299. http://www.niksoftware.com/completecollection/usa/entry.php

    Reply
  9. posteanonyme@gmai.com

    I am using this plug-in along with others. Note that Nik software has started offering a bundle of 5 of their plug-ins including the one that you reviewed. I find that with these plug-ins I am now using Aperture 99.9% of the time and probably no longer need to use Photoshop or a similar program as much.

    The price for the bundle is $299. http://www.niksoftware.com/completecollection/usa/entry.php

    Reply
  10. posteanonyme@gmai.com

    I am using this plug-in along with others. Note that Nik software has started offering a bundle of 5 of their plug-ins including the one that you reviewed. I find that with these plug-ins I am now using Aperture 99.9% of the time and probably no longer need to use Photoshop or a similar program as much.

    The price for the bundle is $299. http://www.niksoftware.com/completecollection/usa/entry.php

    Reply
  11. dorothy@tigerbright.com

    Thanks David for the review.

    I’ve used Nik filters for some time (ColorEfex and Sharpener Pro) and have always been impressed with their high quality filters (you get what you pay for!). Over time accumulated upgrades and Viveza. I just now spoke to customer service and was able to get a nice upgrade deal for the complete bundle (having a NAPP membership also enabled a discount). Might add they have very good customer support.

    Reply
  12. dorothy@tigerbright.com

    Thanks David for the review.

    I’ve used Nik filters for some time (ColorEfex and Sharpener Pro) and have always been impressed with their high quality filters (you get what you pay for!). Over time accumulated upgrades and Viveza. I just now spoke to customer service and was able to get a nice upgrade deal for the complete bundle (having a NAPP membership also enabled a discount). Might add they have very good customer support.

    Reply
  13. dorothy@tigerbright.com

    Thanks David for the review.

    I’ve used Nik filters for some time (ColorEfex and Sharpener Pro) and have always been impressed with their high quality filters (you get what you pay for!). Over time accumulated upgrades and Viveza. I just now spoke to customer service and was able to get a nice upgrade deal for the complete bundle (having a NAPP membership also enabled a discount). Might add they have very good customer support.

    Reply
  14. dorothy@tigerbright.com

    Thanks David for the review.

    I’ve used Nik filters for some time (ColorEfex and Sharpener Pro) and have always been impressed with their high quality filters (you get what you pay for!). Over time accumulated upgrades and Viveza. I just now spoke to customer service and was able to get a nice upgrade deal for the complete bundle (having a NAPP membership also enabled a discount). Might add they have very good customer support.

    Reply
  15. dorothy@tigerbright.com

    Thanks David for the review.

    I’ve used Nik filters for some time (ColorEfex and Sharpener Pro) and have always been impressed with their high quality filters (you get what you pay for!). Over time accumulated upgrades and Viveza. I just now spoke to customer service and was able to get a nice upgrade deal for the complete bundle (having a NAPP membership also enabled a discount). Might add they have very good customer support.

    Reply
  16. travelimageslimited@comcast.net

    Re silver efex pro- I have a large number of 35 mm b&w negs which I can scan in a Nikon 5000 scanner. Can I then retouch in your program? Or is your program limited to color scans to b&w? Gracias, Bob

    Reply
  17. travelimageslimited@comcast.net

    Re silver efex pro- I have a large number of 35 mm b&w negs which I can scan in a Nikon 5000 scanner. Can I then retouch in your program? Or is your program limited to color scans to b&w? Gracias, Bob

    Reply
  18. travelimageslimited@comcast.net

    Re silver efex pro- I have a large number of 35 mm b&w negs which I can scan in a Nikon 5000 scanner. Can I then retouch in your program? Or is your program limited to color scans to b&w? Gracias, Bob

    Reply
  19. travelimageslimited@comcast.net

    Re silver efex pro- I have a large number of 35 mm b&w negs which I can scan in a Nikon 5000 scanner. Can I then retouch in your program? Or is your program limited to color scans to b&w? Gracias, Bob

    Reply
  20. travelimageslimited@comcast.net

    Re silver efex pro- I have a large number of 35 mm b&w negs which I can scan in a Nikon 5000 scanner. Can I then retouch in your program? Or is your program limited to color scans to b&w? Gracias, Bob

    Reply
  21. fab_480@hotmail.com

    I am a complete fan of Silver Efex Pro it has jumped my sales. I struggled to make good B&W in Photoshop, it was ok but being taught by a Whitehouse staff photographer who taught me how to shoot B&W I was never happy. Until Silver Efex Pro, thank you, thank you, thank you. I know my old teacher would approve.

    Reply
  22. fab_480@hotmail.com

    I am a complete fan of Silver Efex Pro it has jumped my sales. I struggled to make good B&W in Photoshop, it was ok but being taught by a Whitehouse staff photographer who taught me how to shoot B&W I was never happy. Until Silver Efex Pro, thank you, thank you, thank you. I know my old teacher would approve.

    Reply
  23. fab_480@hotmail.com

    I am a complete fan of Silver Efex Pro it has jumped my sales. I struggled to make good B&W in Photoshop, it was ok but being taught by a Whitehouse staff photographer who taught me how to shoot B&W I was never happy. Until Silver Efex Pro, thank you, thank you, thank you. I know my old teacher would approve.

    Reply
  24. fab_480@hotmail.com

    I am a complete fan of Silver Efex Pro it has jumped my sales. I struggled to make good B&W in Photoshop, it was ok but being taught by a Whitehouse staff photographer who taught me how to shoot B&W I was never happy. Until Silver Efex Pro, thank you, thank you, thank you. I know my old teacher would approve.

    Reply
  25. fab_480@hotmail.com

    I am a complete fan of Silver Efex Pro it has jumped my sales. I struggled to make good B&W in Photoshop, it was ok but being taught by a Whitehouse staff photographer who taught me how to shoot B&W I was never happy. Until Silver Efex Pro, thank you, thank you, thank you. I know my old teacher would approve.

    Reply

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