At this year’s Spring Photoshop World, I sat in on a very different instructional block hosted by my buddy Vincent Versace. This was a special, one-time only class that required the signing of a non-disclosure agreement. You see, Vincent does a great amount of work with the folks over at Nik Software in the development of several of their products and he convinced them to include this one class group into a new beta program. That program has evolved over the past few months into the currently released Nik Silver Efex Pro.
The great part of being in on a beta testing program is getting the chance to watch the program grow and evolve over time while adding input to the designers to help get the bugs out as well as shape the future of the program. The early versions of Silver Efex were pretty clunky with many of the features being less than reliable. Since that time, it has evolved into the greatest application I have ever seen to render black & white images from digital files. I’m not talking about converting colors into shades of grey. No, there are dozens of ways to do that. I’m talking about making images that have the look of actual black & white film. This was accomplished by actually profiling b&w films from different manufacturers. That’s right, all of your favorites are in there; Pan-X, Tri-X, APX, Neopan, Delta, and even P3200 (18 types in all). Combine the film types with color filters that really act like a filter would with b&w film, and a new control called Structure and you have the makings of some phenomenal b&w images. Not only that but Nik has incorporated their control point tools to adjust shadows, highlights, and contrast on a local level as well as controls to protect your blacks and whites from clipping. For all of you Zone System freaks out there (you know who you are) there is even a zoned step wedge that, when moused over, displays the areas of your image that fall into that particular zone.
If all those choices start to get overwhelming, just jump over to the Styles preset panel and choose something to your liking. You can start with the preset styles and then make changes to suit your images. If you come up with a combination that you really like, you can save it as your own preset that can be applied to future images. If you don’t like the built-in styles, try downloading some of the 33 custom styles available on the Nik site.
So here’s the bottom line, if you have been longing to make beautiful black & white images but just haven’t been satisfied with the old Photoshop conversion methods, head on over to Nik and check out Silver Efex Pro with their 15-day trial offer (click here). But here’s the deal, you had better start saving your spare change because at the end of the 15 days, you will want to plunk down the $199 for the licensed version. It’s just that good! And here’s something I just discovered, Silver Efex Pro is available at Amazon. Their price is $185 for a downloadable version. They list the CD version as being available sometime in August. By the way, if you have been paying attention to the blog over the past few months then you have seen some of the images that I have made using Silver Efex Pro.
Make sure you scroll down to see my video tour of Silver Efex Pro