Nik Software is working hard to create a string of plug-ins for Aperture and Photoshop. Their stable has grown again to include their newest product, Silver Efex Pro. This plug-in will give you complete control over black and white images in a way that neither Aperture or Photoshop can.
I tested the product using my favorite photo editing software, Aperture. I assume it works identically on Photoshop since all Nik products (thankfully) share common interface traits.
Once you have your color image selected, you simply edit with Silver Efex Pro and you’re presented with lots of options to make your color image into a black and white image.
There are more than 20 presets built-in and building your own couldn’t be easier.
The presets are very good and for those with gray hair who preferred the look of B&W film, there are also 18 emulation modes for all popular B&W films.
You can apply the effects to one or more images in Aperture which is similar to a batch mode.
And as usual with Nik products, you can use their U Point technology to control certain aspects of the effects, such as contrast and tonality. This eliminates the need for layers and masking.
The built-in presets are my favorite part of the program because I can use them as starting points for creating my own presets.
Silver Efex Pro allows you to vignette and burn edges. You can control all aspects of the vignetting and it creates very dramatic effects. You can also use preset color filters (i.e., a red filter to bring out the sky, etc.) and you can use advanced tinting and toning options that mimic the kind of control I used to have when I worked in a wet darkroom.
Another cool new feature of this plug-in is called Structure. It allows you to control local contrast in a way that I have never seen in any other program. It creates some stunning effects. Structure gives you less or more contrast on small details. It automatically makes a portrait soft in all the right places if you slide the slider to the left, and automatically brings out fine details when you slide it to the right! All I can say is once you see this tool, you won’t want to be without it.
Some will argue that you can in fact create some of these effects in Aperture or Photoshop. That’s true. Both Aperture and Photoshop have powerful B&W conversion tools built in. But Silver Efex Pro gives you more options, more preset styles and more controls. For someone who does a great deal of black and white, it will be worth looking at Silver Efex Pro.
How about everyone else? Well for $199, the price is a bit prohibitive for the average hobbyist. Aperture alone only costs $199. So $199 for a plug-in that converts images to black and white is a bit steep.
For me, it’s worth it. All the Nik products are smooth and reliable. In a professional production environment, their costs are minimal when you compare them to time saved making images.
Will it be worth it for you? You can find out by downloading a free 15 day trial.
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