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Experimenting with Silver Efex

Nik Software produces a product called Silver Efex Pro 2.  I have been hearing about it for a while, but I have never really seriously looked at it.  I never really thought it would help me, and I have to admit I wasn’t convinced that it would give the same effect as what you get from processing images in Photoshop or some other photo editing software.  As I started last week, I do want to give reviews, I don’t know if I will be any good at them, but I decided to download the software, for a trial period and see what it is like.  I also thought this could be my lesson for the week, my learning something new.

I thought I would use this image again.  As I used it for the tutorial on Monday I thought it would be good to use for this review.

Again, the image from Monday, but the black and white, so just you can use this as comparison.  At the time, I thought this looked good.

I opened the image up in Photoshop, and used the Silver Efex plugin there.

This is what it looks like when it is opened up.  On the left hand side there are a whole heap of presets that you can use for your image.  It is interesting to go through them to find out what your image will look like if you use one of them.  I have to admit that I used them for all the images I am showing, though, I was just playing and didn’t take much notice of what I was using.

Up on the right are a list of things that you can change, at the top is Brightness, Contrast and Structure.  The Structure control is interesting, and I would liken it to the clarity control in Photoshop.  It blurs or gives a great deal more detail to the image.  I did use it.

Here is my first attempt.  You can add tones to the images, and one of the things that really impressed me was how when put the cursor over the different it shows you what it will look like if you click on it.  I found this great, you could go along all the tones without having to try it, undo it and then try something else.  I applied a heavy sepia tone to this image.

Another thing you can do is choose borders,  again the same way.  You put your cursor over the top of them and you go along until you find one you like.  There are quite a few things you can choose.

I changed the structure on this one, I moved the slider to the left, it smoothed it out quite a bit.  It is an interesting effect, and I can see how it could be good.

I managed to change the lighting completely with this one with one of the presets.  How much does it look like moonlight.  Another thing you can do is change the image to look like or to produce the same effects that film produces.  Again, you can just wave your cursor over the top and it shows the effect of each one before you have to make a decision.  I believe I choose Ilford FP4 125.   I used to use that film a lot when I was doing film.  Even the grain that you would have got from the film is there.

Another thing I did was with the structure slider, I moved it over the right so you could see how it gives it more detail.

It is very interesting software.  The two week trial period is a little disappointing.  I suppose they have their reasons for that, but a month would be better, would give you a better time to work out if you really want to use it or not, or become dependent on it.

One thing I did really like when I downloaded it was that a tutorial came with it, or a link to one to help you to learn how to use it.  I thought that was brilliant.  It would be great for everyone to read that and then you will really know how to use it.  I don’t know how many times I have downloaded software to try and realised I was on my own about working out how to use it.  Luckily for me, I’ve been using enough software these days that most of the time I do get an idea of how to use it, but I do wonder how others find it.

I guess the next question is, would I purchase it?  It has a hefty price tag, around $180, I would have to be pretty serious about wanting to use it to fork out that kind of money.  It would be nice to have.  If you are interested in looking at it then go to Nik Software, Inc, download the trial version and play around with it.  I think if you love black and white, then you will love it.

Just to be upfront, I have done this on my own, and I have no connections with Nik Software, Inc.

84 Comments
  1. It does sound interesting. I especially like the quality of the sepia. I will check it out. Thanks!

    October 31, 2012
    • It is interesting, it is far better than I thought it would be. I hope you like it.

      October 31, 2012
  2. I love all of the Nik Software tools. I’ve been using them for a while. You get some nice controls over the image and I really like their implementation of control points for burning and dodging affects. To me, the price tag is worth it for me to get the results I want more quickly and with flexibility.

    October 31, 2012
    • I think you are right, I have not used their products before, and while I have been hearing about them for years, I haven’t really tried them before. The price tag is a little out of my reach right now, but maybe one day. Thanks.

      October 31, 2012
      • SHARON MARTIN #

        hi leanne my name is sharon martin i enjoyed your photographs pictures I JUST JOINED LINKEDIN FROM SHARON MARTIN

        November 1, 2012
      • Hi Sharon, I don’t use Linkedin much, sorry, I am glad you enjoyed the images.

        November 2, 2012
  3. meexio #

    Thanks for sharing! I definitely love it. The lighting effect changes thenwhole mood about the picture. Love this.

    October 31, 2012
    • The effect is great, and there were many to try. It is great software. Thanks

      October 31, 2012
  4. Great in which way you are changing the daylight.
    Yesterday, I was in the postoffice to send the drawing to you.
    I hope my envelop will rich you soon.

    October 31, 2012
    • Thanks Susanne, it is pretty cool how you can do that.
      I look forward to receiving it from you, I can’t wait. I will let you know when it arrives. Thank you so much.

      October 31, 2012
  5. Great tutorial, thanks for sharing.

    October 31, 2012
    • Thank you, glad you like it reflexio.com

      October 31, 2012
  6. Looks like a great piece of software! Do you know if it can be used in Gimp as well?
    PS: the sepia-tone image is my favourite one!

    October 31, 2012
    • I have some research and apparently you need Lightroom, Elements or Photoshop to use it. Sorry. I was hoping that you may be able to use it as a stand alone package, but apparently you can’t. I could be wrong, but that is what I have found.
      I quite like the sepia too, I liked the stronger tone. Thank you Susi.

      October 31, 2012
  7. Great software that I think does a really good job for that final touch. But as always, a good photo with good composition is always a good photo 🙂

    October 31, 2012
    • That is so true, very very true. Thanks saarimner

      October 31, 2012
  8. I have used Silver Efex Pro and Nik’s Color Efex Pro. I think they are both really good additions to the kit bag. Nice review Leanne.

    October 31, 2012
    • I am really starting to understand why so many people like it. I will have to see about getting it at some stage. Thank you Chillbrook.

      October 31, 2012
  9. I purchased a copy from Amazon at much less than the full retail price, also if you register for emails NIK often have 20% off periods all of which help!

    Its a great piece of software, worth the price.

    October 31, 2012
    • That is great advice Adrian, I will have to try and remember to post that the next time I put up a photo with it, before my trial runs out. I will have to do that, it is out of my price range at the moment. Soon, I hope. Thanks Adrian.

      October 31, 2012
  10. Hey Leanne! I use http://www.pixlr.com/express to tweak my photographs. If you have not tried this out yet, give it a whirl. Loved the photographs that you posted! I could sit and tweak photographs for hours as it is so much fun to see the results. ~Val~

    October 31, 2012
    • I haven’t heard of that Val, I will take a look. I am the same as you I could sit playing with images all day long. I love seeing what I can do to them. Thank you.

      October 31, 2012
      • Once you have played with it for awhile, let me know what you think. Being a free online image editor, it is not bad at all. I have used it for making buttons & banners too for my blog.

        October 31, 2012
  11. lensaddiction #

    I have been pondering the SIlver and the Colour options, I think you can get a bundle but its like about $400 which is a LOT of money for software. I have seen some really good work done with it, and your review is another tick in the Pro column. I didnt know they did a two week free trial, might have to give it a go!

    October 31, 2012
    • Yes, they do, give it a try. I just want to keep playing with it. I agree with you about the price though, it is a lot, well it is a lot for me right now. I will have to get as much done with the two week trial, haha. thank you, I hope you have fun with it.

      October 31, 2012
      • lensaddiction #

        With our exchange rates its ALWAYS expensive 😦 the other software I have been interested in is On One, they do BW and other things and the latest version has just come out and is a bit cheaper

        November 1, 2012
      • I looked you up, you are in NZ aren’t you, I have heard that about there. It is terrible when it is like that. We are lucky at the moment, but I expect that will change.

        November 2, 2012
  12. Very nice! Thank you so much for sharing.

    October 31, 2012
    • You are very welcome Stacy, and thank you as well.

      October 31, 2012
  13. Very interesting! Haven’t heard about it before.
    Love your top picture!

    October 31, 2012
    • It seems to be very popular, I have hear of it, but never played with it before. I did like it. Thanks blogfia

      November 1, 2012
  14. Cool. Nicely done. D

    October 31, 2012
  15. I have found with most plugin software that the cost some times does not outweigh the ease that it can create in your workflow.
    With Silver Efex I can see the benefits of the software especially if you are starting out in photography, but I think for someone more experienced in Photoshop or the like, creating an action of your preferred black and white conversion could replicate how Silver Efex helps your workflow.

    I also agree that 2 weeks is not much time to really try out a piece of software.

    October 31, 2012
    • I hadn’t thought of it like that Ben. I do find that there are so many things out there, that it would be hard to have them all, sometimes you just have to say enough. I don’t think I will be purchasing it, it is too expensive for me, especially right now.
      Yes, two weeks is hardly any time. Thank you Ben.

      November 1, 2012
  16. Interesting software, Leanne…and I’ll definitely check it out, though it is a bit pricey for this old gal!

    Love the ‘moonlight’ effect, and the sepia is quite rich…in Photoshop, after I have turned the image to a satisfactory B/W contrast, I use the Sepia filter at 45%, click OK, then add Warming #85 at 18% (click OK), which gives the richer sepia tone than just using the Sepia filter (rather bland, IMHO).

    October 31, 2012
    • Thanks 1000, I hear people raving about it quite a bit, you should take a look, even just for curiousity.

      Thanks for the tips, I will have to try that one. It sounds good. Yes, it can be a bit bland.

      November 1, 2012
  17. Mel #

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing your experience and expertise. I loved seeing how the photo turned out in the software.

    October 31, 2012
    • Thanks Mel, no problems at all. I loved seeing that as well, I will have to see what else I can in the two week trial period.

      November 1, 2012
  18. Thanks for sharing your experience, you’ve definately made me curious again about trying this software. I am a massive Photoshop addict, and also find it hard to imagine that I need more software, but it does look interesting, and something a little different. I like your moonlit version the most I think, really strong contrast! 🙂

    October 31, 2012
    • You’re welcome fmyt, I am a massive Photoshop addict as well. I don’t know that I do enough black and white to warrant the price, but I think if you did a lot of black and white, and you loved that medium, then it would be worth it. I suppose you are the only one to decide that. I quite liked that moonlit version as well. Thank you.

      November 1, 2012
      • Hi Leanne, thanks for your reply 🙂 You gave me the push yesterday to also give Silver Efex a try! I will post some results soon. It’s interesting, when I now go through some old photos, how it is making me look very differently at some of them, to apply the Silver Efex touch! I still wonder if I would get these same results, just with a bit more patience in Photoshop, but it’s always fun to try something new 🙂

        November 1, 2012
      • That is great to hear, I will have to look out for your photos. I agree and I agree, with both, though it would be nice to have it and not have to worry about that.

        PS I always think it is a fantastic idea to revisit work, you never know what you might do.

        November 2, 2012
  19. bk #

    Absolutely beautiful, my favorite is the last.

    October 31, 2012
    • Thank you so much bk, I really like that one as well.

      November 1, 2012
  20. Debbie de Juan nee Keating #

    I love NIK! I’ve had the complete collection for many months now, and it’s awesome though pricey, as you mentioned. So worth the cost, though, when you love working in photo editing.

    October 31, 2012
    • Thanks Debbie, that is wonderful to hear. I would like to have it, but it isn’t in the budget right now, one day maybe. It seems to be very popular software.

      November 1, 2012
  21. Its the best BW software in my opinion. Nik’s plugins are must haves for the professional. They’re only going to get better with Google acquiring them recently.

    After I use SEP2, I like to have a look at the image with the blending mode set to luminosity or soft light (at a lowered opacity,) just to see if I like the results better than BW.

    November 1, 2012
    • You are a real fan David, that is wonderful to hear. It is great to hear from people who love the products. I am not sure if I do enough B&W, I will have to think about it.
      That is a good tip, thanks David.

      November 1, 2012
  22. Wow, that’s a stunning effect!

    November 1, 2012
  23. Very nice! I especially love the last two. I’ll be its fun playing around and seeing the different results you get. Thanks for the tips!

    November 1, 2012
    • Thank Keli, it is a lot fun, can be too many choices, I suppose if you had it then would work out your favourites. You’re welcome about the tips.

      November 1, 2012
  24. You are so brave Leanne lol. I get so overwhelmed with photo processing software. I love how dramatically you can change the mood of a photograph. #5 version looked like a vintage photo. Thanks for sharing your experimenting.

    November 1, 2012
    • No not really saymber, just curious, really. I love playing with new things and learning new things. I find now that it doesn’t take much to work out what is going on, which is great. It was a pleasure sharing it, it was great to see if I could actually write a review. Haha.

      November 1, 2012
  25. Good stuff, Leanne. I like the sepia version a lot. I will probably download the trial version too just to try it out. I don’t do much B&W but it would be interesting to see what I can do with this program.

    November 1, 2012
    • I think you have described exactly how I feel about it Gracie. It was some fun, and you should try it out, at least then you know what it is like. Let me know how you go.

      November 1, 2012
  26. I have both Silver and Color Efex and ‘could not live without them.’ I did Photoshop alone for about 16 years and thought I ‘could do it all’ but these filters have really been tremendous and injected a lot of creativity into my work.

    November 1, 2012
    • I have to admit christian, I am having a lot of fun with it. I am really enjoying it. I might have to put it on the wish list. Haha. It is good hearing from so many people who have it and love it.

      November 1, 2012
  27. Hi, Leanne:
    You also might find Topaz Lab’s B&W Effects of interest, too. Not as sophisticated perhaps as Nik, but still a capable program that is fun and easy to use. You can get a 30-day trial of this one and it only costs $60; plus, if you are a NAPP member, there is a 25% discount. NAPP members also get a 15% discount from Nik.
    kkeith

    November 1, 2012
    • Thank you kkeith, that is good for people to know, I use Topaz Adjust, but I haven’t really looked at their other products. I think a 30 day trial is much better as well. I might have to check it out. Thanks again for that.
      Just one question, what is NAPP?

      November 1, 2012
  28. Thanks for the review, I have access to both the Nix and Topaz software, but have yet to try them, it’s like getting a shiny new toy. Am I just spending too much time “playing” and not using what I have already to create what I need, rather than what I want.

    November 1, 2012
    • Yes, it is like that, I love trying new stuff. Huh, haha, I love that last part, but alas, you are the only person who can answer that, I do think you should have a play with them, it can’t hurt. Thank you

      November 1, 2012
  29. Thank you so much for this wonderful review. I had heard of this software, but wasn’t sure if it would be something I’d actually use. It looks like a lot of fun and you can quickly adjust a photo.

    November 1, 2012
    • You are very welcome Bella, I am glad that people have enjoyed it. I hope you have download the trial version and see what you think of it. It is a lot of fun. Thank you.

      November 1, 2012
  30. Very interesting. Thanks, Leanne.

    November 1, 2012
    • Thank Richard, I suspect you would like it, you do a lot of black and white.

      November 1, 2012
  31. I love the way you have changed the mood of the same photo with your magic. I had to skip through the ‘hows’, I want to Believe 😉

    November 1, 2012
    • Haha, I like your comment EllaDee, yes, please believe. It is lovely being able to change the moods. Thanks.

      November 1, 2012
  32. Tricia's Blogs #

    Oh my, that last picture really does look like moonlight! Seems like you are really enjoying this new software. What a lot of work it is, but I know you love what you do, and we like to see the results!

    November 2, 2012
    • Tricia, it isn’t really that much work, I find I just play, little bit of this, and little bit of that, see what that does, and what the other thing does. I do like trying new stuff, I used to hate it, but now that I understand a lot more, it doesn’t take much to try stuff out. Thank you.

      November 2, 2012
  33. hutchphotography2020 #

    Thanks, Leanne, I appreciate you sharing this about Silver Efex. For myself, I am hesitant to try it as I would not want to get too dependent on it.

    November 2, 2012
    • I really know what you mean Hutch, I am already counting down the days to the trial period ending. It is fun, and I would put it on my wish list.

      November 2, 2012
  34. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Nik Software so it was interesting to see how you used it. Very helpful.

    November 2, 2012
    • They do get a lot of good reviews, I’ve been hearing about it for quite a few years now. I am glad you found it useful. Thanks Sherry.

      November 2, 2012
  35. Love NIk Software filters. Just read they were bought by Google.

    November 3, 2012
    • I haven’t played with the filters much yet, but hopefully will get a chance. Yes, I got an email to tell they had been. I wonder if it will change anything.

      November 5, 2012
  36. Gorgeous composition, Leanne. I also love how you share your post-production processes. Great work. 🙂

    November 4, 2012
    • Thank you Mirella, I am glad you like that I share information, it is good for me too. 🙂

      November 5, 2012
  37. Ooooo you did some awesome things to that photo 🙂 Very cool

    November 7, 2012
    • Silver Efex is pretty amazing, thank you Amanda. 🙂

      November 8, 2012
  38. I am bookmarking these for reference as I try to use both silver and color. These are really good, Leanne. 🙂

    January 24, 2013
    • So glad George. I always worry that I am just confusing people even more. 🙂

      January 24, 2013

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