After hearing a lot of great things about Silver Efex Pro plugin for Adobe Lightroom, and being a lover of Black and White photography, I decided to give it a try. I expected to gain a bit more control over the Black and White conversion process than the capabilities within Lightroom or Photoshop, what I didn't expect was the level of control and the clean efficient layout of the plugin for achieving the results I want. This tool really exceeded my expectations. There are a number of presets that give you a variety of standard Black and White looks which are used as a starting point. Style presets are shown in a scrollable list of images on the left pane and unlike in Lightroom where you have to hover the mouse over the preset name to see the preset effect in the Navigator pane, the Silver Efex Pro list allows you to see 6 different Style presets at the same time which really aids in selecting the particular Style. You can also filter the list of styles to your favorites. Additionally the tool gives you the ability to create your own styles from an image you are currently processing. There is an import feature which will allow for bringing in Styles created externally, so just like with Lightroom presets, I suspect you will begin to see preset for Silver Efex Pro.
On the right hand bar, you have control over brightness, contrast, and structure as well as shadow and highlights. Being Nik software you also have access to the Control Point technology. Control points are great for making changes to specific areas of an image.
Color filters are available. Stylizing controls allow you to adjust toning, vignetting, and burn edges. Film Types gives you presets for a number of popular film types. You also have control over the grain, sensitivity, and tone curve, for achieving the exact look you are after.
There is a Loupe view box in the lower righthand corner that allows you to see detail on the changes you are making. When you move the mouse cursor over the image, the loupe shows the area right around the cursor. Several image display views are available to show the image in full, a split image screen with half the image from the before image and half with the style or preset applied, and finally the before and after images on the screen at the same time.
I will have to say my first impressions are very positive and at this point, what I like the most is it's Film Type presets for the look of most of the B&W films I use.
I really like shooting film and processing it, but the reality is that doing that takes time. Until now, I haven't been pleased with the level of control available within Photoshop, Lightroom or other processing software. Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro changes that mindset completely, so much that it makes me wonder how much film I will be shooting in the future. While I still enjoy the film process and will continue to shoot and process film, this tool really opens up a whole new set of possibilities. Many times I have tried to convert color images to black and white from my digital cameras with underwhelming results. Now I will be searching through my Lightroom catalogs for candidate images to convert, thus bringing life to forgotten images.
You can find more information about Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro at www.NikSoftware.com