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Review: Nik Silver Efex Pro

February 8, 2010

When it comes to finding my way around the digital darkroom I’m a little on the lazy side.  I don’t mind doing things the hard way if the hard way is the only way.  But when an easy way exists it’s a pretty sure bet I’m gonna take it, so long as the results are at least as good as those gained from doing things the hard way.  Such is the case with black and white image conversions done using Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I started using Photoshop in 2002.  In the 8 years since I’ve converted a few color images to black and white.  Some turned out well, others not so well.  Okay, they sucked.  As Photoshop, and now Lightroom, have progressed it has become easier to do conversions with the built-in tools.  Even so, the results I’m getting with Silver Efex Pro are far better.  Remember that part about how I like things to be easy?  Well, Silver Efex Pro is pretty much idiot proof once you watch the free video tutorials on the Nik website.

Enough chatter.  Here’s what I like about Silver Efex Pro:

  • Film types – Waaaaaaaay back before digital capture we used this stuff called film.  Photographers were weird about film.  We all had our favorite films, in both color and black and white, and we used them religiously.  Silver Efex Pro has a library of black and white film types that includes 18 popular films.  Mouse over a film type and you see an instant preview of your image as if it were photographed on that film.  When you find one you like just click on it to select it.  Cool!
  • Here’s where things get super duper interesting.  Let’s say you select a film and you mostly like the results, but you’d like more or less grain, more or less contrast, a vignette, or a brighter or darker image globally or locally.  No problem!  All of this and more can be accomplished within Silver Efex Pro, making it easy for you to quickly customize your black and white image.
  • Remember using colored filters with black and white film to darken skies or brighten foliage?  No?  Me either.  But, Silver Efex Pro includes a selection of filters that digitally create a similar effect.  With film if you didn’t like the effect you didn’t find out about it until after you processed the film, which resulted in wasted time and money.  With Silver Efex Pro if you don’t like the result, just de-select the filter and you’re right back at square one.

Those are the technical bullet points.  From a less technical, more emotional standpoint, what I really like about Silver Efex Pro are the results.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve never been all that good at conversions.  It was an area of the digital darkroom where I was certainly deficient and that’s a bummer because I thoroughly enjoy good black and white photography.  With Nik Silver Efex Pro, I can now enjoy my own good black and white photographs.

What don’t I like about Silver Efex Pro?  Honestly, I haven’t found anything I don’t like.  It’s intuitive, it works and the results speak for themselves.  It’s just a solid piece of software that does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

UPDATE: I had to call Nik regarding a minor issue I had with the software download at purchase.  I expected the typical tech customer service nightmare.  What I got was a friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful person on the end of the line who resolved the issue within minutes.  Say what?  Yeah, good customer service from a tech company!

Wanna see some black and white images created with Silver Efex Pro?  Okay…see below.

I have no affiliation with Nik Software.  I’m just a happy customer.  There are lots of us, too.  If you’re one of ’em, or even if you aren’t, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts about Silver Efex Pro.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 9:54 am

    Bret: I love Silver Efex Pro and started using it last year. Actually, I have all the Nik products, as I am a pack rat software junkie. Anyway, Silver Efex Pro is amazing for all the reason you stated–many choices to convert to B&W, real time viewing of what you will get, additional controls to refine your image and tons of various simulated film grains. Also, if you go to, and click on Silver Efex Pro under products, you will se a listing of 30 free templates that you simply add to your collection. Some of them are phenomenal (not all) and even though an effect may be categorized as Portrait, it can be used for landscape, or whatever, and it can lead to stunning results.

  2. February 8, 2010 11:44 am

    I recently started using the Nik suite of software. I have used Silver Efex Pro sparingly as I dont have a lot of need for B&W but I use Viveza a lot on color images and have found it very useful.

  3. February 8, 2010 9:00 pm

    By George, I think you’ve got it. All nice conversions Bret. The Garden Wall and the Tree in Canyonlands are stellar! Keep em coming.

  4. February 8, 2010 9:09 pm

    Thanks for the comments! I too bought the whole suite but haven’t used anything other than Silver Efex Pro. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the others, specifically Nik Sharpener. I’ve read that it makes sharpening for output ridiculously simple. Good thing, cuz I’ve got a lot of prints to make over the next few weeks!

  5. February 8, 2010 11:16 pm

    The complete collection is certainly worth it. Silver Efex Pro is an amazing tool for B&W. Viveza is great to do localised adjustments without having to worry about layers. I am used to using the control points in NX2 so having Viveza in Photoshop was a great addition for me.


  1. Review: Nik Silver Efex Pro « Bret Edge Photography

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