Stunning Black & White Photography with the Nik Collection 2.3
I had just opened an image to edit in the Nik Collection when I received a message. DxO has launched the Nik Collection 2.3 and it’s available to download. After a little investigation I was able to find out more about the latest changes which have given Silver Efex Pro ten new film simulations.
In case you’re not familiar with the film simulations in Silver Efex Pro, you’ll find them under the “Film Types” section. At the top of this section is a dropdown list which defaults to “Neutral”. Click this and you find all the film types which you can scroll through. As you move your mouse over each film, the main preview image reflects that film type, making it easy to choose. When you find one you like, just click to apply it to your image.
The film simulations provide a great starting point which you can then tweak further with the controls.
I often describe the Film Types section of Silver Efex Pro its best kept secret. Most people tend to apply them as an afterthought after “playing around” with the other controls. Some users don’t even realise the film simulation exists.
My approach to editing is the opposite of this. I recommend you start by selecting a film simulation before you make other edits. The reason is simple, the simulations can have a huge impact on the image. To demonstrate, here’s a sample image (before processing) showing the effect of changing only the film simulation. And this image has very little starting colour. If you pick an image with a lot of colour the effect is even more pronounced.
As you can see, the effect of the different film simulations can dramatically change the image. It’s therefore best to select this first, before making other adjustments.
It may sound daft, but I got a big kick out of applying the different simulations to different images. Its great to see the effect they have and just how it can change the mood of the image.
Now although my approach is to apply the film simulation first, I do find the grain effect distracting whilst I’m editing an image. It sometimes creates a false impression, so I prefer to set the “Grain per pixel” to 500 where it’s not distracting. Once I’ve made all my other adjustments, I return the grain to the correct setting. The easy way to do this is by selecting the film simulation from the dropdown a second time.
By selecting one of the film simulations and adding a couple more adjustments I was able to create a black and white conversion that I loved. This image conveys perfectly the dull, damp, misty conditions of a November morning in the Peak District.
If you haven’t tried Nik Silver Efex Pro I would urge you to. It has always been, and still is one of the very best tools for black and white digital photography.
To learn more about achieving great black and white results, see my book “Dramatic Black & White Photography using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2”.