Somebody recently recommended Nik Software’s Silver Efex to me for producing monochrome images. Well, I thought, the last thing I want is to buy yet another expensive plugin to layer on top of already purchased expensive software but, being a curious type, I went to the Nik website and downloaded the 15 day demo. Three days in and I’m loving it, and am already not looking forward to next Saturday when it stops working.
Using the software via Photoshop is simple, presenting itself as an option on the Filter menu. Once loaded, there are a number of easy presets on the left hand side of the screen which range from dark to light effects, subtle to garish, soft to harsh. I’ve found that it takes a little time to calculate updates when a preset is selected but on balance this is a small price to pay. In the middle of the screen is the image preview itself, while on the right is the full control set with global settings for Brightness, Contrast, and something called Structure which seems similar to the mid-tone contrast of the Lightroom Clarity control. There are also local settings, using what Nik calls u-points but I’m finding these harder to get to grips with, as I’m used to applying grad filters not circular adjustments. Film grain and coloured filters can also be applied globally, with finishing effects such as vignettes and borders also available.
I’ve only really had a cursory play so far, but I’m really liking the tonal range it gives me without encountering some of the monochrome conversion artifacts I always seem to produce in Photoshop. It could be argued that I’ve been a bit broad brush with my experimenting so far, having been seduced by the effects on offer, but I’m really really liking it. Whether I’ll like it enough to part with cold hard cash after another 12 days is another matter though ….
Rows of cloud above a row of beach huts at Walberswick, Suffolk. Processed with Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro 2