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Benefits of Nik Silver Efex

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bugdozer
bugdozer  1183 forum posts2 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 12:36 AM

I notice many people use Nik Silver Efex for processing their black and white images. Currently I use Lightroom for this task. Are there any major benefits to getting Silver Efex as well? What is it that it does that its users particularly like? Does it do anything that Lightroom/Photoshop can't do? I notice on the Nik website it cites being able to add grain effects - which is something that Photoshop fails to emulate accurately (in my opinion... all the methods I've seen on how to do it don't produce a result that really looks like genuine grain.)

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sherlob
sherlob e2 Member 82324 forum postssherlob vcard United Kingdom125 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 7:02 AM

Why not try downloading the trial version and giving it a go?

There are extensive articles on the web that perhaps better explain the features of the plug-in than I can. See here for example

StrayCat
StrayCat e2 Member 1014800 forum postsStrayCat vcard Canada2 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 7:21 AM

Some swear by Silver Efex for Black and White conversion. Personally, I tried it for the demo period and didn't see a reason to spend any money. It's also available free on the pirate sites, but I don't think it's worthwhile. I have onOne Perfect Black and White, which comes with onOne Perfect Effects complete program for about the same price as Nik Silver Efex. I use onOne in conjunction with Lightroom 4.0, and it suits me fine.

Last Modified By StrayCat at 21 Jul 2014 - 7:22 AM
here4years
here4years e2 Member 174 forum postshere4years vcard United Kingdom1 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 10:11 AM

I suppose it depends on whether you only produce a few b&w prints now and again in which case Silver efex would probably be considered ott. I've never used Lightroom so can't comment on the b&w conversion. However, if you are going to reglularly work with b&w then, as Sherlob suggested, the best thing to do is try Silver efx (free) for yourself.

I've used Nik software (now part of Google) for several years and I swear by it. IMO, the best thing about Silver efx is the sheer number and variety of b&w effects you can achieve. Also, each individual effect can be customised thereby creating an almost infinite variety.

The complete package of Nik sofware (incl, Silver efx) costs around $150 (from what i can remember) which i think is good value.

mrswoolybill
mrswoolybill Critique Team 7435 forum postsmrswoolybill vcard United Kingdom1020 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 2:33 PM

I don't use Lightroom so I cannot make that comparison. But Silver Efex gives me the nearest to the quality of film b&w that I have been able to achieve digitally - a really hard, dense, rich black. I would be lost without it.

It's easy to get carried away with the preset special effects though, and not explore the subtleties that it offers. Try the free 15-day trial period download, see what you think.

Last Modified By mrswoolybill at 21 Jul 2014 - 2:34 PM
bugdozer
bugdozer  1183 forum posts2 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 3:31 PM

I have downloaded the demo to try it. I like it very much and I'm sure I will end up keeping it. As far as I can tell so far, it doesn't do much that can't be achieved with a combination of Photoshop and Lightroom. But what it does do makes it worth having: the grain effect is very accurate and way better than Photoshop manages, and the vignetting is recentrable (which Lightroom won't do). The adjustment of tonal range is pretty much the same as in Lightroom, but the presets give you a good starting point to achieve the type of look you want, I did find it easier to get to what I wanted quickly with less mucking about with the gamma curve. Things like the burnt edges and borders could be achieved using Lightroom and Photoshop respectively but it's simply very much easier with Silver Efex.
I spent my early years in the hobby doing my own B&W processing and printing, mostly with HP5, Tri X and T Max films, and got to know their "look" very well. It was impressive to see how well Silver Efex could replicate that appearance on my digital pictures.
One thing I can't figure out - is it able to work with RAW files or only JPGs? It didn't want to open anything but those.

Last Modified By bugdozer at 21 Jul 2014 - 3:37 PM
here4years
here4years e2 Member 174 forum postshere4years vcard United Kingdom1 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 4:24 PM


Quote: One thing I can't figure out - is it able to work with RAW files or only JPGs?

Straight answer - yes, it works with RAW files. Basically, you open your image in Adobe CR, do your adjustments and then open the image; it will still be in RAW so just select Silver Efex from the filter menu (although if you add Nik software to your Adobe files 'Plug Ins' folder the Nik drop down menu should appear on the screen automatically).

Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73878 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
21 Jul 2014 - 6:04 PM

I do use Silver EFEX, but it doesn't do anything that can't be replicated in Photoshop. The noise filter you mention can be made easily in photoshop, you use Filter > add noise, then look at uniform and Gausian, (give slightly different effects) and alter the amount.

I may be wrong but Silver EFEX uses the Photoshop engine and applies the various filters that are embedded - just it makes it easier and you don't see the workings.

Where Nik scores, is it does make it easier. You will probably spend ages on the presets to start - but tbh I never use them.

Dave_Canon
21 Jul 2014 - 6:13 PM

Up to about 3 years ago, I used LR to convert Raw files to B&W and you have control over 8 colours so it is very effective. However, I then had Topaz B&W effects which allowed quick conversion but also many variations including automatic local adjustments, detail adjustment, vignetting, toning and borders. About a year or so ago I bought the Nik suite and tried Silver Effex which I now prefer to Topaz. I actually find the range of presets in Topaz better but Nik has the great advantage of control points so has the edge. Again it is quicker and easier than just using LR. I also have OnOne but have yet to try their B&W conversion. The big difference between using LR and these Plug-ins is that they analyse the image and apply effects accordingly. If you wish to create the same effect in LR, you will need to apply lots of local adjustments as well as global conversion which takes longer and requires more skill.

Dave

Graysta
Graysta  91135 forum posts England
21 Jul 2014 - 6:56 PM

The nice thing about the Nik software is that Google made it affordable a very different approach.
And I find works fine for me but we all have our own tastes,Try it and if you like it buy it but buy the full package it's daft not to.There are other plug ins in the pack that you may like.

bugdozer
bugdozer  1183 forum posts2 Constructive Critique Points
22 Jul 2014 - 12:18 AM


Quote: I do use Silver EFEX, but it doesn't do anything that can't be replicated in Photoshop. The noise filter you mention can be made easily in photoshop, you use Filter > add noise, then look at uniform and Gausian, (give slightly different effects) and alter the amount.

I may be wrong but Silver EFEX uses the Photoshop engine and applies the various filters that are embedded - just it makes it easier and you don't see the workings.

Where Nik scores, is it does make it easier. You will probably spend ages on the presets to start - but tbh I never use them.

I disagree that it's easy to replicate the grain effect in Photoshop - at least not in my version, which is a few years old now. The only options you get when adding noise as you suggest are the amount, and the two different distribution patterns (and whether it's monochromatic.) The noise is not scaleable like genuine grain. It does not appear over the image the same way that grain appears on a photograph, with different intensity dependent on the brightness of that part of the image. One can attempt to replicate that using layers but in so doing you're likely to affect the overall image contrast. I dare say with a lot of effort it's possible but if you get out a print made with grainy film and compare it with the cheap 'n' nasty Photoshop noise it doesn't look the same. On comparing the Silver Efex effect with photos printed from TMax and HP5 there is a much better approximation.
Also Silver Efex is not compatible as a plug-in with my version of Photoshop - it seems to run by itself. I just click on the application to run it as a standalone item.

bugdozer
bugdozer  1183 forum posts2 Constructive Critique Points
22 Jul 2014 - 12:45 AM

Update - it may not run as a plug in through Photoshop for me, but Lightroom deals with it just dandy. Probably the best way to use it.

Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73878 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
22 Jul 2014 - 8:08 AM

Simon, what version of Photoshop are you running? Silver EFEX is compatible with CS4 and above which I think is 6 or 7 years old. I've never had problems with the noise filter in Photoshop, or Nik, and tbh I can't tell the difference (I used noise filter in photoshop in my last image - not looking for vote etc, just so you can see an example) only because I didn't want to take it back into Nik. I tend to use Gaussian blur distribution most of the time, but I check both. Just don't be heavy handed with it.

Yes I use layers, I don't use it over all the image (in the case above just sky and water) - but I use layers irrespective if it's photoshop, or Nik. For me, when I use Nik, it's just a starting point - not a one button fixes all solution, indeed I often do as many as 5 versions in Nik (or photoshop) targeting different areas of the image.

I don't profess to be a pro, or expert, I don't have to meet deadlines, so I just spend as much time as is needed to get the image I'm 100% happy with.

Dave_Canon
22 Jul 2014 - 12:38 PM

There have been many updates to the Nik collection including 5 this year. The most recent was to accommodate Adobe PS CC (2014). As far as I can see, once you have a licence, you can just download the latest version. I have certainly downloaded the Nik Suite twice since I bought a licence (18 months ago) to deal with changes in PS and LR. The same has been true of Topaz and OnOne.

Dave

AnneWorner
AnneWorner e2 Member 6609 forum postsAnneWorner vcard United States42 Constructive Critique Points
27 Jul 2014 - 10:33 PM

Thought I'd add a comment here about the current Silver Efex. About a month ago my motherboard died, and I've had to re-install software. I attempted to re-install the NIK software from my original CDs, but now since Google has acquired the software the serial numbers are "no longer valid". I have since installed the Google version only to be extremely disappointed as many of the features that made the original Silver Efex a fantastic product for monochromatic images, now have been disabled. For instance there are no longer individual color sliders - you choose one filter color, and that's it. There is no ability to adjust whites and blacks, or soft contrast. I'm not sure what else has been removed, but I find the "dumbed" down Silver Efex frustrating to use. I've since bought Topaz B&W8 which does have the individual color sliders and does a nice job with mono conversion.

So, it you are still running the original NIK software, do not "upgrade" to Google's version, and pray you don't have any hardware issues in future! If you have changed over to Google and are not satisfied, complain to the support team at Google.

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