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Silver Efex Pro 2: Fine-Tuned Black and White Photos

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This article is the second of five that focuses on plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. Silver Efex Pro is Nik Software’s answer to a professional Black and White photography workflow, offering a wider range of options for controlling contrast, details, and creative toning than the standard tools offered in Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture. Here, Photoshop expert Dan Moughamian, author of Adobe Digital Imaging How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques for Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3, and Camera Raw 6, shows how the customization of three different preset types can yield different Black and White looks for your photos.
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Like HDR Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro 2 is set up within a single window (Figure 1) that consists of Preset thumbnails at the left, view controls along the top, and a panel of editing controls at right. The main preview is visible in the center of the window. The controls for showing and hiding the presets in different ways are at top-left, the controls for splitting the preview in different ways are just to the right of that, and the controls for handling magnification, preview background color, and hiding/showing the adjustments panel are near the top-right.

Figure 1 The Silver Efex Pro 2 user interface provides all the options and controls needed in a single window.

The Settings button at bottom-left provides access to the preferences for Silver Efex Pro 2. Shown in Figure 2, the Preferences dialog box provides options for controlling user interface behaviors, software update intervals, GPU acceleration, and whether to apply the settings you create as a separate layer in Photoshop.

Figure 2 Preferences for the Silver Efex app and plugin are accessed via the Settings button.

Using the Presets

The Silver Efex presets are grouped into three categorical views (Modern, Classic and Vintage). All of these presets can be displayed together as well, or as a collection of Favorites you define. As you click each thumbnail, the adjustments and settings used to create that style are applied to the main document preview.

For this article, we’ll take a look at the Modern preset called Full Dynamic (Smooth), which is one I use often, as well as the High Structure (Smooth) option found in the Classic presets, and finally the Antique Plate 1 look from the Vintage presets. These three choices provide a good sampling of what Silver Efex can help you to accomplish.

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