Silver Efex conversions - how do I get the most out of it?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Armanius, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    I just downloaded all the Nik plug-ins. But I'm still trying to figure out how to use the plug-ins in a manner that produces results better than the edit tools in Lightroom.

    For example, for Silver Efex, should I be preparing the photo before I start the conversion to B&W in Silver Efex? For example, adjust exposure, lights, shadows, saturation, etc?

    Does changing saturation or WB balance matter prior to a conversion to B&W?

  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Real Name:
    I've just started and still feeling my way around. I'm watching this thread, too. What I like about Silver Efex and Color Efex is being able to quickly sample many differnt "looks" with the presets and then fine tuning from there. If you know exactly how you want it to look before you start, it's probably just easier to do it directly in lightroom.
  3. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Lightroom also comes with tons of presets.
  4. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    When I used SEP I generally did any cropping, rotating etc first in LR and also adjusted exposure. Then I ran it through SEP. These days I don't bother with SEP anymore because I can get the look I want more quickly in LR. SEP comes into it own when you're looking for something punchy and dramatic. I prefer a more subtle look and for that I don't find that SEP offers anything more than I already have in LR.

    Generally, the way to get the best out of SEP is to resist the temptation to turn everything up to eleven. The end result if you do is an SEP look that is interesting for the first few shots but gets old very quickly.
  5. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    I just bought the Nik software and it's all screwing with me at the moment.
  6. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    Jul 13, 2010
    South Brent, south Devon (UK)
    Real Name:
  7. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    I use very basic packages at the moment so I downloaded a free trial of Lightroom only to find that it would not work with Windows XP - I do not use Vista

    Does the same thing apply to Nikon software?

    Silver efex can look just wonderful so I'm interested in just trying that
  8. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran

    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Real Name:
  9. greyelm

    greyelm SC Top Veteran

    Oct 1, 2011
    London, England
    For information : on a Mac you can drag an image file onto the Silver Efex icon and it will open like a stand alone program.

    This may work on Windows.
  10. Pelao

    Pelao SC All-Pro

    Jul 11, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    There are many ways to approach this. In my experience,mother single simplest thing to do is get a coffee or three, and watch some of the NIK videos. They are outstanding.

    Then create a bunch of virtual copies of a few photos and experiment.

    Rinse and repeat.

    The thing is, I could tell you what I do, and which presets I prefer as a beginning point etc. but I don't think that would help because really it is a matter of what you are trying to achieve and personal taste.

    The exception is if you see a conversion you like, and ask how it was achieved.
  11. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    Jul 13, 2010
    South Brent, south Devon (UK)
    Real Name:
    Exactly the same on Windows

  12. fin azvandi

    fin azvandi SC Veteran

    Feb 22, 2012
    Madison, WI
    I've learned what little I know about SEP by watching online videos... My routine has settled into starting with the default conversion (or one of the other basic ones depending on what the image needs), and then going straight to the film settings before playing around with the other adjustments. There are 4-5 film emulations that I really like and they get me most of the way to a final image.
  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Have some fun for a while with some of the more extreme effects filters like "Full Structure and Contrast" (this is one of the filters that creates those dramatic, stormy looking skies), and then find some of the more subtle and tasteful filters to use in the longer term. Some of the Silver Efex filters give similar result to applying too much clarity in Lightroom and will cause bad haloing. This is most noticeable along a line of hard contrast between a light and dark area.
  14. Gubrz

    Gubrz O.* Gonzo's & Bentley's Dad

    Jun 5, 2012
    Austin, TX
    Real Name:
    i just pick a preview sample i like, then play aorund with sliders back n forth till it looks how i like
    if u totally mess up, reclick the sample icon, poof! hehe
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    When I first got SEP, I watched a handful of the free videos and then just started playing and experimenting. The pre-packaged pre-sets are a good place to start playing, but I found they get old fast. So I'd start from scratch and when I came up with a treatment I liked, I'd save it as my own preset. Pretty soon I had 8-10 of them and started using them as starting points and tweaked and adjusted from there, Over time, i found I kept gravitating to the same 2-3 as starting points and I refined those down to one that I almost use and then apply a few sliders from there and then get into the control points, toning, and vignetting to taste. There are a few other presets that I picked up from other folks along the way that I occasionally use. Don Springer has a set of "street" presets that are basically very grainy high contrast B&W with various amounts of other seasoning and I'll play with those from time to time but only rarely end up using them. But occasionally, one of those is just the ticket.

    A couple of sliders that I find really helpful are the "soft contrast" and, to a lesser extent, "dynamic brightness". Sometimes turning up the contrast and then moving the "soft contrast" into the negative territory can give photos a certain "glow" for lack of a better term. When I was new to the program, I waaaaaay over-used structure and fine structure but I've learned a little bit goes a long way with those - I almost never touch fine structure anymore and mostly use structure in control points just to accentuate small parts of the image. I also love the borders - I'm kind of a junkie for borders, although again not so much cooking on the borders - usually #1 or 2 and fairly clean versions of them. I like that the borders are the same in Silver Efex and Color Efex so I can use the same basic type in color or B&W. Sometimes I'll pull a color shot into Color Efex Pro and ONLY add borders.

  16. alessandro

    alessandro SC Regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Vicenza, Italy
    I've come to think it's better to start with a lower than optimal contrast, kind of "soft" image.
    It will change, in particular, what you will obtain using color filters. A well balanced, not too contrasty image as I said, is a good starting point. But feeding a "wrongly" color balanced image could be useful to maximize the color filter/color balance effects, if you want to lighten or darken a particularly coloured area.

    Anyway, keep in mind that the most powerful (and particular) tool of every Nik filter is its "U Point" technology (the way to apply local masks). You can do the same things with PS and LR, but Nik's way is faster and smarter.

    Don't forget to work on a smart object, if using PS, to have a non destructive, changeable and repeatable filter (if you forget to save a preset, the filter applied on a smart object will remember all the settings).