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Software program evaluate: Nik Silver Efex Professional 3 gives the impression of black and white movie with out the fuss: Digital Pictures Assessment

A number of months in the past we discovered loads to love within the newest iteration of the Nik Assortment, a collection of eight picture processing instruments initially developed by Nik Software program and today owned by French software program firm DxO. On the time, we seemed on the total suite with a concentrate on what was new. For this evaluate, although, we might wish to take a more in-depth have a look at simply one of many suite’s most helpful elements, Silver Efex Professional 3.


Nik Silver Efex Professional 3 is a black-and-white conversion instrument that goes far additional than the grayscale or black-and-white instruments constructed into Adobe Photoshop. It permits customers to simulate the look of particular real-world movie varieties, manually tuning their coloration sensitivity and grain with an unbelievable quantity of flexibility and precision. For much less skilled customers, a beneficiant collection of presets are offered to get you began with minimal effort.

Silver Efex permits you to make a variety of changes to brightness, distinction, construction and tonality, both globally or regionally utilizing management factors. You can even apply coloration filters, cut back haze and end your creations with firming, vignetting, borders and extra.

Out there instantly as a part of the Nik Assortment 4 bundle, Silver Efex Professional 3 can perform both standalone or as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom and different suitable apps on each Home windows 8.1+ or macOS 10.14+. (And as of the recently-released Nik Assortment 4 model 4.2, this contains assist for Adobe Photoshop operating natively on Apple M1 gadgets.)

The general Nik Assortment 4 is priced at $149 for brand new prospects, with upgrades out there to current prospects for $79. That truly makes it round $50 much less for the complete suite than Silver Efex Professional 1 or 2 used to value standalone.

What’s New?

Let’s take a fast have a look at what’s new in Silver Efex Professional 3. The most important change is to the person interface, which has been utterly redesigned with a much more trendy look. Gone are the busy 3D-effect buttons, bevels and drop shadows of the Silver Efex Professional 2 UI, with the brand new model aiming to scale back distraction with a flatter, cleaner and extra trendy interface.

In comparison with that of model 2, Silver Efex Professional 3’s interface is far cleaner and extra trendy.

DxO has additionally up to date its U-Level management level expertise to scale back visible muddle, considerably improve versatility and within the newest v4.2 launch, carry a modest increase to efficiency as properly. Management factors might be grouped or renamed, saved for reuse in presets, and in Lightroom Basic can be copied and pasted between photographs. Their particular person sliders now seem in the best panel relatively than instantly on the picture, and the luminance/chrominance values to which they reply might be tuned.

The corporate has additionally borrowed two options from its different apps to additional prolong Silver Efex Professional. It now boasts each the haze-busting ClearView slider from DxO PhotoLab, in addition to the power so as to add certainly one of 39 black and white movie grain varieties from DxO FilmPack. Each of those additions can solely be utilized globally, relatively than by way of U-Level controls.

Consumer interface and controls

Similar to the opposite apps within the Nik Assortment, Silver Efex Professional 3 can be utilized utterly standalone and with out the necessity for third-party purposes.

Works standalone however it’s finest used as a plugin

As a standalone app, Silver Efex can solely open photographs in JPEG or TIFF codecs, which relatively limits its utility. Because it would not assist Uncooked recordsdata standalone, many photographers will as an alternative need to pair it with different apps.

Standalone mode is similar to plugin mode however with out the bottom-of-screen standing bar you’d use to use adjustments as a plugin. As an alternative, you need to use save command within the file menu.

In addition to DxO’s personal PhotoLab collection, it can formally be used solely with Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Components 2020+, Lightroom Basic 2019+, Affinity Picture 1.8+ or, as of its v4.2 launch, Seize One 21. Different purposes may match to various levels, however aren’t formally supported.

For instance, Publicity X6 works even for Uncooked recordsdata, first changing them to TIFF format, however features as if Silver Efex had been opened standalone. You are not proven the standing bar on the backside of the display screen, and as an alternative should use the file menu to save lots of your outcomes. And previous to v4.2, Seize One did not work in any respect, showing tremendous however failing to use its changes within the last step.

The excellent news is that a free 30-day limitless trial is on the market, so if you happen to’re utilizing an software that is not formally supported with the Nik Assortment, you may strive them collectively first to see if every part works earlier than paying.

A good few presets maintain issues easy for freshmen

The quickest technique to get outcomes from Silver Efex Professional 3 is to make use of certainly one of its presets, of which there are a fairly beneficiant 58 in all. They’re separated considerably haphazardly into 5 teams with not-so-informative names: Basic, En Vogue, Trendy, Classic and twenty fifth Anniversary. You can even view all 5 teams collectively, filtering them to indicate solely your favorites or the ten most recently-used presets.

The presets are all proven atop the left-hand pane, alongside along with your modifying historical past for the present picture. For every preset you are proven a small preview primarily based upon the picture you are at present modifying. These are rendered in a short time, making it straightforward to easily scroll by way of the checklist and discover the look you are after, or a preset that can make an excellent leaping off level to your personal creation.

You’ll be able to’t completely modify the 58 base presets, however you may create new customized presets which might be exported and imported to permit sharing with different photographers or throughout a number of workstations. Your customized and imported presets are every grouped individually from the bottom presets, so there isn’t any technique to rapidly entry favorites from all three classes or to see all of them as one scrollable checklist.

An enormous collection of controls to tune outcomes to your tastes

In fact, whereas presets are nice for freshmen who need fast outcomes, extra skilled photographers will favor to seize their very own inventive imaginative and prescient, not merely borrow another person’s.

Silver Efex Professional 3’s management checklist is so huge that, even with only one management level lively and on a 1080p show, the best pane remains to be virtually 3500 pixels tall. The cropped screenshots above hyperlink to the highest and backside halves of the best pane, respectively.

Fortunately, Silver Efex Professional 3 affords an enormous quantity of management over your photographs courtesy of a whopping 50+ controls in its right-hand pane. And that is simply counting the controls which have an effect on your complete picture globally. Should you add a number of of DxO’s U-Level management factors to the picture, you will unlock one other dozen-plus sliders per level or group of factors.

Not solely world changes, however native ones too

Every management level you add to the picture is indicated with a small donut-shaped mark at its heart, and whereas it’s chosen, an outer circle seems displaying the extent past which the impact will progressively be feathered away to nothing. This outer restrict might be resized to cowl the portion of the picture you want.

For every level, there are additionally each luminance and chrominance sliders, and these assist you to to focus on particular areas of the picture primarily based on their brightness and coloration earlier than the black and white conversion. Should you dial each sliders right down to zero, the management level will successfully develop into a graduated radial choice, as an alternative.

The flexibility to group and rename management factors could be very useful. On this masks view, I’ve chosen the taxi’s physique with one group of management factors, and the highway markings with one other group.

As soon as positioned, a number of management factors might be grouped collectively. You can even rename each particular person factors and teams of them, and when saving new presets you may select whether or not or not management factors must be included. In fact, as soon as the preset is subsequently utilized to a unique picture, you may regulate the purpose positions if they do not fairly match what’s wanted from shot to shot.

A more in-depth have a look at the worldwide controls

The majority of Silver Efex Professional 3’s controls are grouped beneath its world changes header, with subgroups together with brightness, distinction or construction adjustment headers, in addition to tonality safety.

Brightness might be adjusted globally, or for the highlights, midtones and shadows. There’s additionally a dynamic brightness slider which tries to carry onto native distinction within the highlights and shadows will brightening or darkening the picture globally.

For distinction, you might have a selection of both the fundamental distinction slider or a comfortable distinction slider which goals for a much less harsh impact with extra diffuse transitions. There are additionally sliders to amplify whites or blacks alone.

Beneath the construction header, you get each the fundamental construction management and one for tremendous construction, in addition to particular person controls for construction within the spotlight, midtone and shadow areas. And at last, the tonality safety part incorporates sliders to recuperate misplaced element in simply the spotlight and shadow areas of the picture.

Native changes get a subset of those world controls

Every particular person management level or group of them additionally affords a subset of the controls from the earlier part. Confusingly, they’re grouped relatively otherwise to these for world changes, although. All however the dynamic brightness, comfortable distinction, tonality safety and excessive/mid/shadow/black construction sliders have equivalents for management factors.

There’s additionally one additional management which is particular to the management factors – selective colorization. This lets you carry among the coloration again into particular components of your in any other case black and white picture, and since you may have a number of management factors, you too can carry again a number of colours if you want.

Vanquish haze with the ClearView slider

One of many new options in Silver Efex Professional 3, inherited from DxO’s flagship PhotoLab software, is its new ClearView slider. Similar to its PhotoLab equal, it is very efficient at recovering element and growing distinction in hazy backgrounds and different lower-contrast areas of your picture.

I typically discovered it laborious to push far sufficient although, just because the areas of average distinction in my photographs would begin to present an excessive amount of distinction earlier than the hazy background was totally recovered. I might actually wish to see DxO enable ClearView to be paired with U-Level or another type of localized choice in a future launch to assist in these conditions.

Coloration filtering with out the bodily filters

With conventional black and white movie, if you happen to wished to tune the response to particular person colours of sunshine you’d achieve this with filters hooked up to the entrance of the lens. For instance, you would possibly connect a yellow, orange or maybe even a crimson filter to make a blue sky extra dramatic, or a inexperienced filter to lighten foliage.

With Silver Efex Professional, that is all achieved post-capture without having to fumble for bodily filters, nonetheless. Purple, orange, yellow, inexperienced and blue filter presets are all offered, however if you happen to favor you too can dial in a selected hue in one-degree increments, and you too can management the energy of the filter from 0 to 200%.

Simulate the look of actual B&W movie in two somewhat-contradictory methods

Silver Efex Professional 3 now affords two completely different instruments to simulate the look of black and white movie grain. The 2 can be utilized in live performance collectively, however the division between the 2 instruments is unnecessarily complicated.

Firstly, the movie varieties instrument lets you choose certainly one of 28 completely different movie varieties and dial in your required stage of grain measurement and hardness. You can even management the movie’s sensitivity in crimson, yellow, inexperienced, cyan, blue and violet channels, and regulate ranges/curves. All of that is carried over from earlier model and relies on code from Nik Software program, the unique creator of the Nik Assortment.

By way of the brand new movie grain instrument, DxO now additionally helps you to simulate the look of particular, actual movie grains primarily based on the identical algorithms it used to create its FilmPack plugin. In all, there are 38 movie grain varieties on supply, together with virtually each black and white movie kind from FilmPack. For every you may regulate the depth from 0 to 200%, and the grain measurement from 1.0 to 10.0.

The brand new movie grain instrument’s grain patterns have a really genuine really feel, however not like the sooner movie varieties instrument, it solely handles grain simulation and forgoes any try and tune the movie’s responsiveness to completely different wavelengths of sunshine. You’ll be able to, nonetheless, use each instruments directly, by which case the brand new instrument overrides solely the grain sample of the sooner one. (And you may, if you would like, select completely different movie varieties in every part to, say, create a fictitious movie with the sunshine response of 1 movie however the grain of one other.)

Full-size, no-grain-added picture.

A variety of authentic-looking movie grains can be found in Silver Efex Professional 3. So as, these are 100% crops of the above picture with no added grain, Fuji Neopan 1600, Kodak T-Max 3200, Ilford Delta 3200 and filtered Kodak HIE. All share the identical Impartial profile and differ solely of their grain picks.

End your photographs with firming, vignetting, burnt edges and borders

Lastly, Silver Efex gives 4 completely different classes of ending changes: Firming, vignetting, burnt edges and borders. By default, these are one-click changes involving not more than making a variety from an inventory, however way more management is on the market if you would like it.

For firming, you can’t solely choose a coloration but in addition management energy, hue and firming for each silver and paper, and the stability between the 2. For vignetting, you may regulate the energy of the vignette (which might both darken or lighten), in addition to its measurement, roundness and heart level.

For burnt edges, you management the scale, transition softness and energy of the impact on all 4 edges individually. And at last, picture borders permits you not solely to decide on certainly one of 14 predefined border varieties, but in addition how thick the border is and the way far it extends into the picture. You can even regulate the roughness of the border, and supply a ‘seed’ quantity that this system ought to use when producing the random particulars in border textures.

The examine instruments assist you to rapidly toggle between earlier than and after views, view the picture with an adjustable side-by-side or beneath/over cut up, or see each earlier than and after photographs collectively.

Earlier than-and-after comparisons are fast and simple

View controls might be discovered on the prime of the display screen, and I discovered the comparability controls particularly to be relatively useful. The leftmost of those toggles between the outcomes of your present settings or the default black and white conversion, and holding the P key down achieves the identical factor.

The central button splits the picture in two both vertically or horizontally, and permits you to transfer the dividing line throughout the picture to permit a cautious before-and-after comparability anyplace inside the picture. And at last, the rightmost button offers you both side-by-side or beneath/over views of the complete picture.

The histogram instrument permits you to spotlight which picture areas are inside ten completely different luminance ranges at your present settings, even within the loupe view. Be aware additionally the historical past panel at display screen left.

The histogram instrument is surprisingly useful, too

One final perform I discovered to be significantly useful was Silver Efex Professional 3’s histogram instrument, which sits beneath the loupe on the prime of the best pane. It not solely offers you entry to RGB, crimson, inexperienced, blue or luminance graphs of your picture, but in addition splits it into ten completely different luminance ranges.

For any of the ten, you may allow an overlaid sample on the picture, with the sample coloration various by the vary chosen. This makes it very easy to see which components of the picture share the identical luminance, and I discovered it much more helpful than the more-common strategy of simply highlighting the brightest and darkest picture areas.


It has been greater than a decade since Silver Efex Professional’s final main replace and till simply this 12 months, it hadn’t been considerably modified for the reason that suite’s unique creator, Nik Software program, was bought first to Google after which DxO.

So much has modified in all that point, not just for Silver Efex itself but in addition within the imaging software program market. Gone are the times when a plugin of its ilk might command the heady value of $200. Nowadays you should buy your complete eight-plugin Nik Assortment for a way more cheap $150, however sadly you may’t choose and select which of these plugins you need to save much more.

In its overhauled kind Silver Efex Professional 3 is far simpler on the attention than its predecessor, making it a lot simpler to focus in your photographs. And whereas a few of its new options sit slightly awkwardly alongside earlier ones, as soon as we obtained used to the variations between movie varieties vs. movie grain and world vs. native adjustment sliders, we discovered it to be fairly straightforward to make use of contemplating the extent of management on supply.

Efficiency, whereas not mindblowing, is enough to forestall frustration. On my 2018-vintage Dell XPS 15 9570 laptop computer operating Home windows 10 model 20H2 and Nik Assortment v4.2, most sliders replace inside a half-second or much less of being tweaked, even these utilizing U-Level controls to restrict their impact to sure space of the picture. Ultimate renders can take maybe 20-30 seconds, which once more would not really feel unduly sluggish.

And it is laborious to argue with Silver Efex Professional’s outcomes. Should you’re a fan of black and white pictures and are keen to place in a bit extra effort than merely clicking on a preset, you may get rather more authentic-looking photographs than you’d from the black and white instruments in your digital camera or most all-in-one apps like Photoshop.

Should you’re nonetheless utilizing the earlier launch of Silver Efex Professional, its successor represents a no brainer improve. In addition to a nicer interface and extra movie grain varieties, you will additionally discover the brand new ClearView instrument and improved U-Level expertise to be massive enhancements. And if you happen to’re not already a Nik Assortment person however desire a stable plugin that may ship realistically film-like black and white photographs, we might positively advocate giving the trial model a spin.

What we like:

  • Yields convincingly film-like outcomes
  • Presets get freshmen up and operating rapidly
  • Making and sharing customized presets is easy
  • Each world and native changes
  • A great deal of controls to fine-tune the look you are after
  • ClearView instrument is sort of efficient at correcting haze
  • New person interface is cleaner and fewer distracting
  • Extra reasonably priced as a collection element than its predecessors have been bought individually

What we do not:

  • Can now not be bought individually
  • No Uncooked assist when used standalone
  • Presets really feel relatively disorganized
  • Movie varieties vs. movie grain instruments are unnecessarily complicated
  • Ditto the differing world and native adjustment slider preparations

Who’s it for:

Extra skilled photographers who need fine-grained management over their black and white creations, and who want a convincingly film-like last consequence.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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