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Jim Bullard

I'm with you on this one Brooks. OTOH I am (like you)the sort that likes fiddling with each photo. I know lots of others for whom that is not their idea of fun and they'd rather spend the time shooting more photos so for them I suppose choosing a preset is the best way. You can actually do that in Lightroom using the built-in presets or you can create and save your own preset that you want to apply in order to have "your look" in all your photos. For myself I value exploring the potential of each image over strict stylistic consistency.

Robert Hoehne

While Silver Efex Pro 2 has canned effects you also have total control yourself as well if you wish. It is quite flexible and if you use it via a smart filter layer in Photoshop any change you make is non destructive.
Give it a test drive Brooks, I think you will find it being more than you give it credit for here. You can let your artisitc process take over fully within the package, dodging,burning, selective contrast, it is all there and works very well.

Neil Enns

To imply that SIlver Efex Pro 2 is really just a canned effects package does it a huge disservice. It has literally transformed by black and white work.

I like to think of it as an application completely and totally dedicated to crafting black and white images. Yes, you can start with some canned variations, but the real power is in its controls that were specifically for black and white manipulation. Here are a few off the top of my head that I love:

1) Independent structure control for shadows, midtones, and highlights. This is very similar to Lightroom's clarity adjustment, except you can do it in the different tonal ranges of your image using three simple sliders.

2) Apmlify Whites and Amplify Blacks. I *love* rich blacks and nice bright highlights in my images. These two sliders make it a snap to get that look while keeping midtones nice and safe.

3) Zone system overlays. Yes, you can work with a histogram, but I enjoy easily turning on zebra stripes for one or many zones and seeing exactly what parts of my images are zone 3/zone 7 etc. If you ever did B&W film work you will LOVE this feature.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say I do *all* my black and white conversions in Silver Efex Pro 2.0 now. They have a free trial so I suggest downloading it and trying it after watching a few of their tutorial videos. The best workflow is to open an image from Lightroom in Photoshop as a Smart Object, and then apply Silver Efex Pro from there. You wind up with a smart layer that you can go back and re-edit any time you want.


Neil Enns

One more I forgot to add:

4) U-point local adjustments. I really don't know how they make it do its magic, but being able to drop a control point into the image to further do local adjustments without ever having to crate a mask is just amazing.


Chuck Kimmerle

I occasionally find Silver Efex Pro to be a useful tool for simple b/w conversion, but nothing more. I don't use any of the edge effects or local adjustments, as I feel I have far more control in PS. My biggest complaint, though, is that the SEP conversion is done on an image layer which, if I need to use more than one layer, greatly increases file size.

Foe most images, I use a combination of (multiple) PS b/w adj. layer(s) topped off with a gradient map adj. layer.

John S

Brooks -

Your response tells us you havent really tried SEP. You should it a good test run. I have yet to meet someone who have tried it for more than an hour and didn't get fully converted to it.

While it does have few presets (as does LR or PS), they're not great. The real freedom comes in using controls and u-points and zones. It's much more intuitive than LR or PS, and rich blacks and sharp results are much easier to achieve.

Ever since trying it, I find that I don't want to use any other tools. Nothing gives me better control over b&w conversion, to say nothing about how it's 10 times faster.

Chuck Kimmerle

There have been a couple of people mention how much they like Nik's U-point control feature, but I disagree. Sure it's fast and easy, but there are only two basic adjustments available(contrast, brightness), and the selection is a coarse round gradient. I prefer the ability to be more detailed in my (mask) selections as well as have more options and control with my adjustments.

As I said earlier, I find it useful as another option for b/w conversions, but it's certainly no panacea.

Robert Hoehne

there may only be 2 adjustment controls in the original Silver Efex Pro but SEP2 has many more controls with the U-points, see Neils comments above.

Andy Garcia

Thanks Brooks, and thanks to all who have responded as well.

Having used both versions of SEP, and of course Lightroom, I do agree that SEP is an excellent tool that offers great control, including the ability to identify zones. But after all of my research and trials, I find that I can in fact do everything SEP does (in terms of achieving my desired result) within Lightroom itself.

The biggest turn-off for me is having to export a tiff so the SEP plugin can do its magic. Secondly, there is no way (when using LR as the source editor) to save your work in SEP, then go back to complete your adjustments later. You need to use the full version of Photoshop to do that, making use of the smart object functionality together with layers. Not only does this create a huge file, but it also slows my computer down significantly.

As for the NIK U-point technology, I do find it to be an excellent tool, however it does create a coarse, round, gradient adjustment as Chuck indicated. I find Lightroom's targeted adjustment tool and the auto masking adjustment brush to be far superior to U-point.

In the end, I find the extra expense of $200 for SEP, needing to upgrade PS to allow me to use smart objects, and eventually needing to upgrade my computer hardware to handle the huge layered tiffs or PSDs, something that simply is not worth it.

Besides, whose to say Adobe won't come out with some new BW conversion features that will turn out to be SEP killers on the next go-round of LR? I can only hope.

Neil Enns

Sounds like you've made a decision that works for your workflow, Andy, and are happy with it. In the end, that's all that matters.

One comment regarding u-point: While the visuals they show on-screen are a round circle, the reality is that's not the actual mask that gets applied. If you turn on the mask overlay when using it you can see that it's actually being smart about edge detection and is conforming to the various parts of your image automatically. I find the control points most useful when you use a few of them linked in combination to cover the necessary area for the adjustment.

And, as Robert mentioned, in SEP 2.0 the control points let you do everything, including selective colour addition. See http://www.danecreekfolios.com/blog/2011/2/27/selective-colour-in-yosemite.html for an example.

I do agree that it is somewhat awkward to have to go into Photoshop to get the non-destructive editing capabilities, but disk space is dirt cheap and I'm willing to pay that for the power of SEP on conversions.

Keep dreaming about those LR changes, Andy :) I'd put money on seeing soft proofing first, and even that I think will never happen!


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