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Fun With Silver Efex Pro 2

PhotoJoseph's picture
March 12, 2011 - 2:42pm

I’ll have to do a “thing” with this software at some point, and for those paying close attention you may remember I was going to do something during development, but schedules went wonky and it never happened. Anyway, I’ve been playing with the free trial and it’s just fantastic.

This little output is a combination of work done in Silver Efex Pro 2, then the text was added as a custom book page in Aperture and round-tripped back as an Aperture TIF using the built-in Save PDF to Aperture script. Yes the titling was originally created in Photoshop, but I described a few posts ago how to do it using free software, too. Click to view larger.

Here’s the original… below is a completely untreated JPG from the source RAW file. I did some levels work to the RAW photo in Aperture to get a full-range histogram (as you can see this was VERY flat; it was snowing and very foggy when I shot this), as well as cropping and straightening, before I sent it to Silver Efex Pro 2. But what you see here is straight out of the camera. Roll over it to see what I sent to the plug-in!

App:
Apple Aperture
Platform:
macOS
Author:
PhotoJoseph

From my other posts, it’s no secret that SEP2 is by far my fav plugin. The way you can take an image and apply black and white interpretations is nothing short of spectacular. It really feels like being in the darkroom again.

My workflow with it is to first make all the raw camera adjustments in aperture. Typically I’ll crank up the sharpness and edge all the way up particularly on landscapes. I don’t mess around much with the moire setting since I don’t understand it well. I adjust the exposure to make sure that I don’t have any overblown highlights. I also do some dodging and burning in aperture to get the details I want in the image before it goes to any other plugins. Once I have what I like, and you can drop the saturation to 0 to see what it looks like in initial black and white if you ant to work in black and white, I send it to DFine to remove noise if the iso I used is 400+. I then hit option V like Joseph recommended, and send the copy to SEP2.

The trick I use in SEP2 is that before I do anything I decide if I want to apply a film effect first. There is are a range of film simulations that not only simulate grain but also simulates the film’s response curve, particularly the foot and shoulder’s curves which affect black and white rendition and how well a film holds it’s details on the low and high end of the zone system scale. Applying the film first changes the feel of the image’s contrast significantly. Agfa film for example is much softer than Kodak Tmax 100, and you want to take that into account before you make any adjustments or you’ll end up with an image that looked noting like what you adjusted prior to applying film effect. It’s really an approach like working with large format film: you always determine your exposure and development type based on the film you want to use to render the feel you want to express.

After the film I then go after the brightness, contrast, and structure, followed by control points (I think of control points like the dodging and burning step in a dark room) and then apply edge burn or vignette, then the border, followed by tone (I’m a selenium fan). If you’ve ever had or been in a darkroom, the steps are exactly the same.

I save all that work, go back to aperture, hit option V and send that duplicate to Sharpener Pro or other plugs if need be.

My only beef with all the Nik Software plugs is that they only support a circle to determine an area for controls. You end up having to really make a series of small reticles to cover specific areas. It’s like dodging and burning using only a circle on a wand. One gets used to it, but I can’t help but feel like a square/rectangle, octagon and triangle might be appropriate selection tools as well. Of course having something like a arbitrary selector like in photoshop would be good, but I can’t image the math that would have to go behind supporting such a shape.

R

One thing I’ve noticed with all of the Nik Software is that, in Aperture at least (I haven’t checked this out in PS CS5 yet), the effect generates enormous files. I use a Nikon D300 and it yields about 12 MB RAW files. When I apply SEP2 the saved file is almost 40 MB! With HDR Efex Pro (a really great plug-in) the files are 90 MB. Same with Viveza 2. To keep from overwhelming my 1 TB hard drive I’ve taken to exporting the giant file to my desktop as either an 8-bit TIFF or even a jpeg and importing that back into Aperture and then deleting the giant file. That way I keep the original RAW file, but don’t have to buy a new hard drive every week!

Love all the Nik Software plug-ins…I’m using Aperture almost exclusively now because of them. Kind of sorry that I upgraded Photoshop!

Bob,

RAW is a pretty small file (considering what it is), and 40MB sounds about right as an 8-bit TIF from a plug-in. It all depends on the size of the file you’re opening, of course. Also it will depend if your Aperture external editor preferences are set to 8-bit or 16-bit. Check out this forum thread on the topic, which includes some size comparisons.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

@PhotoJoseph
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I’d actually never noticed the size difference until I started using HDR Efex Pro. I’ve been using Silver Efex for about two years with Photoshop and never realized how large a file was generated. I’ve never paid much attention to how large my .psd files get in Photoshop…I don’t use Bridge very much and always had “Document Dimensions” selected in the lower left in PS. I only started shooting In RAW all the time about a year or two ago and didn’t realize that editing RAW files made so much larger end files! Looks like “we’re gonna need a bigger boat,” as Chief Brody would say…

Joseph- Just out of curiosity and an off topic question, but what was the font of your added text (signature)?
florian

Florian Cortese
www.fotosbyflorian.com

Florian,

The font is called Waiting For the Sunrise. I love it. It’s only $5 for a commercial license, too.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

@PhotoJoseph
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Joseph, Thanks!

Florian

Florian Cortese
www.fotosbyflorian.com

Florian,

No problem. It’s a great one, and I used it for all the photo captions in my book “Killer Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Canon Camera”.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

@PhotoJoseph
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Joseph- Now I realize where I saw that. I purchased and downloaded the ebook and think it’s great! I kinda knew most of the tips in there but it really simplifies it and for me helped me to remember what to push/do while I am looking at a scene or subject before I push the shutter button! Thanks for all of your help and education. it is really appreciated!

Florian

Florian Cortese
www.fotosbyflorian.com

Thank YOU Florian :)

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

@PhotoJoseph
— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

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