Silver Efex Pro 2 – Black (& White) Magic

The complete SEP 2 Tutorial is here.
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Back in the good old days – maybe all of three years ago or more 😉 – making a good B&W image was a challenge. Many options existed, most requiring lots of study and experimentation and few producing anything beyond average results. Those days are gone forever. In 2008 Nik Software introduced Silver Efex Pro and it was instantly acclaimed the king of the B&W conversion software hill – with good reason.
Two-plus years after SEP’s introduction a new king is born – SEP 2 – which has been announced for release in February 2011. Some consider it pricey with the full version at $199.95 ($179.95 until 1/31/11) and $99.95 for the upgrade. However, pricey or not, if you’re serious about B&W it’s a bargain. Nothing will get you better images at any price. (Full disclosure – I’m a beta tester for all of Nik’s products, but I’m not a mindless cheerleader/fanboy. For example, I’m on record in an HDR post that calls attention to what I consider to be a serious shortcoming in the initial release of Nik’s HDR Efex Pro for those whose HDR goal is natural looking results. So – trust me when I say that SEP 2 is not only at the top of its class – it’s in a class by itself!)
Over the next few weeks, I’ll illustrate the features and power of SEP 2. First, let’s look at the basic program layout.
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This is the default opening screen (less the red boxes & their white identifying numbers); click to enlarge.
Rather than attempt to duplicate the Nik website’s excellent SEP 2 interface explanation, you can go there to read all about it. At the site, be sure to click on each interface element for an explanation of what it does.

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Starting in a few days I’ll have the first in a series of posts that explore each of the major interface elements in detail. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here are some SEP 2 versions of the above image. Click any image to enlarge.
The total time to create all six different versions shown below was about 2-3 minutes.
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The input image >

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SEP 2 Default (neutral) B&W conversion. This is your starting (and maybe ending) point >

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Default plus selective color (note the Nik selective control points which allow the selective coloring to be accomplished; that’s all it takes) >

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Default + selective color + sepia toning + vignette + “arty” edge >

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Built in preset (single mouse click starting with default) >

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A different built in preset (one of over 30) >

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Yet another preset >

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Next >> SEP 2 Image Preview Options

0 thoughts on “Silver Efex Pro 2 – Black (& White) Magic”

  1. I used SEP (in fact have the whole Collection). Upgraded to SEP 2 first day I could with preorder. Only thing I didn’t like about SEP was lack of what they call ‘Selective Coloring’. SEP was home run…with Selective Coloring, SEP 2 is grand slam bottom 9th two outs down by 3.
    Almost feels like cheating.

    • I’d put the new History Browser up near the top of the new features list right along with selective color. Whereas I don’t do SC all of the time, the HB is used constantly for every image to show me where I am, how I got there – and, if lost, “Make the first possible u-turn” as my GPS is fond of saying. 😉

  2. Ed,
    Many thanks for this series of tutorials. It’s really helpful.
    One question for you. I use [Nikon] ViewNX2 for most of my PP work rather than Capture NX, but if I send try and send a picture to SEP2, I can only do it if I convert it to a TIF file first. Is there any way round this, ie send it straight to SEP2 as a NEF file?

  3. Peter,
    I’ve never used ViewNX2 so can’t answer your question directly.
    I mostly use SEP2 as a Photoshop Elements plug-in. Since PSE doesn’t handle RAW directly (ACR intervenes and converts the RAW before the image is seen by PSE itself) the issue has never come up for me.
    The tiff issue arises if I try to call an outside program from within NX2 as it will only send a tiff file to the called program. Sounds like Nikon carried that same nonsense to ViewNX2. For that reason, I don’t open any outside programs from Capture NX2.
    A more general thought is that no Nik programs are capable of RAW conversion. Any images sent to them must be converted from RAW first (it may be transparent to the user depending on the host – PS, LR, Aperture – but that’s what happens.) You can see this by opening SEP2 in a stand-alone mode (use winexplorer to find the executable sep 2 file using explorer’s “Open with” option) with a jpeg or tiff and it works fine – BUT try it with a RAW and you’ll get an error window.
    Bottom line answer – No. It’s impossible under any circumstance to send any Nik program a RAW file.
    Excuse my meandering reply – I was thinking my way through the possibilities as I typed. 😉

    • Ed,
      Thanks for your detailed reply and for taking the trouble to explain the situation.
      It seems completely bonkers to me that you can’t send a NEF file to any Nik software. I thought that’s why Nikon had bought this company, for their software. Is this likely to change? I can’t see what the Nikon software strategy is at the moment – continue to develop their own or somehow integrate with the Nik suite. Perhaps they don’t know either…

      • Nikon does not own Nik.
        Nikon hired Nik to help them with Capture NX (the original Capture was done by Nikon solo). Nik is not involved with Nikon in any other way nor with any other product such as ViewNX2.
        I will say, from observations as a Nik beta tester, that IMO all of the Nikon products – certainly NX2 – would be far better if Nikon stayed out of the kitchen entirely. Two major problems (read big, big errors) I uncovered with NX2 were in the part of the code that Nikon did and that Nik had NO (as in none, zero, nada) access to.
        IMO, Nikon just wanted access to Nik’s Control Point technology which the the biggest upgrade from Nikon’s Capture to the later versions when they contracted with Nik. The underlying NX2 code – the entire infrastructure including file i/o – is Nikon’s doing (and fault, if you will).
        You’re right – Nikon seems somewhat clueless when it comes to software & customer needs IMO. Somewhat arrogant as well – we know what’s best for you.

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