The Nik Silver Efex plugin lets you discover (or rediscover) black & white photography thanks to numerous presets, global and selective correction tools, copious filters and colorization effects, tone curves, analog film simulations, and finishing tools (with vignetting, burnt edges, and image contours).
Although the carefully designed, ready-to-use renderings might be more than enough to meet your needs, you can modify them as you like or create new renderings from scratch. You can also share them with other Nik Silver Efex users.
When image opens
When you open an image in Nik Silver Efex, it is converted to black and white with the default setting 000 Neutral, all tools in the right panel will be at their default value of 0, and no film effects are applied.
The right panel contains all the global and selective adjustments palettes as well as a magnifying loupe and histogram available from top to bottom:
- Histogram and Zone system.
- Global Adjustments: global brightness, contrast, structure, and tone protection corrections.
- Selective adjustments: creation and management of control points and control lines.
- ClearView: atmospheric haze correction tool
- Color filter: selection of color filters, imitating optical filters
- Film types: simulations of analog films inherited from the Nik Collection
- Film grains: simulations of analog films made by DxO, and associated grain adjustment tools
- Finishing adjustments: Toning, Vignette, Burnt Edges, and Image Borders.
- Save Preset button: Save the settings as a custom preset.
The description and operation of the magnifying loupe and histogram are discussed in the Common Interface and Tools chapter > Interface > Right panel.
Nik Silver Efex Presets
In the left panel, Nik Silver Efex offers 64 different settings as follows:
- All: if you click this button, the Presets palette will display thumbnails of all available settings, for you to scroll through.
- 25th anniversary (presets to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Nik Collection).
- En vogue.
To apply a Nik Silver Efex preset, click on the thumbnail; the tools in the right panel show the settings of the applied effect.
Overall and Selective Correction Tools
Nik Silver Efex permanently displays all available tools in the right panel, with settings that will depend on the selected effect in the left panel.
In this section you will find a description of all of these tools, both for overall correction of images as well as selective adjustments using control points and control lines.
These tools can be used when you open the image (000 Neutral by default), or after applying a preset from the left panel.
- System area.
- Global Adjustments and Selective tones
- Selective Adjustments
- Color Filter
- Film Types
- Film Grain
- Finishing Adjustments
Above the histogram are blocks numbered from 0 to 10. This is the “Zone system”: when you click on one of the blocks, the parts of the image that correspond to that level of brightness are highlighted by a colored, hatched mask. Zone 0 is deep black, and Zone 10 is pure white, which can help you adjust the tonality of your image so that it doesn’t have clipped tones and therefore loses detail.
The Zone system is enabled by default, and you can disable and re-enable it by clicking in the first box on the left. It can be used regardless of the histogram display mode (RGB, R, G, B or L).
The Global Adjustments palette lets you correct and adjust image tone, brightness, contrast, detail and texture using the following 4 groups of sliders:
- Brightness Adjustments :
- Brightness: changes the brightness of the image. Moving this slider to the left darkens the image while moving it to the right increases the brightness of the image.
- Highlights: adjusts the brightness of light areas in the image.
- Midtones: adjusts the brightness of midtoned areas of the image.
- Shadows: Adjusts the brightness of dark areas in the image.
- Dynamic Brightness: uses a unique algorithm that automatically adjusts to different areas of the image. This slider allows for finer changes in brightness, ensuring that the image retains a good range of detail, preserves contrast and intelligently applies brightness values to different areas of the image. Move the slider to the left to darken the image while retaining detail in the highlights. Moving the slider to the right will lighten the image while retaining detail in the shadows.
- Contrast Adjustments :
- Contrast: controls the overall contrast of the image, i.e. the difference between the density of the dark areas and the brightness of the light areas.
- Amplify Whites: The slider uses an algorithm that provides unique control over the highlights of the image. By moving this slider to the right, the highlights in each area of the image become brighter. Because of the adaptive nature of the algorithm, each area is treated differently, taking into account its particular characteristics.
- Amplify Blacks: Similar to the Amplify Whites slider, this slider uses a unique algorithm to control the tone of the image. Move this slider to the right to make the darker tones in each area of the image even denser. Because the algorithm is adaptive, each area is treated differently, taking into account its particular characteristics.
- Soft Contrast: the purpose of the slider is to provide a different approach to contrast, less harsh and with much more diffuse transitions.
- Structure Adjustments :
- Structure: controls the overall structure of the image. Increasing the setting emphasizes detail and texture, while decreasing softens fine detail for smoother surfaces.
- Highlights: selectively adjusts the structure of light areas in the image.
- Midtones: selectively adjusts the structure of midtones in the image.
- Shadows: selectively adjusts the structure of darker areas in the image.
- Blacks: selectively adjusts the densest areas of the image.
- Fine Structure: similar to the Structure slider, adjusts the finest details in the image.
- Tonality Protection: these sliders allow you to recover details in shadows and highlights that were lost during brightness and/or contrast adjustments.
- Shadows : when moved to the right, the slider will only lighten shadows and restore black details in dense areas.
- Highlights: when moved to the right, the slider will darken only the brightest areas and recover the details that have been lost.
In this paragraph, only the tools specific to Nik Silver Efex are discussed. The basic operation of control points and control lines is discussed in the Common Interface and Tools chapter > Control Points and Control Lines.
Selective adjustments let you modify certain parts of the image. Add a control point or line and, when adjusting the corresponding sliders, only affect subjects or areas covered by the control point or line.
Selective Adjustment sliders
When using control points or control lines, the Selective Adjustments palette displays, under the list of points and control lines, the cursors associated with the point or the active control line. These sliders are also available directly attached to the control point or to the control line dot. When using one of the sliders of a control point or a control line, the corresponding slider will also be changed in the right panel, and vice versa.
All sliders in the selective adjustments palette have their equivalents in the global settings, with the exception of Luminance, Chrominance, Diffusion and Selective Colorization.
The sliders are organized this way
- Color Selectivity :
- Lm (Luminance).
- Chr (Chrominance).
- Df (Diffusion).
- Standard selective adjustments sliders:
- Br (Brightness).
- Ct (Contrast).
- Str (Structure).
- AW (Amplify Whites).
- AB (Amplify Blacks).
- FSt (Fine Structure).
- StC (Selective colorization).
- Selective Tones :
- ST HI (Highlights).
- ST Md (Midtones).
- ST Sh (Shadows).
- ST Bl (Blacks).
The Selective Colorization slider restores the colors of the portion of the image on which the control point was placed on a black and white image. This allows you, for example, to highlight an element or detail in a photo.
Of course, you can fine tune the effect by combining multiple control points and/or control lines, by using the monochrome display mask, and the selective color sliders.
ClearView allows you to correct the effects of atmospheric haze and fog, which significantly alter the image, especially in distant shots. By restoring black levels, the tool will restore contrast, microcontrast, and saturation to your images. You can also use it to enhance the impact of images taken on a clear day.
The Intensity slider, set to 0 by default, allows you to adjust the effect of DxO ClearView Plus on a scale of 0 to 100.
The Color Filter palette allows you to simulate the look of the color filters that phoographers used to screw onto the lens to alter the contrast of their black and white film, depending on the subject being photographed (making the sky denser, clouds brighter, skin more radiant, etc.).
- Color Filters: click on one of the color filters (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) to quickly select a simulated color filter to apply when converting to black and white. Each selected filter automatically sets the values for the Hue and Strength (see below). The first filter is neutral (sliders set to 0), so you can freely define its hue and strength.
- Hue: adjusts the color of the simulated filter and controls the relationship of the colors in the image. Objects with the same hue as the selected value will become brighter, while objects with a complementary hue will become darker.
- Strength: slide to the left for less contrast between colors or to the right for more contrast between colors.
Nik Silver Efex offers a collection of black and white films that simulate characteristics such as grain, contrast, and color response. You can also modify the characteristics as you wish using the tools available in this section.
You can give a specific rendering to your image, or use grain to mask certain problems inherent in the lack of sharpness or excessive smoothing of noise (and details), or quite simply, to get away from the sometimes too-perfect rendering of digital
- Neutral drop-down menu: allows you to choose from simulated black and white films, grouped by ISO speed. For a quick, real-time preview of the rendering, move the mouse over the list and then click on the film of your choice to apply the rendering.
- Original Grain section: groups the sliders that let you modify the film grain look (the sliders are preset according to the chosen film):
- Grain per pixel: changes the look of the grain applied to the image. Slide to the left for coarser grain or to the right for finer grain.
- Grain Hardness: adjusts the separation and visibility of the grain structure. Towards the left (SOFT), the grain has a softer appearance, and a harder appearance towards the right (HARD).
- Sensitivity section: lets you change the sensitivity of the selected film to the different colors of the image, with the sliders preset according to the chosen film. In each of the 6 color channels, adjust the slider to the left to make the corresponding colors denser, and to the right to lighten them.
- <a id=”levels-curves” name=”levels-curves”>Levels & Curves</a> section: lets you alter the contrast and tonal response of the selected film, with the curve preset according to the chosen film. Click to add anchor points to the curve to change the brightness, contrast and tonal relationship of the image. Level adjustments are located below the curve, allowing you to control the tonality of the dark, medium and light values. To reset an anchor point, double-click the point you want to remove.
In the Grain palette, you can choose analog film simulations created by DxO, renowned for their fidelity, behavior, and realistic appearance:
- Original menu: select a type of film from the list sorted by brand and alphabetical order.
- Intensity: lets you reduce or increase the presence of grain in the image.
- Grain Size: sets the fineness of the grain (finer to the left, coarser to the right).
The Finishing Adjustments palette is purely creative, and lets you apply toning, vignetting, burnt edges and framing effects to your images.
- <strong>Toning </strong>section: the tools in this section (click the arrow on the left to show or hide them all) allow you to tint black and white images, using darkroom toning techniques:
- Toning drop-down menu: set by default to Neutral (no tinting). Hover your mouse over the list to see the effect in real time on your image. To select an effect and apply it, click on it.
- Strength: This slider sets the overall intensity of the tone applied to the image and also affects the setting of the Silver Hue and Paper Hue sliders (see below).
- <b>Silver Hue</b>: sets the replacement shade for the darker tones, represented by the silver grains in the film.
- Silver Toning: sets the intensity of the dark tones.
- Balance: determines the balance in the combination of tints applied to the dark tones (Silver) and the light tones (Paper). When this slider is set to 0%, the Silver and Paper tones are mixed with the midtones in a balanced way, and to the left you give more importance to the tint of the dark tones, and to the right, more importance to the tint of the light tones.
- Paper Hue: determines the replacement shade of the light tones, associated with the white of the paper.
- Paper Toning: defines the intensity of the light tones.
- Vignetting section: these tools (click the arrow on the left to show or hide them all) let you apply a darkening or lightening effect to the edges of the image to give it a retro effect or to draw attention to the subject.
- Vignette drop-down menu: set to Off by default (no vignetting); mouse through the list to see the effect in real time on your image. To select an effect and apply it, just click on it.
- Amount: controls the intensity of the vignetting. Moving this slider to the left darkens the edges of the image; moving to the right lightens them.
- Shape: controls the general shape of the vignetting, between CIRCLE and RECTANGLE. Size: sets the extent of the vignetting effect in the image.
- Place center: click on the button to position an off-center vignetting effect. The mouse pointer will change to a “+” that you then click to place in the image. If you want to change the positioning, click the button again and start over.
- Burn Edges section: these tools (click on the arrow on the left to show them all or hide them), also inspired by darkroom techniques, will allow you to create denser image edges than with the tools in the Vignetting section. Unlike the latter, you can work side by side, and even combine the effect with vignetting.
- Burn Edges drop-down menu: <strong>Off</strong> by default, offers a roll-over preview and the application of 4 possible effects.
- Edge selector: select the edge that you wish to adjust in your image.
- Strength: darkens the burned edge effect on the selected side.
- Size: adjusts the extent of the burned edge.
- Transition: controls the blending of the darkening effect with the image.
- Image Borders section: click on the arrow on the left to display or hide all the tools. The borders offered in this section derive from enlarger techniques used in the lab.
- Image Borders drop-down menu: set to <strong>Off</strong> by default, the menu contains a list of borders that you can preview in real time by rolling-over with the mouse, and applying it by clicking.
- Size*: adjusts the thickness of the border added to the image.
- Spread: by moving this slider to the right, the border detail extends further into the image.
- Roughness: controls the random detail around the image. Moving the slider to the right (from CLEAN to ROUGH) creates more random detail in the border.
- Vary Border button: lets you create random borders from one image to the next. By clicking the button, a random border number will be created. To recreate the exact same border later, note the number, as well as the settings for size, spread, and clean/coarse finish. To get a similar but different border for each image, use the same values for size, spacing, and roughness, but choose a different border number.
Creating a custom Nik Silver Efex preset
You can create your own Nik Silver Efex preset by altering the settings of an existing preset:
- In the Presets palette in the left panel, click the presets you want to add to the right panel. You can also use an existing setting in one of the Custom, Import or Last edits sections.
- Proceed to the desired settings in the palettes in the right panel.
- Click Save Preset then name it and click save in the dialog box that appears (you can also save your control points and/or control lines using the checkbox in the dialog).
- Your custom settings are available in the Custom section.