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


A number of months in the past we discovered loads to love within the newest iteration of the Nik Assortment, a set 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 general suite with a give attention to what was new. For this evaluation, although, we would wish to take a better 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 device 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 unimaginable quantity of flexibility and precision. For much less skilled customers, a beneficiant collection of presets are supplied 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 too can apply coloration filters, scale 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 operate both standalone or as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom and different appropriate 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 help for Adobe Photoshop operating natively on Apple M1 units.)

The general Nik Assortment 4 is priced at $149 for brand spanking new prospects, with upgrades obtainable to present prospects for $79. That really makes it round $50 much less for the total suite than Silver Efex Professional 1 or 2 used to price standalone.

What’s New?

Let’s take a fast have a look at what’s new in Silver Efex Professional 3. The largest change is to the person interface, which has been fully redesigned with a much more fashionable 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 cut back distraction with a flatter, cleaner and extra fashionable interface.

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

DxO has additionally up to date its U-Level management level know-how to cut back visible litter, considerably improve versatility and within the newest v4.2 launch, carry a modest enhance to efficiency as properly. Management factors will be grouped or renamed, saved for reuse in presets, and in Lightroom Basic may also be copied and pasted between photographs. Their particular person sliders now seem in the precise panel somewhat than immediately on the picture, and the luminance/chrominance values to which they reply will be tuned.

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

Person interface and controls

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

Works standalone nevertheless it’s finest used as a plugin

As a standalone app, Silver Efex can solely open photographs in JPEG or TIFF codecs, which somewhat limits its utility. Because it does not help Uncooked information 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 modifications as a plugin. As an alternative, it’s essential to use save command within the file menu.

In addition to DxO’s personal PhotoLab sequence, 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 functions may go to various levels, however aren’t formally supported.

For instance, Publicity X6 works even for Uncooked information, 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 avoid wasting your outcomes. And previous to v4.2, Seize One did not work in any respect, showing advantageous however failing to use its changes within the closing step.

The excellent news is that a free 30-day limitless trial is obtainable, so in case you’re utilizing an utility that is not formally supported with the Nik Assortment, you possibly can attempt them collectively first to see if every little thing works earlier than paying.

A good few presets preserve issues easy for inexperienced persons

The quickest strategy to get outcomes from Silver Efex Professional 3 is to make use of one among 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, Fashionable, Classic and twenty fifth Anniversary. You too can view all 5 teams collectively, filtering them to point out 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 the moment modifying. These are rendered in a short time, making it straightforward to easily scroll via the record and discover the look you are after, or a preset that may make leaping off level on your personal creation.

You possibly can’t completely modify the 58 base presets, however you possibly can create new customized presets which will 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 is no strategy to rapidly entry favorites from all three classes or to see all of them as one scrollable record.

An unlimited collection of controls to tune outcomes to your tastes

After all, whereas presets are nice for inexperienced persons who need fast outcomes, extra skilled photographers will choose to seize their very own inventive imaginative and prescient, not merely borrow another person’s.

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

Fortunately, Silver Efex Professional 3 presents 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 the complete picture globally. When 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 international changes, however native ones too

Every management level you add to the picture is indicated with a small donut-shaped mark at its middle, and whereas it’s chosen, an outer circle seems exhibiting the extent past which the impact will steadily be feathered away to nothing. This outer restrict will 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 focus on particular areas of the picture primarily based on their brightness and coloration earlier than the black and white conversion. When you dial each sliders all the way down to zero, the management level will successfully turn into a graduated radial choice, as an alternative.

The power 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 will be grouped collectively. You too can rename each particular person factors and teams of them, and when saving new presets you possibly can select whether or not or not management factors ought to be included. After all, as soon as the preset is subsequently utilized to a distinct picture, you possibly can alter 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 international changes header, with subgroups together with brightness, distinction or construction adjustment headers, in addition to tonality safety.

Brightness will 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’ve a alternative of both the fundamental distinction slider or a gentle 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 advantageous construction, in addition to particular person controls for construction within the spotlight, midtone and shadow areas. And at last, the tonality safety part accommodates sliders to get better misplaced element in simply the spotlight and shadow areas of the picture.

Native changes get a subset of those international controls

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

There’s additionally one additional management which is restricted 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 possibly can have a number of management factors, you may as well 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 utility, is its new ClearView slider. Identical to its PhotoLab equal, it’s totally efficient at recovering element and growing distinction in hazy backgrounds and different lower-contrast areas of your picture.

I generally discovered it arduous to push far sufficient although, just because the areas of reasonable distinction in my photographs would begin to present an excessive amount of distinction earlier than the hazy background was totally recovered. I would 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, in case you wished to tune the response to particular person colours of sunshine you’d achieve this with filters connected to the entrance of the lens. For instance, you may connect a yellow, orange or maybe even a pink 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, nevertheless. Purple, orange, yellow, inexperienced and blue filter presets are all supplied, however in case you choose you may as well dial in a selected hue in one-degree increments, and you may as well 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 presents 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 device lets you choose one among 28 completely different movie varieties and dial in your required degree of grain dimension and hardness. You too can management the movie’s sensitivity in pink, yellow, inexperienced, cyan, blue and violet channels, and alter 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.

Via the brand new movie grain device, DxO now additionally permits 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 sort from FilmPack. For every you possibly can alter the depth from 0 to 200%, and the grain dimension from 1.0 to 10.0.

The brand new movie grain device’s grain patterns have a really genuine really feel, however not like the sooner movie varieties device, it solely handles grain simulation and forgoes any try and tune the movie’s responsiveness to completely different wavelengths of sunshine. You possibly can, nevertheless, use each instruments directly, through which case the brand new device 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 supplies 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 range from a listing, however way more management is obtainable if you would like it.

For firming, you can’t solely choose a coloration but additionally management energy, hue and firming for each silver and paper, and the steadiness between the 2. For vignetting, you possibly can alter the energy of the vignette (which might both darken or lighten), in addition to its dimension, roundness and middle level.

For burnt edges, you management the dimensions, transition softness and energy of the impact on all 4 edges individually. And at last, picture borders permits you not solely to decide on one among 14 predefined border varieties, but additionally how thick the border is and the way far it extends into the picture. You too can alter 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 will let you rapidly toggle between earlier than and after views, view the picture with an adjustable side-by-side or beneath/over break up, or see each earlier than and after photographs collectively.

Earlier than-and-after comparisons are fast and simple

View controls will be discovered on the prime of the display screen, and I discovered the comparability controls particularly to be somewhat 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 wherever throughout the picture. And at last, the rightmost button provides you both side-by-side or beneath/over views of the total picture.

The histogram device 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 device is surprisingly useful, too

One final operate I discovered to be significantly useful was Silver Efex Professional 3’s histogram device, which sits beneath the loupe on the prime of the precise pane. It not solely provides you entry to RGB, pink, inexperienced, blue or luminance graphs of your picture, but additionally splits it into ten completely different luminance ranges.

For any of the ten, you possibly can 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 authentic 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 additionally within the imaging software program market. Gone are the times when a plugin of its ilk may command the heady value of $200. As of late you should buy the complete eight-plugin Nik Assortment for a way more affordable $150, however sadly you possibly can’t decide and select which of these plugins you need to save much more.

In its overhauled kind Silver Efex Professional 3 is way 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 somewhat awkwardly alongside earlier ones, as soon as we bought used to the variations between movie varieties vs. movie grain and international 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 adequate 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. Closing renders can take maybe 20-30 seconds, which once more does not really feel unduly gradual.

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

When 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 device and improved U-Level know-how to be huge enhancements. And in case you’re not already a Nik Assortment person however desire a stable plugin that may ship realistically film-like black and white photographs, we would positively suggest giving the trial model a spin.

What we like:

  • Yields convincingly film-like outcomes
  • Presets get inexperienced persons up and operating rapidly
  • Making and sharing customized presets is straightforward
  • Each international and native changes
  • A great deal of controls to fine-tune the look you are after
  • ClearView device is sort of efficient at correcting haze
  • New person interface is cleaner and fewer distracting
  • Extra inexpensive as a set element than its predecessors had been bought individually

What we do not:

  • Can not be bought individually
  • No Uncooked help when used standalone
  • Presets really feel somewhat disorganized
  • Movie varieties vs. movie grain instruments are unnecessarily complicated
  • Ditto the differing international 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 closing outcome.


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