I sense a bit of a resurgence in interest in black and white photography. This is probably at least in part due to the introduction of Nik Silver Efex 2 software, a package that makes black & white conversion so very easy. My rather unscientific observations of black and white images presented in competitions, on Facebook and posted to various photo sharing and photo contest websites have led me to the conclusion that many photographers are opting for a much more standard, traditional, fine art look and not really exploring some of the non-traditional, maybe more artsy, definitely more “out there” looks that are available through the use of Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 presets. And that’s fine. There’s nothing at all wrong with the classic black and white photograph. I strive for that look often myself. But I am here to suggest that there is also a lot to be gained from stretching the envelope, working with some of the more “artsy”, more “out there” presets as a way to expand your photographic horizons and create images with a more unique look.
Now I know I have said this before and it does bear repeating. I could probably count on one hand and have fingers left over the number of times I have clicked a preset then clicked save and been done. Almost every time I start with a preset, I make adjustments… a little more brightness, a little less contrast, maybe boost the blacks a bit, back off on the whites, a little more sharpening and so one. Those sliders are there to be used. Use them. Make adjustments. Come up with a look you like. Create your own preset. You can do that with Silver Efex Pro 2.
The following three images were all converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 using what I consider several of the “more creative”, definitely more non-traditional presets available in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
The first image is entitled “Prison Reflections: Looking Down and Seeing Up”. I converted this image to black and white using a “Film Noir” preset in SIlver Efex Pro 2 then made some adjustments. The dark, almost somber, very moody look just felt right for an image capturing the refection of the upper level cell blocks in a puddle left by the rain pouring through the leaky roof.
The second image is one I simply call “Marina” and I converted it to black and white using a Silver Efex Pro preset called “Triste”. Now triste is an archaic word for sad and I have looked as some work described as triste and it definitely conveys a certain sadness in the subject and composition. I don’t necessarily view a marina full of saiboats as sad but I do feel that this look does convey the mood of marina at dawn before the sailors arrive and the sails are unfurled.
And this third image, which I have entitled “Black White Yellow Violet” was converted to black and white using a Silver Efex Pro 2 “Low Key” preset after which I made some fine tuning adjustment. I am not big on black and white flowers since I almost always feel that color is such a critical component of my experience of the flowers. But in this case, I wanted to focus on and express the shape and texture of this flower bud.
I hope that you have enjoyed this brief trip through my use of a just a few of the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 presets – a few of the more creative, artsy presets available as starting points for you photo processing. Please let me know what you think.