Have you heard of a photo editing software called Nik Silver Efex Pro 2? I heard of it from time to time but never paid much attention to it until recently the Leica M Monochrom includes the Adobe Lightroom and the Nik Silver Efex Pro as bundled software applications.
Almost all cameras come with a proprietary software application to handle its own RAW files, such as the Digital Photo Professional (DPP) of the Canon cameras and the Capture NX of the Nikon cameras. But I seldom use it after using Adobe Lightroom. Of course to start with nothing, I think this is quite a good solution because the proprietary software is freeware that helps enhancing your digital workflow. My past experience with the Canon DPP was very pleasant and it is still a very comprehensive workflow solution in additional to other photo enhancement applications such as Adobe Photoshop. Frankly speaking, it has met the targets of some of the demanding customers. In the past I did think the proprietary software handled the image quality better. Perhaps it was a tale, never verified.
With the discovery of Adobe Lightroom, I can use one single software application to handle multiple formats of RAW files with constant updates. As I mention several times before, the latest Adobe Lightroom 4 has made life of the most of the photographers easier. I use it to do a bit of touching to the images and found the presets are nice starting points for post processing.
So why Nik Silver Efex Pro 2? Remember in the movie We Bought a Zoo, when a father was asked why he bought a zoo, he simply answered “Why not?” Yes, why not trying something interesting if that may improve the image quality of the photographs. Besides, when it is bundled with the Leica M Monochrom, it may deserve a look.
Nik Software was established in 1995. Besides the Silver Efex for dealing with Black and White, they have the Sharpener Pro to sharpen images, the HDR Efex Pro to create picture in high dynamic range, the Dfine to reduce noise and the Viveza to create stunning light control effects. I have not tried all of them so cannot say too much. You can get an academic collection of all the above applications except HDR Pro (in Australia, but why?) at a discounted price. Nik Software also has an app called SNAPSEED on all desktop and mobile platforms for handling images.
Installing the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to enable working in Adobe Lightroom 4 as external editor is straightforward (there is a version working with Adobe Photoshop). I downloaded a 15-day trial version and the installation process is fast. It is a full version without any restrictions. So you can fully test all the functions.
When you run Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to edit a Raw file, it will convert the original file to a TIFF format copy to ensure the original RAW file is untouched. Like the Adobe Lightroom, the presets of the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 work nicely in the working environment. Its preview, although running slightly slow on my 3-year-old iMac, displays some wonderful results in the Style Browser Window. From then on you can fine tune the results on the Enhancement Control areas on the right side. Indeed, there are two coolest features such as the Color Filter and the Film Types sections. The Color Filter section can let you apply and see the results instantly. The Film Types section simulates 18 black and white film types. Combined with the Tonality control by setting the control point, you can fine tone the overall tone level. I particular like the Zoom System Map located at the bottom right with 11 scales from 0 to 10 which is highly effective to understand the tonal relationship of the entire image.
There are many advanced adjustment skills that you can read and learn on the website of Nik software. My simple trial has resulted in this featured image. You can see a better view of it on my 500px portfolio.