If you’ve spent any time trying to simulate the look of monochrome (aka black-and-white) photography, the first thing you realize is that it’s not a simple matter of taking a color image and desaturating it. There’s a lot more going on.

Producing a convincing black-and-white image requires (at least to my mind) simulating the film and the paper used to print it. Doing this manually would demand an enormous amount of time and experimentation.

I’ve been using NIK Collection’s Silver Efex to convert my images for about ten years. It’s a PS/LR plugin that was initially created by a German developer and, later, acquired by Google. When Google owned it, they gave it away for free; They required you to register it and use a license key, but it was no cost. Google ultimately sold the app to a company called DXO, who has since improved it and now charges for it.

As of 2023, the Google-era plugin still works flawlessly and I haven’t found a compelling reason to upgrade to the paid DXO version.

I consider NIK’s Silver Efex, and its sister app Color Efex, absolutely indispensable to my post-processing workflow.

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Nik Collection Silver Efex is a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom that allows users to create black-and-white images. It includes a variety of tools and filters that can be used to control the look and feel of an image, including contrast, grain, and tonality. Silver Efex can be used to create black-and-white images from both color and black-and-white photographs.

Some of its key features are:

  • A wide range of black-and-white film simulations:
    Silver Efex includes over 20 black and white film simulations, which can be used to recreate the look and feel of classic films such as Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford Delta 100, and Fuji Neopan.
  • Precise control over contrast, grain, and tonality:
    Silver Efex gives users precise control over the contrast, grain, and tonality of their images. This allows users to create black and white images that are both visually appealing and technically accurate.
  • A variety of creative filters:
    Silver Efex includes a variety of creative filters that can be used to add a unique look and feel to an image. These filters can be used to create images with a vintage, cinematic, or abstract look.
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For more examples, check out the Monochrome section of my portfolio. All but a few of the photos there were processed with Silver Efex.