Editing Friday; Silver Efex 2 Part 2

In part one of editing Friday, I went through Silver Efex’s filter options and what they do. In part 2 I am going to share with you my workflow for creating a digital Black and White image with Silver Efex. Workflows to me are like recipes, there are many different paths and ways of doing things to get to the finished image and in the end it is all down to taste.


Before I even get to Silver Efex I first process raw files in Adobe Camera Raw. I Start here so I can balance the tones of the image, remove any dust, implement capture sharpening and remove noise, as well as making lens corrections. Normally when I know I am going to create a black and white image I will raise the saturation higher than if I am editing a colour image. This is so all the colours are strong for when they are converted to black and white.


Today’s image was recently shot in a park filled with people playing chess. This image was taken with a shallow depth of field to capture the chess design of the table in the foreground and the chess players out of focus in the back ground. Unfortunately for me as I was shooting this image two girls walked into the frame on the right. Something I didn’t notice at the time.


Using the patch tool on a new layer and setting the tool to patch – content aware, I was able to seamlessly remove the girls from the image and add some balance to the composition. I grouped my raw image still as a smart object and my new layer into a new smart object.

The reason I use smart objects is so I can make filter adjustments that I can go back to and adjust at a later date. This non-destructive type of editing can really save time later if you have to go back and make some minor changes.


Now I enter Silver Efex 2. I usually start from a preset and then make my adjustments from there. I normally have an idea of a look or feel that I am wanting in my image and the preset gallery is a good place to search it out what I want.

What I am looking for with this image is medium contrast with detail in the foreground slightly lighter than the background, but the background not being so dark that I can’t make out details in the out of focus areas.


The Wet Rocks preset is what I have chosen for my image. I hide the presets menu so I have a larger image to work with. I move to my filter menu and go straight to film types. The reason I go here first is so I can make adjustments to the conversion process before I start playing around the brightness and contrast.


I adjusted the sensitivity slightly but keeping the positions of the sliders close to the preset settings so it didn’t change the mood of the image too much. I darkened the yellows in turn darkening the out of focus trees and brightened the greens to create a bit of natural contrast between the tones. I reduced the grain in the image, for me I don’t think it is necessary to have strong grain in this image. I also added a slight S curve. I have noticed in the histogram I have clipped the highlights so I will need to pay some attention to that later.

Now I go to the global adjustments.


I actually darkened the image with the brightness slider and then using the more refined options increased the brightness in the shadows while darkening the midtones and the highlights, I did raise the dynamic brightness to bring a little bit more light into the image.

The preset set contrast to 40 which was fine with me; I did though harden the contrast using soft contrast and amplified the blacks.

With structure I only adjusted the overall structure slightly with fine structure being where I wanted to make most of the adjustments. This was due to wanting the small stones that make up the table to really to pop and I wanted to do this delicately. I also raised the structure in the shadows and the midtones to bring out more blurred detail in the background.


I created two sets of control points, one on the out of focus men in the centre of the image. The adjustments I made here was to try and separate the area more from the blurred background but not define the area too much as it is purposely out of focus.  The second set was placed in the foreground to darken the area and to lead the viewer’s eye up the image.

I didn’t use a colour filter and the finishing adjustment I made was burning in the top and the left side of the image to have all sides with similar tones.


Now I am back in Photoshop. I make adjustments to reduce the noise and sharpen the image.


The final image does look quite different from the original neutral image that was converted in Silver Efex at first. I like the strength of the image, with strong black and white tones yet delicateness in the background where you can make out the shape of the tree trunks areas of leaves and buildings behind. Adding the control point to the men in the centre has helped to separate them slightly from the trees so they are not lost there. The detail in the table is nice especially in the black squares of the chess board.

What do you think of the image? Do you ever use Silver Efex? Has this tempted you to try it out? Or any other comments, feel free to let me know by using the comment box below.

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