B&W Conversion using Silver Efex Pro with the M9

I was sitting her tonight after a long day of packing boxes and I started to fiddle with some Leica M9 files. YES, LEICA M9! My old buddy! After shooting film pretty much exclusively over the past couple of months I feel my eyes are now so used to the look of film that when I see the clean and smooth files from the M9 I get a little startled. Where is the grain? Where are the scratches? Ha ha…

A friend once told me ย that if you get frustrated with digital (which I was getting frustrated) shoot ONLY film for a month or two. When you go back to digital you will appreciate it more. This is actually true. See, I love film and I love digital. Two different animals. But when you ONLY shoot film for a while and then go back to digital you do in fact appreciate it more for what it brings to the table. It’s so cool to be able to have both mediums available. Film is classic. Digital is the future. Film is enjoying a little resurgence right now which is AWESOME, but any way you look at it, digital is here to stay and will remain the way to shoot for the majority of photographers.

BACK TO THE M9! But I Like The Look Of Film!

Many of you do not know this but I have actually been WITHOUT an M9 for the last 8-9 weeks! I sold my black to get a grey one and when I went to buy the Grey it was already gone because I waited too long. So I placed an order for one expecting to have one within 2-3 weeks but 8 weeks later and nothing! So I have been enjoying my time with film and having a blast with it, but you guys already knew that ๐Ÿ™‚ BTW, Adorama is accepting pre-orders for the M9 and they do NOT charge until they ship.

So I have been waiting….waiting…and am still waiting. I have a feeling it will be any day now though. I hope so as I have a new lens on the way from Leica for review, and I really need that M9 ๐Ÿ™‚ So in the meantime I have been messing with some old M9 files and wondering if I could get close to the look of film if I really tried.

I started messing with the AWESOME Silver Efex Pro plug in for photoshop that most of you here know and love as well. For those that do not, Silver Efex Pro is a black and white conversion tool that allows you to convert your color digital images to black and white, and it does a VERY good job of it. There are film filters to mimic some of the great films of the past and present like Tri-X, Delta 100, etc. It is sold as a Photoshop plug in or Aperture plug in. I use both but prefer the Photoshop plug in because it is faster. For digital, it’s the #1 B&W conversion software on the market. I have tried the rest, but believe me, this is the best!

For those who missed it, I did a Silver Efex Pro video a while ago HERE.

So now that my eyes have been trained to the look of film, how close can an M9 get to ISO 400 speed B&W film? Can it get close to the classic looks of something like Tri-X?ย Well, I already know that you can not replicate it exactly. You can get close, but digital just doesn’t have that look of film. Is that a bad thing? NO! Technically digital is much better, but artistically I think film speaks to the soul more.

With that said, I had some fun tweaking these in Silver Efex Pro. All of these were shot with the Leica M9…Click on any image for a larger view.

Still looks a bit smooth when looking at this resized version, but click on it for an 1800 pixel wide version. I converted the color to B&W using my own settinsg in SIlver Efex Pro. I then added a selenium filter and did some dodging throughout. This one is OK, but I know I can do better.

Let’s see if we can get closer…I think we can.

and the color version so you can see the “before” version…

Basically I converted the image using the “full spectrum” preset, then changed the film stock to Kodak Plus X 125 film. That was it. It does indeed get pretty close to a B&W film look. I used the same presets on this image but also added some toning with the Selenium tone, which is under “STYLIZING” and the it is #13 under “TONING”.

So now that my eye has been focused on the look of film for two months I feel it has improved my Silver Efex Pro skills to where I can get REALLY close to the look of high speed B&W film. It’s still not the same but it’s close!

Here is one more before and after in a smaller size…

I plan on experimenting more with this but so far I like what I see ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you use Silver Efex? if so, post an image below in the comments that WAS color, but converted to B&W. To add an image to the comments be sure and click on the “add image to comments” and then put in a URL of the actual image. Not the URL of a page with an image, but a URL of an image. For example, if you are on a flickr page looking at your image, right click the image and open the image in a new window or tab. Then, the URL in that browser tan or window is the URL to your image!

Thanks for reading, just sharing my love for Silver Efex Pro. If you do not have it, download the demo here. Or you can BUY IT. Well worth the price.


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  1. With some trepidation, a v. amateurish experiment as I begin to learn my way around Silver Efex.[img]file:///Users/jvallen/Desktop/Camera/More-pics.2/pages/blue-girder.htm[/img]

  2. things happen accidentally for me. my friend was wearing a bright read shirt, and it was taken in my dim kitchen, and my camera had no idea what to do with it, but i think this picture came out great (it looked like crap in color). [img]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4023/4650767484_fbbe365f0a_b.jpg[/img]

  3. Brian, you’re really out of line and the level of your photos don’t back up your arrogance. “my photos have more meaning than all your fire hydrant and hole-in-fence pictures.” Really? Really???? Your first shot is indecisive as to what or who you’re trying to convey and your second is also quintessentially boring; “these are my friends.” Are these your best shots? The ones that make your point? How sad. Grow up, dude.

  4. @Scott

    I used to shoot “stuff” and I know people love and adore stuff. Whenever I shoot my FE, I feel stupid to just shoot stuff. When I shoot my D300s and MB-D10 with my 50mm 1.8D I adore shooting everything. From portraits to the can of diet dr. pepper next to me. Steve quoted, (as paraphrase) there are at least 10 good photos where you’re standing. You just have to find it.

    Just to be fair I did this in Silver Efex:


    Taken IN CLASS. hah I was in the back of the room and the sub was chillin so I wipped out my Nikon FE and started snapping. everyone was all, wtf! hah

    I linked my new flickr account so if you all want to critique, you may.

    Happy Shooting!(:

  5. I love Silver Efex Pro. Much quicker than manually converting in PS, and I think the results are as good as anything I ever got by hand. I use similar settings to what Steve uses, though I usually use film settings of the film that I used to use back when I shot film.

    i’m not much of a photographer, but i like the way the Silver Efex conversions look.


  6. Wow, there are some AMAZING images in here!

    I love Silver Efex Pro! Here are a couple of mine.




  7. Woo-hoo… spicy!!
    But seriously guys, be nice… all that “stuff” is, in the main, irrellevant… if amusing, to a point.

    The important thing, to me, is that people are out there taking photographs and learning how to better do what THEY want with their photography… in providing a forum for us to interact and correspond Steve facilitates that growth in a not insignificant way.

    There are some really interesting photos in this post, a number of which I have found genuinely inspiring… so thanks for sharing.

    Steve, you’ve really hit the spot with this one… it must surely be one of your most “successful” posts from an audience participation / reaction perspective.

    Nice one!!

  8. Here is a Silver Efex treatment of an image I took this morning (Leica M9 + Summilux 50 asph). Technically not perfect but it was about catching the moment and it was gone in a heartbeat (kids are fast). A pretty little girl dressed as from another time and running through a beautiful garden I was visiting.


  9. Hi Steve,

    I tried Silver Effex Pro, quite impressive! I liked to do a lot of things in just one filter, however all those things not always fit together. From my POV adding grain should be done at the very last step, after sizing and output sharpening, toning works wonderful with the B&W settings in Epson Printer driver. I decided to stay with my step by step photoshop workflow.



  10. Hi Steve,

    I love B/W and SEP seems to be the best program for conversion of digital images to B/W.
    I also really like the good work that you have done for Leica enthusiasts (I hope I spelled that correctly…) in lens testing and other reviews.

    I have to ask; why did choose to go from the black M9 to the grey M9?

    Best regards
    Magnus A from Sweden

  11. @ Scotty: Lovely captures. The 3rd is pure magic!

    @ Mike: Lovely capture and processing of the hood/biogon shots. WOW!

    @Daniel. I love your use of light and dark to capture the sunburst in its grandeur

    @Brian: Keep posting pics! It’ll all shake out for the better. Maybe best for the harsher discussions to be taken offline…

    @J: Thanks! Loving all of the images of this thread. Some really fine work here….the 2nd shot was taken at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA

  12. Brian,

    If you think a photo of a fire hydrant can’t be art, you might want to look up the work of William Eggleston.

    In fact, when you’re old enough to go to college, you should take a class on the history of photography, so at least you won’t sound ignorant when you insult other people’s work.

    By the way, just using the word “d-bag” on someone else’s site is disrespectful and reason enough for you to be banned. Your mom and dad should have raised you better.

  13. Personally I enjoyed quite a bit a couple of the fire hydrant photos I’ve seen in this site! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think the important thing is to remember that each person has his or her preference in the subject matter of his or her photography — whether they are fire hydrants or immortalizing the beautiful smile of a friend. A $9000 camera is not made to take photos of any particular subject matter. It is simply made to take photos – just like a $5 disposable camera.


  14. @Brian,

    The photograph that has fetched the highest selling price at auction does not have any people in it at all. Andreas Gursky’s “99 Cent II Diptychon” sold for $3.3 million and it is nothing more than grocery store aisles:


    There are thousands of other photographs of inanimate objects that are highly sought after and are quite famous, including William Eggleston’s Red Ceiling photograph:


    Neither are art by your definition. Yet very serious, wealthy collectors, gallery owners, and museums would disagree.

    Oh, and Gursky uses software to enhance his photos. Perhaps collectors around the world need to be educated as to your point of view? I’m sure they’ll be quite embarrassed once they find out that they paid for snapshots and not art.

  15. Ok so I’m not sure if anyone remembers my question from the first post in comments, but next to having a history timeline like in Lightroom, I think I’ve found the next best solution to being able to keep a log of what you’ve done in SEP on a photo.

    This only works when using it as a plug-in to Photoshop, however, I don’t see a way to do it like this in Lightroom, which is a bummer. If anyone can figure out how, that’d be awesome.

    In Photoshop, before you launch SEP from the Filter menu, right-click your layer (if you’ve used layer adjustments and the like, make a top-most layer that flattens/incorporates all adjustments as needed, but still has the other layers below for adjustments as necessary) and choose “Convert to Smart Object”. Now run SEP from the Filters menu. It’ll give you a warning about it detecting the smart object and acting as a smart filter, which we want. Do your adjustments and click OK. When you save the image, keep it as a PSD or TIFF or other format that keeps the layers. Now find the “Silver Efex Pro” layer adjustment in the layers palette and double click it. You’ll get the same smart filter warning and when SEP opens, you’ll see all your control points loaded as you left them before. Now you can tweak individual adjustments where you left off and see what you did before!

    And for good measure, here’s a snapshot from today when I was out and about with the M8, edited in SEP while discovering the method above:


  16. Scotty. The third one is fantastic! That photo really evokes something from me. I think it’s because I cant see the people under the baskets and it makes my mind wander. Thanks for sharing

  17. Scotty, I agree about HDR. Personally I lean much more towards liking HDR when it just lifts the shadows enough to make the scene more visible yet still seemingly natural, rather than making the super saturated/unrealistic views. Granted many of those can look amazing in their own right. HDR B&W photos are an interesting beast as well. You get the lifted shadows, but since there’s no color, you don’t see the super saturation. I’ve seen one before that I found simply amazing both as art and a photograph, I wish I could recall where to find it to link here.

  18. Thanks, Daniel….no, none of those three were HDR photos….just selective dodging and burning…although I have been experimenting with HDR quite a bit, I am in the same place as most on this thread about HDR….it can look very illustrative (cartoonish), and that does bother me unless I am going for that “painterly” effect…to me, HDR starts moving a photograph more towards “art” than a true photograph…know what I mean? Hence the debate continues about HDR….I lie on both sides of the argument…

  19. @Daniel H.
    I’m done here. I don’t need “creative criticism” from a d-bag who thinks he knows everything about photography. I already told you to stop, and I’m not trolling. You just keep making pointless comebacks at me and it’s annoying. Instead of talking to me, go outside and take some photos.

  20. Thanks, Brian…..I agree with Ashwin…..your photographs are outstanding! I hope you don’t leave Steve’s site and even if you have decided to go back to film (perfectly fine), I hope you can also embrace the fantastic tools we have today and use them with Photoshop…..no hard feelings.



  21. @Scotty – Love that 3rd shot, was that HDR or just selective dodging/burning? Really like the surreal look that achieves.

    @Brian – I thought we could have a mature discussion about the differences in opinions but I see that’s not possible with you. You’ve shown your own high level of immaturity in your last response so I’m done dealing with you, you’re just a troll. I didn’t attack you at all, and instead of having a reasonable discussion you resort to childish insults. I will no longer be wasting my time on you.

  22. Scotty, I respect your photography. I was just trying to get a point across.

    Everyone, stop bashing me… I just said stupid stuff… I’m not a perfect robot:/


  23. I love how you make it your holy ability to correct me in every way possible by writing pointless paragraphs…

    I’m only here to enjoy photography. Don’t hate. It’s rude. And don’t even think about writing about that. My very first comment wasn’t supposed to be rude in the first place, just an opinion. If you don’t like my style don’t pay attention. You’re acting like a high school girl starting drama…

    We’re all mature here. So please, just stop.

  24. Brian,

    These posts were supposed to be about Silver Effex Pro, not about capturing “the moment”… It is ok if you don’t want to use the tools that are available today, it is certainly your choice. Ansel Adams used his tools in the darkroom better than anyone else in his time that separated his prints and work from the norm. Today we have digital tools, and Nik’s filters are some of the best out there, ….you really think talking about filters, Photoshop, HDR, cameras, lenses, film or whatever takes away from our passion for photography?

    Here are a couple more using Nik’s Filters….not fire hydrants….




  25. @Brian
    Apologies for how my initial response to you may have sounded, but I felt that your post was aimed at bashing everyone here for having their own relationship with photography that disagrees with yours. Even in your follow up response you’re saying that *you* don’t believe it’s worth having a $9,000 camera just to shoot a photo of a mundane object or scene that lacks what you perceive to be “interesting” or “photographically relevant” or whatever. You shoot what you want to shoot with whatever equipment and post processing you want, so let others do what they want without feeling attacked for doing so. And once again, this post was asking for examples of photos converted with Silver Efex Pro, not your best/most creative shot ever. You just posted what you consider to be a “bland” photo that you took because you were bored. Others do the same thing, and aren’t always shooting amazing photos each and every time.

    In regards to your responses to my comments about your photos- Like I said, the first one *to me* has no focus. You set out to capture “the moment” and the laughter. It has a sentimental value to you because seeing it invokes what you experienced there, but as an outsider, it does nothing for me. Again, that’s just me, I’m not trying to “hate” on your photo in any way, just trying to get my point across that we all have different tastes. You think your photos are good because of what they captured, others have similar personal opinions. There’s nothing wrong with either.
    As for the second, you just agreed with me that it’s soft. The “blurred face” as a result of the wide aperture is what makes it soft. (Blur = soft) I don’t know about other people being obsessed with megapixels and sharpness, but I personally find a sharp photograph drastically more appealing than one that isn’t so sharp. This doesn’t make me weird or judgmental, it’s just what my taste tends towards, and it’s what I strive for in my own photography. If the sharpness of that photo is acceptable to you and others, that’s great.

    That’s all I really have to say on the matter, as this has already hijacked the topic of this post enough. Simply put- you came in here with a negative attitude towards people for shooting what *you* find boring and then condemned people for not appreciating photography in the same way as you. If that was not your intention, then take my comments with a grain of salt, but let it show you that some others took what you said very negatively.

    Again I apologize if I did offend you as a result of my response, but it seems the point needs to be made as your follow up still showed that you seem to still be looking down on people. If you’re not, then perhaps a different method of getting your point across is needed.
    Also biggest apologies to Steve for having the comments littered with this sort of stuff. I’ve followed this site for a long time and feel that he and I share a very similar appreciation for photography for the sake of photography, and when I see someone bashing others for not being “real photography enthusiasts” simply for having different likes/dislikes, I’m going to say something.

  26. I love Nik Silver Efex (thanks for turning me on to it, Steve)! Here’s one of my faves:


  27. Ashwin,

    Both shots absolutely terrific. Where is the second one? Agree with your response to Brian–thought his photos were v. fine, but so are the others in this thread.

  28. David Gleason: esp. liked your second shot, which seems to me to have a classic balance of clutter and composition. Hope to be able to emulate your success with my own Silver Efex Pro, which I’m eagerly awaiting.

  29. photography is as much post procesing as it is capturing the moment, even the great ansel adams knew this, he would spend hours in his darkroom editing images that took a few minutes to get while others like Bresson would edit nothing, its all a matter of taste but they both look great. And that FE is probably awesome, I cant wait to get my FM2N in the mail on tuesday, I got some portra 160vc and bw400cn ready to go for it.

  30. Come on guys, don’t hate:/

    Rant mode activated.

    I never said all my stuff was done in camera. I edit all my stuff in photoshop. I added vignettes, choked colors, and added contrast. These were shot on Superia 400 x-tra which isn’t at all b&w. The first photo has no subject. It’s the moment of something important happening, laughter. The page width is too short to show the rest of the scene. And the second photo, in no way, is soft. Stefan’s face is blurred because I made it like that with a fast lens and the reason the photo has so much contrast is to put emphasis on the faces. If I wanted less contrast, I’d have done that. I have no idea how you could possibly think that photo is soft. Check detail in the hair. It’s shot with film, resized to 1000 wide and sharpened 150/.3/3 using Unsharpen Mask. Everyone on these sites care about sharpness and megapixels. Why?

    I actually like Steve’s site. His M9 article was very inspiring. And I don’t “troll” it. I just don’t believe it’s worth having a $9000 camera and shooting a picture of some average hole in the fence and edit it to the extremes to make it “seem” more interesting. That’s photography my friend does. She uses a coolpix or whatever.

    Point is, we’re all mature photographers here. We all have different tastes. I just wanted to show what I could do without an expensive plug-in. I bought my FE off ebay for $129 and had a copy of photoshop 7.0 lying around. I take things simple.

    Rant mode deavtivated.

    And yes, the photo of the little girl on the scooter is the best I’ve seen today. I agree.

    Okay critique the following if you think your photography is so up to par. I shot this bored at a party waiting for a pick up.


    It’s the blandest photo I could find in my library. I edited the heck out of it in photoshop.

  31. Here are some pre and post shots by me… (before and after Nik Silver Efex)



    Part 2


  32. Brian, your words are inflammatory in a negative way…on the other hand, your pictures are terrific. I see quite a few lovely pics here, none of fire hydrants, by the way, so I am not sure where you are evening getting these thoughts from. If you have lost faith in this site, I wonder whether you may be off base in your interest in photography, as this site is really about the passion of photography. If you shoot with Nikon, great! If it’s Leica, Canon, Olympus, or whatever, that’s great as well. Because you chose to shoot film does not invalidate the fun that others have in using Nik software as a tool to expand their creative vision. Your images are outstanding… your comments are not…

    To everyone else, I am loveing this thread and the otherwise positive and constructive feecdback.

  33. I dont know what your talking about Brian, I see a great combination of Architecture and street photography. Besides they are not posting these shots to pronounce there amazing artsistic abilities, simply to show there use of the software.

    Besides the image of the little girl in the rain posted by Richard is the best image ive seen all day.

  34. @Brian Quintos – I’m not sure what your problem is, but who are you to say that anything that anyone else here photographs is “irrelevant” ? Personally, I think your first photo has no subject matter and the 2nd one is too soft and the blacks bottom out too soon. I don’t care for those shots but that’s my opinion. And get this- what you’re talking about is art, and art is all about opinion.
    You’re trying to impose your overly purist attitude on us all by saying your shots are all done in-camera, while we use tools to help realize the shot we saw in our head. Even Ansel Adams used the dark room in this same matter, it’s nothing new.

    This post had nothing to do with our opinions on what makes good photographs, simply how we have used the software in question. If you don’t agree with using it, there’s no need to come in here bashing everyone for not believing how you believe. Please don’t troll Steve’s site with this sort of stuff, if you’re not getting what you want from it, no one is making you read it. Everyone else here loves what he does and want to enjoy photography the way we want to. You enjoy it how you want.

  35. How come it seems like everyone here is turning into gear-heads:/

    You all use Leica yet your photos are of irrelevant “fire hydrants.” How do you capture the emotion of a fire hydrant? You can’t. I use a Nikon FE and my photos have more meaning than all your fire hydrant and hole-in-fence pictures.

    I’m really starting to loose intrest in this site…

    Absolutely no SilverFX pro or whatever. Both shot on Nikon FE with 50mm ฦ’/1.8D.

    and yes, Nikon glass on a cheaper Nikon lens.


    and another.


    Man. I thought we all had a passion for photography. The basis of photography is capturing “the moment” not photoshop plug-ins and megapixels. Which is why I switched to film. It’s back-to-the-basics.

  36. @Armanius – Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll be sure to look up some pics/info on those and see if I can possibly rent them at some point. I’m pretty indecisive on what focal length I want next. I usually like standing further back from the scenes and think I’d want a longer one to get in closer, but then I find a lot of instances where I wish my view was wider. I still am very apprehensive about moving in close to subjects, especially people, but I think if/when I ever get over that, wider would be the way to go overall. I also prefer to keep my lenses under f/2 if I can (the lenses on my 5D Mark II are all f/2.8 or below).

  37. @Daniel H – I love my VC 35/1.4. If you are looking for a 2nd inexpensive lens, check out the VC 50/1.5. If you want wider and don’t mind slower, look for the VC 21/4. Both of them are in screwmount and are priced under $400 w/o the adapter. If you like small kits, you’ll love the size of the 21/4, smaller than the 35/1.4!!

  38. Love your site, Steve. And I couldn’t agree more on Silver Efex Pro. It’s a fabulous piece of software. Here are a couple of my images touched by it.

    Hope your new M9 arrives soon!




  39. Elaine, that was shot with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.4 MC Lens, as Steve has reviewed here:
    That’s currently the only lens I have for my M8, as I’ve only had the camera for a few months now (great deals on people dumping them to get an M9). I’ve really enjoyed it so far and it helps keep the whole camera compact to boot, which I love.

    Richard: I love that shot of the girl on her scooter in the water. I use the service Evernote for a variety of things, one of them being to keep a library of photos I find inspiring and otherwise really like. I found this shot a while back somewhere online and added it to my list but never could find a name for the photographer. Great to have finally found that out in such an unexpected place.

  40. Shot with ep-2 and Pentax/Cosmicar 25/1.4 cmount lens. Boston’s Institute if Contemporary Art.

  41. Hi everybody,

    All the images on my site (excluding some of the color in the gallery*) have been converted using Silver Efex Pro.

    It is simply the best plug-in for the job at the present. I do look forward to more film stocks and improvements in version 3.


    *Alien Skin Exposure [img]www.simonjohnsonphotography.com[/img]

  42. Oh crap – sorry – Steve’s Blog doesn’t do image conversion – just sticks a link in. :-s


  43. Silver EFEX pro is awesome. Though the film “Profiles” are not right for some films and deadly reminicsent of others.

    Here is a published shot in the 2009 1X book that was converted in EFEX. D80+ 85 1.4 @ F2.

    What a lens….

    I changed the filter to get the wellingtons (the boots for the non Queens English speakers) to pop. Added in “Definition” to the small in focus area to get the rain drop rings to pop and messed with highlights and shadows and contrast around the scene as needed. Probably 15 control points or so.


  44. Frankly, I like the HDR shot that Scotty took. It’s very dramatic. I know it’s an HDR shot, but that’s cool. I love the effect. That shot really makes HDR look wonderful, even if it’s surreal. I also like the original shot. It reminds me of something by Berenice Abbott. I love HDR, but I also have mixed feelings about it. I think if we look at it as something like painting, we can accept it, but if we think of it as being authentic as a photojournalist would take it, then we have issues. My fave HDR is when it’s exactly as my eyes saw it, but not too surreal. Some HDR shots look great and some look a bit milky to me. This one is great. Again, though, I also like the original. I think there is a place for both.

  45. The Flatiron photo really works for me in HDR. I agree with Max that a lot of HDR photos look cartoonish, but this one looks great IMO particularly in monochrome.

  46. I have mixed feelings about HDR, but I think in this case, the “normal” shot is forgettable, but the HDR version is striking. As has been said, all HDR is doing is increasing the range of exposure to closer to what our eyes can handle, so in many ways HDR is more “real” than simply taking the shot.

  47. Scotty,

    I think you did a very fine job there. I’m not a fan of HDR because it just looks unnatural, almost cartoonish in my opinion. The answer, of course, it would be to do HDR the old fashioned way and I would love to see that picture done that way. With film you would have exposed for the shadows and controlled the highlights in development. I see that with Delta 100, stand development in Rodinal and, with a little dodging and burning, it would turn into a classic. Again, your HDR shot is very fine but I can tell it is and, of course, beauty is always subjective in art. Some like this and some don’t…ces’t la vie ๐Ÿ™‚

    Best to you..


  48. No problem, and no offense taken.

    I only had an hour to take photos as my wife was waiting for me (as usual), and it was REALLY cold that day (taken the day before New Year’s Eve). The sky was an incredible blue with nice clouds which I think is pretty unusual for New York so I wanted to capture the sky as well as the building/street scene so I took a series of bracketed shots “just in case” I wanted to convert to an HDR later.

    I always appreciate critical thinking and criticism, and appreciate your comments…it is how we grow as photographers after all…



  49. Thanks Scotty. Firstly my aim is not to offend. More just a matter of opinion on the hdr technique. For this particular shot I feel you nailed the composition. But to me such a beautiful classic building with that out of world hdr look is a bit off.
    Maybe an alternative would have been to make the image at a different time, sun direction, even a different day?? Of course this might not be practical in your case. Some detailed dodge & burning could have brought some drama whilst retaining that classic look that I feel the building deserves.
    I must stress this is my personal opinion and I am really thankful to you for showing the comparison.

  50. oops….the comparison did not post….let me try again…


  51. Hi Tim,

    Here ya go….here is the same shot without the “illustration look” side by side with the HDR….I think it looks “dismal” in comparison, but I guess it is all a matter of taste….take it or leave it.

    This shot is actually the perfect candidate for HDR…it was late in the day, and the street lights were just coming on…deep, dark shadows on the street….if you exposed for the street (which I did here), the sky is blown out…if you expose for the sky, the street is black losing all detail….with HDR, the entire dynamic range can be exposed…


  52. I agree. Some truly beautiful shots above. In my opinion that hdr shot is pretty dismal. Would love to see that same shot without the illustration look. Would make an interesting comparison.

  53. David,

    Thanks for compliment on the flatiron shot…

    The photo was taken with the Nikon D300 (waiting for my M9) with the 18-200mm lens set at around 24mm. It was a hand-held 5-shot HDR processed first in Photomatix, and then touched up in Photoshop (color version), and then I used Nik’s Silver Effex to convert to a black n white. The 18-200mm lens is not the best in the world, but it is great for traveling….of course, once I get the M9 and some quality glass, I will use it for my travel camera and the Nikon will sit at home…



  54. Scotty,

    That Flatiron shot is amazing. And I’ve seen a lot of Flatiron shots.

    Can you go into detail for us geeks on the lens and PP techniques you used?

  55. By chance I put in an order for sliver-efex-pro from Adorama yesterday. All of the samples above sure make me think I’ve done the right thing. Lovely pictures! Ali: during a recent trip to NY I was trying for shots like yours at MOMA and on 6th Ave (I think), but yours are much better. Well done!

  56. Here’s one of my latest M9 shots converted to b&w using Silver Efex.


  57. Wow!! Those photos are amazing! I really love the image of the hand holding the thumb. I bet that shot could be blown up to a 20 x 30 and still look amazing. The M8 shot of the person wearing the cowboy hat has every quality that film would. It’s simply a wonderful image. It reminds me of the amazing rock photographer Anton Corbijn. He shoots Hasselblad and prints on lithe film. The nice thing about digital is that you truly have EVERY option at your disposal.

    Steve… I think you should run a contest where people post an image and we have to vote on weather it was film or digital. I bet the correct answer would be evenly split 50%. With the advances in the digital world, It is getting tougher and tougher to tell which is which.

    Any takers?

  58. thanks, Steve. Am such a big fan of this site, congratulations on the 2 million hits.

    Elaine – for me there is no question that Silver Efex Pro offers the most versatility and does the best job. The Nik software that offers color film effects is called Color Efex Pro. I think you can buy all the Nik software bundled together at some kind of discount.

  59. OMG! These photos in here are all so beautiful. Great job. I have a question. Which is better NIk Efex or Alien Skin? I tried a trial version of alien skin and it was nice, but I hear great things about Nik Efex. For some odd reason, when I tried to get a trial version of Nik, it said I already had it. I never used Nik Efex, so I don’t know what the glitch was about. I have nothing to compare now to alien skin. So, I’m counting on you guys to give me the run down. Also, do you get the whole package with the choice to pick color films too? Like Velvia or the like? I don’t know that I’d use it as much, but was wondering.

  60. @Steve Huff – Did the comments entering system change? It asked for a WordPress login instead of the usual type in your name plus email. Good thing I have a WordPress account for the blog that I meant to start, but which is still just sitting there.

    @everyone – Those are some really nice conversions! I’m sold on SEP! Can’t really justify getting it right now though especially when I just began shooting film! Maybe in a month or so. Or maybe in a week. Hehe.

  61. Hey Steve….I have been a big fan of your site since the M9 came out….keep up the great work!! My M9 is on the way, by the way….can’t wait!

    I have been using Silver Effex Pro for a long time…here is my most recent conversion….


  62. i had trouble attaching the images, so i’ll try again. these were shot with a M8 and processed with Silver Efex Pro. I use it as a Lightroom plugin – and sometimes enhance with effects in Nik Color Efex Pro Complete. The B&W conversion in Color Efex Pro is really limited compared to Silver Efex.



  63. Silver Efex Pro is one of my favorite tools. I shoot RAW+jpeg, so that I can quickly see whether I like an image in color or b&w (and because iPad needs the higher res jpegs if I want to load photos to it direct from memory cards). But if I like the photo in b&w, I’ll go to silver efex pro to do a “proper” conversion. It’s my most used tool, after basic Aperture adjustments. I love their control point tools![img]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4055/4597735019_d347e129a4_o.jpg[/img]

  64. Hey! I am a big fan of Silver Efex Pro. Now, it’s may belowed dark room on my desk.

  65. No mater what you guys do … Film is film. It gut soul, character, beautiful grain, wide tonal range and more depth.
    Will never give that up for the plastic lifeless look of digital files.

    Anyway, for those digital guys I want to recommend the plug in ‘alien skin exposure’. It simulates films and grain the best. Color and BW.

    But again … Long live Film !!!


  66. So I want to know if it’s really a worthy addition to lightroom? I already use Nik Effects complete with lightroom. Can I get a better result than converting to black and white in LR then adding grain in Nik effects complete? Anyone tried both processes?

  67. Oops, sorry II ๐Ÿ™‚

    The camera is a 5DMkII, the picture is shot with 105mm, f6.3, 1/400sec., ISO200.

  68. Oops, sorry, the two photos don’t fit on the page, 1/3 on the right is missing. What did I do wrong?

  69. I just started with Silver Efex Pro in combo with Lightroom for Mac. It is indeed difficult to remember the settings for a conversion, once you’re ready with the process, all the different steps are gone.

    Here is an example from a recent trip to my home town Duisburg, Germany, on the river Rhine. Sanftleben-Chemie, a chemical plant on the edge of the river. First the picture out of cam:


    And this is the b&w conversion in SEP, film type Ilford Delta 400 Pro


  70. I am still getting used to Silver Efex Pro. This picture was with an Olympus E-3 and the Panasonic (Leica) 25mm f1.4. I don’t have a M9 yet but this site is tempting me.

  71. Very interesting, these do have a very film-like quality about them. I notice that the digital Leica Ms tend to have a sort of “filmishness” look straight away (to me anyway) but the processing does help enhance that a lot.

    I love Silver Efex Pro, but have a question- do you know if there’s a way to save the steps you performed on an image, aside from manually writing down what you’ve done? I love how Lightroom keeps a persistent history, so months down the road I can look back to see what I did step by step. Below are a few shots I’ve edited in SEP, but even though it’s only been a few months, I can’t remember what I did!

    Shot with my Leica M8


    And not to steal the Leica thunder, but I like how this turned out from my 5D Mark II:

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