Silver Efex Pro

Isabella’s World

Isabella's Nap. Hudson, Florida, 2017
Isabella’s Nap. Hudson, Florida, 2017


I recently spent a few days in Florida and had a nice visit with my nephew, his wife, and their one-year-old baby, Isabella (above).

Here are some of my work with their hands…

(My only tools were a hand-held pocket camera, the Sony RX100iv, a black T-shirt, and natural light. Post-processing was through Photoshop and the Silver Efex Pro plugin.)


Heather and Joshua. Hudson, Florida, 2017
Heather and Joshua. Hudson, Florida, 2017


Joshua's Medals. Hudson, Florida, 2017
Joshua’s Medals. Hudson, Florida, 2017


Isabella and Joshua. Hudson, Florida, 2017
Isabella and Joshua. Hudson, Florida, 2017

B&W Filter Effects

Humboldt and Crestone Pano. From Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado, 2015
Humboldt and Crestone Pano. From Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado, 2015

The above you will recognize as a B&W version of the main image of the previous post.

I think I like it better than the color original…I think, anyway.

In film days, I sometimes used filters to play with the contrast in landscape photography, especially for the sky. A yellow filter would darken a blue sky somewhat and a red filter would darken it considerably–the only two filters I ever used with any regularity. The darker sky would make the clouds pop out a bit more thus adding some depth to the photograph.

These digital days, the filters are still around but, instead of screwing them on to the camera lens, you’ll find them in the post-processing software–such as Nik/Google Silver Efex Pro–and you add in the effect after the fact. In the above case, I used a red filter in Silver Efex with the slider all the way to the right.

Some other points/ideas about filters…

–Keep in mind that they let through their own color but block other colors to some degree–especially their complementary colors.

–To lighten a color, use the same color filter. To darken a color the most, use the complementary color filter.

–Each color of filter could be purchased in different strengths–today, just adjust the slider in post!

–RED. Helps cut haze and fog, and will increase contrast and darken skies. Good for ocean scenes and architecture as well. Some think they can be too harsh and can even lend a sort of IR effect to some photos. This may or may not be the effect you are after.

–ORANGE. Perhaps a good option for general use as it is not as harsh as a red filter. Will hide some skin blemishes.

–YELLOW. More subtle yet than red or orange and can give nice flesh tones. Try it also with plants, forest or foliage to separate out the greens.

–GREEN. Often used in flower photography to separate the colorful flowers from the green leaves. It will lighten the sky, too, which may not be what you want.

–BLUE. Tends to darken most colors, reduce contrast, and increase any haze effect that might be present.

Varying brightness, contrast and structure for depth

Walden Ponds, Winter Trees. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Walden Ponds, Winter Trees. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

I’m not yet as successful as I would like to be, but I am trying to work on creating more depth in my images. One way of doing this is to vary the brightness, contrast and structure/clarity (and other things) in selected areas of the landscape. If done correctly and effectively this can give the photograph more of a layered effect and you can make your primary subject(s) stand out a bit more from the secondary and tertiary subjects. The idea is to be subtle enough so that the viewer doesn’t consciously realize their eyes are being guided by you through the picture.I have found Nik/Google Silver Efex Pro to be a very effective tool for doing this, specifically their neat little doohickeys called “Control Points”. You can set one to change the previously-mentioned variables (and more) in a certain area. Just as important, you can also set others to “anchor” these variables in place if you don’t want them to change. Don’t be afraid to use ten, twenty, thirty or more control points to get the effect you want. I find it to be a lot easier than using multiple layers in Photoshop.

The images in today’s post are examples of some of my practice work to this end. Can you detect what areas I might have darkened? Lightened? Added contrast? Do I point you effectively to the primary subject?

Obviously, this is a journey. You and I will never get to where we want to be with this…but we can always improve, and that is the point. Relentless forward motion at all times!

Sawhill Ponds, Winter Trees #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sawhill Ponds, Winter Trees #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Walden Ponds, Winter Abstract. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Walden Ponds, Winter Abstract. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

The Importance of Post-Processing

Probably the most important thing a photographer can have is a vision of what a final image should look like. This is what Ansel Adams called “pre-visualization” and it is ten times more important than what kind of camera you have. Great vision = great art, regardless of the tool used.

One, oft-neglected, area of bringing that vision into the final print is post-processing–what you do with that image on your memory card before you print or post it. In the old days, this post-processing took place in the darkroom with adjustments to developing time with the negative, then many adjustments during the actual printing process. If you think there was no manipulation being done to images before the digital days you would be quite wrong–a subject maybe I’ll delve into more deeply in the future with some great historical examples.

Below, I have posted two versions of the same image. It is an image called “Moonset Beside Longs Peak” from a previous post.

Moonset Beside Longs Peak. Before and After.
Moonset Beside Longs Peak. Before and After.

On the left is the original file as it came from the camera. On the right is the image after I post-processed it. I took the original RAW file, made a few slight adjustments in Lightroom (mostly sharpening, contrast), then converted it to monochrome with a Nik plug-in called Silver Efex Pro (using a preset which I adjusted slightly), and finally made some further minor adjustments in Photoshop (bumping up the contrast a bit more, for example). The final image is much closer to my vision than what initially showed up on my LCD screen after I pressed the shutter.

Is the image an exact replication of reality? No, but it does reflect my vision and that was my goal–and the post-processing helped me get there.