Being able to make photographs that are distinctively ‘you’ helps to set you apart from a very crowded world of images so it’s worthwhile thinking about how you want your images to look and not just to rely on what comes out of the camera or from basic ‘tweaks’ in Lightroom/Photoshop.
I currently favour making back and white conversions using film simulations, especially the grainy effect obtained from films of old, in particular Ilford’s HP5 400ASA black and white emulsions. One of the best software programs for converting to black and white is, in my view, Silver Efex Pro 2 from the Nik Collection which has now been acquired by DxO Software. I was really pleased that someone had taken on the maintenance and hopefully further development of the Nik Collection after Google acquired the software and then basically dumped it saying they were no longer supporting it. So pleased in fact I bought a copy even though the first release from DxO is little different from the last ‘free’ version put out by Google. I think it’s important to support smaller software businesses against the might and, let’s be honest, slightly dodgy practices of the behemoths so was more than happy to spend $69 on a fully supported version.
I know that one of the criticisms of software like the Nik Collection is that they ‘dumb down’ somewhat the art of photo editing by just giving you a load of presets to choose from. Whilst you can certainly just use presets in the Nik Collection you can also, if you wish, do very advanced edits as well so I think it’s the ideal balance between the full blown editing you get with Photoshop et al and the instant filters you get from the likes of Instagram. If you doubt this check out some of the videos here on YouTube from Robin Whalley.
Here are a few recent portraits, rendered to my current stylistic liking, using Silver Efex Pro 2.
Processing of these images in Silver Efex Pro 2 is as follows:
- Import a colour image cropped and exposed correctly from Lightroom.
- Use the standard black and white option (i.e. no presets).
- Select Ilford HP5 film type.
- Adjust grain to between 150 and 200 (the lower number the more grain).
- Adjust Red sensitivity depending on skin colour. The lighter a persons skin the lower the number I use, maybe down to as low as -20%.
- Select a ‘Type 8’ border and size as appropriate to the image.
- Save back to Lightroom and export as a JPEG.