The Two Most Powerful Sliders in Nik Silver Efex Pro: Bitesize Nik Tutorials

The Two Most Powerful Sliders in Nik Silver Efex Pro: Bitesize Nik Tutorials

Hello, I’m Robin Whalley. Welcome to Lenscraft. Today we’re going to be looking at what I believe are the two most powerful sliders in Nik Silver Efex Pro. And, I’m going to demonstrate with this image, a counter intuitive way to use them to produce great results. We’re going to start with this sunrise scene I captured on the beach at Bamburgh in Northumberland. The light was good but the sky’s just too heavy to make this a colour image. Instead we’re going to convert it to black and white and use it to demonstrate this counter intuitive approach with two very powerful sliders. When I first open the image, the default Neutral preset’s applied. Now most people open an image in Silver Efex Pro, they will use the Global Adjustment controls on the right. Typically, they start at the top and work their way down through the controls in sequence. My suggestion is that you start with one of the most powerful sliders, Soft Contrast. Now let’s stop for a moment and look at the effects of using the normal Contrast adjustment on our image. As I move the slider, watch what happens to the image and histogram. When I move the slider to the left, the histogram becomes gathered into the centre. Notice also the image starts to look very flat because we’re taking contrast out of the photo. Now look more closely at the histogram and you’ll notice we’ve lost the black point and we’ve also lost the white point. There’s no longer and areas of pure black or white in the image. If I now move the Contrast slider to the right, you can see that we lose all the detail in the image. Most of the tones have become either black or white and there’s no graduation. Look at the histogram and you can see it’s gathered now at either end. We don’t have any mid tones at all, because they’ve been push to the black or white ends of the histogram. You can also see we’ve got some clipping being indicated by the red and green warning stripes at either end of the histogram. Let’s reset the Contrast and compare the results now with the Soft Contrast slider. When I move the Soft Contrast slider to the left the histogram still becomes gathered into the centre. This time though, the effect isn’t as sever. We still have tones that are near to the black and white ends of the histogram. The image also looks slightly different. Rather than appearing flat, it now looks more like bad HDR. That’s because we’ve opened the shadows and reduced the highlight tones, without severely affecting the black and white points. When we move the slider to the right, we can see that the histogram doesn’t lose all the midtones as it did when we used the Contrast slider. You can see that the dark tones in the image also appear softer. When you’re making Global Adjustments in Nik Silver Efex Pro, start with the Soft Contrast slider. Decide, do you want to open the shadows, in which case you move the slider to the left. Alternatively, if you want to darken the image to emphasise the atmosphere, move the slider to the right. When you’ve done this, you can use the other sliders in the Contrast section to refine the image. I know this seems counterintuitive, but it does work. In this example I can see that the sky is still too light and needs to be darker and the rocks are very dark and need to be lighter. Let’s start by opening the shadows that are too dark. To do this we can use the Amplify Whites slider. This works on the shadow areas the image and lightens them. Next, we can darken the light areas of the image using the Amplify Blacks slider. Once we’re happy with the adjustments we might need to apply additional Contrast using the standard Contrast slider. After this, you may feel that you need to refine some of the sliders a little further. You can see this has already created a great image just by applying the sliders in the Contrast section. The other powerful slider we need to use is the Dynamic Brightness slider. Watch what happens when I move the slider over to the right. You can see that it lightens the shadows and midtones but hardly affects the highlights. When I move the slider to the left, we affect the midtones and move them over into the shadows. Neither of these adjustments is causing much clipping in the histogram. If you compare this now with the normal Brightness slider. You can see that it affects the black and white points in the image. In our sample image, we can use the Dynamic Brightness slider to darken the scene without blocking up the shadow details. We can then use the other sliders in the Brightness section to refine the image tones. As you can see, a few simple adjustments have created a significant improvement to the image. Now there are times when you find areas of your image are becoming too dark or light, but you don’t want to reduce the strength of the adjustments. If this happens you can apply the Tonality Protection sliders to the Shadows and Highlights. Watch what happens to the histogram as I move the Shadows protection to the right. It moves the darkest tones in the image to the right to protect the shadows and prevents them from becoming blocked up. Equally, the Highlight slider helps to protect the lightest tones and stops them from blowing out to pure white. The only problem with the Tonality Protection sliders, is they can leave the image looking a little flat. When this happens, you may need to target problem areas using Control Points. I hope today’s tutorial has given you some new ideas about how to use the Global Adjustments in Nik Silver Efex Pro. If you want to know more about these and other controls, I’m releasing an updated version of my Nik Silver Efex book later in August 2018. I’m also currently giving away copies of my book “Lessons in Landscape Photography”. If you’re interested, I’ll put the details in the information for this video below. I’m Robin Whalley. You’ve been watching Lenscraft. I’ll see you next week for another Bitesize Nik Tutorial.


  1. Robin, I am a member but I’m having trouble logging in. Verified I was not a robot, but I have not received email so I can reset my password. Also I bought you book on Silver Efex Pro will I be able to get the updated version? Great videos! Keep it up.

  2. Great little nugget here, Robin, regarding the “soft contrast” slider. I’m scripting an episode over on my channel about scanning color neg and converting to BW. I’ll include this technique and showcase your Channel and this episode – thanks for your efforts.

  3. Interesting approach! I suppose it makes sense to start in SE with tools that are pretty unique to SE – stuff that is hard to achieve in LR and PE

  4. I've never really got to grips with SilverEfex – until now. Your tutorials explain the plug in very well. The more of your Nik tutorials I watch, the more I'm using Nik, and seeing benefits in my photos. So thanks again, looking forward to more.

  5. Robin – just come across your channel for the first time. What a find! Love your explanations and the non-hype approach. If I may offer some input, I like the click of your mouse but find it very loud. Anyway you can lower the volume of the click?

  6. Hey Robin, I like your video tutorials on Nik so much that I decided to get your pdf book on Silver Efex also. I'll start reading it in a few minutes.
    best wishes,


  7. Robin first your voice is so soothing and calm. Thanks for this video, its a life saver. Recently went to Grand Canyon and there was a fire near by that rendered the canyons full of Smokey Haze. I played around with photos but was not satisfied and the photos didn't pop. Came across this video and BOOM, what did I do. I love the results. Now I have Light, Shadows and Curves (Canyon), exactly as I had envisioned When I shot the scene. Thanks Again.

  8. This tutorial was perfect!! I just started using Nik flex pro in my recent review of B&W conversion and I was quite lost until now. Thank you Robin!

  9. Another very helpful Bitesize tutorial. Your channel must be one of the leading resources on the Nik Collection on the Web, Robin. Truly invaluable.

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