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Adding vintage black-and-white looks in Silver Efex Pro


Nik Creative Effects Workshop

with Joseph Linaschke

Video: Adding vintage black-and-white looks in Silver Efex Pro

Personally, I'm a huge fan of going to black and white, and Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 is an incredibly powerful tool that'll allow you to give any kind of variety of looks to a single image. As you can see, if we just click through some of the presets in here, you can choose between these high contrast looks of kind of flatter looks here, where you get a real washed out appearance, and pretty much any tone, any color that's in the original image can take on any new tone in grayscale. It's really quite phenomenal what you can do when converting to black and white. And one of the great conversions that you can do Is to go to an older film or a vintage-type look.
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Watch the Online Video Course Nik Creative Effects Workshop
1h 57m Intermediate Aug 30, 2012

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Nik Software's plugins are loaded with powerful tools that can be combined in endless ways. In this workshop, photographic storyteller Joseph Linaschke takes a creative and personalized approach to these plugins, showing you how he uses them to create amazing skies, gorgeous skin, vintage film looks, perfect white backgrounds, custom recipes, and so much more using Color Efex Pro, Viveza, and Silver Efex Pro. He also explains how to use Silver Efex Pro 2 to make gorgeous black-and-white images and teaches a unique non-HDR compositing technique for HDR Efex Pro. Along the way, get tips on using Nik's zone system and U Point technology and be introduced to the fun new Snapseed app for the desktop.

Topics include:
  • Preparing for editing
  • Making white backgrounds truly white with Viveza
  • Creating vintage color looks in Color Efex Pro
  • Adding vintage black-and-white looks in Silver Efex Pro
  • Non-HDR compositing in HDR Efex Pro
  • Deconstructing presets
  • Using U Points for complete control
  • Creating quick effects with Snapseed
Photography video2brain
Joseph Linaschke

Adding vintage black-and-white looks in Silver Efex Pro

Personally, I'm a huge fan of going to black and white, and Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 is an incredibly powerful tool that'll allow you to give any kind of variety of looks to a single image. As you can see, if we just click through some of the presets in here, you can choose between these high contrast looks of kind of flatter looks here, where you get a real washed out appearance, and pretty much any tone, any color that's in the original image can take on any new tone in grayscale. It's really quite phenomenal what you can do when converting to black and white. And one of the great conversions that you can do Is to go to an older film or a vintage-type look.

In fact, there's a variety of presets called vintage that you can choose from. And while I may not be a proponent of using the built-in presets as your final look, these can be a great way to learn how to get a particular type of an appearance to your images. So, if you're going through the presets, and you like something a lot, go ahead and spend some time over here on the right Figuring out exactly how it was made. Now, another great thing that you can do to figure out what makes an old photograph look old. Is to simply go onto Flickr or onto Google, and research some old black and white images. Just make sure that you're looking at actual old photographs, and not conversions that other people have done. So, one of the things that you'll notice if you start studying old black and white photos, is that, quite often, the darkest.

Blackest areas actually held up quite well over time. So, for example in this particular shot, these dark shadows here will probably hold up after, several years of a photo sitting in a box. However, what does tend to fade is the darker mid tone areas. So, On this cross right here, pretty much all of this area here is going to get a little bit brighter over time, alittle bit more washed out. So we have a bit of a gap between the darkest areas and the mid tones that tends to fade over time. Another thing that you'll notice, is that the brightest highlights tend to get washed out.

And that could just be a part of the original print. But quite often, the brightest highlights are going to get washed out in the older faded prints. Now, in this particular photo, the sky in the background is already blown out. So we don't have to worry about that. However if you look at the detail here on the side of the cross where its a little bit brighter you may find that there's some detail in here that we want to just blow out a little bit. There's some pretty fine detailing here that probably wouldn't hold up over time so we want to make sure that we blast some of that out in our conversion. Another thing that happens to prints over time is they tend to fade from black and get a little bit brown.

That is probably mostly due to the paper that they are printed on. There is a few different things we can do in Silver Effects Pro for toning to add some color to the images. Now there's a lot of different split tones in here for variety... Variety of colors like cyanotypes and so on. But if you're trying to go for an old vintage look, you can look in the sepias, the coppers, or even the coffees. I think the coffees are probably the most effective for this. The brighter coffee ones like this number 15 are a little bit too much. But if you go down to the more subtle range like 13 here, you'll see that you have.

Quite a nice and subtle fade to the brown on here that could look very, very good for your vintage type photo. Another thing that you'll find in a lot of old photos is that the edges tend to fall apart a little bit. Now you can look at different image borders in here and see a variety of options that you have. Most of these aren't going to work as they are for converting an image into an old vintage look, but of course we can tweak these and modify these and really make them stand out, make them look like a true old image in there. You may also want to consider burning the edges.

Now often what you'll find is that you can burn in the edges a little bit too much if u do it all evenly. So for example this preset here is burning the bottom out dramatically, but you can go in with full manual controlling here and control exactly how much each individual edge is burned. So we want to take advantage of all that as well, so let's get started with this. We're going to make sure at my default neutral position to start, I want to tap on Neutral, to start to make sure that I'm at my default settings for everything. And remember that at any point, you can push and hold on the compare button up here to compare what you've done to a basic default black and white conversion.

So right now, nothing happens cuz we're at that default state. But let's get working on changing up this image a bit. I'm going to start in the global adjustments here and let me just collapse these, so you can see that we have three primary controls. A brightness, a contrast, and a structure. If I take the brightness up for the overall image, that could work for some images, but you're going to see very quickly that it's brightening everything, including the shadows down here. Really blowing out the highlights a bit too much, and frankly, this is not the vintage look that we're looking for here. So, you'll find that most of these sliders, if you try and use them on their own Are going to be a little bit too heavy handed.

So instead, and to reset just double tap on any one of these sliders. What you want to do is open it up. And have access to individual brightness controls for the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. And then you'll find the same thing under contrast, amplify whites, blacks, and soft contrast slider in here. Just a few different things that you can work with. Specifically what I want to do on the brightness here is brighten up the midtones. As we talked about earlier, it tends to be the midtones that get washed out in an old photo. So, by taking up my midtones a bit, I can brighten the midtones without blowing out the highlights, which we don't want to do quite yet, and also without taking the shadow up too much.

So again, just take the midtones up and that's going to be a good first step towards making a photo look look old and dated. For the contrast, there probably isn't much that we want to do in here. If you drag up the contrast ladder, you will see quickly that the darks get very, very dark and the brights get very, very bright. And we end up with some very high contrasty images in here which is kind of contrary to the older, faded photograph. So you're probably not going to want to do much in contrast. Structure, on the other hand, can be very useful in trying to reproduce the look of an old image. If we take the structure up just on its own, first of all.

You'll see that it is kind of like contrast. Except that it's a bit more localized. And what you end up with is an image that looks a lot sharper than it originally was. And that can be very beneficial to a lot of different looks. However, for our vintage look, it's quite the opposite of what we want. We don't want to go high contrast like this. We want to go the other direction. If I take the structure all the way down, it tends to get a little bit too soft. You can see in here that we've really lost too much detail in the shadows, and the whole image just looks like it has a white wash over it. So that's not going to do what we want. How ever once again, I double tap to reset that.

If you open up the structure and you look at the different controls. You can control highlights, mid tones, and shadows individually. So lets just zoom into this for a moment here. And I want to focus on an area of this cross here. Where we have the front visible, where we have that mid contrast range. But also where I can see the highlights in here. So I want to make sure that I do blow out some of the detail in the highlights, without losing to much control. So... Once I have this up, once again, if I take this structure all the way up, you'll see what it does here in just a moment. And you'll see that we have increased the contrast around the edges and really made this image pop. Which again could be a great look, but it's just not we're after here. If I take this structure all the way down the other direction, we're going to see an overall softening of the image which is just a little bit too much for what we after.

So again, I'll reset that. And instead of doing a global structure slider, I'm going to take just the midtones and bring those down a bit. So again we're focusing on the midtones, trying to wash those out a little bit. Losing some of the detail in the midtone areas. You'll also notice that we've lost a little bit of detail on the highlights. And we may want to bring that down just a little bit on its own in here. So again, we have the highlights control that we can take down. And as you can see, we've managed to blow out some more details in the highlights. Which is pretty much what we want for this vintage look.

Let's zoom back out, and move on to the next step in here. At any point as well you can collapse all of these adjustments so you can focus on just the particular adjustment you are looking at. Next up I want to play with the film types. There are a variety of film presets here that are designed to mimic a particular film look. Now in this case I'm not trying to go for any particular film look, all I want to do is take what I've done and make it a bit grainier, a bit more vintage looking. Now if you just go in here and choose one of these film stocks you'll notice the contrast is changing quite a bit as well.

And that's because each one of these is designed to mimic the contrast curve that you would've found on those particular types of film. So this is probably not the greatest way to go if I've already dialed in the contrast that I want from my image up here in the global adjustments. So, instead, I'll just leave it at neutral and I'll go ahead and take control of this manually. And what I really want to do is control the grain. It's a good idea to zoom into an image if you're going to start playing with your grain settings in here. And by default the grain per pixel is set at 500 and that's basically telling you that there's no additional grain added to the image.

If I take this down, and let's just go all the way down for dramatic sake, you'll see that we can add a huge amount of grain into the image, and of course, at this point, we're really losing a lot of detail in there. That's a bit too much, I don't want something quite that dramatic. So, I'll find an area where I'm happy with the amount of grain that's being applied, but it's not blowing out the image or losing any particular detail in there Now one of the things that you will notice when you start playing with the grain is that certain dark shadows can tend to become amplified. And if I take my softness or hardness slider here under the grain and increase that all the way up you'll see that the grain particles, the darker ones become darker and the brighter ones become brighter.

And we end up. Adding back in some of that contrast that we've been trying to get rid of. If we go the opposite direction all the way down to soft, you'll see that the difference between the darker and the lighter grain pixels is reduced. And so we end up with something that doesn't look quite so harsh. You'll also notice that the grain isn't standing out as much and that takes away from the overall sharpness of the image as well, which again for this particular look Is what we're after. So again taking the softness all the way down to the bottom or somewhere around there and then your grains per pixel may be on the mid range but just really depending on what your image is you're going to add that soft grain in there that you want to make it look like an older faded photograph.

At any point, remember, you can toggle a particular setting on and off so you can get a preview of that before and after, or just hold down the compare button to see the before and after of the overall image. Now it's time to add a little bit of color into this. The toning presets are fantastic for this. And as I said earlier, you have a variety of different colors you can choose from. For anything that's a vintage look, my favorite by far is the first coffee preset. You can see that the whites have taken on just the slightest shade of brown in there. So we're not going for a full-on sepia look, but what we are doing is giving a slightly old faded look to the image, and this is I think going to be a huge, huge step towards making this image look like a truly old print.

Next up there's the vignetting or the burning of the edges, and it's important to understand the difference between these two. If I try some presets to begin with, you can see that the vignette is being applied to the overall image, all the way around it evenly, so you have a couple of different lens falloffs, and then you have the white frames. It's quite common that you'll see in old photographs where the outer edge is actually blown out instead of made darker. Personally, I'm not a fan of that. I tend to prefer the look where it's darken a little bit instead of blown out. But that's just my personal taste.

Now that's the Vinette. Burning Edges can look pretty much the same if you don't adjust it. However, the big difference here is that Vinette is applied evenly around the entire image. However, with the Burn Edges control, you can adjust the left edge, the top, the right edge, and the bottom individually, you may want to start with a preset. For example, we'll go for All Edges 2 in here, and you can see that each one of these, is set to the same presets here. But the advantage of this is that I can control The left edge, and the top, and the right, and the bottom all differently.

And as you see as I click through these now, each one of these has a different preset. So again, starting from one of these might be helpful, or just go ahead and set off to begin with and set everything to zero. And then start adding in the edges as you need them. On this particular image, clearly if I burned in the left side as much as the right, and I wanted to burn the right all the way up to the edge of the cross in here, I'd be burning over the edge here on the left. So if I start with the left edge in here, and I take the strength way up and the size way up, we'll see very quickly that we can encroach over the main subject here, our primary subject, and obviously that's not going to look particularly good in there. So what we need to do is naturally bring our size down to a more reasonable level. Now if you're not familiar with these, just to show how this works, if I bring my size and my strength up quite a bit you can see the size and how that's being controlled in there.

You can see the burn coming out farther and farther into the image, and then the transition will allow you a softness between where the burn is applied and where it falls off to not being applied. So by dragging the transition all the way up, and the size all the way up as well, you're going to get a very gradual transition of your burn in here. Now obviously in this case it's too big, but just to show that that transition will make for a much softer transition from the burned edge to the not burned edge. So let's go ahead and take the size down to something a bit more reasonable. And I couldn't take the transition down a bit as well, cuz I really just want to hit the edges of this without getting onto the edge of the monument or the edge of that cross. That looks pretty good.

Now lets go for the top. And the top we'll probably do a little bit more. So make that a little bit bigger and take the sides up a bit. I'm pretty much always going to take the transition up to at least half way if not farther. What I don't want just to have any type of visible edge here of where my burning begins or ends. And I'll do the same on the right and of course we've a lot more room to work with on the right, so let's make the size a bit bigger in there. And I don't want the strength to be too big, I don't to end up having a distracting dark edge around here, but what I do want of course, is to bring that in ever so slightly and evenly right about so. And finally let's just take a quick look at the bottom. Now the bottom I do have to be extra careful of because our main object or main subject goes out of the frame and we don't want to knock that out. A subtle burn on the bottom there with a slow transition is what this needs. So once again lets just toggle that one off and you can see the before and after of adding these finishing touches on there.

And this really does make a big difference and goes a long way towards that final vintage look. Now the last thing that I want to apply is some type of an image border. In the beginning if you go through these borders none of them are particularly suited towards an old vintage photo unless you're considering that... The look that you're after is something like this, where the image has been burned out and then it's been placed against another white paper to be photographed to be reproduced. And that's not the look that I want to go for here. What I want is some type of a edge effect that goes all the way up to the edge of the paper, so it really looks like an old print, where the edges have started to come Come apart a little bit. So to do that, you can start with any one of these image borders. It doesn't really matter which one you start with. And take this size and bring it all the way down, so it goes all the way up the edge.

And then the spread can change as well. You can change the spread to affect how much of that boarder is going to spread into the original photograph. And depending on the border you start with, the size may go close to the edge, or all the way to the edge. And if we take our size down to 0, and then start going through the presets again, you'll see that we have the type of edges in here that we really do want once we've taken that size down to 0 minus 100%. So lets go ahead and choose one of these edges and I'm going to zoom in close because this is an important detail to make sure we right get in here. And we can see the edge effect that is happening at the top and if you just want to just take your size to change that to see exactly what is happening you can see here that some of these edges will allow you to go all the way past the edge and you really truly have something that burns off the edge of the paper but it still gives you that rough varied edge around the border. And this is a good time again while zoomed in to go through the different pre sets and find something you particularly like.

For example, this could be a really nice preset here, but if you're paying attention here you'll notice that it's going beyond the edge of the paper a little bit. So this make not look like it truly faded out or crumpled edge piece of paper. This may look more like something that has been put on top of a clean piece of paper and rephotographed or reproduced. So again, pay attention to those edges. Get up close to them before deciding on what edge you're going to use. This one here works out pretty well. I can pan around here and make sure that it's working well all the way along.

You can always go into the spread and change that a little bit. So if you want to make it not quite so big, you can pull that in or out a bit. And the roughness of the overall edge can be adjusted as well. By taking the clean to rough slider here you can drag that back and forth. And of course, that's going to change. Change, depending on which preset you're working with here. But quite often, just somewhere in the middle is going to work very well. And don't forget, as well, that you have the vary border button here. This just adds a random number seed into the equation so that your edge doesn't look like the default setting.

So just tap that a few times. Or you can even punch a number in there manually if you want. Until you get something that looks a little bit. different than the default and something that's unique to your particular image. Overall I think we have a pretty good result here. If you want to compare again just tap and hold down the Compare button, and you can also go side by side at any point. So you can take a closer look at what the image looks like before and after. Before you apply this to the image don't forget to save your preset in here. You've done a lot of work to put all these together in here and its worth saving this preset so you can come back to it at any time.

To do that simply tap on the add preset button and give it a good name. So we'll call this something like my vintage. And tackle k and now will have our own custom preset in there. You can get to that at any time by tapping on the Custom button and you'll have the preset that you just created. When you're done just tap on Save and it's going to right to this back out to Photoshop or Aperture Lightroom or wherever you might be working. As you can see, we have this great old vintage look here. We zoom in close here in Aperture, again or in Photoshop or Lightroom, whatever you may be working in, you'll see that we have this great old grain in here. It's a little bit soft, it's not too sharp.

In fact, if we want to compare side by side, let's bring up the two images side by side to compare and you can look at the original Color version versus the new black and white. And you can see that we really have lost some of the detail in here, added that beautiful grain. And done a lot more to this image to make it truly look like an old faded photograph.

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