HDR – Variations on B&W Conversions – Nik HDR Efex Pro – HTDS

Today, as promised, I’m posting a “How To Do Stuff“.  Since I’m traveling right now, this is a re-post from February.This is the third post in my series on conversions from color to black and white using High Dynamic Range images. So far I’ve covered the Channel Mixer black and white presets and the Black & White preset settings in Adobe Photoshop.

Lately, I’ve seen lots or references to the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 software and have read a few positive reviews. So, not wanting to overload on post processing software and already being familiar with the Photoshop methods, I decided to try my hand with Nik HDR Efex Pro for a B&W conversion. What you see above is the result of using Desaturation, Control Points, and Vignetting.

I have posted shots of this Shishi Lion (Foo dog) before but wanted to use him again since he has a very broad range of tonality. As you can see, the Nik software is extremely effective at bringing out the subtle color and tonal nuances.

Speaking of color, I’ve included my starting point with the original, seven shot image in HDR Efex Pro next to a more realistic presentation. It seems that everything is more colorful than reality in this software. So, a slight modification is necessary; usually just a slight de-saturation as shown here.
This conversion process is actually pretty simple and involves little more than using multiple Control Points to modify very specific areas of the image.

  • Nik HDR Efex Pro – One Step at a Time 

I’m going to illustrate my color to b&w conversion below with a series of shots that show the step by step process.

The first screen image above is the straight desaturation of the entire image without any other adjustments. The tonality is pretty flat. A straight conversion like this is usually not very satisfying and lacks drama. Even though the color version may look spectacular, the tones and contrasts (or lack of) don’t always transfer to black and white very well.

Notice how the upper left and side elements compete visually with the main subject. In the color version, the actual color dynamic takes the stage so to speak and dominates the image. And, the foreground and right side wood areas also distract because of the similar tonality.

In the second, upper right, image above, the lion has been enhanced with two control points. The first is on the light tail and mane areas with exposure pulled down and structure added. The other point is on the body for darkening.  Two additional points were used to darken the wood areas.

The two lower images were darkened in specific areas to draw more attention to the lion.

  • Nik HDR Efex Pro – It’s a Wrap!

The nice thing about using this software is that you can continue to make adjustments to the control points until you get just what you want.  Even though the lion at this point, is now the central focus of the image, we still have more to do.
The image on the left has a slight vignette added. This is another place where the Nik software really excels.

As you can see with the controls displayed here, the variations are easily customized. I adjusted for a slight darkening at both sides with the center point placed just to the right of the mouth. It is perfect for what I wanted which was to draw attention to the lion without hiding the sides in “vignette darkness.”  I thought I was finished but something just didn’t look right.

After staring for a while, I noticed that the details at the top of the head had been lost in my processing. So, another control point, set for a small increase in exposure and additional structure restored that area.

The completed image at the start of this post was finalized in Adobe Photoshop where I used Free Transform to correct perspective.

I’ll be using this conversion method a lot more in the future. And, unless someone can show me how the Silver Efex Pro software is MUCH better, I think I’m pretty satisfied.

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