Advanced Black and White Conversion in Silver Efex Pro

When it comes to B&W conversions, there are so many approaches you can take. Silver Efex Pro is without a doubt my favorite tool for B&W conversions, and in this post I’ll show you how to make an advanced black and white conversion in silver efex pro.

This article is an expansion of just part of the video webinar on B&W Fashion Photography. That video is at the end of this post, and while it will cover some of the same info, it also has a lot of other tidbits. In other-words… enjoy both!

Bringing a Mood to Life

When I shot the photo below, I knew I’d covering it to black and white. Her dark hair, pale skin, and vintage dress made me think of a ghostly world. I found an old barn to photograph her against, and set up the shot.

 I’ve already done some base retouching on this image in Adobe Lightroom Classic, which you can see in the video below. However there is some additional retouching that I’d like to do in Photoshop, where it’s a little easier to do. That means sending the photo to Photoshop not as a Smart Object, but as a rendered pixel file. This also means I’ll need to be sure to convert it to a Smart Object before going into the filter!

In Photoshop, I quickly removed some stray hairs with the healing brush, then converted to a Smart Object. Right click on the layer, and choose Convert to Smart Object. Now the photo is ready for Silver Efex Pro!

For this process, I chose to start with the preset 050 Dark Selenium, although the final result is nowhere near that. But, it provided an inspiring first step to take.

Brightening the Image

Because of the “ghostly” appearance of the subject, I really wanted her skin to be as bright as possible. There’s a Brightness slider of course (under the Global Adjustments), but it’s too heavy handed for this image. Toggling open the slider though reveals four sub-sliders, including Highlights, which allows me to adjust the brightness just in the highlights of the image. In the before and after below, notice the difference when dragging that slider way up. The midtowns and shadows are unaffected, but her pale skin is considerably brighter.

Watch Your Structure!

Structure, also found under the Global Adjustments, can be fantastic on natural material. But it can wreak havoc on skin! Actually negative structure can be a great way to reduce fine wrinkles in skin, but in this image, I’ve already done that in Adobe Lightroom. So in this case, and any time you’re working with a portrait, pay attention to the Structure slider. If it’s up, you’ll probably want to set it to zero, and add localized structure using the Selective Adjustments to areas you want it in.

Just to show you what happens, below is before and after of the photo without and with structure applied. Look closely at her skin, and see how the structure has done not-nice things to it! To make this really clear, I’ve disabled the Film Types effect (which I’ll

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