Best software for b&w images?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by Rick Helmke, Dec 15, 2021.

  1. Thanks for this, @dieter! I stand corrected.

    Since I installed PS 2022 (or perhaps even earlier), whenever I started up PS I got the message 'some plugins failed to load'. Following the Adobe tip to check the 'system information', I saw that NIK 2012 plugins had failed to load. I also read on the internet that many other people were unable to use the NIK 2012 plugins with the new version of Photoshop.

    Today, I discovered - to my utter amazement - that the NIK plugins that had failed to load were probably duplicates! In PS, I discovered that I can in fact use the 2012 NIK plugins (under Filters) as I've always done. I'd just assumed ('concluded') that these were no longer availableo_O.

    I agree that the 2012 plugins are going to fail sometime and - in general - I try to keep my software reasonably up to date. The NIK software has been further developed over the last 10 years so I'll probably 'upgrade' to the newer, supported version soon. The 'holiday discount' seems a good opportunity.

    I've also used Topaz plugins for many years. Initially because Topaz 'Denoise' good a good review. I still have a Topaz 'BW Effects' plugin installed which works pretty well too (though not quite as well as Silver Efex Pro). Unfortunately, Topaz has now focused its product range on its 3 main 'AI' products: Denoise, Sharpening and Gigapixel (resizing). It doesn't look as if Topaz currently offers a BW Effects plugin.

    ON1 RAW includes BW conversion features but is perhaps less intuitive than Silver Efex Pro.

    As a last point, a wide range of (free and paid) B/W conversion 'presets' is of course available for both Lightroom and Photoshop (and probably for other apps). These allow the user to choose a basic 'B/W look' from a menu of presets and them apply manual local adjustments in either program.

    But I've never come across an app/plugin as good as Silver Efex Pro which really is an 'all-in-one' BW conversion plugin. The user can first select a basic 'BW look' from a menu and - in the same app - make finely tuned global and/or local tonal adjustments and 'finishing' adjustments.

    Silver Efex Pro works as a stand-alone program too. So - unless you need the cataloging/editing functions of Lightoom or the more sophisticated functions of Photoshop,, you can use the stand-alone version of Silver Efex Pro which will give you all the BW conversion functions that you'll ever need!


  2. For some time now ON1 is giving me trouble because of some interference with my Antivirus software. The standalone versions of the plugins work fine; but when called from inside photoshop, they start up but then close without any message whatsoever. When I disable the Antivirus software, I can work with the plugins - but that's not how I want to work. I have been using the same Antivirus software for years as well as ON1; the issue is one that surfaces a year or so ago.

    There are some features in the ON1 plugins I like and use a lot - the B&W conversion isn't one of them.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  3. I use Rawtherapee for monochrome (actually I use it for everything), took some learning, but works nicely for what I want.

    Printing, I've had very good results having my files commercially printed by Matisseo here in France, up to around 20x30 cm, they are using a HP Indigo digital press with only greyscale inks (as far as I know) - the results are very hard to distinguish from darkroom prints on RC paper, short of examination with a magnifying glass - good balance of quality/price and I don't have to worry about keeping an inkjet running.
  4. Topaz Studio 2 has an excellent straight b&w processing option in addition to having lots of presets for special looks, etc.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  5. Digital dog I currently have a Canon printer that’s maybe 2 years old, can’t remember which one but it won’t print large prints. I fully expect to have a larger higher end printer and a computer devoted to only that. It will also be offline so I don’t have to deal with virus issues and software. As I see it I’ve acquired excellent lenses and capable camera bodies at significant cost so I want equally good or better software and hardware for a digital printing capability. I also use very good darkroom equipment for the same reason. Yes, still burning up some film and enjoying it.

    Rick H.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  6. P.S. Lightroom and Capture 1 all have similar modules to convert color files to b/w giving you control over the various channels and/or including pre-sets which sometimes are a good starting point. I used to use Silver Efx and it was ok. I've always found no matter what I used, it was best to use a raw file if digital or scan to tiff if I was going to really end up editing it, and the better the exposure coming out of the camera, the better the final result whether shooting film or digital. Blown out sky is the number 1 culprit in screwing up any file I work on, as is over sharpening which I use to do all the time and end up give the pics a brittle appearance when combined with over-exposure. Now I usually mask what I want to sharpen to confine it or to do different levels of sharpening at different places. Same with sky, shadows, etc. I guess I'm saying most of these programs will all do a good job of converting to b/w, learning to use them is the thing. I'm just scratching the surface myself.
    digitaldog and mikemorrell like this.
  7. I like Affinity Photo for most things, including color to black and white. Going from negative to positive is another story. I've yet to do as well with that as with other programs. One can go to curves and slide the black to white and the white to black, then alter the curve as needed, but for some reason I seem to get flat or blown out results from Affinity. It would be interesting to try a step tablet shot on film to better understand what was happening, but I don't have one and haven't processed film for quite a while. Another retirement project if that day ever comes.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  8. OT:
    I tried out Affinity Photo some years ago. It was a lot cheaper than Photoshop and there were a whole lot of things I liked about it. At the time, the main reason I decided to stay with Adobe LR/PS was Lightroom. I don't keep up with all the things new editions of various PP programs can do, but my view then was that PS was the most easily replaceable. Even by the free (if slightly more clunky) GIMP. The Affinity software was impressive in replacing PS at a much lower price. At the same time, I didn;t see an Affinity replacement for Lightroom. I'm sure there's a process of using something like (free) Bridge for cataloging and using some other software (from Bridge) for editing single photos like Affinity, GIMP, or many others.

    I haven't 'evaluated the 'PP field'' for at least 5 years. I tend to stick to what I know which is Lightroom + PS. But as far as I know, Lightroom still leads the field in cataloging and seamless, non-destructive editing of photos. Either in Lightroom itself or via numerous 'filter plugins' (including PS) that are are available in PS too. So it's this 'seamlessness'' that attracts me. I can edit a Lightroom photo directly from Lightroom which appears as a different version. I can also apply a (Topaz) filter directly from Lightroom to the whole photo or switch to PS to 'blend/mask' the same filter with more subtlety.

    I'm pretty sure that other PP software suppliers will shortly catch up with Adobe's Lightroom/PS model (or equivalent) for amateur photographers. Perhaps they already have.

    I'd be interested to hear about current alternatives to Adobe's Lightroom/PS combi.


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