I love Silver Efex Pro 2. It’s a black and white photography plug-in developed by Nik Software and now part of the Google Nik Collection. What makes it great is that it recaptures the look and feel of traditional darkroom black and white in a way that other plug-ins don’t.

The preset effects down the left side give you a whole range of ‘looks’ which you can apply with a single click and then modify using the tools panel on the right. I’ll show you a simple example with this statue of Sir Francis Drake on Plymouth Hoe, UK.

The statue is rendered as a silhouette, the sky is detailed and dramatic, and it’s finished off with a solid black border. The original image, though, is pretty lacklustre by comparison…

Silver Efex Pro

1. The start image

Silver Efex Pro

Silver Efex Pro 2 can be used as a plug-in from within Photoshop and Elements or from Lightroom or Aperture. We’ve launched it from Aperture in this instance. (You can click on these images to see full-size versions, by the way.) The preset effects are on the left, the tools on the right.

2. Choose a preset

Silver Efex Pro

I’ve gone for the ‘High contrast (harsh)’ preset here. It doesn’t have to be exactly right because we can tune the results – this is just to get close to the final ‘look’ we’re after.