Silver Efex Pro comes with a large range of varied and powerful black and white presets, and one of my favourites is the Silver Efex Pro Film Noir effect. This does every bad thing we’re told to avoid with our high-quality digital images! It reduces the sharpness of the picture, adds a hefty dose of grain, darkens the edges of the frame with a powerful vignette effect and clips the shadows so heavily that much of shadows are a solid black. I love it!

I thought it would perfectly suit this night-time shot of the Manchester trams. I wanted to recreate a dark, dramatic documentary feel that dates back to the days of high-speed black and white film.

Silver Efex Pro Film Noir effect

I thought it would also be a good chance to show my favourite way of working with Silver Efex Pro, which is to choose the preset closest to the effect I want, then work backwards with the manual controls do do any fine-tuning.

01 Default conversion

Silver Efex Pro Film Noir effect

The default Neutral preset is a perfectly competent black and white conversion, but it shows the general problem with digital images. Today’s digital SLRs produce accurate exposures, realistic colours and good dynamic range, but this means the results often look rather prosaic and literal. Whatever its faults (and there were many), film added its own layer of imperfection, exaggeration and character, and now that it’s gone, we miss it!

02 Film Noir 1

Silver Efex Pro Film Noir effect

This is the Film Noir 1 effect , and it certainly has character. It actually comes in three types: this is Film Noir 1, and it’s the one closest to the old high-speed documentary look. It’s perhaps a little too dark, though, and I’m not sure we need that border effect…