Silver Efex Pro 3 review (2023)

Silver Efex Pro 3 review (1)

DxO Silver Efex Pro 3 verdict

Life after Photoshop





Silver Efex Pro 3 is still the best black and white plug-in there is. It creates rich, dense black and white images that echo classic analog films and darkroom techniques in the digital age. Version 3, part of the Nik Collection 4, adds DxO ClearView tech and chrominance and luminance masking to its unique Control Point local adjustments. The adjustment sliders have moved from the control points themselves to the sidebar, though – is that really an improvement? – and although Silver Efex Pro should work as a standalone app as well as a plug-in, it can be a bit glitchy.


What is Silver Efex Pro?

Silver Efex Pro is a dedicated black and white photography plug-in that’s one of the key creative tools in the Nik Collection. Regarded by many as the best black and white tool on the market, even years after its introduction.

You don’t need to get your hands dirty with sliders and checkboxes if you don’t want to, but if you do then Silver Efex reveals its true power.

This is the black and white conversion plug-in against which all others should be judged. It aims to replicate the look, feel and depth of classic black and white films and darkroom techniques and, unlike many of its rivals, it succeeds.

How it works

Silver Efex Pro 3 review (2)

Silver Efex Pro 3 is one of two plug-ins updated heavily for the DxO Nik Collection 4 release (the other is Viveza 3). It still uses the regular Nik Collection screen setup, with a big selection of ready-to-go presets in a panel on the left, backed up by comprehensive manual adjustments on the right, but there have been some changes – more on this shortly.

There are now around 50 presets in all, including new “En Vogue” presets added back in the DxO Nik Collection 2. It’s not a huge number, but they cover a very wide range of styles – and these presets are also organised into categories such as Modern, Classic and Vintage, to help you find them more easily. The presets panel uses the image you’re working on to produce a live thumbnail preview, so there’s no need for any click-it-and-see trial and error.

Each of these presets is created with a specific combination of tools and setting, which you can see in the tools panel on the right. This means you can quickly select a preset that’s close to the final effect you’re looking for and then tweak a couple of the controls to apply the finishing touches. Once you’ve created an effect you think you might want to use again in the future, you can save it as a new, custom preset.

A trawl through the manual tools reveals the depth of control you have over your images. There is a Brightness slider, for example, but below that there are subsidiary sliders for Highlights, Midtones and Dynamic Brightness, which applies an adaptive adjustment to produce a low-key or high-key effect without tonal compression or lowered contrast.

Talking of contrast, you get a regular global contrast slider, but you can also Amplify Whites, Amplify Blacks and apply a more diffuse Soft Contrast effect, which also has the effect of brightening shadows and darkening light tones – which can be helpful for high-contrast scenes.

This depth carries on all the way through the toolset. You can add definition and ‘punch’ with a Structure slider, you can apply black and white ‘contrast’ filters by clicking a button or adjusting the hue and strength precisely, and you can simulate a wide range of traditional black and white films, with optional control over the spectral response, grain (and grain characteristics) and tone curve. Silver Efex Pro 3 now has no fewer than 39 new “ultra realistic” grain effects.

And you can finish off with toning effects, edge burning, vignettes and borders.

No black and white image is complete without a little dodging and burning, of course, and for this you’ve got the control points you’ll find throughout the Nik Collection. Here you can use them to darken or lighten specific areas, increase or reduce the contrast, boost the structure and even apply selective colourisation, re-introducing a hint of colour into your monochromatic images.

This is where Silver Efex Pro is a fairly radical departure from previous versions, which had been relatively unchanged for years. Previously, when you added a Control Point to make a local adjustment, the adjustment sliders would pop out of the control point itself. Now, however, the adjustments have moved to the sidebar, under the global adjustments.

DxO clearly thinks this is a better way to do it, but I’ve been using Silver Efex Pro and the other Nik plug-ins for so long that I don’t much like it. The end results are just as good, but I’d rather have the adjustment sliders attached to the control points. But what do I know?

What DxO has done, though, is enhance the Control Points in two key respects. First, you can adjust the Control Point masking by targeting Luminance and Chrominance values to make the masking fit the tones you want to adjust more precisely. The Chrominance slider makes limited sense in black and white images (I think it works on the original color data, though), but it makes more sense in Viveza 3, the other updated plug-in in Nik Collection 4.

Silver Efex Pro 3 review (3)

Second, Control Points can now be saved with presets, so even though you might need to move the Control Point around for different images, if you have a favorite local adjustment that’s part of your style or suits a particular set of images, this is a way to make it accessible for repeated edits.

There’s one more thing. Silver Efex Pro now has DxO’s ClearView tool, as used in DxO PhotoLab. This is a great way to boost local contrast it flat-looking images. It’s not unlike Lightroom’s Dehaze tool but with a bit more finesse and less digital noise exaggeration.

Is Silver Efex Pro 3 any good?

It’s not just the range of tools that makes Silver Efex Pro 3 a great black and white plug-in, it’s also their effectiveness at recreating the drama, depth and boldness of classic black and white photography.

One thing worth pointing out, though, is that it’s not the only black and white tool in the Nik Collection. Analog Efex Pro has some great black and white tools which are geared more towards camera and lens effects and more antique/distressed looks, while Color Efex Pro has a great Old Photo filter for recreating the look of early prints.

If you’ve spent years using the ‘old’ Silver Efex Pro you might find the repositioning of the Control Point sliders in Silver Efex Pro 3 an unnecessary nuisance, but the addition of ClearView tech and enhanced Control Point masking should make up for that.

There is a peculiar glitch in its standalone operation, however. You can use Silver Efex Pro 3 as a plug-in for Lightroom or Photoshop without any issues, but I found that when I tried to use it as a standalone app it still behaved as if it was working on an image sent from Lightroom, so that there was no way to open and save files. The only way to make it work was to quit Lightroom to make sure it wasn’t running before starting Silver Efex Pr 3, which is odd. I also found that while I could launch Silver Efex Pro 3 as an external editor from Capture One and click the ‘Apply’ button to apply the finished effect, Silver Efex Pro would close, but the image was not updated. No doubt DxO will fix this behaviour in due course, but it’s going to be an annoyance in the meantime.

Read more:

  • Black and white photography basics
  • 5 ways to convert color images to black and white



What is the difference between Silver Efex Pro 3 and 2? ›

Compared to that of version 2, Silver Efex Pro 3's interface is much cleaner and more modern. DxO has also updated its U-Point control point technology to reduce visual clutter, significantly increase versatility and in the latest v4. 2 release, bring a modest boost to performance as well.

Does Silver Efex Pro work with Lightroom? ›

Silver Efex Pro is a plugin that converts color photos to black and white. It extends the capabilities of Lightroom and Photoshop by giving you tools to emphasize texture, emulate film, apply toning effects and add borders.

Is Nik Collection a one time purchase? ›

The Nik Collection is available to purchase on the DxO website for $149 (one-time payment). Version 3 and 4 users can upgrade for $79. If you're still unsure, download their free 30-day trial and get full access to all the plugins. Are you a Nik Collection user or do you have any questions?

Is Nik worth it? ›

The Nik Collection is no longer free. But the DxO version of the Nik Collection will definitely be worth the price when the entire suite is updated and ready to go. For photographers who purchased Nik Collection 3, the price seems a bit steep for each upgrade.

What is the latest version of color Efex Pro? ›

The Color Efex Pro interface got a big overhaul in version 5 and is now up to date with Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3.

What is silver Efex Pro 3? ›

The Silver Efex Pro 3 module lets you discover (or rediscover) black & white photography thanks to numerous presets, global and selective correction tools, copious filters and colorization effects, tone curves, analog film simulations, and finishing tools (including vignetting, burnt edges, and image contours).

Do professionals use Lightroom presets? ›

Yes, professionals do use Lightroom Presets.

Lightroom Preset's most prized feature is its photo editing presets.

What is the best black and white plugin for Lightroom? ›

The collection includes all these software: Color Efex Pro – For more control over color correction. Silver Efex Pro – The best Lightroom plugin for black and white photography. Viveza – Perfect for precise color editing.

Do professional photographers use Lightroom CC? ›

Lightroom CC is the ideal program for beginners and professional photographers on-the-go. Whether you prefer to use Adobe Lightroom on an iPad or tablet, a mobile phone, a web browser, or a desktop computer, the interface and functionality will remain consistent across all devices.

Can I get Nik Collection for free? ›

By clicking on “Try for free,” you are agreeing to receive emails from Nik Collection related to your free trial. By checking this box, you are agreeing to receive informative, educational, and promotional emails about DxO and Nik Collection software. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Can I use Nik Collection without Photoshop? ›

Yes, all Nik Collection software can be used in standalone mode. Simply right-click on an image (RGB image only) in your operating system's file browser and select the Nik application from the context menu, or open the software and import your image from the file menu or by clicking the dedicated button.

Is it worth upgrading from Nik Collection 4 to 5? ›

However, Color Efex 5 still has 55 filters, the same as the previous version. If you already own a license for Nik Collection 4, I don't consider it worth it for you to upgrade to Nik Collection 5. The biggest change is the update to the interface, but everything else remains almost the same.

How much does the Nik Collection cost? ›

There are eight plug-ins in total, and while some are designed for image correction, others are for creative effects. Nik Collection 5 costs $149/£135 for new users and $79/£69 for those upgrading from a previous version.

What programs does Nik Collection work with? ›

If you work with RAW files, you'll either need a compatible host software such as DxO PhotoLab, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom Classic, or Affinity Photo in order to use Nik Collection as a plug-in or another RAW converter to convert your RAW files to JPEG or TIFF before processing.

How much does it cost to upgrade Nik? ›

The latest version of the photo editing suite, Nik Collection 6 by DxO ($149 for new customers, $79 as an upgrade), adds a handy new Control Line function to U Points, brings the codebase up to date with support for Apple Silicon, and introduces some new features to the Color and Perspective Efex apps.

What is silver Efex Pro 2? ›

Nik Silver Efex Pro is a powerful black and white converter in the Nik Collection. It helps you to easily achieve adjustments that could leave you scratching your head in Photoshop.

What is the difference between Nik perspective Efex and DxO ViewPoint? ›

The unique advantage of DxO ViewPoint is its ability to be used seamlessly as a plugin within DxO PhotoLab, whereas the extra benefit of Perspective EFEX is that it can be installed alongside the other Nik plugins, making Nik Collection by DxO a truly comprehensive suite of plugins.

What is Nik color Efex Pro? ›

Apply stunning and imaginative effects with the world's most comprehensive set of filters for editing color, tone, contrast, and more. One of eight powerful plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, offering endless creative possibilities.

What is the difference between DxO ViewPoint 4 and perspective Efex? ›

DxO ViewPoint 4 offers additional features which are not included in Perspective EFEX: ReShape, Flipping images, automatic preview (standalone version only) Guidelines (standalone version only. There are no differences between DxO ViewPoint 3 and Perspective EFEX in terms of functions or features.

How do I add Nik Collection to Lightroom? ›

While Lightroom is still open, click Edit> Preferences OR Lightroom > Preferences. Click on the "External Editing" tab at the top of preferences. Midway down on the right click on the "Choose" button and locate the Nik Collection application file for your product using the guidelines below.

Do professional photographers use Lightroom or Photoshop? ›

You can think of Lightroom as your starting point for post-processing. In many cases, it's a one-stop shop. Unlike Photoshop, which caters to a variety of creative disciplines, Lightroom is specifically built to efficiently handle a professional photographer's workflow, from photo management to finishing touches.

Do most photographers buy presets? ›

Yes, professional photographers often use third-party presets to edit their images. In fact, many advanced photo editing tools rely on presets to help automate and standardize the image editing process.

Should you pay for Lightroom presets? ›

By purchasing a library of presets, you can see how other people might have chosen to process your images. And that might give you a few ideas for a new direction that you want to head in. Purchasing Lightroom presets really can boost your creativity and help you see new possibilities for your images.

Which Lightroom do photographers use? ›

Lightroom Classic is the desktop-only Lightroom that most photographers use, whereas Lightroom is a cross platform editing solution that stores your original Raws in Adobe's cloud.

Which Lightroom is best for photo editing? ›

  • Adobe Lightroom Classic. Best for Professional Photo Workflow. ...
  • Adobe Photoshop. Best for Detailed Image Manipulation and Design. ...
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements. Best for Photo Hobbyists. ...
  • Adobe Lightroom. ...
  • Capture One Pro. ...
  • Corel PaintShop Pro. ...
  • CyberLink PhotoDirector. ...
  • DxO PhotoLab.

How to make everything but one thing black and white in Lightroom? ›

Enter Lightroom's Develop mode. Click on HSL/Color on the right-hand editing panel. Select Saturation. Decrease the saturation of all colors to -100 except for the color you want to retain.

Can anyone see my Lightroom photos? ›

Share photos from your computer

Lightroom creates a link to a web gallery of your photos. The access to the link can be set to Anyone can view or Invite only.

What is Nik Collection? ›

The Nik Collection is a suite of photo editing plugins intended for use with a host application, such as Adobe Lightroom, Affinity Photo or DxO PhotoLab.

What is included in Nik Collection 5? ›

The Nik Collection 5 includes eight plug-ins that can be used as standalone applications or with a host application, including Adobe Lightroom Classic, Adobe Photoshop and DxO PhotoLab. The new release includes major updates to two plug-ins, Color Efex and Analog Efex.

How do I update my Nik Collection? ›

First, log in to your customer account, and then please choose "My Software" in order to see all your current software along with the respective upgrade options on the right-hand side.

Is it illegal to use pirated Photoshop? ›

As one of the most popular image editing software programs on the market, Adobe Photoshop is a program that many people are familiar with, whether their copy is legitimate or pirated. What many people don't realize is that using a pirated copy of Photoshop is incredibly illegal.

How can I use Photoshop without paying? ›

Click the Start Free Trial button. Sign in or set up your Adobe ID and download your free trial. After your 7-day free trial ends, your Adobe Creative Cloud membership will continue, unless canceled before free trial ends.

Is it legal to use Portable Photoshop? ›

This software isn't a legal, official photo editing application created by Adobe. If you see the Photoshop Portable version available for download on the web, you should understand that it is illegally hacked Photoshop software similar to Photoshop CS5 free version, which can contain viruses and spam.

How many computers can I install Nik Collection on? ›

Nik Collection can be activated on a total of three personal computers, as long as it is never run on more than one computer at a time. You may install on both Mac and PC with the same license.

Does Nik Collection work with affinity photo? ›

For users of Nik Collection 6, the plugins will be automatically installed in the correct folder of compatible versions of Affinity Photo. Using Affinity Photo and the Nik Collection together requires a special installation procedure which is described in the user manual.

What's new in Nik 5? ›

New Filters

In addition to the 55 filters from the previous version of Color Efex Pro, the Nik Collection 5 adds two new DxO filters. These only appear on the right side of the interface filters and aren't available in the Filter library.

What does Nik Viveza do? ›

While Nik Viveza is superb for making precise color changes to specific parts of an image, it's also the ideal tool for making global adjustments to the hues and tone of an entire image. Nik Viveza is perfect for adding a touch of warmth to the highlights, or a cool blue tone to the shadows.

Who bought Nik software? ›

In September 2012, Nik Software was acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount.

How do I import presets into Nik Collection? ›

Hover the cursor over the thumbnail image of the preset / recipe so that the icons appear, then click the arrow icon in the corner. Select a destination folder for the exported files, and save.

How do I add Nik Collection to Photoshop? ›

Installing the Google Nik Collection

Click the Download button to download the plug-in for Windows or MacOS. Installation is easy: Simply execute and install the downloaded file. During the installation process, Google Nik Collection will link with Photoshop and with Lightroom and Aperture (if installed).

How much is DxO Nik Collection 4? ›

The Nik Collection 4 is priced at $149 for the suite. Photographers who purchased Nik Collection 3 can upgrade for $79. Silver Efex Pro 3 is a popular program and one that will tempt photographers into buying the latest version. But you cannot buy one plugin without buying or upgrading the entire suite.

How do I activate Nik Collection 5? ›

We recommend activating Nik Collection in standalone mode, rather than as a plug-in: please double click on any Nik Collection software to launch them this way. Enter your activation code in the white bar and then click the button "Activate" once entered.

What is the latest version of Nik Collection? ›

The latest version of the photo editing suite, Nik Collection 6 by DxO ($149 for new customers, $79 as an upgrade), adds a handy new Control Line function to U Points, brings the codebase up to date with support for Apple Silicon, and introduces some new features to the Color and Perspective Efex apps.

What is in Nik Collection 3? ›

Nik Collection 3 includes all of the previous suites, including Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, and Viveza.

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