B&W conversions. SEP vs. Lightroom3 ?

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Can anybody justify purchasing Silver Efex Pro vs just using Lightroom for B&W conversions and prove that it's better? Aside from control points, which is an obvious difference, what are the other reasons you SEP/Lightroom users have for going to SEP ? Tone control? Curves? Shoot...

Doug
 
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Doug- I'm going through this dilemma myself. I've used LR since 1.1 for B+W and was quite happy with it. I used to shoot a lot of B+W film 30 years ago and always missed the look of Tri-X boiled in Rodinal. I tried adding grain with LR 3 and again was generally happy...... Then I downloaded Silver Efex 2 for the 2 week trial.

Like all software these days it offers a ton of presets (which I ignore) and a generally friendly UI. It offers a lot of sliders that give you a lot of control as well as pre canned film emulation presets. The real strenght though is in a control that Nik calls structure. Hard to describe but it gives you really unique control over micro-contrast both locally and globally.

I'm no PP genius but I've got a 11 x 17 print framed by our front door that I never could have acheived with LR. The results have really impressed me. There's a local studio here that offers fairly expensive workshops on printing for B+ W. They reccomend Silver Efex hands down.

I'm currently scanning for coupons and online deals to purchase it. I'm trialing the other Nik offerings to see if I should buy the complete collection but think I'll end up with the SE by itself.

The 14 day trial is fully functional so give it a try.
 
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Interesting Brad, thanks. For one thing, I'd be really curious to see the shot you decided to hang, just for kicks to see exactly how impossible it would be to replicate what you did in SEP... with your permission of course.

I've tried SEP1 in the past, and did like it. I know what you mean about the structure.. it really does allow fine tuning with micro contrast giving photos a somewhat interesting feel to them.. I guess I'm just wondering if overall, it's that much of a big deal, or big enough difference to spend the bucks on it is all.

Yeah.. dilemma indeed.

Doug
 
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Doug - I'm on the road right now and my photo's aren't on this laptop. It's a simple photo of some stones and driftwood, a nature still life that was just kinda flat no matter what I did in LR. I spent some time in SE and ran a print on Canson Baryta paper and it really came alive. I do a lot of B+W still life strictly for print not the web and I think the microcontrast improvements really seem to match my printer and paper such that I get a print that meets what I saw in my mind. The grain effects are also more film like than the simulated grain in LR. This may be an area I need to experiment more with (in LR).

Bottom line is I could spend big bucks on all sorts of software I don't really need, I'm committed to LR and continue to be pleasantly suprised with each major upgrade (1.x to 2.x to 3.x) I'd hate to spend hundreds of $ to find out LR 4 has just added the feature I was looking for!
 
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Interesting indeed. One of these days I'm hoping to find that I've taken some sort of shots which I'd be proud to print and hang on my wall or even sell. I'm really getting into the whole just "shooting for fun" and for the art of it thing, rather than obsessing over how tack sharp something is or anything as such.

I do however have, at times, a certain vision of what I'd like to see on my screen, admittedly because of others who have influenced me (lots of people here), and at times just because things tend to fit a particular shape or style etc.. That said, do you think that the benefits of SEP are better translated via print rather than on the web? Or that its uses are better suited for print?

Guess I'll have to play around with the new version and feel it out again. Thanks for your insight.

Doug
 
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Here's a good (i.e. comprehensive) review of SEP2

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/reviews/plugins/silver_efex_2.html

As for me, I just ordered some TMAX100 - 120 :smile:

Peter

Ha! While I'd love to shoot actual film, I doubt I could afford it in terms of time and money right now. I was supposed to have been given an film camera last year, but the person backed out :( Wish there were some flea markets or things of that nature around me where I might be able to find some stuff!

Did a bit of B&W conversions in SEP last night, and it does somehow feel more intuitive than LR when making specific adjustments, and I do dig the results a lot. Gah... just one more thing to add to to the list of bills to pay!

Thanks for the link :)

Doug
 
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I know when SEP2 first came out, there were reports of bugs (crashing, I think??) in the system and many advised waiting for a few patches before upgrading. Was this ever ironed out, or are we still waiting?
 
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Ha! While I'd love to shoot actual film, I doubt I could afford it in terms of time and money right now. I was supposed to have been given an film camera last year, but the person backed out :( Wish there were some flea markets or things of that nature around me where I might be able to find some stuff!

Did a bit of B&W conversions in SEP last night, and it does somehow feel more intuitive than LR when making specific adjustments, and I do dig the results a lot. Gah... just one more thing to add to to the list of bills to pay!

Thanks for the link :)

Doug

[FILM IS EXPENSIVE RANT]

You're kidding, right? Do you have any idea how much film & chemistry I can buy for the cost of the software alone to make B&W prints? Since the first of year I have scored the following:
22 rolls of 135-36 Tmax p3200. A gift from a friend.
10 rolls 120 Ektar 25 (right here at Nikon Cafe)
10 rolls of 135-24 ASA 100, Kodak & Fuji in exchange for 6 rolls of 120 color.
100 sheets of 4x5 Ilford HP5+ for $45.
Walmart charges $0.84/roll to develop 120/220 C-41 film. $20 for enough Xtol & fixer to process about 50 rolls of film.
My scanner cost me $175.
Ink & inkjet paper are my biggest expense. That's the same for film or digital.
Digital ain't free. :eek:

[/FILM IS EXPENSIVE RANT]

Even if the bar is set way down at my level, film still wins. To my admittedly prejudiced eyes. A whole lot easier I might add.

A few B&W samples

That said, I have been having a bit of success with some Photoshop Actions for B&W conversion. However, the quality of the B&W is totally dependant on the original. Not all RAW files are candidates for conversion. My favorite digital quote, "This looked terrible in color so I converted it to B&W." Doesn't always work.

These actions work well. My problem is that I have to try every one before I can find the perfect one for a given RAW file.

http://www.thelightsrightstudio.com/TLRB&WConversion.htm

http://www.thelightsrightstudio.com/TLRB&WToning.htm

Good luck.
 
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Interesting rant. Though I think you left out the cost of ink, which is a re-occurring cost, and I'm not sure of how I'd include that as part of the built in cost of printing at a lab.

Plus, I'm sure that driving to Walmart costs money unless you're riding your bike there. The cost of software is a one time thing (unless you're upgrading every year or two).

Having space and money to afford the upkeep of an darkroom in your house? I live in an apartment, so have no choice but to develop at a lab. I don't have an Walmart anywhere near me and Places here charge $5 and $10 a roll for 120/220 C-41 respectively. So I guess YMMV. Unless anybody here who lives in NYC knows of a place as cheap but with good customer service?

Which scanner do you have btw... and can you post some samples from it?

Doug

Just called B&H and they charge around $9 to develop B&W! No prints, just development. Seems a weeeee bit more expensive than your 0.89 at Walmart. Walgreens *drugstore* charges $5.00 So not for nothing but... I don't think your rant will hold up with these NYC prices considering the cost of purchasing and developing film alone. My wife WAS thinking about moving to Austin, but that's another story... Not too sure after having watched Gasland.
 
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SEP all the way. Took a class on black and white conversion in Media Arts department while I was in grad school. They thought us a total of 17 ways to convert one image into b/w (no SEP of course). Tried them all in many different photos but nothing could come close to SEP. Its just magical. I am still using first version and dont feel any need to upgrade.
 
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Interesting rant. Though I think you left out the cost of ink, which is a re-occurring cost, and I'm not sure of how I'd include that as part of the built in cost of printing at a lab.

Plus, I'm sure that driving to Walmart costs money unless you're riding your bike there. The cost of software is a one time thing (unless you're upgrading every year or two).

Having space and money to afford the upkeep of an darkroom in your house? I live in an apartment, so have no choice but to develop at a lab. I don't have an Walmart anywhere near me and Places here charge $5 and $10 a roll for 120/220 C-41 respectively. So I guess YMMV. Unless anybody here who lives in NYC knows of a place as cheap but with good customer service?

Which scanner do you have btw... and can you post some samples from it?

Doug

Just called B&H and they charge around $9 to develop B&W! No prints, just development. Seems a weeeee bit more expensive than your 0.89 at Walmart. Walgreens *drugstore* charges $5.00 So not for nothing but... I don't think your rant will hold up with these NYC prices considering the cost of purchasing and developing film alone. My wife WAS thinking about moving to Austin, but that's another story... Not too sure after having watched Gasland.

Doug,
I do all of my own B&W film developing. I live in an apartment as well. I have a Harrison changing tent and Jobo drums and Beseler motor base. I used to load daylight tanks in the windowless bathroom. However, I had to wait until dark due to light leaks around the door from windows in another room. The Harrison tent made loading film a 24/7 operation. I have come in from shooting on a Sunday morning and had film hanging to dry by 1pm-2pm.
My scanner is an antique. An Epson 1680. I like it because I can load 4 sheets of 4x5 film. The newer models only handle 2 sheets at a time.

Photography costs money. No doubt about it. However, digital photography isn't free. Right now I have a lengthy shopping list which includes ink, paper and an external storage solution for all of my keeper RAW files and monster TIFF files.

All of the film originals in these albums were scanned by me on the Epson 1680.

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/kodachrome_001/

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/Houston/carwash/

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/cemeteries/

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/cemeteries/09-11-10+Glenwood/Kremers+Angels-1.jpg.html

I hope you see something that you like.

A few of my early RAW to B&W photos are scattered in here.

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/backroads/lug+export/?g2_page=1
 
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Doug,
I do all of my own B&W film developing. I live in an apartment as well. I have a Harrison changing tent and Jobo drums and Beseler motor base. I used to load daylight tanks in the windowless bathroom. However, I had to wait until dark due to light leaks around the door from windows in another room. The Harrison tent made loading film a 24/7 operation. I have come in from shooting on a Sunday morning and had film hanging to dry by 1pm-2pm.
My scanner is an antique. An Epson 1680. I like it because I can load 4 sheets of 4x5 film. The newer models only handle 2 sheets at a time.

Photography costs money. No doubt about it. However, digital photography isn't free. Right now I have a lengthy shopping list which includes ink, paper and an external storage solution for all of my keeper RAW files and monster TIFF files.

All of the film originals in these albums were scanned by me on the Epson 1680.

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/kodachrome_001/

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/Houston/carwash/

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/cemeteries/

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/cemeteries/09-11-10+Glenwood/Kremers+Angels-1.jpg.html

I hope you see something that you like.

A few of my early RAW to B&W photos are scattered in here.

http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/backroads/lug+export/?g2_page=1

I've seen the sizes of those apartments in Texas... they're like mansions compared to these NYC hovels ! So, sure.. if I had the room, I'd likely want to build a darkroom too, just not much of an option here I'm afraid. We pay what is considered a relatively low amount of rent for a "railroad" style apartment in what some would consider to be an up and coming posh neighborhood. It's not in Manhattan mind you.. but right across the river in Long Island City.

I lucked out because I got this place through a connection (friend of a friend kind of thing) and the landlord is an absolute sweetheart. It's small... real small, especially for 2 people. We pay $1400 a mo. That doesn't include any utilities (well, water.. but that's all of NYC if you're in an apartment). We'll be looking to move when our lease is up come October, but I guarantee that we won't find a place for less than $1500, minimum.. And those places are hard to find in a decent area. I'm guessing we'll wind up paying closer to $2k a month minus utilities.

Her idea (wife) of checking out Austin keeps sounding better and better.

Doug
 
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Agreed, my apartment is humongous (700-800 sq. ft.) relative to NYC. However, I only use half of the dining table for the Harrison tent, a double sink, 1 foot of counter space, and the shower rod for film processing. The scanner, computer monitor, keyboard, etc. occupies a 3'x4' table. The Canon iPF5000 is the largest part of the inventory. Rougly 3'x4' and it sits next to the table with the scanner, etc.
One of these days I will find my round to-it and start making wet prints again in the kitchen. Until then, my analog-digital hybred or all digital workflow suits me just fine.
Austin real estate seems to be more expensive than Houston. Austin also seems to be a more agreeable place to live than Houston. I'm partial to the Upper East Side of Texas. Tyler-Longview-Marshall, etc.
 
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700-800 SF sounds pretty good compared to what I just measured which is round about 400 sq ft. If I had double the room to work with, I'd have no problems setting up an darkroom! Not to mention an audio room and library. *sigh*

Sorry to have hijacked my own thread!

Doug
 
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Doug - Here's the photo I referenced in my original response, I added a hint of color back into the rocks so not strictly a B+W but it's this type of stuff that has me looking at actually buying this software
 
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That's quite nice Brad! Love the textures in it. Can't help but wonder what that would look like having been shot with B&W film though ;) What technique did you use to put a bit of color back in it? Is it something new to SEP 2?

Doug
 
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Doug- I've often thought of getting an old Nikon film body. But I know I'd get carried away!
In Silver efex II one of the control point options is selective colorization. I put an overall "copper wash" at about 12% opacity and then put a control point idividually on each of the rocks and dialed in a tiny bit of their original color. The grain effect was just trial and error, I don't remember the settings.

The photo suffered a lot from conversion to sRGB and jpeg compression when I posted it here, the tint and selective color is much more subdued. The print looks much better (11 x 14" on Canson Baryta paper) like I said before I don't process for the web very often.
 
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