By Kim Larson (Images ©Life Is Art Photography)
In April, Nik Software released an update to Silver Efex Pro, making it compatible with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3 and higher. The update is available now as a free download to current owners of Silver Efex Pro. We asked photographer Kim Larson to incorporate Silver Efex Pro into her Lightroom workflow and share the details.
My wedding workflow starts the minute I arrive home from a wedding, when I start backing up all of the photographs. Usually backup will take an hour or two, but I cannot sleep peacefully until all the photos are safe! I immediately copy all photos to a drive on my computer that is set to automatically backup to an off-site location every morning at 7:00 a.m. I also burn DVDs of the photos and store them in a file.
As soon as I have all the photos copied, I open Adobe Lightroom 2.0 and begin importing the files. Usually I start this the night of the wedding as well, so the photos will import while I put away my equipment or get ready for bed. I have a default metadata profile set up in Lightroom that applies my copyright information to each imported photo, and I always make sure to apply the proper keywords with the bride and groom’s names and the location of the wedding.
Lightroom is my primary processing application. If I need to fix or enhance a photo, I will edit it in Photoshop while keeping a copy of the edited photo in Lightroom. Likewise, if I apply a black and white tone to the photo with the Nik Silver Efex Pro plug-in, I will keep both copies of the photo in Lightroom. The photos that I show my clients are the finals exported from Lightroom.
When I’m ready to start working on the wedding photos, I open them in Lightroom and first go through all of them with a simple Keep or Trash mentality. I’d love to think I don’t have any “bad” photos to throw away, but it happens. So while making sure my caps lock is on, I quickly go through each photo in Lightroom’s Library module, pressing X to flag the photo as a reject and P to flag as a pick and keep it. Having the caps lock on will make Lightroom automatically advance the photos for you, making this process very quick! When finished I will go to Photo > Delete Rejected Photos and actually delete all my rejected photos. I still have all originals stored with the first backup.
Next, I make a second pass through all my photos in Lightroom’s Develop module, taking a little more time to scrutinize each photo. I will further reject duplicate photos if I need to, and tweak exposure and cropping. I may also add extra keywords to certain photos if I need to. For example, if I have a photo of the bride’s bouquet and I know the name of the florist, I will add the vendor’s name as a keyword on that photo. That way, if the vendor ever wants photos that I’ve taken of their work, it won’t take long to find it.
When my second pass is complete, I make a third pass through the photos, this time adding stars ratings to indicate processing I would like to do. I mark a photo with one star if it needs to be fixed in Photoshop, three stars if I want to make it black and white or toned, and five stars if I really love the photo and I want to feature it on my blog, website, or do enhanced Photoshop work to it. If you get really comfortable with your workflow, you may be able to combine the second and third passes to do everything in one pass.
Once my photos are starred, I filter them based on the number of stars they have. First I show only photos with one star, and take care of Photoshop fixes. I then set the filter to show photos with three or more stars. In the past, I had been exporting these photos to Photoshop and running various actions to convert them to black and white. I spent a lot of time tweaking the photos to get the right conversion and toning. Incorporating the Lightroom plug-in for Nik Silver Efex Pro (above) has been a huge timesaver. Instead of opening the files in Photoshop, I edit them in Silver Efex and can quickly convert to the perfect black and white. Although it is easy to use without reading any manuals or documentation, the Nik Software website has some great video tutorials on how to use the plug-in.
The power of Silver Efex is in how quickly I can create the finished product I envision. I have multiple preset styles set up in the software to preview different film types and toning effects on each photo (above). Nik has done a great job simulating different film types. My favorites are the ISO 3200 film types for a natural grain effect. But even if I don’t use a set film type, adding a natural grain to the photos is a snap with the “Grain per pixel” slider. And instead of just creating a grain overlay on the photo, Silver Efex builds the grain into each pixel of the photo, making it much more realistic (below).
It’s also easy to open multiple photos with Silver Efex Pro, but you do have to apply your toning to each image individually. This is easy of you use a single preset style; just navigate through each image and apply the style. Although it would be nice to be able to add the same style to all images at once, it does not bother me that I can’t because I rarely want to. Each photo I process may start with the same base style, but I almost always custom tweak each one for the best result possible.
After completing changes in Silver Efex Pro, I return to Lightroom and find that there is now a copy of each image I modified in the software (above). This is great, because I prefer to show both the original color image and the black-and-white version to my client. If I choose not to, I can easily remove the original image from Lightroom while leaving the Silver Efex version intact.
The final stage is to export all of the prepared wedding photos out of Lightroom, renaming them with a number sequence for the final output. where I will use them for a proof album or the couple’s online photo gallery.
Watch Kim Larson’s screencast video showing how Nik Silver Efex Pro works with Adobe Lightroom.
Editor’s note: We know everyone has their own workflow method. Do you have a labor-saving workflow tip? Share it in Comments.