The Structure tool is one of Silver Efex Pro‘s secret weapons. It helps to give black and white images that indefinable ‘bite’ that we’re always trying to recapture with our digital images.
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You can think of the Silver Efex Pro Structure control it as a kind of ‘coarse sharpening’, which acts over a slightly larger radius than conventional sharpening tools. It exaggerates the ‘micro-contrast’ around outlines and details – though I suspect there’s a little more to it than that because I’ve never been able to replicate it directly with regular sharpening tools.
Strong structure settings can produce halos and edge artefacts in some conditions, mostly with subjects that have large areas of even tone. But for highly-detailed subjects like this cracked old trunk, it’s perfect.
I took this shot with strong sidelighting to bring out the textures as far as possible, but the straight black and white conversion (above) still doesn’t have the bite I’m looking for, so let’s see what I can do about it in Silver Efex Pro 2.
01 Pick a preset
I thought one of Silver Efex Pro’s Vintage effects would be ideal for this old-fashioned subject, and the ‘Antique Plate I’ effect is already close to the kind of picture I want. I want to emphasise the texture even more, though.
02 Using the Structure slider
Checking the tools panel on the right, I see that this preset already comes with a structure setting of 30, which explains why it had that extra ‘bite’ compared to the default conversion. Now with some subjects, this would be as far as you could push the structure value before artefacts would begin to appear, but there’s so much detail in this shot that any artefacts are disguised – so I’m pushing the structure value right up to 77.