I’m a huge fan of Silver Efex Pro, the black and white plug-in in the Google Nik Collection. But in a spirit of fair play I want to take a proper look at a rival product, Topaz B&W Effects 2. This comes from plug-in maker Topaz Labs, which sells a suite of plug-in tools that rivals the scope of the Google Nik Collection. B&W Effects is available both on its own and as a part of the Topaz Complete Collection.
I want to see if Topaz B&W has its own particular strengths, and I have found a couple of features which I think are especially interesting – Details and Transparency – and I’m going to use them on this still life photo (above).
01 ‘Classic’ default
I want to use the manual adjustment tools rather than any of the Topaz B&W preset effects, so I’ve chosen this ‘Classic’ preset from the ‘Traditional Collection’ as the closest thing to a default starting point.
02 Customise the interface
I don’t need to see the presets sidebar on the left, only the manual tools on the right – and if you click the ‘Change viewing options’ button (circled) on the top toolbar you can show or hide these different interface elements.
The tools sidebar on the right has a navigator window and a set of quick adjustment buttons underneath. I don’t want these either, and I can hide them by clicking the ‘Show/hide quick tools’ and ‘Show/hide navigator’ buttons, also circled.
03 Detail slider
This gives me more room to open up and explore the four tools panels: Conversion, Creative Effects, Local Adjustments and Finishing Touches. The tools I want are in the Conversion panel, which has a series of sub-headings. Under the ‘Adaptive Exposure’ heading is the ‘Detail’ slider. If I push this to the right, the outlines of the objects in the picture become much stronger. It’s a kind of localised contrast effect, not unlike the Structure slider in the Google Nik Collection, though coarser.
04 Detail Boost
The Detail Boost slider below affects finer details and works in a slightly different way. I can get the detail enhancing effect I’m after by using both in combination. For this kind of work it’s useful to zoom in a little – you’ll find the zoom tools on the top toolbar (circled).