Using Luminar Instead of Silver Efex Pro

Yes, you can create absolutely gorgeous monochrome photos in Luminar, even though it is a general purpose photo editor.

In fact, I believe it's a more capable monochrome editor than Silver Efex Pro - plus you get all the other benefits too! 

I will be the first to admit that I am a big color guy at heart, thus making me not a black and white guy at heart. However, I do love creating black and white photos, and have ever since I first started using Tonality by Macphun a couple of years ago. Tonality is an incredible product and it literally converted me over to being a fan of monochrome photos…and that was not easy to do. Believe me, I was ADDICTED to big colors (still am, to a certain degree).

Despite my love of Tonality, the shiny new toy from Macphun is Luminar (including the amazing Neptune update that just happened), and you can also create stunning black and white photos in Luminar - and rather easily I might add. I do this quite often nowadays, and it is both quick and easy to do so in Luminar. In fact, I rarely use Tonality any more because Luminar is just so capable. I don’t really need Tonality these days. Luminar excels at this stuff.

The Nik Collection is going away

A few weeks back, I wrote an article about why adopting Macphun is the right thing to do, since there are many users of the Nik Collection from Google still out there and it is basically going to whither and die on the vine - while Macphun is growing and investing in their products.

This article was general in nature, and not directed at a specific product, but rather the bleak outlook for those using the Nik Collection. Although many photographers have used and loved the Nik Collection over the years (including me), it is not going anywhere and Google has essentially come clean on that. It is time to move on. (I made the switch to Macphun almost 2 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.)

My friend challenged me to create stunning monochromes in Luminar

When I shared that article on Facebook, one of my photographer friends said that although he loves Macphun, he challenged me to use Macphun to create stunning monochromes which many photographers still do in Silver Efex Pro (the monochrome product in the Nik Collection by Google). I assume he isn’t convinced that Luminar is capable of delivering as solid a monochrome end result as Silver Efex Pro.

But I am convinced, and his challenge is accepted. :-)

With a built-in filter known as B&W Conversion, it is very quick to get started on a monochrome photo. However, that filter is just the beginning. Because of all the available filters (there are over 40 included in Luminar), you literally have unlimited options at your fingertips in terms of how you want to approach the black and white edit you are about to perform on your shot. Truthfully, you have many more options than you ever had in Silver Efex Pro (and more than you have in Tonality, with a few minor exceptions such as lens blur).

Since Silver Efex Pro (along with the rest of the Nik Collection) is no longer going to get updates or upgrades, you need to find another monochrome editor anyways. Why not try Luminar? It’s an amazing product, has serious capabilities and is customizable depending on your skill level, and besides I have a ton of videos to help you get better at using it. You can download a free trial here if you want to take it for a spin.

Here are a few monochrome ideas that you can easily implement using Luminar, adding various filters as needed (any of these could be accomplished in 2-3 minutes or less, using 1-3 filters):

  • Classic black and white look (well-balanced blacks and whites)
  • Contrasty black and white (heavy on the blacks)
  • Selective color (all black and white except for one color, usually red)
  • Color-toned black and white (sepia, cyanotype, etc)
  • Grungy black and white (bring up details)
  • Soft black and white (remove the details)
  • Grainy black and white (add a significant amount of grain to simulate a film look)
  • Add a texture (millions of possibilities here)
  • The list goes on…

Film profiles are included in Silver Efex Pro...which is likely a popular feature of the product.

Now to be fair, I also dove into Silver Efex Pro to see what makes it so popular for monochrome editing (it had been 2+ years since I last used it, and I didn't remember much about it). I like the product, and I did use it some back in the day. There were two things I found that are not yet available in Luminar - frames/borders and film types. Personally, I would very rarely use a photo frame and rarely see them on most images. I am not sure if that is a popular feature but it's not of real interest to me. However it is in Silver Efex Pro and not in Luminar. 

Regarding film types, I can understand the use of that feature. There is a certain charm to a filmy feel. However, as far as I can tell in Silver Efex Pro there are only 3 differentiating factors between the film types it offers: light, contrast, and grain - and those are easily added to a photo in Luminar.

You see, Luminar does not yet have film types (and I have no idea what the roadmap looks like), but I am certain that using the copious amount of powerful filters in Luminar would allow me to easily reproduce any of those looks (many of which are done using the Tone Curve, which is also available as a filter in Luminar). Sure, I completely get the appeal of a 1-click motion for achieving that film look. It’s a time-saver. However, with a little experimentation in Luminar you could create those looks and save them as “film presets”, and then they are a 1-click adjustment. Simple as that. Plus, you have all the other benefits of Luminar, which are many (and some of which are listed below).


Show me some monochrome photos! Prove your point, Jim! ;-)

So to illustrate my point that you can create compelling monochromes in Luminar, I have taken a number of my photos and, using Luminar only, have converted them to monochrome. I have also included the “before” shot so you can see the difference. In some cases during the editing process, I actually edited in full color first before converting to monochrome (and thus the before photo will show that). Sometimes that helps me with my monochrome “vision”. I don’t know why…it’s just something I find myself doing at times.

In my opinion, Luminar is more than capable of holding its own against any other product out there, and not just for converting to monochrome. It’s a full-featured photo editor that stands on its own merits. It’s incredible, and is literally packed with features.

(click any photo to view in a lightbox)

Here are some of the wonderful features in Luminar that make it a compelling product:

  • 40+ built-in filters for customizable photo adjustment
  • Layers so you can easily stack edits, add textures and more
  • Filter masking, allowing you to selectively apply multiple filters on a single layer
  • Workspaces, which are collection of filters bundled together so you can quickly access them
  • Adaptive interface that you can adjust to your liking and level of skill
  • Built in and customizable noise reduction option
  • Object removal/eraser function to remove unwanted items from your photo
  • Free preset packs included and more on the Macphun website
  • Premium preset packs from yours truly ;-)

If you want to get more familiar with Luminar, you may want to check out my Luminar Tips page. It’s a collection of articles that I have written here about Luminar, showing various tips and tricks, and also links to my most-watched Luminar tutorial videos.

See? You can create some beautiful monochromes in Luminar!


What ever happened to my friend that challenged me?

Oh, and do you remember back at the top when I mentioned my friends' concern over whether you can create stunning monochromes with Macphun? Yeah, well he finally had a chance to dig into Luminar and wrote me back a little note:

"Holy Crap! Luminar is fantastic! I'm blown away. So powerful and easy to use. It even does black and white nicely."

Yep, that is an excerpt from a message he sent me. His words, not mine. It just took a little experimentation and he is now a fan. Win.

Why don't you give it a try?


Get my free Monochrome Magic workspace for Luminar!

Many months ago, I created a free workspace for black and white editing in Luminar, and also recorded a video about it. If you want to check that out and download the free workspace, you can read about it right here.

I am now using Luminar to create monochromes, and it's incredibly powerful and perfect for doing so. I also created a custom workspace for doing this in Luminar, and it's a free download if you want to use this workspace in Luminar. Enjoy!

I hope this helps. If you haven’t yet tried converting to monochrome in Luminar, what are you waiting for? It’s fun, easy, and the photos look terrific!

And if you don’t even have Luminar yet…go and download a free trial. You can’t beat a test drive to see how it handles, right?

So what do you think? Do you agree that Luminar is a very capable monochrome editor? 

Thanks much and let me know if you have any questions.


Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Macphun and use affiliate links in my Macphun articles. If you click through and purchase one of their products, I receive a small commission which I reinvest in this site. However, your price is the same whether you buy using my links or not, so it's a win-win situation. These small commissions allow me to continue to add additional content, provide free training and more, right here on the blog. Thanks for your support! Please let me know if you have any questions.

One more thing! You can actually SAVE MONEY on Macphun using my coupon code JIMNIX at checkout. Save $10 on Luminar or Aurora HDR using coupon code JIMNIX. Thanks!