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Digital version of the Bleach Bypass


Well-Known Member
I stumbled over a reference to Bleach bypass and never even considered how it could be achieved digitally.

The bleach bypass effect was created during the color wet chemical processing of film in the darkroom. It involved the film either skipping the bleach solution or was prematurely removed from the bleach solution prior the bleaching of the silver grains completed. The results was a color image with a pronounced black component and evident film grain.

A digital equivalent would be to create a black film grain of a color image, which is precisely what Silver Efex Pro does. For anyone interested in trying this, you'll need Silver Efex Pro and a compatible photo editor. In the following example, I'm using photoshop.

Open a color image in photoshop

Open the Nik Software Silver Efex Pro filter and process the color image into a good looking B&W. In the photos attached here, I simply selected a preset Kodak BW 400 film type.

When you are back to your native Photoshop windows, click to select the newly created Silver Efex Pro layer.

Then change the Layer Blend Mode of Soft Light and change the Opacity to 80%. You can try other blend modes or opacities to alter the effect to your liking.

Now you have a color image enhanced with a natural looking film grain just as the original wet chemical Bleach Bypass process would achieve.

Original SD14 X3F image:

View attachment 1430

Silver Efex Pro Bleach Bypass Effect:

View attachment 1431


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It does look more "filmy". And the highlights are brighter without that haziness you get from boosting the exposure or bringing up the shadows in SPP. And the blue sky isn't as electric. Which is a good thing. I hated the way my Fujifilm A450 made the blue skies too blue.
The only Nik Software packages that I got were Silver Efex Pro and Viveza, I haven't yet purchased Color Efex Pro.

I didn't know that they had a Bleach Bypass filter built in.