I love Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro. It is nearly completely responsible for me being excited about making black and white images. I have Scott Bourne to thank for introducing me to this wonderful piece of software. Silver Efex Pro is an amazing tool for crafting black and white, sepia and in between photographs. It is absolutely simple to make a black and white version of photos for clients who request both color and black and white images.
In the above ORIGINAL and FINAL comparison, I used a photo I made at a recent fashion show. I shot in RAW + Fine mode on my Nikon D300. The ORIGINAL is the Fine JPG version straight out of the camera. When I first reviewed this image, I liked the pose by the fashion model. I did not like the strange lighting that came from the various awkwardly placed floodlights illuminating the runway. I was thinking of just leaving the photo on the cutting room floor....until I popped it into Silver Efex Pro 3:
I use the Silver Efex Pro 3 plugin for Aperture 2.0 (also available for Lightroom & Photoshop). In the left column are all the different filters one can apply to an image. My favorite filter is "high structure," but it is not good for close-up portrait shots. My second favorite filter is "Antique Plate I," which is the filter I used in the FINAL image above.
In the right column in the Silver Efex Pro 3 window are controls for adjusting brightness, contrast and structure. Below those are further fine tuning controls for filtering a specific color, and then if you go into the Toning control area you can tweak to your heart's content if you really want to. I find that many filters are pretty good as-is for my tastes for 80% of my shots.
So if you are tired of fiddling in Photoshop to produce a black and white image, or are using the black and white mode of your digital camera, I can highly recommend using Silver Efex Pro 3 as an alternative that will not only streamline your workflow but produce great results with only a few clicks.