August 5, 2023

Photo contrast was normal in film but is so misunderstood in digital. And the contrast slider is not helping. Not yet attended Shadow Hackers LIVE? It’s a game-changer. Sign up here for free.

I’ll show you how to create great photo contrast and stop the slider.

You can check out the tools I mentioned like the new Silver 5.3 black and white presets Filmist and Blackroom. Also if you own Silver 5 login and update here.

Contrast is not a slider – That’s the problem.

I make use of contrast. But not like they teach us. The contrast slider It’s last on the list, not first.

This week I worked on Silver Presets v 5.3 and there are a bunch of new updates which I’ll show in today’s video. But what I teach you in today’s video is actually where the refinements of Silver came from this week.

In general digital photography is pushing everything too far to the right and in today’s video we’ll see how that does not improve our photo contrast and we[‘re being taught contrast all wrong.

Photo contrast in good conditions is easy
You can’t fake it. Perfect morning mist, light mixed with shadow THEN good processing wins.

Silver 5.3 update.

I always use what I discover to improve our editing tools. Today is no exception.

Today’s video was my mindset when I did the Silver 5.3 Black and White presets update. I’ll cover the updates briefly in the video as they related to this. But even if you’re making your own presets take note because these tips are really powerful in black and white presets. If you own V5 already you can log in and update.

Shadows hold your photo contrast hostage.

SO you have to hack the shadows. You may be watching this video as a primer before my shadows hackers. But the slice of shadow we focus on today in managing photo contrast and ending our reliance on the slider is very powerful.

Here the photo contrast is plain and no  exiting will make it great
Even with a Classic Chrom Filmist edit, this flat photo lacks direction. The shadows don’t lead the eyes.

Photo Contrast is the heart of your photo.

It’s not always the same. Sometimes that contrast means deep blacks, other times misty darks that blend with bold highlights. It’s the separation they create that I teach in other workshops and videos using Zones, editing, and in-camera techniques that lets us draw them out.

It’s the mixing of all this combined with the organic emotion or impact of a photo that brings it all together to make a great image filled with perfect photo contrast.

Go try these tips in your Photo contrast and then go further with Shadow Hacking.

Gavin Seim

Dark tones still can be full of photo contrast
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April 25, 2013

Grosvenor Arch - Utah - Gavin Seim_4
Sunset at the Celestial City – Grand Staircase National Monument Utah, Grosvenor Arch. Spring 2013, Gavin Seim

Grand Staircase is a secret hideaway of Utah – A grand place beyond most National Parks in beauty, in remoteness and in a wild hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. There is another wonder to behold with each new curve of it’s bumpy roads.

It’s not one of those parks you simply drive into on paved thoroughfares, hot dog carts lining the byways. We came in off HWY 89 and camped two nights within the park before we exited the other side. It was a slow winding gravel road with lots of hikes, pullouts and things to see, but no civilization except perhaps a bathroom here and there.

We made it up to the Arch late on our second day and waited for the sunset. The feature here was the double arch, but what struck me about this place was the way the entire structure stands alone out here. Columns of colorful rock sprouting from the ground in stunning display, set in a minimal non-dictating scene. It was a beautiful thing. It made me think of the distant view of the Celestial City from the classic novel, Pilgrim’s Progress.

As the sun set and the light danced on the rocks I knew I needed a panorama of this one. This was the last image I made as the light softened and fell behind the hill. It peeked from the clouds just before disappearing fully behind the horizon and left me in awe of creation.

Release details: Prints Available.. Order Open Edition originals above.. Master prints and Signature Limited Editions are listed below and can be ordered by contacting gallery.

Released prints:

For Photographers. How it was made…

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March 6, 2013

Lost Oasis - Texas
The Lost Oasis – Near the Hot Springs, Big Bend National Park, Texas 2012 – 4×5 film, Linhoff T IV

Warm memories, adventure and hints of times gone past. It took me awhile to finish this one because I liked it too much to do it quickly. This old store sits in the middle of the desert a few minutes walk from the Rio Grande, Mexico on the other side. Down the path a ten minute hike is the ruins of the old Hot Springs, self proclaimed healing waters that made this old resort an attraction.

Now it’s just a dusty path leading to the warm hot tub like foundation that still remains from the old bathhouse and is filled by naturally hot water. The whole family and I went down and we soaked together in the warm spring as a tiny Mexican village lumbered through the day across the river. There a lot of history in this old place and it’s memories are just a little haunting, especially when the tourists disappear for the day and the solitude of morning or evening take over the silent stones.

Release details: Prints Available.. Order Open Edition originals above.. Master prints and Signature Limited Editions are listed below and can be ordered by contacting gallery.

Released prints….


Down past the old buildings and to the ruins of the old hot springs building. It's remaining foundation makes it like a hot tub in the middle of the desert. The family and I enjoyed it - This is Cyrus, Asher, Ana and my wife, Sondra.
Notes Snapshot: Down past the old buildings lie the ruins of the old hot springs building. It’s remaining foundation makes it like a hot tub in the middle of the desert. The family and I enjoyed it – This is Cyrus, Asher, Ana and my wife, Sondra.


For Photographers. How it was made…

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November 29, 2012

Those of you that follow my work know that I love working with 4×5 large format film. I still use digital, but 4×5 scans blow it away in terms of detail for my wall prints. More about why I love film in this article.

Today, I made a “quick video” looking at how I prepare images for wet scanning using my Epson V700. The V700 is not sold as a wet scanner. Epson wants you to buy the V750 for that. But the truth is the scanners are the same in nearly every area other than the wet attachments. To top it off, the wet scan upgrade from BetterScanning is said to be better than the stock one that comes with the V750.

Why Wet? Think about your car when you’ve just washed it – When it’s wet the scratches are less visible and everything looks pretty and shiny. Wet scanning has a similar effect. The film is suspended in liquid, which helps reduces small dust and scratches. Furthermore it gives me optical clarity that is not impeded by the surface of the dry film. That produces a better contrast and more detail – There’s an interesting discussion on this topic here.

My process works well and the resulting images go into Lightroom and Photoshop for final details. I have had drum scans done and plan to use them, in time, for VERY large prints in the 100 inch plus range. In my experience a good drum scan (which can easily cost over $100) is better than my Epson wet scans but probably by only 10-15%, so unless I am making a giant print it’s not an issue, even for a quality fanatic like me.

Other Tools: I use Silver Fast scanning software instead of the default Epson software most of the time. In general I find it’s very powerful. Silver Fast support is a bit lacking, but it’s a bit like a Photoshop for scanning and gives lots of control. That said you can get great wet scans with the default software. I use Kami fluid to mount with. It works well and goes a long way. Here’s the rubber roller and I like Purosol and Kimwipes for keeping all my glass clean. I use Duralar sheets to sandwich the negative between fluid and glass. A DataVac is good for serious air and these awesome craft tweezers make picking up the film a snap.

Film is not easy. But it’s coming back because it’s very rewarding and results in stunning, unique images loaded with detail, especially from the larger formats. Here’s a couple recent images I did on 4×5. Of course if you come to my gallery sometime, you’ll be able see the detail in all it’s glory – Enjoy, Gav

Ghostlands – Eastern OR – 4×5 HP400 Film. Full details here.
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September 24, 2012

Vintage 1968 photo magazines I bought. It’s refreshing to see articles on how to make good photos, instead of how to fix ones that were made wrong.

by Gavin Seim: (rev 05/13)

It was Spring of 1968. Motor Trend had just crowned the GTO car of the year, Eddie Adams just made one of the most iconic images in history and in a few months the Detroit Tigers would win the World Series. Pentax was telling us they made “fine photography easy.” and the Polaroid swinger was happily swinging off shelves. Topics ranged from the quality of drugstore printing to the latest spot meters. And yes, publishers knew that bare breasted woman sold photo magazines. Even then.

It was in the Spring of 2011 when I jumped back into film. I had cut my teeth on it back in the late 90’s. That was around the time the Unibomber was captured, scientists cloned sheep and Titanic sunk into theaters with a splash. As I grew, digital did too and soon took over the game. It was fresh, exciting and before long, even practical. Soon professionals everywhere were laying down their film for what were essentially 35mm SLR’s with a bit less detail. It was in some ways a downgrade, and yet digital does offer many advantages.

So I decided to go back and take film seriously. Loading it up for my travels to use it alongside digital. At first it was for the simple reason that a well scanned large format negative could produce vastly more detail than today’s digital. So I bought a classic 4×5 Linhoff and went to work. And it was indeed work, I picked one of the harder formats but it would turn out to be well worth it.

– 4×5 HP400 Film, Linhof Technika IV


Popular Photography 1968, ad for the Contaflex 126.

A few months earlier in ’68, the world saw Charlton Heston tell his primate overlord “Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” A classic was born, that would be somewhat tarnished by less impressive sequels. Meanwhile The soft focus filter was in vogue. Forty-four years later my wife would stand next to me in the living room looking at a cover portrait from a 1968 magazine and say. “It’s blurry.”

Back in the twenty-first century we’re making coffee and I grab my Olympus 35RC rangefinder to take a photo of my kids helping out on the kitchen counter. My daughter giggles adorably and I realize I forgot to wind the film. I react quickly before they move and release shutter. One frame and it’s back to lattes.

I’m in New Orleans with my Linhof. Jan, 2012. It quickly draws a crowd and I’m happily chatting. Photo by Jason Eldridge.

I was not the first to be out there rooting for film in this digital era. Many of the best Pictorialists never stopped using it. People like John Canlas, Ian Ruther and a few others had also been sharing their passion for silver for awhile. But I was not so into the romance, I just wanted the quality. People acted like I was a little crazy, but they still were a bit breathless when they saw my Linhoff Super Technika IV that came out around 1956. It started to become a part of my brand. Not just in my pictorials, but in my portrait work.

Next I started talking about film. I started talking about how I blended it with digital. Scanning, editing, printing. I have nothing against the traditional darkroom and I hope to build one when I have more space. But I’m a digital kid and I have a workflow there. There was a method to my madness. I needed to be able to get great images made and printed large in reasonable time for a reasonable cost.

Soon I had a Jobo ATL1000. A remarkable machine in which you load with a small batch of film and a very small amount chemicals and return about thirty minutes later to finished images, color or black and white. The next step was to scan on my V700 using a wet scanning attachment and then into Lightroom and other tools for the finished image. The result was amazing resolution from this 60’s era camera that has not changed much in half a century. I can get around 100-200MP of detail from 4×5 and a beautiful organic feel that digital somehow misses.

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