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 15, 2023

When you see a photo in 2023, do you believe it? I’ve just been watching the past few months and today am speaking because I think they missed the bigger part of what AI is doing to photography.

All the top photo channels have been talking about Ai.

But they are not talking about BELIEF! Don’t just watch today. Follow along with my demonstration by grabbing my free film presets and doping this yourself. This kind of photography can’t be ignored and has a big part in what’s coming.

Ai is not Photography.

Today I’m going to tell you what I realized about Ai in Photography, how it’s a repeat of the 2000’s and what you need to be doing to stay ahead and make your photos more real. Yes AI generation tools la Dall e and Stable diffusion will get better. But even when they do feel, real, they won’t be!

Here’s a few more examples. Look at one of my photos of El Trampolin Tamasopo Mexico. When I asked Dall e to make it, the scene actually feels like the right place. It just look very ,much like painting. Stable Diffusion made a scene that has nothing to do with the region. It’s just a river.

Misty river at sunrise in El Trampolin Tamasopo Mexico
My photo of the river at sunrise in El Trampolin Tamasopo Mexico

Don’t be like photographers from the 2000’s

I have some more examples in the video. But what it shows is that while Ai is nothing like the real thing, denial won’t save photography. So don’t ignore what I’m saying today. We have to adapt and make real photo that people value. Those will be the heart of photography future.

Ai will change the demand for many images and perhaps the world will become even more fake. But people will know it’s fake and that is where photography is still so important.

Life, death, , history cultures and people are real, not Ai. So NOT using ai will mean you have something unique in the coming world of Ai imagery.

IS photography going to die because of Ai?

Photography has to stand on it’s own. What Ai will take a giant piece of is over edited photos that are not real. The suspension of disbelief is going to het harder just like it did with Photoshop in the 2000’s. So more over the top things wi9ll soon just be seen al fake Ai things.

This leaves the value in photography in that it’s real. There’s nothing wrong with creating illustrated art. It beautiful. But it’s not photography. I remember this debate many time at international photo conferences and comps like PPA…. If there’s nothing of a photo left, it’s a painting people said.

Now that gets tripled. Now everyone will know the amazing thing they are looking at that seems to amazing to be true, IS NOT. It’s an image without belief and that leaves room for us to adapt with real honest photography that represents the world, the people and the cultures around us.

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August 12, 2022

Should you use Capture One or Lightroom for your black and white edits? PLUS where does Photoshop for black and white fit in?

We’re going to test that in today’s video with direct comparisons. Taking the sale filed and editing them in each to see what gives us the best black and white in the least time. I’ll give you tips for all of them along the way.

Also, see my Lightroom vs Capture on 2022 video here for a general overview of these two great apps. For now, let’s watch today’s video and do some black and white tests.

Since I started digital photography 20 years I’ve seen just about every technique for Black and White in digital Some needless complex. some are just ugly. Simplifying that process led me to bypass plugins and create tools Like Silver 4 presets and Blackroom BW Actions.

Pure Capture One. While there are fewer BW sliders, you can make up for it with the more advanced color tools and get a stunning result.

Honestly we B&W lovers occasionally get a little snobby, so this question can be complex. But since we no longer have the chemicals we used to use in the darkroom the traditional color filters do not have the same effect. Today to take the same principle and make it work digital.

The best black and white conversions usually start for a color photo because with those color channels we can convert and extract the colors, much like we did with filters in the film days but with more detail. Darkroom like green filter, lighter reds, etc. If you bake black and white in camera, you lose all that power. That’s not to say your BW photos are wrong. Just that they are not as flexible.

So I usually convert on the raw file. In LR or C1. I use my SIlver 4 presets if Filmist. But whether you use creative presets to go further, or all manual. You don’t want to supply desaturate. Use those channels and the power of your RAW.

Watch today’s video above, because we’re looking at Lightroom VS Capture ON in a side-by-side level. Does one give you a better black and white conversion than the other and what are the advantages between Lightroom and C1.

After that, you can go deeper into your black and white edits..

If I’m going to edit my best work. I go beyond RAW. I’ll restore the color channels before going into Photoshop, leaving my other edits in place. Then I can go deeper with my black and white edits. But they are also more complex in Photoshop.

Sometimes it’s not even clear how you can make a better black and white in Photoshop. I use Blackroom to convert to a more complex BW because it always helps me find a way to improve the edit without stumbling around. That’s what it was built for.

More about how I do those more advanced edits in this video and on the Blackroom page.

Lightroom is a little more user-friendly compares to Capture One. But with Styles or presets, you can get your look fast in both.

In conclusion. Which is best? LR, C1 or PS

When it comes to Lightroom VS Capture One for black and white. I think Lightroom has the edge for ease of use and results that just work. Capture One with its other available tools can perhaps give you more options but with more work. Both are going to work great if you save presets or styles or Have a pack like Silver 4 or Filmsist on hand.

In the end, both are good and the results will be good.

But comparing both to Photoshop. Photoshop offers more options, but with a lot more time spent. Even if you use Photoshop actions to vastly speed up these more advanced edits, Photoshop should probably not be where you start.

Edit normally in Lightroom or in Capture one or another RAW-type editor. Then take the very best images you want to showcase to Photoshop to give them that edge that makes them win.

Lastly, plugins for black and white are heavily hyped. I used them when I all this starting out but native tools have improved a LOT since those days. As I mentioned in the video, a plugin adds another step and takes away control.

Yes, using presets and styles and actions help a lot because they make hard tasks fast. But they use the native app tools in Lightroom, Capture One, and Photoshop. So instead of a new file or a flat image. You just highly refined sliders, adjustable layers, and a totally transparent process. To be that’s a huger win.

Let me know if the comments what you think is the best black and white tool.

Gavin Seim

The detail in Photoshop is almost impossible to beat. Layers and details equal more refinement. So I still take by best photos here in the end after using a RAW style editor.
Don’t be afraid to edit your black and white a little more. Whatever app you use. In the end, it’s all about shadow and contrast.
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July 15, 2022

Presets, photo editing software, and gear. We have the tools in 2022. But I want to change how you think about your photos.

I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years. I watched digital be born and the entire industry change. I’ve run the gamut in everything from street and wedding photography to fashion photography of Models in Mexico and fashion photography.

I saw photography go from a technical creative art to something mostly driven by internet marketers and “Ai” tools. But I always see the same mistakes that make photos ordinary no matter how good the software gets.

I don’t need to second guess. People either like my photon or not. A clean Natural HDR 4 process made it look good and that’s a wrap.

Sometimes digital is so easy, that we lose an opportunity. Trends come and go, but in the end, photography will always be about emotion, inspiration, and creativity. If you learn to discover shadows and souls with confidence, your photography will always get better regardless of the tools you use.

Confidence is not always easy. I’ve learned a lot as a street photographer. You can have all the software. You have the best camera, and download the best Lightroom presets (yes I have those for you) But what you need is to see as no one else sees. That’s what I want to show you today.

You’ll find the presets I use here on the site – They do matter because they make completing your vision easier. You can get my free lightroom presets and film styles like Filmist and Natural HDR.

Most photographers edit wrong, but not for the reasons they think!

In this video, we’re going head to head with the mistake that nearly every photographer has made, and may are doing every day. If you can get past this, it changes more than just how you edit. It’s going to change your photography mentality.

As I showed in the video. The perfect capture and the perfect edit are a myth. That’s what makes photography so amazing. There’s always something we can improve that will affect the emotion of your photo, or the lack of it.

Knowing how to edit, starts with knowing what you want. Presets and styles are invaluable because they help me find my look without wasting brain cells.

Black and white, color, contrasty, soft. Deciding does not have to be hard. here I used Filmist and Elegance 4 to give more depth and that’s it. You can get my free lightroom presets and film styles on the FIlmist page.

I usually start with Filmist because it works so well. But there’s something more important than what you edit with! That’s knowing what you want to create with your edit. An actual vision.

Ansel Adams taught this way back with visualization techniques and using Zones in our exposures. Something we studied at length in my Exposed Master Class and in Photo Perfect.

IN the end making the craft of your photography second nature, finding your confidence, even if you know it won’t be perfect. That is what will transform your photography. The tools you use just, are just things to help you get there.

I’ll explain it all in detail in the video. You can also watch it directly on my photography channel here

Enjoy and we’ll see you next time – Gavin Seim

I like capturing things people don’t even think about like the corner drug store because in 20 years everything will change and then simple photos like this will matter. But here it was easy, this was all about shadows and sunset. Using Silver 4 and Blackroom was a no-brainer.
The full gold chrome look that I talked about in this blog post. Decide your look hand and commit to it. It will change your perfective on every image you publish.

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July 25, 2020

Shot notes: On all 3 of these I used Silver Skin process from my Silver 3 presets collection for C1 and Lr on all three. I did some burn burn and dodge cleanup in Photoshop also. I used a Fuji XT3 with a 90mm f2.

Environmental portraits were a bit part of my training and my late mentor who was one of the finest portraitists in the past 100 years; he crafted environmental images for walls for an entire career.

So  I asked myself as I looked at these. Why do I need to remove set elements for this shot. Which tells a better story? I picked 3 poses but my favorite was the environmental scene and it looks great large. I decided to test it on the world of Facebook photo groups. By the way you can comment below or discuss this here on the Facebook post.

There was no grand plan here. Maybe that’s WHY I like it. The internet is full of confident critics who have no idea what they are talking about. I’ll never forget standing around the image salon at competition with Ken Whitmire and others and having strong opinions to this or that. Ken usually had a more objective view to offer. I guess what make me blog about this shot is that I realized I did’t care if they thought it was “wrong”, I knew it would probably not go loan in competition and that did not matter. I like the image and realized that that was good enough and that we often worry to much about what others say.

This caused some controversy.

More people liked my image that hated it. But I found it interesting that a lot of “experts” came to call and they decided that I sucked and if I would not heed their advice,  I should be disbarred from photography! I didn’t actually post the image asking for critique but I always consider critiques because mentally accepting or rejecting what people say about your image is useful.

I learned it’s fine to post your behind the scenes photo so people can peek on smartphones, but to post that image as art another matter. Digital has made us prone do doing whatever software tells us, small screens have taught us planning for print is less important than cropping for a four inch screen and social media has taught us to argue everything and insist we are right. It makes me feel we should go back and study the painters a bit more because often what’s being said by self proclaimed “experts” flies in the face of art history.

When I started entering international level PPA competitions in 2009 on the road to get my masters, I learned I was NOT as good as I thought. It was very humbling and I’ve been learning it ever since. I teach and study photography and I have for 20 years. So despite being called arrogant at times, I don’t just take every comment from  someone online with no portfolio or reputation and obey; neither should you!

Online, everyone is the smartest instructor in a class where only YOU are the student

Is there a rule that says we can’t have the lighting visible in a portrait? No, not if leads to the subject. So that’s what I told people, but some said they ONLY  see my strobe in this first image, or that the going  back and forth which disqualified this as a proper photo. They said my story was not clear and that I was arrogant for calling this a good shot and not admitting my mistake. Of course I have more traditional closeups also, the wide shot was made for fun and I ended up liking it!

A counterbalance like we see here forces the eye to go back and forth, it’s a powerful tool of composition that we study deeply Photo Perfect master class. Now that’s not to say you always have to have a strong counterbalance, only that it does work. The light value is about equal to the models face. Is there a rule that says it must be less. Of course not! The car is a bit odd, but we’re telling a story of a photo shoot out in the countryside. The car shows that we drove somewhere. The eye goes around, to the model to the light and repeats. To me it’s not that easy to leave this frame and I don’t care what object you see first because I know they will lead you to my subject.

The moral here to is  is not that this image is the award winning environmental shot of the season. There’s things to nitpick and I admit this wider shot was not the specific intent of the shoot. I picked it because it resonated to me. To you maybe  not and that’s OK. Here’s the bottom line.

The internet is not the final word!

In my experience most feedback on photo groups often comes from people with little experience. People that want to sound like experts because they are insecure. Listen for honest well intentioned feedback, but don’t let the insecurity of others be your own.
Sometimes an image sparking discussion is proof to me that I did something right. If someone trashes  it, the first thing I do is look to see if they have a portfolio  and how much actual experience they are speaking from.  I learn more from the accountability of real world competitions and qualified instructors than from ego driven comments where everyone dreams of being smartest instructor in a class where only I am the student. We should always be students, but not everyone is our instructor.

Photographers can be ego driven jerks and we can’t let that define us.

I have the experience and confidence to say this works. Of course, you can disagree and you can like the others better, or hate them all. I can even change my mind next week. But that’s not my point. The legendary Ken Whitmire. Ken taught me to use space and to print it unashamed as we fill-walls with the story we want to tell.

The main “crop” in image #1 is not it’s visual edge. The stops are the shadows and the objects to lead the eyes where I wanted. Sometimes these environmental shots get picked apart on small screens, while in wall prints their majesty shines and and people are amazed. Many “experts” in photo groups have never printed a wall print.  We we need to have enough vision to see the goal as well as hear the noise around us. Some images are meant to be seen larger and that’s a good thing. Light itself is rarely our subject, it’s merely our paint! Consider Arnold Newman’s iconic 1949 portrait of Danny Kaye, cluttered with elements of the set and glaring light yet so balanced.

Do you choose wide, thoughtful, safe; or trash them all?

#1 is a useful example of leading tones and counter balance.

The other images are nice portraits and perhaps more logical to some. But I would print the environmental, because it tells a story that I want to know more about rather than just showing a pretty model. Think about it.
If your objects. light and lines hold the eye in the frame and lead it back to the subject, there is no escape from the viewer seeing what you want them too see. I like this because it says something more and your eye gets to roam. It’s both the beauty and the challenge of an environmental portrait and I think most shoots should include one if nothing else for perspective and practice.

#2 feels thoughtful.

It’s not the safest but the pensive look and the hand lead me to the eyes. The pose is not the most sensual or classic, but I can’t stop coming back to those eyes.

#3 feels safe.

It’s got decent lighting, a nice smile and a pretty fair pose with good mends in fingers elbows and a wrist that’s maybe a tad too straight. It’s a nice client portrait and you will probably forget it soon.
People believe their eyes have a choice. In most cases, I don’t believe that’s true. When we use counter balances with tone and line, we can force the viewers eye go where we intend. Not everyone needs to know the story for the story to exist. The use here of the set environment gives us the chance to show a glimpse of the story that most never see and leave them asking questions.

The more experience I get, the less absolute I become about whether a photo is WRONG!!

I can always spot a ego driven feedback because its’ from people who think they know everything and the rule they read about once applies to your image 100% and if you don’t honor it, you are a bad photographer. I can always critique an image, and while there are “rules”  (guidelines) like lines, lighting or an image needing a main subject,I’be found the more I learn the less know.

If you reject feedback because you know all your images are amazing you will hurt myself. But If you filter feedback because it seems ego driven, some someone with something to prove, someone with little demonstrated credibility or experience, that just means you have enough confidence and experience to also critique yourself. Just be careful with confidence because it’s a sharp sword!

A perfectly lit portrait that has no soul, no question in it’s eyes, it’s photo of the light, not a portrait of a person. I think sometimes we need to be reminded of that.  — Gav
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