June 8, 2024

The glow is something that happens when you nail a photo. Your lights are set just right and everything is magical. It’s what you look for in every photo and I had in in this week’s session.

In post, I mostly used Filmist 2, Elegance 4 to balance glowing skies and Pictorialist actions to add dramatic finishes.

Yes, the tools I’m editing with help bring out that softness and you can even create a glow-like look as we often do in pictorialist-style edits. I’ve been showing a lot of these lately. But The Glow is not limited to Pictorialism.

But as I mentioned in the video. Your edit is only a measure better than your starting photo. Listen to the tips especially at the end of the video because you will train yourself to see the Glow just like you train yourself to see shadow as we talk about in my Shadow Hackers live workshop.

The Glow is not just for portraits. It’s about how light meets shadow in perfect form. Here we see a great example of the glow in this sunrise landscape in Tamasopo Mexico.

People often think they need to light the face or landscape subject and the brightest part of a photo. In truth you just need to draw attention two and having your subject in shadow can be powerful.

With the glow use Shadow hacking and don’t get stuck in the rut of always lighting the same. The glow comes in various ways and all can have that magical shimmer. Front, back, and rim light enhanced of created by strobes.

Now that you know how to look for the glow. The main thing is don’t wait. If it’s the streets, a landscape, a portrait. Whatever you are shooting when you see it take the shot. The glow is a fleeting atmospheric moment in your photos. It creates a feeling and gives you amazing results nearly every time.

Location will matter. Even moving a few inches to the left to make the lens flare just right. The time window is usually short unless you are using strobes to create a glow with your lights. Youb can also mix the two, but you have to be prepared.

Go put what I showed in this week’s video to work. See shadow, see light, and combine the two for THE GLOW! It will take you to the next level with Ai fakery.

Gavin Seim

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January 11, 2024

I’m on a mission to change that and I want my first video of the year to do that. Most photographers don’t realize that photographic tone is the secret skill that makes them understand every shot. Today we learn it…

But videos like this did not exist when I was starting out. These are the 3 keys of tone in photography so you can master them fast regardless of your experience level. And they will change how you create photos.

MORE TIPS: Get free ticket to my next Shadow Hackers LIVE workshop to take this further. Also in the video, I mentioned Filmist film presets, Silver 5, Natural HDR, and Lumist Actions.

The unabashed flaring of the sun gives a natural haze to this morning street that can’t be done with a single slider. It was processed gold using GoldChrome

The photographic tone is the foundation of great photos. But the tone is a wide-ranging one that comes from the painters and the way they learned to understand shadow and contrast long before cameras.

This is the lost skill in Photography that I go on deeper in my workshops and today I’m sharing the keys to unlock this door in the simplest way I know how. IN consists of 3 elements that lead us to what tone does for us and why it is important.

  1. Shadows create contrast
  2. Contrast reveals tone
  3. Tone creates atmosphere

These 1,2,3 lists mean little to your photographic tone without context. So in the video, we’re comparing different photos to see how not only edits but how shadow contrast and ambiance in each will define our result.

IN another Xpan style crop we see light creating bloom and reducing contrast. The net result is that tone is more subtle and more contrast is created in the overall image. Edited with Street’ist.

In my Exposed Master class, we learn everything about exposure and zones. Those are the technical aspects. But if you’ve been to Shadow Hackers or seen the Photo Perfect workshop you know that combining those with the artist’s aesthetic is what makes a great photo.

In the end, the tone is pretty simple and yet subjective. But if you constantly remind yourself of the three factors. Shadow, contrast, and tone, which is the combination of all the light and dark and mist and color. All of them combined create a tone in your own style.

We see the contrast between the burned tree and the tone of the model. Then edited with a David Hamilton-inspired process to create softness with contrast and balanced photographic tone.
We see the contrast between the burned tree and the tone of the model. Then edited with a David Hamilton-inspired process to create softness with contrast and a balanced photographic tone.

As much as I use sliders and settings and layers inside and out in my tool packs. Tone-like shadow is not created by the slider it’s just moved around.

When we use contrast to just create hard lines we lose tonal nuance and atmosphere. In the end, the contrast of the overall scenes is less, and viewers don’t see the nuance you wanted to show.

If you missed my video on why you should STOP using contrast sliders go check it out and also read my post about how to use the Zone system in digital to hack shadows. You’ll find more on my channel.

As I keep building these free resources and simplifying the process of understanding tone I help myself learn more and hopefully, you as I realize a dream that’s spanned 20 years to make a simple process for those of us who want to truly master our style in photography.

We compare two of these in the video. Note how the tone of this one is softened but less distracting than what might be called the contrast image.
We compare two of these in the video. Note how the tone of this one is softened but less distracting than what might be called the contrast image. Edited with Filmist.
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February 3, 2023

It took me years to learn that consistency, style, and editing speed are directly linked. Many new photographers think editing slower means a better edit. In general, the opposite is true!

1. Why Speed_Mods improve your photography style and speed.

I’ve shown you how editing mods create a better editing result and speed in Lightroom and Capture One. Today I will break down how they are made and how to use them better.

Like Speed-Masking in Lightroom, Speed_Mods are included in my preset packs and you can make your own. They let you take any recipe and make it your own but without wasting a second. So, lets not waste any seconds and jump right into todays video.

2. Your style starts with consistency!

I know firsthand that finding a style can take time and that you sometimes can’t seem to decide. Part of the issue is that we have SO MANY EDITING OPTIONS that we lose focus.

It’s not wrong to have various flavors in your photos. But your style can be defined not only by how you shoot, but also by the nuance of your edit. Most overthink this, so they are always searching. But your recipes combined with Speed_Mods will help you stay the course, and your style will shine through every time.

When you create or use presets in Lightroom, the goal is not to create the same photo as everyone else. Just like when you shot Portra 160, it did not mean your photos were meant to look like the rest of the world.

Things like this Xpan 65×24 crop can help you define your style. And film edits and mods do the same.

3. Recipes are like your Film, Mods are like your chemicals.

If you use Filmist and add Porta or Ekrar or Classic Negative, those looks are a base recipe that has been proven to work millions of times.

Buy using a recipe (like choosing a film) you create a aesthetic, but just like in the darkroom we could then shift shadows, tones and details by how we developed, not you can adjust that recipe to your liking.

Of course going straight to granular sliders is fine. But say I apply Silver 5 wet plate look like I did in the video and I want a more HDR feel. I can go and play with sliders of I can simply apply the HDR mod from mod-kit presets. The speed-Mod gives me a refined process based on testing and I am done in a moment.

Professional software is about being able to find your creative edge and your style. Just like for 20 years we’ve used Actions in Photoshop, the RAW editing apps made for pros will always have tools like presets and styles to let us create more and faster.

In the viddeo we see how this photo started as a bit of a dud. But we found the style in it that fit with my theme by having the right mods recipes.

4. Photographers who know their own style!

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen people say. Don’t use presets, don’t buy presets, make your own style. It’s like saying, find a harder way and use that instead. Pros want all the tools at their command.

There’s nothing wrong with making your own presets and styles like I show you in this video how to plan your own Speed_mod presets. Just don’t put up walls to your creality.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours refining packs like Silver, Natural HDR and Filmist. (all of these have free packs) Why? Because once a work is built, it can be used again and again and I don’t have to waste those hours to maintain the creative style I use with those presets and a few mods.

Recipes and mods combined like this will elevate your editing speed and style, and I hope you’ll give it a try and tell me in the comments what you think.

Gavin Seim

Mods like Speed Masks that I use in Elegance 4 let me use advanced tools fast and try them, that means I try more things to get the look I was going for. Speed, recipes and good mods means a more focused edit, not a generic edit.
Many mods can work. By finding a recipe I like this bold warm Gold-Chrome look, I can then mod to make the style fit my visualization . Staying consistent and strong in my shadows and presentation.
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January 16, 2023

Curves are how most pros and quality presets control the detailed tones in a photo. But in today’s short video, I’ll show you a better way to use your curves. We’ve been using S Curve in photography since the dawn of digital. But this is the F Curve!

Why did I stop using the S Curve in my Photography?

Because after years of editing, and studying dynamic range. Creating popular editing packs like Natural HDR and Silver black and white. I realized the S curve was often overdriving on our edits.

So I started creating the F curve in my recipes. It gives contrast control, without giving you a crunchy, overly processed look. It does this because it’s based on chemical film processing and is more flexible.

In this video, I’ll show you how to use the F Curve!

If you want Lightroom presets or Capture One Styles you’ll find great examples of the F curve in the free sampler packs of Filmist Film presets and Silver 5 presets.

Also sub my channel for more videos like this one.

How to use the S curve in Photography today!

It’s easier to add fine control to an F curve because we’re not always looking for that S shape. A film-like curve is useful not only for recipes that require a film-like feel. It simply works on nearly everything.

It might feel like an S curve when you start. But don’t stop there. Pull down the highlights and then lift a little in the middle, pull the shadow area a bit down and the black a bit up. You can vatu this any way you want. Just keep the curve smooth and maintain that highlight drop as needed.

I didn’t have a name for this, I just knew this simple course was giving me results that felt better in most situations, and I started using it a lot. It was only after years of applying this that I realized how simple it was and started calling it the Filmic Curve, or the “F” curve.

Gradually, I started using the normal photography S Curve less and applying variants that merged it into F curve. I watched as my own presets and edits got smoother, with better highlights and even better shadows and contrast.

It’s a simple tweak that transforms your edits.

Notice how the Filmic presets curve rolls off far more than a photography S Curve
An F curve can start like an S curve. But the way it drops on top is the key factor in the result. You can then mix shadow lift and drop.

But without Shadow, your curves mean nothing!

When I started developing Filmist film presets years ago, I realized that Film has a softer highlight roll-off than digital has a hard sensor. Contrasting lenses and easy-to-move editing soldiers were getting over-curved. especially with the traditional digital photography s curve.

A curve can add or remove your shadow. The S-curve in photography can quickly pop highlights or put some punch into shadows, and often it works well. The problem is that it tends to do the same thing to every photo, and while it boosts contrast in the edit, you lose fidelity in the roll-off details.

Tone roll-off is a big deal. And what most don’t realize is that you don’t always need to push up highlights because they are actually very perception based.

That highlight will seem BRIGHT depending on the tone of the shadows that surround them. To learn more about shadows watch this video on my channel. In short, combining smooth highlight roll-off with organic feeling shadow gives you a rich result.

A subtle Ektar based F curve is a lot like the S Curve in Photography but distinct
In this Ektar recipe from Filmsit the F curve is already part of the process giving a subtle highlight rolloff like film.

The F Curve will replace your S curve crutch!

So instead of the S Curve in your photography, us the F curve because you better control the shadow dimension and how that relates to your highlights as they roll off perfectly, just as they did with Film!

You also won’t always feel like you have to create that S shape will open up how you use the tones in each photo.

I hope you found this useful and will spread it around because the F curve really is better than the S Curve. Please spread this around and let me know what you think in the comments.

Gavin Seim

The s curve in photography works fine, but my changing to a filmic curve you improve everything like in this P\ortra look
A strong double drop at the top of this F curve softens the specular highlights that were a problem in the portrait processed with a Portra look.
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October 25, 2022

Expose to the right (ETTR) has been preached relentlessly for years in digital photography. But does it actually help?

I think now. In my recent shadow hackers workshops (join the next class here) this has come up and it made me think about how prolific this dated technique still is. Tell me what you think in the comments.

In the video, I’ll show you why ETTR is not usually right. It’s not always wrong to be Expose To The Right to achieve something. But using this as a general exposure tool in photography will lead to worse images.

How did ETTR happen and should you actually use it?

You can watch this on my channel, subscribe and comment there also.

When I made the Exposed workshop covering nearly possible approaches to exposure, we didn’t focus on ETTR because when you know what exposure or that light meter is telling you, you rarely need to expose to the right.

Like every idea or rule, it’s not really a rule. So in the end, if you get great exposures you win. But I think if you start hunting the shadows and exposing “right”, rather than TO the right you’ll see a transformation in how well you expose and edit.

It does not matter what you are shooting!

If you know the principles of exposure, your histogram, zones, and settings. They will soon become automatic. You’ll see yourself start to create naturally, knowing the light and the shadow like an old friend.

Let me know what you think – Gav

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