July 15, 2023

Using layers in Lightroom has improved a lot in the past year. In Photoshop it’s a lot the same and in Capture One nothing ever changes. But there are layers and that’s good for you.

There are 3 levels of edits and the secret layer makes them all easier.

They will make you edit faster but if you use them the way layers should be used, they will also help you ensure to don’t edit your photo wrong. That combo gives you the secret layer.

No longer second-guess your edits.

The secret layer consists of two parts really. #1 is perspective for your edit. #2 is quickly adjusting it and applying a more informed perspective to your edit instantly. Al the basic level this works with individual presets like Silver or more complex masks like Elegance creates for you.

Sometimes I shadow painting details manually. Or maybe I’m using fast tools like Lumist, Blackroom Black and White, or Signature Emulsion. Well-built actions like this create your layers stack so the secret layer is instantly ready.

Digital edits are easy to overcook when you start adding layers. But layers are also the secret to getting more dimensional and creative edits. Here I used GoldChrome and simply dialed it back in this level 1 edit.

How far should you edit?

We’ll look at 3 levels of editing in the video and using those as a guide is really useful because you can decide how far to go in each segment of your project. I only go to level 3 on my best images, which can vary.

In the portrait example in today’s video, I took it all the way to an illustrative look, but it would also be a lighter effect or just some simple atmospheric actions like Alchemist.

The secret layer varies in each app.

But the concept is the same. Some apps like Lightroom are more advanced. They reward you directly for supplying things as a preset as I show with masks. So you want to use that method if you create your own presets.

Photoshop is very powerful and uses a more ould school-layer approach.

Capture One doe the same though with a little less power because of the lack of stacking. That said you can still build edits on those layers and then control them to use the secret layer.

I hope you find this as exciting as me and put it to work right away. Leave your questions or tips in the comments.

Gavin Seim

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November 16, 2022

I’m going to show how to make sure your black and white is perfect!

I can demonstrate that the Black and White Photoshop style gives you more nuance while the RAW style of LR and C1 gives you more speed. So how do you decide?

“Gavin should I use, Silver presets, or BlackRoom actions?” customer ask in relation to the presets and actions I make. But this answer applies to however you edit. Let’s start with basics in this video.

Lightroom VS Photoshop for Black and White…

Don’t forget to grab the Silver 5 free sampler presets to try this yourself. Also you cab get BlackRoom and Emulsion here for more advanced PS edits.

Lets see more examples then……

PRESETS” I always start with presets and Styles in Capture One such as Silver or Filmist. These are recipes that combine many settings to instantly create an edit in LR, RAW, etc. Presets can be used from Photoshop from within the Camera RAW filter (see this video on my channel)

This edited just fine in RAW. But by going into Photoshop and useing BlackRoom actions I was able to refine it that much more.

Actions in Photoshop are like mini apps that run in PS. Commands that are run with one click. I create actions like BlackRoom, Lumist, and others. They use the native tools of Photoshop without PlugIns and can create in 30 seconds which would take me an hour to do manually. Giving me layers and effects to mix as I want, but without the manual labor. Lightroom can’t use actions.

Look at this edit in LR vs Photoshop…

Actions make advanced edits in Photoshop much faster. Often people have Photoshop and take a file from Lightroom only to find they don’t know how to make it any better. But with time, or with actions that make atmospheric edits natural, Photoshop is easy and will always give you more tools.

This first photo is only a Lightroom edited using my Silver presets and some easy manual tweaks.


Next is the same shot editing in Lightroom buy then taking into Photshop where I used layers and BlackRoom actions. At a glance they may not seem that better. But if you look close see se much more control in specific tonal ranges, details and more. When you make a print, these details matter.

LR RAW + Photoshop Layers and BlackRoom Actions

Yes these are subtle things. But for serious black and white shooters, they change a lot of things.

Don’t edit ONLY in PS thinking it’s better. You will experiment less because it takes longer. Often making you less creative. Start with that basic RAW edit and go to Photoshop when you are ready for more by restoring the color channels while leaving your RAW tone edits in place. In my Silver pack this can be done with the included mod preset.

LR or C1 is the starting point because its sliders, channels, and fast shadow control helps you create. Photoshop will give you more advanced and refined edits that you save right back into your photo library. If I use BlackRoom actions, the Photoshop part is fast with more detailed layer style controls that I don’t have in Lightroom.

So Lightroom VS Capture One for black and white?

There’s always more choices and while I make tools for LR and C1 users, you need to decide how that fits in. Those are both RAW apps and neither replace Photoshop or even other pixel editors like Affinity. So in this second video lets’ compare the apps LR and C1 in relation to Photoshop.

Photoshop is for when you’re serious!

You can almost think of Lightroom and Capture One as black-and-white film choices back in the day. It’s how you start. Then Photoshop is your Darkroom where you us native tools and layer mixes to make your image Ansel Adams-level perfect.

On a small screen, you may not see much difference. As a photographer who wants gallery quality, it’s a big difference. Black and white photographers who want the best do the final work in a layer-based editor like Photoshop. But I use a RAW editor for 90% of the photos. Having well-planned presets/styles, and actions is a must to expand creativity. Even if you make your own!

All of this matters. Even if you only use Photoshop in 5% of your photos, that 5% will be your best work. Think overlook how much those images can improve.

I hope you find this helpful in your Lightroom vs Black and White Photoshop questions. It’s really not a dilemma. Both are good! If it’s still confusing, let me know in the comments and I’ll try and address it in future videos on my channel.

Gavin Seim

Here we have a good Lightroom edit made quickly using Silver presets. One or two clicks and little adjusting are needed.
The final photo, taken further in Photoshop. I used BlackRoom actions to make it fast. It’s the control over details and atmosphere. On a small screen, you may not see the difference. But on my best photos going to print, the black and white Photoshop edit is more refined.
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September 10, 2022

Platinum, Cyanotype, Colldoain, and Seleneum are all inside the Emulsion 4 darkroom actions pack.

Emulsion 4 has been out for a week making dakroom actions easier than ever. Now I made a complete series on how it works and how to create amazing effects with them. And I finished the Emulsion 4.1 update which brought even more refinements including my new favorite Platinum mix based on very finely made soft platinum prints from the darkroom.

If you don’t want to read this… Go watch the complete playlist on my channel.

A lot of people avoid actions because they don’t want to use Photoshop even though they have it. There missing out because there is no easier way to use Photoshop. The experienced user is more creative and saves countless hours while the new user gets advanced effects simply and learns more along the way.

Emulsion takes completed layer mixes in Photoshop and makes them easy regardless of Photoshop experience level. But I’ve been listening. People have been saying, Gavin, we want more detailed videos So for Emulsion 4, I just finished a complete training series and uploaded it as a playlist on YouTube.

This is basic training, but you can watch the complete playlist here.

There are videos on installing Emulsion 4 all the way to advanced user guides that show you how I like to each use of the chemical emulsion in the action pack.

There is a separate video for how to create Cyanotype, how to manage all the PLatainum Palldidum effects, how to use Selenium toning for digital, and how the Wet Colldoain effects can be mixed in many ways.

The main thing to remember as you use EMulsion or any of my other actions like Blackroom, Lumist, Naked Darkroom etc. Is that I develop these to make complex tasks easy, not take away control like so often happening in plugins.

After every action, you have all the layers and all the control. If you are not very experienced in Photoshop it’s fine, just use the look as you see it and gradually start playing with layers. If you are experienced, the sky is the limit and you can tinker more. Either way, you’ll save a ton of time because Emulsion 4 is doing the hard work for us.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of Emulsion and this training format. Or tell me what videos I need to make to add to this playlist. Either way I’m here tp help you with Emulsion 4 so you can creat amazing chemical tones photographs.

Gavin Seim

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January 25, 2019

Lumist is one of the easiest tools you’ll use in Photoshop. But designing it pushes both Photoshop and my brain to the limit. It’s a strange beast because it’s adding a feature to Photoshop that should have existed years ago but does not. The ability to see and control luminosity perfectly. The goal is to make the process of our one of a kind tone system work as if it was meant to be part of Photoshop.

Behind the scenes, however, it’s the most complex set of actions you can imagine. Every time I do major updates on Lumist it’s a battle of math, functions and usability going on in my head. This update does not change a lot on the surface of Lumist but I’ve spent days puzzling out how to make things do what I need.

Lumist 2.2 is a big update. First I resolved a pesky bug that was causing Zone section to be incorrect when more than one Zone was selected. I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say your Zone selection should be perfect now as you select and edit in real time using the Live Map.

Nex,t I totally revamped the Total Scale. Both of them. That’s the numbers scale that shows you each zone and the colors that it corresponds to in the map. The ends of the scale show pure highlight and shadow clipping that is also shown in the map.

A brand NEW Scale!

This will the an obvious change, in 2.2. Speed is always something we’re looking to improve. The problem was the Total Scale has to build every time you run the map. So we made a new scale that’s cleaner and FASTER (bottom). The top half of the numbers show the color of a Zone on the map while the bottom shows the grey scale zones they represent. It’s clean and it runs a lot faster. That said you can still ad the newly revamped Classic Total Scale (top) using the button at the top of Lumist. If you really hate the new scale you can even switch back to classic by simply switching the names of the actions “Seim Total Scale” and “Seim Total Scale2” down at the bottom of the Lumist set.

There’s no need to resize the scale on lower resolution images anymore.

It should place perfectly when you run the map automatically. This apples to both the new and the old style scale.

So that’s Lumist 2.2. You can delete old versions and install this. All the features are updated on both the CC version and the CS5-6 versions of Lumist. And if you’re still using Lumist V1, what are you waiting for. Grab you upgrade code and start enjoying V2. If you can’t find you upgrade code email us, effects@seimstudios.com


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April 6, 2018

UPDATE 04/24/18
So after weeks Adobe sent 7.31 today which does address some of the biggest problems. While there are still some issues, I would say it’s safe to update to 7.31 to get the new profile features. All of our current collections like Silver 3, Natural HDR, Belladonna and others should work great. You may find 7.3 even slower than 7.2 but everything seems to be working.

  • Preset sorting seems to be corrected (though our largest presets already worked around that)
  • The bug that was resetting presets from BW seems to be fixed.
  • No ability has been added remove the rest of the built-in presets that clutter up our workspace.
  • An option to disable the full image preview when you mouse over a preset has still not been added. This seems to make things run slow.

Orginal post, 04/06/18

Adobe just released LR CC Classic 7.3 and frankly, it’s a mess.  While it brings some cool updates like presets working in both Lightroom and Photoshop Camera Raw, that gets mostly washed away in the face of all the bugs it has introduced. It’s like Adobe said, hey let’s release an update but not test anything first. Lr 7.3 broke the sorting of presets. For everyone! We have an update for that and a workaround in the video below, but sadly there’s more.

The forums are abuzz and people are looking for solutions. Lightroom 7.3 feels slow, applying many presets in black and white causes images to revert to color and unless you like being a beta tester you will probably get more done in Lightroom 7.2 until Adobe fixes this.

We just sent an update to Silver 3 that will get your presets in order and you should have received an update email if you own Silver 3. Also, we’re working on updates for our other preset collections, so watch your inbox. We will also update this post when Adobe patches the other bugs or we find workarounds. In the meantime, save yourself a headache and stick with Lightroom 7.2 for now. If you already updated, you can go back to version 7.2 from your Adobe CC app as shown in the graphic below.

We have updated all our current presets collections so they sort properly. Check your inbox if you are a Seim presets user. If you didn;’t get the update email us, effects@seimstudios.com

Some kinds folks have been scripting over the weekend. Here’s a terminal script for mac that fixes the files. And here’s a LR plugin meant to do the same. These do not fix the bugs Adobe has given us, but they so change filenames on your original preset files so presets will sort correctly when updated by LR 7.3.

You can go back.

Here’s where you go in the CC app to downgrade if you don’t want to hassle with all this. Go tell Adobe to get their ducks in a row and that we’ll be waiting, with the old version.

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