February 20, 2024

Today’s video has been over a year in planning. Because I wanted to show you how powerful this is and how to use any camera in Xpan Mode and change your perspective.

See the Xpan frame guide at the bottom. I edited everything with Filmist 2 Presets for an authetic film feel. Share your Xpan crops on the Facebook Shadow Hunters Group

Anyone with any photo app can crop a pano. The secret to a digital xpan look is to commit and shoot that way in camera. The lines are fine. But the more blocked your screen is the more you commit.

Nothing here is permanent. Use a screen protector to avoid damaging the glass.

When I first started I used a marker to cover the entire cropped area. This means camera info could not even be seen unless I looked into the electronic viewfinder. Shooting this way meant I planned everything around that Xpan digital crop I was doing in post.

Don’t go halfway. There are many ways to crop a pano. But by sticking with this consistent 24×65 ratio you get that authentic xpan look on digital and it’s just a perfect panorama formula that’s not too wide and not too narrow.

You’ll also end up with a collection of work that has this beautiful constant because every frame is the same size.

Panos can be hard to share on social media. But in prints, they look amazing and don’t be afraid to go sideways or vertical with your panoramics. The Xpan format works perfectly on both and gives very distinctive images that suck in the viewer’s eyes.

The more you shoot Xpan digital crops in camera rather than just cropping in post the more you will see in unique ways and push the limits of your space, line, and tone. Combine that with Shadow like I teach in my Shadow Hackers workshop and you have a magical mix.

The biggest hassle can be finding where to draw your mask lines. So to make it easy I made this mask frame. Just take a photo of it with your camera with the white reaching to the edge of the frame on each side.

They review that photo and use the mask to draw the lines which will be the 24 x 65 X pan crop ratio. I’ve linked the image to the larger file so you can open it in a separate window.

Have fun… Gav

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February 16, 2024

The use of layers and masks in Lightroom and Capture has been getting better every year. But until now there was no speed masking in Capture One. Today that changes and bothers C1 and LR to get mask updates from Elegance 4.

Get Elegance 4 here. This is a free update if you own V4 (log in here). V4.8 also includes the Capture One Styles in the download. Just install them like any other style pack.

Today’s video looks more at Capture One because we’ve all been waiting a long time. But you can do all this in Lightroom also.

The secret to making masks practical is being able to create mask combos and save them as a preset or style. I created the idea of speed masking for this in my Elegance 4 presets but of course, you can make your own as I show in the videos.

To be able to make mask and tone-based edits saved into a style change how you edit in Capture One.

What I show today also works in Lightroom so If your focus is more on Lightroom check out this video also to see the power of the latest masks there.

The main thing is that LR masking has become powerful. The key is finessing what you do on each layer so you don’t over-drive your edit. Saving smooth combos of masks and layers into a speed mask makes you use these features.

Lightroom masks also saw updates and a few new presets in 4.8 so make sure you update. And of course, you can also save your own favorite speed mask mixes as presets.

Lightroom masks give us more mask and Ai options. But Capture one has more adjustments. I improved the presets in 4.8 for the Lightroom version for Elegance as well.

Capture One finally got Ai masking at the end of 2023 and in the recent update of 2024 can now save masks in styles. This changes everything. So tools are still lacking as I explain in the video but there are enough tools in C1 masking now that we can make effective Speed Mask styles and they are really powerful.

Finally, you can edit with the speed mask combos in Capture One mixing Ai and Luma mask tools in a single click like I did here combined with Ektar 1000 from Filmist 2.
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February 9, 2024

Black and white looks easy, but is hard. So what’s the best way to edit black and white in 2024? I’ll show you, but there are a couple of levels and you want to be comfortable with both.

In the video I use Silver 5 presets, BlackRoom actions, and Emulsion 4. You can also create your own versions of these processes manually. Just make sure you have something.

Many claim to be a new approach or the best. But what you’ll see in today’s video is that it’s more about the level of black and white you want to edit.

RAW fast and clean black-and-white edits are second to none. But the two more advanced methods we look at give you better black-and-white edits and don’t have to be complicated.

Over the years I designed all my layer-based tools to use the gradient map apprtach top black and white edits. Watch this video and I’ll show you how to use those manually.

It’s confidence to carry out your visualization and tools that let you try things efficiently.

Use shadows without fear like we talk about in Shadow Hackers. Because black and white is all about those shadows and the contrast they create. These methods just help you focus. Quick batch edits, then take the best and add layers of edits and atmosphere, use a tinting process if needed, and go to print.

This mix of cyanotype and wet plate processes created in Emulsion4 gives a strong drama.
Editing with presets and Lightroom and then a platinum process for this session finished it perfectly.
A selenium black-and-white edit approach was also finished in Emulsion 4. Like real selenium it’s subtle.
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January 30, 2024

Luma masking is powerful but often complicated in RAW. I go to Lumist for deep edits. But Lightroom and Capture One have powerful masking tools and today we take control of those.

I included my preset of this in Natural HDR 4 and it works in Lightroom and Capture One. Download the latest version (login here) if you don’t have the preset “Xmod – HDR Magic Mask”.

But like magic, it’s hard to do right. So today we’re going to simplify the mask tool that’s often difficult and for that reason not used like its Ai counterparts.

The cool thing about a mask done with luminosity-based settings in a RAW editor is it adapts as you make other edits. So if I change the exposure on the main edit, the masking effect changes based on how those tones move.

Combining masks that effect the luma ranges together you get a delicate mix but quickly using presets.

The power here is putting the mix of highlight and shadow management into a speed mask that runs at one time. You can save all the settings and you don’t have to tinker around each time because the luma tools in Lightroom and Capture One take a lot of tinkering to get right. It’s not something you want to do manually in every photo.

I think that’s why most people don’t use the luma masking in Lightroom and A1. The Ai tools are fast and they are great. But luma-based tools give us a different route to what is selected.

I would go so far as to say that unless the Luma tools are in a preset I rarely use them because they are more tourable than just going into Photoshop and doing a deep edit with a tool like Lumist.

But as a combo Speed Mask preset. A concept I came up with from Elegance 4 and that anyone can create, you get all the masks on one click and then you simply adjust them a little as needed or turn them up and down.

With speed masking it’s not making every hyper HDR. It’s just the ability to balance the mix perfectly.

There’s a lot of good and bad about capturing one but a huge beef has been the inability to save masks like LR has given us for years. The recent update allowed us to save the new Ai masks in styles that I have been implementing in my preste packs.

But just this week with the 24.3 update I realized we can finally save the other mask types including Luma masks so I was able to create this same Magic Mask preset for both apps and you can save your own as well.

I edited with Filmist and used an AI portrait mask. But the magic mask let me balance shadow and light.
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January 26, 2024

But when I did the recent Natural HDR 4.1 update I wanted a video not about how to use the presets so much as how to create beautiful HDR Photography. Not your Grandpas HDR!

Tone is not what people think and neither is HDR so I’m finally making a video to put an end to the confusion. This is how HDR will change how you see tone and shadow practically in 2024.

Download my free HDR presets here and the free Filmist sampler pack here to use these ideas right now. Also don’t miss my next free Shadow Hackers LIVE workshop.

In another video I showed you why Expose to the Right is Wrong. Today you see me going left and right on on shots I want dynamic range from. That’s because you need to expose RIGHT to what you are creating. Not to the right or left.

When you know Zones and exposure and how those relate you your histrogram like we talk about in Exposed. But you will soon learn when you understand exposure that meters don’t tell you the correct settings for your photo.

When I posted to my channel a few weeks ago, the least understood thing in photography I knew it was important. But the method of how to use it in the real world is what we see in today’s video.

Shadows are the easiest thing to recover with today’s sensors, software noise reduction etc. It’s mostly because shadows usually need to stay dark but clipped highlights ruin a photo fast.

I use Zones to expose. But I base the main exposure on how I will handle my highlights and ensure I retain shadows. Exposure for your photo, but often this means exposing dark.

Single file High Dynamic Range photography
As we saw in the video the single file produced a better result faster with today’s RAw tools like LR

There’s no rule here. You can crush your histogram, push your clarity, and drive sliders hard. But unless you know how and why you are doing it, you will probably just look like an amateur, using decade-old techniques that feel fake and overused.

A great photo normally does not reveal its method to the average viewer. That is it makes an impact, but that impact is not in the effect itself. When viewers have seen an ugly HDR process used and your photo seems similar, the reactions will usually be predictable.

Know the effect you intend to create. Then do it in a balanced way. That’s the secret to using HDR today and getting magical results. Editing with good presets whether you make your own use a tool like Natural HDR 4 or use single RAW files will get you there fast.

HDR Photography in portraits using Ai masks
IN this High Dynamic Range edit from the bright image I’ve finished with a bit more blue in the sky using Natural HDR’s Ai sky mask.

I sound like a broken record but it’s because the tone is the least understood skill in photography. The shadows save you. Don’t think. It’s too much shadow and therefore, not HDR. That’s not how this works, as I explain in the video.

HDR photography is the art of balancing shadows and highlights that are widely separated. It’s a method, not a filter. Once you learn that shadows are your friend in creating that balance, your HDR photos will be amazing and your LOFI photos will be improved by the same techniques.

High Dynamic Range photography grand Tetons single RAW file
It’s OK to have shadows like in this single file HDR from Grand Tetons. Note the detail in deep shadow.
HDR photography in portraits
Once you understand HDR you will us it subtley and even film-edited projects like this portrait.
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