May 26, 2024

Yes, it’s a basic question. How to charge for photos? How many should I give, how many outfits, hours, etc. New photographers and sometimes veterans love to colocate their lives because they don’t understand customer service.

I edited all my broll here with Filmist LUTS, it’s not just for Lightroom and C1. Also make sure you start listeb to Pro Photography podcast for more topics like this.

That’s what you need to understand in this crazy competitive world. The truth is that unless you are experienced, confident and know how to serve. They don’t need you. They might as well use their phone.

I don’t mean this to make you feel bad. Only to be real. We have to have high standards. People don’t need McDonald’s style photographers anymore. And if you don’t make them feel good, they won’t come back.

So in general charging for an image screams amateur. Now selling stock photos, fine art prints, etc is a bit different. But if your client feels like you are holding back, you lose credibility instantly.

Here’s that book I mentioned. You can read it in data but all these years later it’s still a great reminder when you run a photo business, make workshops, or are in charge of a cafe in Mexico.

To be great in a craft business. You have to understand how to be a servant. How to make people feel good. How to give them experience and quality. How many photos in a session and how many you give the client can vary. Your skill and confidence should be a constant, however.

So the topic today is whether you should charge per photo and how to charge for photos. The real answer is that you you charge in a way that is the simple simple and makes the client feel loved regardless of whether you price high or low compared to the market.

That says. The lower your price, the lower the quality of clients you get.

Let me know what you think… Gavin Seim

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November 11, 2023

The Zone System is the language of light and shadow and for digital shooters it’s invaluable.

What makes the Zone System such a big deal for better photos?

I teach Zones deeper in my free classes like Shadow Hackers and in Master Classes like Exposed. I’ve done a lot of Zone videos over the years but this updated video will make Zones easier than ever for whatever skill level you are at today.

You can check out my Lumist 2 actions here for live Zone control. In the video, I also mentioned Elegance speed masks and Natural HDR.

Choose carefully how to apply the Zones.

Exposure in photography is often left to meters to decide. You can use aperture priority or something like that on the go. But the key is that you are still taking control.

But when you combine Zones and the concepts of Shadow hacking you have the understanding of what makes a photo dramatic and also the ability to know whats happening in every moment of light and shadow.

When I use auto mode for streets or on the go I watch the feedback on the screen and most importantly the histogram. I’m seeing the Zones as I move and I use exposure compensation to quickly adjust them while staying in that auto mode.

I’ll show in the video how extreme this initial exposure was.

Edit with your Zone System visualization.

Zones give you control over light and shadow in a way nothing else gives you. So you can be in a flat-lit portrait scene or in a super contrasty sunset landscape and the Zone System will work equally to let you manage the tone value.

The secret is to expose your zones in the camera and then edit for those zones in the post.

For example in this portrait, the background was not a lot darker than the subject even with our strobe. But I exposed the subject where I wanted knowing that I would edit with a little more contrast in post and darken the background.

It’s not so different from how in the past we pushed and pulled film or burned and dodged. But the key here is you are seeing finished results before you press the shutter because you can easily use zones to plan and visualize.

I’ll show you this lower-contrast scene also in the video.

Using a spot meter for the Zone System

On the other side of this is a full manual. if you have time to set up, You’re shooting a landscape or a building. Use that tripod. use a spot meter in the camera or externally and place Zones exactly where you want.

Don’t just use the histogram as a rough guide in program mode. When possible use the full details of Zones and doing so will help you to understand them better in those moments when you are on the go and can’t stop to spot the meter.

Place your primary subject tones where you want, then make sure the rest falls into place.
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January 8, 2018

If you get lost in the Jungles of Mexico, don’t sweat it. Your adventure VAN has everything you need and it’s safer here than most people think, so ask a nice local to give you directions.

As a filmmaker and a paragliding pilot along with my wife we need my gear and want to be able to go anywhere with it. Turns out optioned Toyota Sienna retails for $50,000 and while moms seem to love those, it won’t cross a river with an RV in tow or climb a mountain with your gear.  We needed a van that was ready to roll anywhere; so we built it and created an adventure van that mom and dad both love.

The (mostly) finished product. The epic one and only truth van.

Swan was our 5th and she came last year; that meant my crew cab pickup would no longer haul the family. More than that we needed a vehicle that would be self-contained and was ready for on the road adventures in since we spend months of each year exploring. Our van setup turned out to be very timely for our travel to Mexico as we expose the propaganda that the USA is the best country in the world.

I’ve yet to settle down enough to do a full video tour of the van but it’s coming. This 2013 Chevy Express 3500 15 passenger with a Duramax engine. The Diesel is pretty rare but you can find them used. The latest Diesel’s have the new wimpy engines and are not great towers. We bought this last Summer pretty much stock and just under 100k miles. It cost about $24,000. My Summer project begins in everything from changing the ugly carpet to a custom powder coated diamond plate floor with the help of my metal working brother in law.

We installed triple Yakima racks and then the largest roof boxes they made, a rooftop tent and a wood platform with a solar panel that I could also stand on to shoot from. We redid the electronics adding with a Pioneer 8200 nav stereo, new speakers, a small sub and finally 360 degree lighting. And that floor, that would allow us to have a sturdy surface to attack toolboxes and accessories inside; everything is modular.

Getting started with a clean canvas.

Next we drove it to Utah with our 10K lb travel trailer in tow. The van went to Advanced 4×4 in Salt Lake City for the really good stuff. A full 4×4 conversion, a lift, 33in tires with 17in wheels and of course these epic front and rear bumper system from Aluminess. The suspension was upgraded and airbags were installed for better towing as we rolled out.

That was finished in a few different phases then it was back to my work adding things like hi-lift jack, a 12,000lb winch to the front bumper and filling those rear boxes with tools, camping supplies, a stove Rotopax tanks and more. The rear bumper also carries our extra fuel and everything we need from water to food. Finally, we had the Duramax custom tuned by Starlite Diesel with a 5-way switch on the fly tuner to change the performance of the engine depending on what we’re doing.

We did not make the inside into a full RV van since we usually pull a trailer. One great thing about vans is from the roof to the chassis they are like a canvas; so build it however you like. We opted to keep the inside open for hauling families and paragliders but added things like extra plugs, improved LED lights and an inverter for AC power right inside the cabin. We also have a truck beds mattress so the entire area behind the two bench seats can become an extra bed.

We can sleep in the rooftop tent or inside when not towing an RV and the essential supplies and tools are always board. I have a few ideas up my sleeve for a modular bed inside that won’t interfere with cargo and people hauling abilities. The metal floor is rugged, but all the seat slots still work so you can configure it as needed. We leave the 2 rear seats out when traveling so there is room for bikes and gear and it still seats 8 with plenty of room for hitchhikers in the back.

We the van buried on the the other side of this dune in Mexico with the RV attached. But some friendly locals and a Hi-Lift jack solved the problem.

This was a big project. All told we have about 55k into this rig. That’s with the van itself, 4×4 conversion, racks, floors, lights, tent, everything. It gets 16-19mpg when not towing and averages 12 with a 10k lb RV behind it. If we had found one this nice already done I figure it would have been at least 65K, there are very few like it. There’s been a few glitches and fixes to dial it all in because it was a used rig. Then again a new diesel would push 60K just for the van and still have glitches.

Jungle Camping without a trailer with my wife and 5 kids in Jalpan de Serra, Mexico.


In central Mexico and a guy came over and did a full exterior detail and polish for $30USD, It reflects the sunset today.

Tips for building your own. Ford and Chevy are good but many things the Chev rides better. I say get a gasser unless you need the heavy towing like Diesel is great for that, but they are harder to fix and cost more initially too so if you don’t need 600lbs of torque, save your pennies for your adventures.

We did lights, floors and rack work ourselves. But the bumpers and mechanical conversions were all done by Advanced 4×4 and done right. They are the largest 4×4 conversion shop next to Quickly back east. You could grab a gasoline van like this stock  for around 16k and new I think they are only in the 20’s. Then convert it to your liking. You could also look at the Nissan vans, they are sweet and convert well to 4×4. The Sprinters are nice too but getting a 4×4 conversion is not easy so, bear that in mind when planning.

We call her the Truth Van. It’s not a sports car, it’s better and it cost less. A practical vehicle that goes almost anywhere and takes the people and the gear you need to get there, get the shot and spread the truth. We feel blessed to have been able to rig this out when we did and it’s seeing lots of use as we travel the continent.


The van gutted to redo the floor with powder coated plate.

The kids love chilling on the front bumper cross bars. It’s like an extra seat.


The beefy tuned Duramax will tow our big RV up ttheower..pass at 70MPH. It’s nice to have that p


Outfitted and towing the RV with the roof top tent out.


Exploring the Jungles of Nayarit Mexico.

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January 7, 2018

How can something simple be so hard?

Just use the rule of thirds or put the subject far to one section of the frame and your composition will be cool. Right?

No. The problem is that most photographers are taught to focus on only a third of composition. It’s the same problem we have in tone and we tried to take a dent out of the problem on the EXposed Master Class. But today let’s talk about the other side of the coin. Composition is simple and it’s also hard, but once you discover the keys it comes in a rush.


Too often photography education has become scattered bits of inspiration from celebrity photographers. Enthusiastic and mostly well intentioned entrepreneurs who at conferences and in magazines are often rated, not by mastery of craft, but by tax returns. Marketing is very important. But it is not photography and I love photography.

Next to tone, composition is what separates a masterpiece from a picture. The Photo Perfect master class was dedicated largely to composition for good reason and I’m planning to dedicate more to demystifying the subject in the coming years. There’s more powerful written works on composition for painters than photographers and I recommended studying them. One of my favorites is the simple but incredibly insightful Composition by Eyewitness Art.

The Composition Triangle:

We know in our photographer souls that composition is not simply where you place something in a square. We see the legendary photographers, painters and sculptors holding deeper knowledge. But maybe we forget sometimes what made them masters of space, position and line. I call it the Composition Triangle and it’s inspired by my mentorship under the late Ken Whitmire, the Ansel of the portrait. That triangle surrounds the tonal center, the core of the image. But today we’ll focus on the triangle itself.

This is not a math class and it’s not as simple as a formula. We have to learn to see, something we took a look at in my recent video talking about the frame stop. If you didn’t see that watch it here. We also dig deeper into the topic in the latest Photo Kit pack.

All the images in today’s post won awards because these elements were combined with some competence. With the concept of the Composition Triangle I hope to show the idea that when we are aware of something and remember to apply it we will quickly begin to master it.

If we don’t think about what’s happening in our frame before we release the shutter, we’re not applying the Composition Triangle and we’re missing part of the image. The more we visualize the more instinctual this becomes and we begin to apply it easily when moving and shooting at a fast pace. SPACE, POSITION and LINE make up the triangle. Compare that to the rule of thirds class we all get in photo workshops which only addresses position and ignores all the rest. When we combine them all and we start to truly examine our frame and everything changes.

I’ll close with my #1 TIP!

This is what you came for but I hope the rest made you think….

Let your gear hold your frame. Use your tripod! I know you get sick of hearing this but there’s a reason you see me with a tripod so much. I listened to those pesky voices that told me that very thing years ago and it made me the student of the composition I needed to be to earn my masters.

But I’m saying take it further. Don’t just throw up a tripod. Use it to hold your camera while you engage with your scene in a deeper way. Every time I set a camera on the head, look into the scene and think about every part of it, I learn more. You can and will apply those skills when you need to handhold, but expanding how I see is centered around a stationary camera, not a moving one.

If you doubt my words go try for yourself. Find a great scene, setup your tripod and take a solid 10 or 20 minutes looking at the frame and setting up your shot. The first time I did this it seemed like such a long time to take on one frame. It didn’t take long for me to realize it had changed everything about how I see and it will do the same for you if you give it a chance.

I’ve gone back to my early blogging roots in this little essay and I hope you’ll let me know how you feel about this and don’t be afraid to jump into the Triangle!

— Gavin Seim




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December 8, 2016

Today I might complain a little about snow. But in fact I’m going to talk about making ultra great images in the snow. Put on your coats and let’s get our there! But watch this short video first.

So yes snow is that simple. My only real problem with snow is that it’s cold on wet. But it’s great to photograph.  That does not mean a great image is simple however and when you know the workings of light you get to focus on the artistry of the image and that’s when things really open up and challenge us. Exposure should be easy and you should check out the EXposed workshop if you’ve not seen it for the most complete and simple study on mastering it.

One important foundation here is that your meter always uses 15%, or middle grey as the baseline. Most photographers don’t understand that. With in camera meters it’s the same, but most cameras use multi matrix metering by default. This is code for a computer is guessing what your exposure should be. If you want to really know the exposure, switch to the spot metering mode and go to work.

Stars of Coldest Night - Snoqualmie WA, 2010.

When your meters line is centered, that is Zone 5. From there you can move up it down, placing the subject in whatever Zone you want. Jut go try it. The lights will come on and we deal with this and every other exposure foundation in depth in the EXposed videos. They will change your life. Let me know how this works for you and what else you’d like us to talk about. — Seim


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