February 8, 2019


“Mexico is forgiving, JPEG is not”

I always shoot RAW because JPEG means data is thrown out and the more data you have the more dynamic range and color gradients and detail you get. In post that’s important. Don’t ever let someone tell you that JPEG is the same as RAW.  Mexico is forgiving, JPEG is not. It has it’s place, but no software or wishing will restore information that has been thrown away.

This week we took a drive in the van up into the high mountains of  La Huasteca Mexico. It’s a magical place in many ways but this time we headed up Hwy 120 towards the tree-line and the jungle of Pinal de Amoles, which sits at about 8000 ft. I took my new Fuji XT3 and a few compact prime lenses. In this case the 35mm f2. We headed up the San Juan side of the mountain which is a but dry dusty side this time of year leading to some dusty long distance views. But when the sun sets behind those, it’s impressive.

That sun was setting as we wound up the hairpins toward the jungle treeline and looking back over the valley above a small town called Carmango was the purest high gradient color sunset I could hope for. It actually reminded me a bit of the smokies back in the USA, but the color was stunning and alive. Just like Mexico.

I got the shot, but I found out after returning home that I accidentally switched the menus of my Fuji XT3  to JPEG. My editing flexibility was now limited and I was kicking myself. Sure the built in profiles from the Fuji look good, but it’s still a JPEG and especially in high dynamic range scenes like this, I want every ounce. With subtle smooth color gradients like this you have to be careful or you will get artifacts. The more you edit the more that can be a problem. Especially if you’re not in 16 bit.

So I started with the original untouched JPEG filer in Capture 1 (LR would also have worked fine). If you look at my our of camera file it’s nice but check out the tonal map from Lumist. It’s already pure clipping. Before anything else I did some brushing to recover a bit of shadow detail on the left foreground. Fully black there will be too much negative tone. After that I opened the file as a 16 bit TIFF in Photoshop. I can’t create more range out of nothing but by switching to 16 bit we get smoother colors and less artifacts as we edit. Here’s what I has our of camera. Not bad. But can we edit it.

The good thing was that I had a few image to choose from. I had taken a few frames and then realized it was beautiful and I should NOT be hand-holding at a higher ISO to make it fast. So I got the tripod and ended up at 1/2 sec, ISO400 f4. I did a bit of bracketing since I had little time to micro analyze the tone. This yielded me a sharp image in with balances zones. Even though I thought I was shooting RAW I kept the highlights down on this, not to compensate, I expose where I want. But because it was more about the color and contrast in the hills. I did not want a washed out sky. That paid off because had I needed to recover highlight from the JPEG, it would have been tough.

Here’s the tone values of that I took into PS and you can see those shadows really were lifted after that first shadow edit  keeping some detail in my black. I didn’t want a lot of detail there so even on the JPEG, this did not introduce a lot of artifacts.

Looks decent. Now into Photoshop.

I used Lumist to examine the tones and see what to change. I wanted to boost thing a little but keep editing to a minimum. The next thing I did was some sky work using selection from Lumist, including a fire paint overlay. I enhanced the natural purple and the oranges of the sky and mountains a little using these. I finished by watching my tones and doing some burn and dodge. A little shadow burning in particulate helped me define the lines between the mountains.

Below you can see the tonal map of the fished image that’s at the top. I kept my sky fiery but with no tones above Zone 8, which is pretty dark for a sunset sky, at least for me. But because the shadows of the image go all the way to Zone 1, we still have rich contrast and a full 8 stops being in the tonal range of the image from Z0-Z8. No muddy crushing of everything into mid tones here.

So Can JPEG Work?

Yes the JPEG worked out and I have a printable image, this time. But this is a good lesson in paying attention. Images minutes before were in RAW and tinkering around in menus I switched over and din’t realize it. I exposed well, but had I shot like this all day at an important event I would have lost images due to highlight and shadows being thrown out. Even here a raw would have given me a tad more subtle quality and that does matter when printing.

Always shoot RAW for art images. The fact that the image was exposed well in camera  like we talk about in the EXposed Workshop and processed carefully in post kept it looking good. JPEG’S can look great, but they can also fall apart when you push them hard and while I don’t always push a file hard. I always recommend the extra latitude of a RAW.

Let me know what you think of the result. — Gav

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March 25, 2015

In this weeks video we go on a trip to New Mexico and look at how light falls in a harsh situation. We’ll briefly study how to can better catch the falling light. Lots more eon this topic in the EXposed series.


Hope you enjoy — Seim

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February 25, 2015

You cannot train light, until light trains you! Then you can ask yourself. Am I controlling light, or is it controlling me?

Today’s video is quick and dirty and it’s about liquid light! Not that old emulsion in a bottle stuff, though that’s cool. Today I want us to stop and think. In recent years I’ve started thinking about how we handle light at a fundamental level. The more I think about light the way I describe today, the more I UNDERSTAND it. Light can have a mind of it’s own. But once you understand it’s nature as I often speak about in my workshops. Everything changes and it opens up a whole new world.

If you don’t fully understand the science of light you need to watch EXposed or study something like it because it will change your entire thought process on light,.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments — Seim

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December 19, 2013


Gavin preparing and adding initial to mounted 24 inch open editions in his gallery. Visit his website for details.

I’m Gavin Seim. Do you know my number? It’s 509-754-5255. I offer it because if a customer or even a colleague has a problem, I want it fixed. I’ve answered that phone while standing in the wilderness making images. Answered so I could tell someone how to install their LR presets or get their order. Because service matters.

I’ve been serving customers in retail since I was about 10. I’ve seen all the excuses. But I ignored them and made a commitment not to be the company that so many become. We’re human. But at Seim Studios we operate on service and quality. Whether we’re selling a portrait, a print, or one of our editing and education products for photographers.

Below is the principles of service from our website at Seim Effects. Everyone that works at Seim Studios is expected to follow it – Please use it in your business.

“Service is not something computers do for you. It’s not something from a book. It’s not a line in a policy manual. It’s not an excuse – Service means YOU raise a finger, a hand and sometimes even an arm, or a leg. You do the footwork, you look into the problem and you do your level best to find a way to resolve it and make customer happy. That’s service.”

What I’m about to say applies to ANY company of any size. No excuses. I’m fed up with how out of touch today’s world is with service and a smile. It’s not just the fortune 500s. Your mom and pop shop on the corner is often just as bad. It goes all the way back to how we raise our kids to respect others. But here’s the thing. If we give bad service, we won’t get away with it. Word spreads. If you’re big it takes longer, but it will catch you  — I’m not writing this only for you. I’m writing this for me. So if I ever forget, I can come back and remind myself the words of a young businessman who knew what quality and service meant.

Did you know I’m running for Congress? When was the last time you got great service from your congressman? The same principle applies there. Service, communications and respect. Lets get to this list.

  • 1. YOU Are the Servant:

When a customer deals with you or calls with a problem there’s one thing that is critical to remember: YOU are their servant. This is not a joke. You are being paid to serve that person and whether they pay you again is directly related to how well-served they feel. Service is about satisfaction. It’s about humbling yourself and taking pride in giving someone what they want. This applies not only to how you behave but also to the quality of the product you sell. YOU serve them! If you cannot grasp this concept you will never be a great businessperson.

  • 2. Give them the Pickle:

A wonderful concept started by Bob Farrell, this means just what it suggests. The little things are what makes happy customers. You don’t ruin a customer’s experience by making up petty rules or finding petty charges for extras. You don’t look for subtle ways to fleece them. Are you listening fast food? People are not idiots. They may tolerate your tacky charge for a glass of water, but it will leave a bad taste and it will cost you.

  • 3. The Customer:

It used to be said the customer is always right. While occasionally this is not 100% true, you can still treat them as if they are. The truth is it’s generally only that PICKLE that they want. Give it to them. If you can’t, go that extra mile and try to find some solution. There are bad customers out there and yes, occasionally you have to work for them. Good service does not mean letting customers stand on your neck but it also does not mean letting them walk next door because you won’t give them a .10 packet of ketchup. If you take the high road and work for that customer, chances are they will love you for it.

  • 4. Anger Management:

You owe your customer service. It’s your job. You need to make them happy. Even if they are unhappy right now. From an early age I was shocked by how offended people would get when I got frustrated with bad service. But when a customer is upset, a professional MUST not take it personally. While ethically customers should be kind as well, that does not mean they cannot chide a company or person for failing at their job. The angriest of customers is rarely angry at you. They want what they paid for. Give them the pickle and take responsibility for problems and they will turn from foe to friend. It’s rare that I cannot turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one with a few minutes of personal effort.

  • 5. SERVICE:

Pure and simple. You work for your customers and so do your employees. In a world where service seems to have been forgotten, if you give that service you will blow them away. This means making it easy for them. It does not mean hiding your phone number on your site, only offering email support, taking days to respond, making excuses, trying to get them to pay for your mistakes.

I’ve heard all the excuses folks. They are all crap. It does not matter if you’re a software giant with ten million customers or a tiny bistro on the street corner. If you say you just can’t afford to give service, it’s a lie. Service means you make it happen. You pick up the phone, ship out the package, send the letter or crawl there on your hands and knees. SERVICE is how you stay in business.

Service means you go the extra mile to make sure you’re customers are treated fair and just. Policy be hanged, efficiency tossed out the window and price left at the door. Because when you give this kind of service people remember you, they talk about you and they want to buy from you AGAIN. If you give bad service YOU will pay later and YOU will deserve every penny of that loss.

None of us are perfect, Things go wrong. But every now and then step back and ask yourself “How would I want to be treated?”

Serve and be served — Gav

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May 17, 2013

Gavin Seim and Ken Whitmire
Gavin with Ken Whitmire, the Ansel Adams of wall portraits at WPC 2013.

– This video was initially posted for our newsletter subscribers. It is now public. You can get future goodies by subscribing to the newsletter below –

Are You Selling Better?

Here’s our special Seim Effects video for May 2013. I just returned from a week at Wall Portrait Conference. It’s my 5th year and the principles I learned here changed my entire career. I wanted to record a quick overview of ideas while it”s fresh in my mind. To share a bit of what I have learned and what I plan to apply further this year as I sell more wall prints.

These ideas come from hundreds of years of combined experience. I am not the master of marketing, but I have seen these principles work when applied correctly. I barley scratch the surface here, but here’s hoping this video will get you inspired to raise the bar and go further. I hope to see you at a future Wall Portrait Conference.

Gavin Seim

Want to learn more about using light and making images for walls? Check out my complete films including EXposed, a workshop about all things light and exposure. Also take a look at PHOTOGRAPHICS. My new film on Art, History and Photographic Craft. You can pre-order it now and save.

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