May 12, 2024

Pictorialism is about emotion over perfection and famous pictorialists like Stegliz, Coburn, Hamilton and many more helped create the fine art world of photography we know today!

That’s why I dig in to create Pictorialist Actions. A PS editing add-on focused on making amazing pictorialist edits. There are lots more samples, info, and videos on the pictorialist page.

You can get Pictorialist here as well as see more samples and video.

A while back I started studying pictorialism. These photos are from early-era to iconic portrait photographers like David Hamilton. I had wanted something like this for years on digital.

So we made it and it was not easy. Today I made you a hands-on training workshop on how to create photography pictorialism in Photoshop using these new actions and why it’s so good.

photography pictorailism and editing in photoshop

At this level. The answer is a definitive no. Sure we can use clarity and shoot like pictorialists in camera. But deep edits like this are not what RAW editors do.

Of course, don’t need my actions to create these high-depth photography pictorialism edits on your photos. You do need layers, a deep understanding of blurs and blending modes, and tools that are well outside of Lightroom or C1.

Yes, you can do amazing things in raw editors. if you’ve used my Filmist presets or my Elegance Ai Speed-masks you have seen just so far we can fo in modern RAW editors. It’s amazing.

Creating pictorialism in photography is more. Yes, it starts with a camera and you can shoot in a pictorialist style for sure. But getting this kind of control needs layers and nuance.

Stop being afraid of Photoshop. That’s why I made today’s video to show you that complex things like this can be easy.

Orton effect photography pictorailism.

Do photography and pictorialism differ?

Yes because when in the darkroom or on digital, pictures-based editing is about not perfect perfect or always accurate. But it’s also not Ai fakery. You use editing and techniques in camera and post to convey a more emotionally complex image. But not always a sharper one.

It’s a delicate balance and that’s why Pictorialist actions are really mind-blowing. They create a balance that you can then adjust quickly to fit your vision.

You can edit and mix and blur and create photography that is both real but also fine art and emotion. Pisctsorism reinforces the idea the idea that artistic editing is OK. But the edits are real. They are working with a real scene from camera to print and showing your vision.

photography pictorailism alfred Stegliz style editing

And I think we need that right now.

Nealy every image you see going viral online is fake. But as a pictorialist you can say, I’m creating something dramatic but it’s real. And people need real in these sterile times.

It can be deeply creative and atmospheric. But it’s all based on real-world and you as the photographer view it as a slice of time.

Go try editing like a pictorialist and see the magic that ensues. And of course, if you want to make it even better try my Pictorialist actions. They’re guaranteed!

David Hamilton style effects using pictorialist actions
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September 22, 2023

We’re always talking about high dynamic range. But today’s videos are a keystone much like our = STOP using contrast from the last Masters Made Easy video. LoFi photography is actually fundamental to understanding your photos.

No LoFi Photography is not just a lomo camera or a filter on Instagram. It’s just as important to shadow hunting as the High Dynamic Range techniques as I explained in my recent video.

Many photographers no longer edit Low Dynamic Range.

You’ll find some free presets to make this easier inside my Film presets sampler and the Silver Black and White preset Sampler. Also there are some powerful LoFi tools in my Emulsion Photoshop Actions.

LoFi Photography goes way deeper than people think.

LoFi Photography is often played as low quality, pinhole camera, etc. While those can be included, it’s a really low dynamic range technique and it’s important when you plan a shoot.

I know I say it all the time but this LoFi photography fits in with Shadow Hacking 101 so make sure you come to a Shadow Hackers online photo workshop.

LoFi photos take what everyone else throwing out and it often creates better photos. You don’t need to do all LoFi or all HDR. A lot of photos fall in between. But don’t be afraid to push the methods I show in the video to refine your style.

Reverse the things they teach you in LoFi photography

We’re almost universally taught to push sliders right in the digital world. A more is more kind of approach. That’s why most photos look so bad and even good photographers are ediuting to death. We went deeper into this in my post about how to ground your edits by using filmic presets.

I’ve been doing this since the start of digital. I’ve watched the influencers and experts nearly always selling the same ideas and repeating ourselves because they came from film and all the digital stuff was new and like candy. Candy sometimes lacks perspective.

Slowly that’s changing as digital matures and photographers realize that we still have a lot to learn from the past.

Stop speaking in just digitally.

We live in an analog world. The advent of Ai photography is reminding us just how fake everything has become and that the real world is often more magical. LoFi photography is not every part of the puzzle. But you nee to know it.

You can still do amazing complex edits. But by knowing all the tools in your box you have control. Yes, your capture can be HDR and your final LDR, or vice versa. When you know to hunt shadows and look for the atmosphere and life in photos everything starts to change. There’s not just one way and you need to know them all to master this. The good news is, it’s not that complex.

Stay tuned for more in the Masters Made Easy series.

Gavin Seim

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May 18, 2018

Here’s how I learned to find amazing models in Mexico for my projects and what you should know if you need a model or want to do modeling in Mexico. by Gavin Seim,

Need a model in Mexico? or want to do modeling in Mexico?

Gavin Seim - Master fashion photographer working with models in mexico

I’m Gavin, a bilingual photographer, filmmaker, and consultant living in Central Mexico. I’ve been a photographer for 20+ years and I’ve lived in Mexico full-time after moving from the USA. There’s a lack of information about working with models in Mexico. I made this so you don’t get scammed as you learn how to navigate being or working with models in Mexico for creative or commercial projects.

The first time I booked a model in Mexico it was intimidating.

You’re not alone here. I learned a lot since then living in Mexico as a professional Photographer. I’ve also discovered a lot of new models in Mexico with my own projects and I’ve updated this for 2023.

Whether you have a large-scale project on a budget, need an ongoing stream of modeling for your clothing line, or need to shoot a music video. Mexico has great creative people and amazing locations.

You can see many of the models I’ve worked with and trained on my Instagram and my gallery. But today I thought I’d share some tips on finding and photographing Models in Mexico.

Cisla, Model in Mexico black and white session

Feel free to contact me about Mexico models or modleing in Mexico. I offer consulataions, photography and filming services. I sometimes do collab sessions as well for models wanting to shoot in Mexico – Reach me via email –

Most of my 20-year career was commission sessions.  I used my daily work to earn international image merits to get my master’s degree in Photography But working with models is different. The poses and setups are often easier, but finding the right people can be a chore.

Melena, Model Querétaro Mexico session with Gavin Seim
Melena – Model in Queretaro City Mexico, a session with Gavin Seim

1. Shooting models whether for paid projects or for practice is good for your creativity.

Others might feel intimidated by the pressure of hiring a model in Mexico where it can be hard to find companies that are not seedy and that are actually responsive. Doing so with a language barrier is even more intimidating.

If you’re not a Spanish speaker You probably want someone along that speaks some English, because most of the models won’t unless you get a pricey agency from Mexico City and they will usually charge you way above normal Mexico rates, give a small portion to models and pocket the rest.

Models in Mexico project in central Mexico with Gavin Seim
Yara, Model in Pachuca Mexico
Cisla, Fashion model session in Veracruz Mexico
Cisla, Veracruz Beach Session with Gavin Seim


I worked with my first models through an Edecan agency.

Edcans book models for projects and most work in events and in stores for weekend promotion etc. Yes, like vegas booth babes. But it’s not only women. It’s a big business here in Latin America because stores want attractive people presenting their products. If you’re a reputable photographer looking for a project, most of them will be glad to be doing modeling rather than just handing out brochures in the hot sun.

Here in Mexico, we paid about $250 US dollars for two models for about 4 hours of shooting and including travel costs of a few hours.

We contacted an agency and worked through the fact that things are different here. In Mexico, people are more laid back and even companies don’t always respond fast. Sometimes they are downright disorganized by the standards we’re used to from the USA and beyond.

Our models showed up on time along with a representative/security guard. We are after all gringos 😉 — In seriousness, though everyone was chill and the representative was there to take the money and keep an eye on things. But it was all a little stiff feeling. These models are more often than not handing out flyers or looking attractive in front of a cell phone store but they did well.

We had them sign model releases (I use the Easy Release app which has multiple languages) and off we went to make this video and photo project I was working on at the time.

“I want to do modeling in Mexico”

Ok. If you are a model and want to shoot in the exotic beauty of Mexico. Plan a trip first to work with people you trust. There are larger agencies in Mexico City you could contact. But don’t expect to get paid any rates that you expect in most countries unless you’re already well known.

Don’t rush to meet up with just anyone you meet online as you might in the USA or Europe. While many of the things you see in the news about Mexico are sensationalized, there are shady deals at times and it’s still a culture and likely a language you are unfamiliar with.

If you want to be a part of the modeling in Mexico, I suggest starting with people you trust. You don’t have to go to a tourist resort for this. Get in a car and take a road trip. Head inland like to the beautiful jungles in San Luis Potosi. A town like Xilitla, or Tamasopo is stunning, welcoming of full of incredible locations. You can drive to these places from the Texas border in about 15 hours.

Once you start getting a portfolio here, you can use that to further your work and do more modeling in Mexico with these examples and connections you make.

Sondra, Gringa model in Mexico. Photo shoot in Hidalgo Mexico
Cassi, Modleing Sesison in Hidalgo State Mexico

Getting models. An agency can be a start for models in Mexico.

But there are frustrations as business culture tends to be less responsive here and the service in these types of places can lack especially if they don’t fully understand you. There are agencies that cater to English speakers and commercial projects, but they tend to charge way over the market rate and take advantage of your ignorance. So do your homework.

Avoid scams by asking for references from your market, looking only for reviews can also be useful, and NEVER pay in full before the project. A small retainer is normal, but no one should be asking for full payment here until you all arrive on-site. It is NOT normal to pay in full in advance in Mexico as people are very wary of scams. For the same reason, you need to be very transparent with the agency/models about what you need and what you are willing to pay. Don’t assume the price they6 quote is set in stone. It’s not!

Couple fashion session gave seim
Couple model in Mexico – Gavin Seim
We did most of this shoot with natural light and a single strobe. I’ll show you hands-on in the coming PhotoKit videos.

2. Finding great models that simply want to collaborate in Mexico.

So you can hire models for a one-off project from these Edecan agencies. But most of my photos were done with aspiring models who may or may not be with an agency but if they trust you they are happy to go and create amazing sessions in trade for photos. In this type of session, it’s often their first time doing real modeling so come prepared to know and demonstrate poses.

For just exploring light this is my favorite way to find models. I usually buy clothes from Shein or a site like that so they have lots to try and let them pick their theme.

Mexico is a very different culture. How do you find these models?

The problem is the girls are pretty used to men being creepy here. So when they get an Instagram message saying… “Hey you’re really pretty I would like to take photos of you” what they actually hear is, how much do you charge to go to a motel with me? Yes, it sucks, but it’s true. Men will be slightly less suspicious, but folks are very cautious with new people here.

Even if you have a great Instagram and social proof with photos (you should), don’t expect models in Mexico to simply come and meet you for a session just because you sent a message. They will assume you’re just a creep. In fact, I NEVER found a model by using Instagram messages.

Modeling in mexico throwing gair
A mixed modeling session in San Jan Del Rio QRO Mexico

I find models by referral of friends who know women that want great photos or by promoting the collab on Facebook links to my page with lots of details to help them know I’m legit, not a creeper.

Even then only about 50% of the models that scheduled a session with me showed up. Some of them literally said they changed their mind because they were afraid despite me having credentials. That was after many messages, having them tell me what kind of clothes they felt comfortable in, etc.

Be very open, honest, and transparent. I’ve had women in their mid 20’s that asked to bring their dad to a swimsuit shoot. Yes, many new models will jump at free (collab) photos if you are a good photographer, but not everyone is ready to be a model. So be understanding of the culture here, but also use how they respond as a filter. They have to respect your time also.

When I’m working with models in Mexico for the first time I always meet them in a public place like a cafe and have them sign a model release. Then we go take photos, usually with my wife or one of their friends. With women, I generally say no to them bringing male friends because the men tend to leer or take their own photos the entire time. But I encourage them to bring a female friend to help them with clothes and help them relax. A friend like this actually becomes a session assistant.

You can set your own boundaries, just ensure you protect yourself and your models and be very honest and considerate of their needs. Avoid going out alone with new models. That’s good practice anywhere.

Do these things and you will gain a reputation and soon have more models than you need wanting photos, referring friends, etc. This is amazing for portraits and lighting experiences.

Ivanna shoot with Gavin Seim
Ivanna – Model QRO Mexico

3. Find amazing locations to work with models in Mexico!

There are beautiful people everywhere, but the exotic nature of those from other cultures makes it easy to get that creative energy. You could rent a studio or building depending on your needs but theirs a lot of outdoor scenes and urban places that are really eye-catching for projects.

The land is beautiful in Mexico also and there’s so much color in the trees. So even if you don’t have a studio, you’re fine. It’s good to know the area you are in and whether it’s calm (most are). You can legally take photos in pretty much any public space and I’ve never had a problem after many sessions on streets and in parks. It’s normal here.

Let models be themselves. Photographing beautiful people is easy; sort of. You still have to stay on top of things. Pay attention to your lights and setups and detail and do not get pressured by the fact that you’re working with experienced models and feel like the shutter needs to be clicking at all times to prove yourself. Like any portrait session, take charge, take a breath and make a plan.

Yara and Evaristo did a great job. We loaded up and headed out to some epic outdoor locations like an old mine, the bus stop, and the forested roadsides of beautiful Mexico. But that was just the start and since then I’ve started building my own list of models for when I have projects so I don’t have to use a middleman and we can collaborate as equals.

But it’s Mexico, Gavin, surely I’ll be robbed. Don’t believe the hype so easily. I’ve roamed Mexico for months. Just like any country, there are bad parts of town, but most areas of Mexico are perfectly safe and wandering around to cool locations is no problem. We were in Querétaro and Hidalgo State which in most areas have less crime than many States in the US.

Model Ivanna in a Mexico session on the River in Hidalgo
Hidalgo Mexico. One of my favorite Riverside modeling locations with Ivanna

There are talented undiscovered models of Mexico. Treat them with respect and everyone will leave happy!

Unless you’re shooting a movie, you probably don’t need fancy models that are promoted in US agencies. If it’s a commercial project you can find models from an Edecan like I did my first time or you can scout out your own. It’s a warm culture full of beautiful people.

Get out there and take some photos and then go edit them with some of my presets 😉

I also do session directing and consulting for projects in Mexico so you are welcome to send me a message if you need some help with your upcoming project.

Gavin Seim

Beach session Cisla with Gavin Seim
Cisla – Model San Juan Del Rio Mexico
Model underwear shoot central mexico
Karen – Model QRO Mexico
Models in Mexico dance session with Gavin Seim
Montse – Dancer and model, Queretaro Mexico
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March 23, 2018

Does this photo look green and ugly? Not in black and white it doesn’t. These two sliders change everything and in today’s video we’ll find out why.

This is another tip for raw processing and for (but not limited to) the new Silver 3 presets. We’re going to look at how you can take better control of your black and white process by using the white balance sliders to get the luminance and gradient mix you want in every image.

You’ve likely done this before, but I thought we would take the time to understand better how white balance effects black and white. Some of the presets in Silver 3 do this already behind the scenes, but you can tweak any black and white process to your heart’s content using this method.

The presets I’m using are Silver 3 for Lightroom. Get them here.

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August 3, 2016

Your life’s work exists on drives. Most of us don’t have a room full of negatives anymore, or filing cabinets full of information. It’s all on drives.

Backups aren’t a particularly exciting topic for many, but they are critical. I see people treat backups as an afterthought with disturbing regularity. “Yea, I got an external drive I copied to last year around here somewhere…”

I hope that’s not you. If we don’t do better than that, there’s going to be a day where we regret it. So to make sure we’re not missing the boat, lets talk about backing up and I’ll share a few tips to help you stay safe.

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