Tag Archive for 'amazing'

Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

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This is an article I was originally asked to write for Professional Photographer Magazine, a good read – The problem was that editing department hacked it up so badly that it was barley even my words anymore. Such is life, but I opted to not have it published. Below is the full version of the article with a few extras since I didn’t have a word limit here. Enjoy – Gavin Seim

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I’m going to share a few things that can fundamentally change how we make images. NONE of them are new -  Sometimes it seems we arrived at digital and left behind a hundred and fifty years of photographic knowledge. I spend a lot of time studying classic techniques. Why? Because it’s not new – It’s time tested. It works. In this digital age we can get so caught up in gadgets, software and tools that we neglect how to make images beautiful from the start. I’m from the digital generation – So while I fully relate, I’ve learned to stop looking for buttons and start looking for light.

1. The Tones:

Ken Whitmire once taught me that “Tone” may be the least understood and least utilized factor in composing and finishing images.” He was right. With digital it’s easy to think “that’s easy”. But as a lover of film and digital, I’ve learned they’re not so different. A great photograph is light and shadows – We must see in terms of tone and how it relates to what we want to capture. Exposure, burning, dodging, finishing  – Proper use of tone can literally take the viewer anywhere we want them to go. Now that’s power.

Ken Whitmire by Gavin Seim 500x600 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Ken Whitmire on the Oregon coast – I photographed this portrait of him while he was photographing a family. The Tone is essential here. Control of the dynamic range while retaining rich blacks gives balance to the scene.

2. The Zones:

2. Zones 2 600x56 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

The Zone Scale – A representation from black to white in one stop increments. The language of light.

I’ve been trying to decide how to discuss Ansel Adam’s Zone System in few words. Zones may be the most neglected tool in photography today. They offer a core to how we communicate and photograph light. Zones are not just for film or black and white. Once you truly understand them you never see the same again. The Zone System is broad reaching. But it’s core is the beautify simple Zone Scale, a representation from black to white. Combine Zones with a simple understanding of metering and there is no over, or under exposure. There’s only your exposure. Your intent. I can’t explain it all here, but there’s a free video covering the basics that I posted over at exposedworkshop.com. It’s an excerpt from my EXposed series and will get you started. Don’t ignore Zones because they will change your photography. You can also read my article on using Zones here.

Big Bend National Park Hot Springs Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Lost Oasis – I was using large format film here and took advantage of camera movements. Line, tone, space and position were all critical and while in retrospect there’s things I could have improved, taking my time paid off. I took in the full tonal range from black (Zone 0) to just shy of clipping (Zone 10). More on this image here.

1 Zones 1 600x403 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

The Zone System – Here is an exposure sequence metered on the highlights from Zone 1 to Zone 9. More on this in the Zone System discussions on my site.

3. Space, Position, Line:

Ken Whitemire, the pioneer and master of the wall portrait, showed me the value of tones in relation to space, position and line. He has an amazing lecture he gives about this at the Wall Portrait Conference each year – Essentially we need to think about the aesthetics of our image. For this reason I love studying masters like Bierstadt, Sargent and others. We must start by truly seeing our scenes. Think about the subject. How lines lead. Where are they positioned? Why? Is anything distracting? Should it be lighter, darker? Really – Truly – See!

River Portrait Gavin Seim 600x500 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Morgan’s Song – I had a lot of things happening in this riverside portrait. Controlling the aspects of the scene, the position and the tone allowed me to show a beautiful scene while still keeping the viewers eyes on Morgan.

4. Visualize – Again:

Are you really “seeing” in the minds eye? It’s easy to let this slide in an age of instant previews and post production fixes. But nothing replaces visualizing. Ansel reminds us that “The whole key lies very specifically in seeing it in the mind’s eye”. Regardless of our subject, we must stop, if only for a moment. See what’s in front the lens and decide what the subject needs. Then use space, position, line and tone to make that happen.

Mission Ridge Portrait Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This was my turning point in visualizing. I used 4×5 film for this wall portrait that we printed at 40 inches. I needed to keep away the distractions in the space. I only used one frame of color film, but I took a breath first. I truly saw the portrait in my mind before I released the shutter. I’ve added a zone scale for the purpose of tone study.

 5. Finishing:

The image is captured. Win lose or draw we’ve done it. I’ve learned that slowing down throughout the entire process makes me a far better craftsman. That includes finishing. It’s easy to raise the bar in post if we stop worrying about making countless “decent” images and start thinking about how to take the “best” and make them sing. Fulfill that visualization, right up until the print is on the wall. That is mastering the photograph.

Until next time… Gavin Seim

Seattle at Night Gavin Seim Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This image was a PPA Loan Collection print in 2011. It’s actually a tone-mapped piece, but more importantly, it had careful attention to detail. Focus on line, tone values and finishing made it work. Planning and execution.

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Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…

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And How it Can Change Your Life in 15 Minutes.

by Gavin Seim: Original article from Gavin’s f164 journal. (updated 11/15/11).

This may be the most valuable piece I’ve written on photography. In the last year, I’ve started working with 4×5 film and digital side by side. I’ve also explored extensive exercises in tonal control, truly learned to visualize, and implemented key parts of the Zone System that was developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer, both in my film and my digital work, in color and black and white.

The idea of visualizing and using Zones is not promoted heavily today. It seems much of the industry, including many of its educators, arrived at digital and decided that the past 150 years of photographic knowledge were somewhat irrelevant. What I’m about to show you is not taught much, but understanding it WILL change your photography forever. I’m not kidding; once you get this, you’ll never see light the same way again. And I hope you’ll share it with others.

zone system 1 Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital...

Sunsets Hidden Falls. Yosemite, 2010 - A general look at where I placed the scene elements in relation to the Zones. Each arrow leads to what I see as the zone on the scale.

I’m going to stay simple because these concepts are essentially simple. I have not come up with a new digital based zone system, a stripped down version, or an article full of nerdy equations, white papers, or complex systems. This is not hard, and you can start putting it to use TODAY for film or digital. Since most of us are in the digital world, I’ll focus on that. I’m going to show you how to use the core of the Zone System to make you a vastly better photographer. I’ve also brought along some examples for analyzing the Zones.

To those of you who already know this, kudos. But I challenge you to review and analyze whether you’re really using it, or just buzzing along in digital bliss and fixing things later. Excuse my bluntness, but this is happening to the best of us. We need to get back to basics, visualize, control tone, dynamic range, and image quality.

Originally, the Zone System was a complete approach that included everything from the initial exposure to the final print. Now we don’t use darkrooms much these days, so I’ll focus on the pivot point of the Zone System: the Zones themselves. That said, I would encourage you to study the whole process even if you don’t use film. It will help you gain a better understanding of light and photography. Not only that, but old books like Fred Picker’s Zone VI workshop, deal with it quickly and effectively and can often be had for mere pennies.

1. The Zone Scale.

The Zone Scale lies at the core of the Zone System. It consists of eleven squares that span from clipped black (Zone 0) to clipped white (Zone X). Each square represents a change of one stop. The first part of using Zones starts before you release the shutter. Truly visualizing your image is like nothing else. Once you master it, you see the image you plan to make, including your edits and refinements, in your mind before you ever take the photo. It changes everything about how you photograph and how refined the resulting images become.

Zone System Scale Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital...

Brilliantly simple, the Zone scale allows us to visualize all our light from complete black to complete white in one stop increments.

To begin, look at your scene. What’s outside your window right now? Visualize what zones in which the things around you fall. Then imagine you’re taking a photo. Imagine where the zones would be if the image came out exactly as you wanted. It does not have to be what you “see” but what you “visualize” for the finished image. How do YOU want to make it?

Think about what Zone levels on various objects in this scene would most complement your main subject as well as your supporting cast of elements. Sometimes it helps to begin by trying to visualize a scene in black and white, even if your final image is going to be color. Thinking in terms of only tones can be helpful, especially early on in the process.

Continue reading ‘Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…’

Our Central WA HDR Workshop Results.

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HDR Workshop 001 2 600x374 Our Central WA HDR Workshop Results.

by Gavin Seim: I just hosted the first “Incredible HDR” (high dynamic range) photo workshop in Central Washington. It was an intimate three day class of six, with attendees from as far as London, so we had plenty of one on one time. The images they made were amazing. I’m really proud of the students and the creative results they produced during the workshop. We covered everything from how to capture HDR portraits, to final edits, controlling light and presentation.

I believe one of the most important parts of good HDR is knowing how to edit it. There’s a lot of really ugly HDR because photographers don’t understand what their dealing with and how to make something magical from it. Going further however I want to remind those playing with HDR that the rules of photography do not go away because a photo is HDR. Interesting subject matter, composition and attention to detail are all very important factors in a great image. The students at this workshop were from varied experience levels but I think every one of them got it and took home something valuable.

I’ll post a few images from students below as well as a few of my own I took during excursions. It seems every time I teach something, I learn something new myself. If you’re interested in learning more about my HDR workshops you can find info here on Seim Effects.

HDR Workshop 003 392x600 Our Central WA HDR Workshop Results.

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The HDR Portraits & Weddings Project

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hdr portrait field reading senior The HDR Portraits & Weddings Project

Check Out My HDR Portraits Gallery:

Those of you who follow my work, know that I love HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. I’m especially fond of pushing the limits, with HDR portrait, wedding and other non standard uses. I started experimenting with HDR people shots in 2007. I also use it for nearly all of my nature work.

I have a bunch of favorites, and have finally compiled them onto one page on the Seim Photography site. If you’re intersted in HDR stop by and maybe you’ll get some ideas. I know I’m not the only one shooting HDR however. If you know of other great HDR, share them in the comments... Gavin Seim

HDR Portrait & Wedding Photography Techniques (2nd Edition)

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seim hdr portrait 2 HDR Portrait & Wedding Photography Techniques (2nd Edition)

Look To The Wind. HDR by Gavin Seim. Canon 30D

~ Check out Gavin’s HDR workshops. More details here.

Updated 07/2009: Revamped & improved article. Added a new segment dealing with movement and blur (towards bottom).

by Gavin Seim: In 2007 I wrote an article about using true HDR techniques with people. Yep, portraits, fashion and wedding images can be utterly amazing using High Dynamic Range. HDR is not just reserved for nature and still life. We’ve been using it at Seim Studios for some time now and it blows clients away. Heres some of my secret sauce to get you started with HDR portraits and a few of my own images.

Link Resources>>

What’s HDR All About?
First lets cover basics. If you’re already an HDR master you can skip this part. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s better seen than described, so other than the images I’ve included in this article, you can see more on my website.

HDR is the combining of light and dark tones of multiple images taken at varied exposure levels and then blended using software like Photomatix, Photoshop, or another HDR program. Photomatix is the most popular among HDR fans and we have a deal worked out with them. You can save 15% with promo code PPS15. Basically this software blending allows the photographer to selectively choose how much light he wants in various parts of the image. You’ll have a light to dark range that’s much higher than that of a normal exposure, thus giving you much more control over the final image.

You can also check my two PPS episodes from 2007, talking about HDR and HDR portraits. HDR Podcast Part1 & HDR Podcast Part2. There’s also PPS #57, an HDR episode with Trey Ratcliff that’s full of insight.

Continue reading ‘HDR Portrait & Wedding Photography Techniques (2nd Edition)’

How To Make An HDR Portrait. Behind The Scenes:

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seim hdr portrait 2 How To Make An HDR Portrait. Behind The Scenes:

~ Check out Gavin’s 3 day HDR workshop coming Fall 2009. More details here.

So you’ve probably heard about HDR photography, and you may be wondering what you can do with it and why it’s so cool.
By Gavin Seim
: This is not a short article but it will explain a lot about HDR photography and why its so amazing. Today we’re going to talk about the editing techniques I used to create “Look To The Wind” the bride on the beach image that you probably have heard mentioned on Pro Photo Show, and maybe seen on the net. Also below are some additional links for things relevant to HDR.

Link Resources>>

HDR is a method of taking multiple images and combining them in a high dynamic range file. Lets say you take three images of the exact same scene, at various exposure levels. Standard images are only around 8 bits each, basically meaning that their ability to correctly expose dark scenes while keeping bright scenes from getting overexposed is limited.

So to make an HDR you might take one image that’s underexposed, one image over, and one with correct exposure. Then using software you can combine the shadow and highlight details from all the images into a single image is called an HDR, It’s the combined bits of these images, and is usually a 32 bit image when converted. What does 32bit mean to you? It means it can contain far more light. Even though the actual resolution of the image is not increased the details inside it are much higher. The HDR Photography technique is most often done with nature or still life images, but I have been doing extensive experimenting with this technique in portraits as well with good results, as we’ll see today.

hdr ev example How To Make An HDR Portrait. Behind The Scenes:

So lets look at an example. In this image I took three shots of the bride on the beach using continuous shooting mode with auto exposure bracketing. This along with a model holding as still as possible, and a fairly wide angle scene made “Look To The Wind” Possible possible (click for a larger version) You can read more about HDR portrait techniques in my HDR portrait article.

There a a few ways to take the three images and make an HDR from them. First take your images in unedited raw form. You could do it with jpegs, but raw will give you the best results. Don’t correct the raw files before converting to HDR. There is a very basic tool in Photoshop for converting the images called Merge To HDR (File/Automate/Merge To HDR) This allows you to select you images, and it will combine them into and 32 bit image. You then can use tools to adjust the levels, and curves of the image mix to try and get a good result.

Continue reading ‘How To Make An HDR Portrait. Behind The Scenes:’