Quick Fix Fridays: Two “Sammonisms” That Can Help You Make Better Photographs

I like to make learning fast and fun. That’s why I developed what I call my "Sammonisms," one-liners that drive home an important photo tip.

In this post I’ll share two of my favorites. All my "Sammonisms" are listed on my website: www.ricksammon.com/about.

Here goes!

Light Illuminates, Shadows Define

Every picture you have ever taken has one main element: light. Break down light and you have two sub elements: highlights and shadows. As photographers, we need to learn how to see the light – the highlights and shadows in a scene. We need to realize that light illuminates – shadows define. Without shadows, pictures look flat, which actually could be the goal is some photographs.

In the opening image for this post, the sand dunes in this Death Valley photograph have good definition due to strong shadows.

The sand dunes in this photograph have little definition due to soft shadows.

The combination of shadows and highlights in this photograph of Herbie Hancock are the result of very careful lighting. That lighting produced nice shadows that added to the mood of the scene.

Hey, here is a bonus "Sammonism": Shadows are the soul of the photograph.

Embrace Distortion

Very wide-angle lenses distort horizontal and vertical lines in a scene. The wider the lens and the closer the subject, the greater the distortion. Distortion can be fun, unless you are shooting for an architectural magazine. So I say embrace the distortion.

I used a Canon 15mm full-frame fish-eye lens to photograph this section of a lounge car in the South East Railway Museum near Atlanta, Georgia. I think the cool distortion makes the railway car look even cooler.

I used the same Canon 15mm lens for this shot of the observation area of the same car. In both cases the scene is distorted, but, again, I think that adds to the impact of the photograph.

Here I used a Canon 14mm lens to photograph this old Caddy. Shooting very close added to the impact of the fins in this photograph. Again, the wider the lens and the closer you are to the subject, the greater the distortion.

Got questions? Drop by my website at www.ricksammon.com.

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