What Does Your Web Site Say About You?

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I know I might sound like your mother, but . . . "First impressions are important."

It's true, and in today's world of social media and mobile devices, it's especially important to make a good first impression - especially with your web site. If you don't make a good first impression, folks may click off your site in a matter of seconds, or less.

Your web is your home on the web, and in effect, when you set up a web site, you are inviting people into your virtual home - your galleries, your blog, and your store. You are also inviting people, from around the world, to read about you . .  what you like and don't like, what gear you use, and where you have been and where you are going. You are also telling friends, followers – and total strangers – about your accomplishments and goals.

So indeed, your web site says a lot about you.

Left: Old, cluttered web site. Right, new, cleaner Squarespace web site.

Left: Old, cluttered web site. Right, new, cleaner Squarespace web site.

Above left: I used to have a cluttered web site, plastered, like many web sites, with ads on the right. It worked well, but it was just too busy and did not showcase the most important aspect of my work: my photography. I looked more like a photo store than a photographer.

Above right: Back in November, I switched to Squarespace because I wanted a clean web site on which I could showcase my photography. I chose Squarespace for several reasons: cool, totally customizable templates; all-in-one source for my blog, galleries, store, classes and more; ease of use; and 24/7 customer support. In addition, a Squarespace site looks great on desktops, laptops, iPhones and iPad - which is not the case with all web sites.

I still have ads, but they are placed at the bottoms of several posts a months, as well as on my sponsors page. I have found this placement to be much more effective than putting bright banner ads on the right. Studies have shown that regular readers become numb to these ads.

You can read more about Squarespace, and the awesome new Squarespace iPad and iPhone app, in this blog post.

Today, I think my site says: Rick Sammon loves photography - all aspects of it.

What does your site say about you? Leave a comment in the Comments here - along with a link to your site. Don't be shy. Show others your work. You may get some constructive criticism . . . and/or some great ideas. I'll take a look at each web site. Who knows? I might find some undiscovered talent, as I have done on my Tough Love portfolio reviews.

If you don't know what your web site says about you and your work, maybe it's time for a web site makeover.

If you are in the NYC area, I am giving a talk on social media and building a web site at Adorama on February 19th. Info here.

If you like stuff like this, you can subscribe to my blog here.

Explore the light,

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Give The Gift of a Photography Workshop

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On-line training is a great way to learn. I offer several courses on Kelby Training.

Attending seminars is also a good way to expand your photographic horizons. I have eight planned . . . so far in 2013!

But by far the best way to learn is to take a photography workshop. I have more than a dozen planned for 2013. They are all listed on my Workshops page.

This holiday season, why not give a loved one the gift of a photography workshop? It's a gift that will keep on giving, as your spouse continues to grow as a photographer.

On my workshops we make, rather than just take, pictures. We process our images and have group critiques. We make new friends and experience new locations.

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Yes, we work, but we also have a ton of fun.

I can help you with:
- landscape photography
- people photography
- HDR photgraphy
- speedlite shooting
- Photoshop and Lightroom
- nature, wildlife and landscape photography
- composition and exposure
- plug-ins
- your social media marketing
- and more

So give the gift of a workshop - even if it's to yourself :-)

Of course, please email me with any questions.

Explore the light,

I'm Still Photographing . . . after all these years

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Yesterday, someone asked me the same question that I have been asked a few times already this year: "So Rick, are you still shooting?"

I get asked that question because I am very involved with photo education, including on-line training. I also give about a dozens seminars a year. And yes, I do focus on the business end of photography, producing apps, such as my Social Media Marketing for Photographers app, which is listed on My Apps page. FYI: all the successful photographers you follow are good business people.

Being 62 may also have something to do with getting asked the question - as does being called "The Godfather."  :-)

The question reminds me of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, "I'm Still Standing." So yes, I'm still photographing. The thing is, I shoot now more than ever - and have more workshops and seminars planned for next year than every before.

But as my first boss told me, "Sammon, perception is everything."

I had some spare time today, so I thought I'd share with you my favorite pictures that I took this year - along with a tip for each photograph. All of the photographs in this post were taken on my workshops. If you want to make pictures like these, come on workshop. They are all listed on my Workshops page.

Above: Cowboy, Spearfish, SD.
Tip: Make pictures, just don't take pictures. We made this picture by carefully posing the cowboy in a barn in a location where shafts of lights illuminated the background.

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Above: Alaska
Tip: Use focus tracking to keep a fast-moving subject in sharp focus.

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Above: Coney Island
Tip: Shoot toward the sun for dramatic photographs. Remember: light illuminates, shadows define.

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Above: Conwy, North Wales
Tip: Check your histogram and highlight alert to ensure correctly exposed highlights.

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Above: Tampa area, Florida
Tip: Shoot with both eyes open, so you can see what may come into your frame to enhance or ruin a picture.

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Above: Plymouth, MA
Tip: Watch the background - it can make or break a photograph. Here the rider stands out in the frame due to the dark and simple background.

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Above: Very Large Array, New Mexico
Tip: Use a sturdy tripod. For very long exposures, you'll need a sturdy tripod. Don't skimp on a tripod. Buy right and you will not need to buy a second tripod.

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Above: Bosque del Apache, New Mexico
Tip: You snooze your lose. We got up at 4 AM to be on site to make photographs like this one.

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Above: Iceland
Tip: Crop creatively. It makes a big difference in the impact of your photographs.

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Above: Oregon Coast
Tip: Be prepared with the right clothing. On my Oregon Coast Photo Caravan, we wore knee-high rubber boots to keep our feet dry while were we shooting at low tide.

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Above: Death Valley
Tip: Use standard composition rules - like including an "S" curve in your frame - to draw interest to landscapes. But then, break the rules and follow your heart.

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Above: California Coast
Tip: When shooting a silhouette, place the sun directly behind the subject.

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Above: Mono Lake
Tip: The best time to photograph sunrise is when the sun is just about to peek over the horizon.

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Above: Atlanta, Georgia
Tip: Give yourself a fun portrait assignment: use a mirror.

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Above: San Antonio, NM
Tip: When shooting HDR, make sure you take enough exposures to capture the entire dynamic range of the scene. You usually want to see into the shadows while not blowing out the highlights.

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Above: Delray Beach, FL
Tip: Awaken the artist within with plug-ins. Here I used the Nik's Midnight filter in Color Efex Pro on an HDR image. You can save on plug-ins on my Save on Plug-ins Page.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I had fun putting it together. What's more, the next time someone asks me if I still shoot, I can just send them a link.

I hope to see you on a workshop. We'll shoot side by side and make good images.

Explore the light,


P.S. I created the image you saw over on Google+ in Photoshop. I teach Photoshop, too, on my workshops.

This post sponsored by Adorama - great gear at great prices. 

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Today's Guest Blogger: Chris Smith

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I'm sure you'll be blown away by Chris Smith's images in this post. How he got here is kinda interesting.

Chris came to me for one of my "Tough Love" portfolio review session. The first thing I said to him was, "You don't need my tough love." Still, he wanted some advice so we proceeded with the session. After looking at a few of Chris' images, I invited him to be a guest blogger.

Enjoy. – Rick

First, let me thank Rick for having me as a guest blogger. Rick, “The Godfather of Photography,” has been an unknowing mentor to me through his podcasts and his blog throughout my photographic journey. The Digital Photography Experience with Juan Pons and Rick is absolutely the best photography podcast available. Thanks, Rick!

Five Myths of HDR

Photographers have strong opinions when it comes to High Dynamic Range photography. Here are five of the most prevalent HDR myths.

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Myth #1: HDR takes an average image and turns it into a great image

If you want a stunning HDR image, you still need good lighting, composition, and a great subject. Don’t expect HDR software to work miracles on your mediocre images. HDR techniques are not a replacement for good photography.

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Myth #2: You must combine multiple images to make an HDR image

HDR images are often made with a combination of multiple exposures. But you can pull so much data out of a RAW file with Lightroom 4 or Adobe Camera RAW that you truly are creating an image with high dynamic range. Try adjusting an image in these programs by lowering the highlights and increasing the shadows.This skyline image is from one RAW file edited in Lightroom 4 and Photoshop.

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Myth #3: You need to be good at HDR software to make an amazing HDR image

When I create an HDR image, I usually use Photomatix or HDR Efex Pro 2 as my starting point. From here, I use Lightroom or Photoshop to selectively adjust levels, curves, saturation, and color balance. I spend 95% of my time editing an HDR image in non-HDR software.

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Myth #4: A good HDR image must look realistic

When photographers first use HDR software they go too far overboard. Images look like they were taken on a different planet. Eventually, these photographers realize this and try doing everything they can to make their images look more natural and realistic. But don’t go too far the other way. The best HDR images have a touch of a surreal look to them. Find that sweet spot between otherworldly and completely realistic to get the most out of HDR.

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Myth #5: People hate HDR

Many photography purists do not like HDR. But most non-photographers actually love HDR images. This includes people like magazine editors, advertising agencies and people that will buy your prints. Don’t let other photographers dissuade you from shooting HDR. Read Rick’s post, I Hate HDR?, http://www.ricksammon.info/2012/01/i-hate-hdr.html, for a great discussion on this topic.

Do you agree with these five myths? Are there some I missed? Add them to the list in the comments.

At my site, www.OutOfChicago.com I give advice for shooting in the city as well as general photography and HDR tips. Chicago may be the most photogenic city in the world and is one of the best places to practice HDR photography. Look me up next time you’re in town!

 You can find the location of the images in this post here.

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Thank you Chris for an awesome post.

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Readers: My friend Glenn Taylor and I are teaching an HDR workshop in Atlanta, Georgia February 28 to March 1st. Click here to check out Glenn's cool HDR images, and to get info on our workshop. That's Glenn's image above. We'll shoot here on the workshop.

This post sponsored by Perfectly Clear - the coolest was to get super sharp pictures with low noise.

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Today's Guest Blogger: Rob Dweck


I’m honored to be Rick’s guest blogger once again. My previous post here was all about light. This time around I’d like to share some tips and photos of one of my favorite local subjects: The Golden Gate Bridge. This coincides with the publication of my new ebook which just happens to be all about photographing the bridge.

Of course you can apply these tips to any subject, not just bridges. Which brings me to my first tip:

Find a Subject and photograph it 100 times or more over the course of a year.
Have you ever visited a location for a second time and seen things that you didn’t notice on the first visit? This happens to most of us. When you photograph something at different times of the day and year, you see how it looks in various conditions and the multitude of photographic possibilities that are available.

Even if you don’t live near a beautiful natural or historical landmark, there is always something to photograph. Pick a subject, it could be a place or a person (it’s probably best to get their permission first), or a more general subject: Flowers, leaves, rocks, dogs, etc.., as long as it’s something easily accessible. Photograph this subject at least twice a week for a year at different times of the day and in different weather.

When you do this, several things will happen: You will find many ways to photograph that subject that you hadn’t previously considered. After you do the obvious shots, you’ll look for other ways to shoot it and that’s when you get creative. You will also become much more knowledgeable about your subject, maybe even an expert. As your knowledge of a subject grows, the quality of your photographs of that subject improves. Don’t expect to get a great shot every time, but the growth in your photography will be more than worth the effort.


Move your camera.
It sounds obvious, but how many times do you see somebody walk up to something, place the camera in front of their face and shoot at eye level? Have you done this before? I know I have.

Pay careful attention to how the position of your camera affects the image and you’ll find that small changes make big differences. When making this image of the Golden Gate Bridge I positioned the camera close to the ground above the foreground rocks to make the viewer feel like they were standing right there with me.

I was also careful to keep the camera at a 90 degree angle to the ground to keep lines of the bridge towers and cables perfectly straight. When you tilt your camera, vertical lines become diagonal lines. Tilting the camera up or down would give the towers and cables the appearance of leaning, which might be fine in Pisa, but this is San Francisco. Tilt the camera more and the effect becomes even more dramatic. Sometimes you want that type of distortion, but when you don’t, keep your camera straight. (Using a tilt/shift lens can also eliminate this effect.)


Place your subject in between an interesting foreground and background.
The classic landscape formula of foreground, subject and background has been used for ages and isn’t going away anytime soon. When you find a foreground and background that complements your subject it creates context and depth.

In this case, a three second exposure made the waves that lapped the beach appear as streaks that mimic the patterns of the clouds. This creates a harmony that complements the bridge and makes it stand out at the same time.

Be watchful of cluttered foregrounds and backgrounds that distract from the subject rather than enhance it. You want the foreground to lead the eye to the subject, not take it away.


Keep shooting after the sun goes down.
I see this scene play out regularly when I’m in a popular location: A slew of photographers are shooting a beautiful sunset and as soon as the sun disappears, most of them pack up and leave.

As tempting as it may be to head off to a cold beer or dinner, hang around for a little while and see what opportunities open up after dark. The blue hour that immediately follows sunset and precedes sunrise can offer some outstanding colors and creative possibilities that aren’t possible during daylight hours. In fact, every photograph in this post was done after sunset or before sunrise.

I hope you find these tips helpful the next time you are shooting. So what are you waiting for? Go out and make some great photographs!

If you like my tips and photographs, please visit my web site.

• • • • •

Thank you Rob for a super post.

Explore the light,

P.S. One of the reasons why I switched my site to Squarespace: the ability to vary the layout of blog posts, as you see here. Use one-click to get started with your own awesome Squarespace site today.

This post sponsored by X-Rite - take control of your color with the colormunki.

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