PRO TALK: Rick Sammon, Photographer
Written by Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler
Multi-faceted photographer Rick Sammon has defined himself as a photographer who specializes in not specializing. He is a modern day photographic renaissance man. His solid understanding of the basic tenets of photography combined with his ability to apply his knowledge to his craft have made him a highly sought after photographer, lecturer, writer, and educator. His images range from travel in the far reaches of the globe to masterful underwater worlds and everything in between.
His philosophy of not choosing a specific focus has allowed him to pursue any subject that intrigues him and provided him with the skills that allow him to communicate with all types of students about work they want to do. “What’s great about not specializing is that if I’m teaching someone how to light a person outside with a flash, that same technique could be applied to lighting a bird outside with a flash or some other object outside with a flash, maybe even a car at night outside with a flash,” Sammon explains. “What’s great is one principle, one situation can definitely be applied to another situation.”
Though he didn’t start out as a photographer, Sammon has always been artistic and eager to share knowledge. His father was a photographer and his mother taught him how to develop negatives at an early age, so he was always surrounded by the craft, though he initially wanted to be a musician. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where he majored in arranging and composition. After college, he immediately started teaching, and even when his career path brought him back to photography, he kept finding venues to pursue education.
Like most new photographers and educators, Rick started out small, but in no time at all, his writing and photography gained recognition and he slipped into the role of editing “Studio Photography” magazine, which later became “Studio Photography and Design” for 3 years, until 1980, when he then transitioned to a position heading up Minolta’s PR account, as vice president, until 1990. His understanding of the medium grew, as well as his reputation, and he progressed from the small workshops and lectures to such prestigious stages as those at Google and Apple. Yet no matter the platform, Sammon gives every student, classroom, or lecture hall the same dedication and fervor. “Wherever I speak I try to give the best presentation. At Google, the potential audience is huge, or if there’s only 200 people in the room, I give the same enthusiastic presentation,” Sammon explains.
His enthusiasm is tangible in a one-on-one conversation or to an innumerable audience, and his philosophy of not specializing seems to have carried over to every aspect of his life. He has writer 36 books on photography, 7 apps for the iPhone and iPad, runs workshops and tours all over the world, and still finds time to Facebook, blog, and twitter, not to mention creating his own photographic work and co-hosting the Digital Photo Experience Podcast. Though his life may seem to be a dream ride, every step was hard earned with dedication and perseverance. “People say, ‘You’re so lucky Rick!’ and I say every time, ‘Well, the harder I work, the luckier I become,’” Sammon laughs. “And today, with social media, we have to work even harder.”
Over the past year, Sammon has embraced social media as a means of marketing and reaching out to potential students, customers, and photo-aficionados. He has started up and maintained a blog, Facebook account, and twitter that are all well followed and continue to be interesting and valuable to his devotees. “This thing with Twitter, though, is that anyone can get followers by giving away stuff or whatever. I give away a lot of content, so I think my followers are real followers. I tweet about stuff that is on my blog and what other people are doing and it’s very educational. In this environment, if you put a tweet up that is just purely fluff, no one’s going to read it again, so I really try to put out good stuff and give away a lot of tips, tricks, and techniques. Then people on my blog my say, ‘Hey, I like this guy, I’m going to go on his workshop.’”
Sammon’s voracity with all aspects of his career and his hard work have established him as one of a handful of go-to guys for the industry when new products or concepts are being developed. Sammon’s relationship with Nik Software started in the same way, as he was one of the first pros to be introduced to the software. Because he doesn’t specialize in any one kind of photography, Sammon could apply a variety of Nik Software tools to his work and experiment with various combinations of filters to get new looks or interesting effects. He has worked with all of the filters and plays around, constantly finding new applications and visual appeal that he can share with his students.
He also stays ahead of the curve and keeps on top of new developments in the photographic world, so he was an early adopter of HDR Efex Pro not only in application to his own work, but in his classes and eBooks as well. One of his 36 books had been dedicated to HDR imagery before HDR Efex Pro came out, so he was eager to try the new program and now admits that it is the Nik Software tool he uses most today. But, knowing Sammon, that could change at any moment, as he discovers a new technique or style that he will pursue and share. “I use Color Efex Pro for fun and creativity, I use HDR Efex Pro because I teach HDR and it’s really hot now, Silver Efex Pro is really cool,” he says, adding that his students love the versatility and power of the Nik Software tools s much as he does. “I would say 80% of the students that come to my workshops already have the Nik Software Plugins.”
The most important thing he has learned over the years is to keep working, keep shooting, and do what makes you happy. “Keep experimenting!” he exclaims. “You may love one effect, but try that effect and then go back to it a little later – the next day or the next week or the next month – and see if you still like it,” he explains, a sentiment he undoubtedly shares with all his students. Yet most importantly, he concludes, “Have fun and follow your heart.”
Visit with Rick at www.ricksammon.com