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The element of form is what takes a two-dimensional photograph and makes it appear three-dimensional. A flat image is boring and an image with depth and form is much more interesting.
Put simply, lighting can be hard and harsh with sharp shadows, or soft with very smooth shadows. The longer the transition between light and dark, the softer the light is. With either soft or hard light, form is created through light and shadow.
The image below was taken with a very frontal, harsh sunlight. It gives very little shape to Madison’s face and therefore lacks “form”.
Comparing the above image to the one below, you can really see how different lighting can give more form to the face. Even though this is “softer” light, it is from the side, creating shadows that give form to her face.
Landscapes are affected by the same quality of form, depending on the position of the sun. The below image from Wayah Bald in North Carolina was taken in the middle of the day with the sun directly overhead. There is very little form to the mountains because of the lack of shadows.
This image of Cades Cove from Gregory Bald in the Smokies was taken late in the evening, near sunset. With the sun near the horizon, there are a huge number of shadows, giving form to the mountains valleys and ridges.
Be sure to check out the rest of the elements of art in photography here.
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See more of my outdoor photography at Sizemore Outdoors.