Greetings. I'm William Neill. Ask me anything!

Hi, this is William here. September is often the lowest level for the rivers and waterfalls, long after the snows of winter have melted and before our rain/snow season starts in late autumn. The dogwood bloom and waterfalls are booming in spring so that is a great (and very popular) time to visit. I hope to see you here! I teach private 1-1 sessions in Yosemite Valley!

Hello sir, I am curious if you would share your thought on location sharing? As artist and photographers, what are our responsibilities? I have been reading quite a bit on the subject in the last year or two. I still see a significant amount of this happening with all the social media sharing of images now and sometimes feel like it is almost irresistible for landscape photographers to share too specifically information about their locations.

William:

I love your work and have appreciated your column in OP for years. I am coming to post-processing from the opposite direction from you. I have been working with Lightroom for a dozen years or so, and for years stayed clear of Photoshop. Increasingly I have seen the need for more targeted adjustments and retouching, so I have finally taken the plunge into Photoshop and luminosity masks, and I am finding it both enthralling and overwhelming. Do you have any advice on how to make this process more manageable? Can you suggest any books or guides? instructors or teachers? methods or practices?

Thank you.

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Thank you for doing this! I am eager to receive my copy of your new book! I started as sort of a beginner in December and have been trying to have exponential growth in my photography this year. My goal is two have an exhibition of at least 10 images in my home early next year for family/friends (if Covid allows). So, I’ll be taking my work from almost nothing to figuring out post processing and printing. I’ve never done anything like this before. I haven’t been shooting with a theme but I think I can decide that later. Do you have any suggestions on how to prepare, display, or make things go more smoothly, etc.? Thanks!!!

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That is a good question, Harvey. I can safely say that it varies widely, from minutes to years. I can think of one photograph where I found a composition I liked many years before I “resolved” the composition. The photograph, which I’ll add below, was taken in El Capitan Meadow which I drove by five days a week for years on my commute from El Portal to The Ansel Adams Gallery and back again.

If I am inspired to photograph a subject or place new to me, I don’t really think about my compositions in a very analytical way. Rather I explore and experiment with camera position, focal length, and shutter speed (especially with moving water). I rely a great deal on instinct. After several initial “explorations” of the subject, I often review my images to decide if I’m happy with what I’ve recorded, or what else I could try. A little to the left would be better spacing? A tighter framing would have more impact? Maybe a higher angle? These thoughts roll around in my head!

In my early reply about my Rock, Tree, and Waterfall image shown above, I mention how quickly I worked to capture it.

I recommend that you check out my new book Light on the Landscape, which includes 60 essays from my Outdoor Photographer column that discuss my approach to landscape photography:
https://portfolios.williamneill.com/p/upcoming-new-book

Thanks for asking!

Here is the photo I mentioned in my original answer…

Hi Richard,

I used to keep track of these things but no longer. My wife of 32 years is my bookkeeper tells me that print sales, not just galleries, are about equal to income from teaching. I’ve been dealing with corporate art consultants for decades which are the bulk of print sales not galleries. Every year the balance varys, like when a new book comes out this year, or with the mentoring online I’ve started due to the pandemic.

I hope that helps. Thanks for asking.

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Hi Bill

Thanks for doing this AMA. I’m glad that worked out!

I’m curious to know, given our ever increasingly virtual / online world, what your thoughts are on prints as the final part of the practice of photography? And my question does not necessarily relate to whether or not you choose to display or sell them?

Hi Neill,

It’s an honor to be able to ask you a question as I have been a fan for many years and have taken your advice to heart on developing themed portfolios of images. I also appreciate how you spend time to work a scene and explore it using your camera. Like you, it is not uncommon for me to create dozens of images of a scene looking for the one that really sings.

And now that I have some portfolios that I’m proud to say reflect my vision of the world, what is your best advice for marketing and selling them? I’ve worked with art consultants to sell prints in the past with some success and I’ve exhibited in galleries to lesser success but am open to new ideas if you think there are other markets, methods, or means.

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your challenging questions. My experience with book publishing spans 30 years, with my first book used my photographs to illustrate The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, which went to nine reprintings. My experience began with very little control or input with this first book, but the book very successful, and I was proud of having my photographs illustrate a great environmental writer. I’ve worked with other publishers that treated my photos respectfully. My images were used to demonstrate the science at work in nature in By Nature’s Design, The Color of Nature, and Traces in Time but not for my photographs’ art. My first true book presenting my art, Landscape of the Spirit, was published by Little Brown for which I received a substantial advance AND and nearly complete control over the process with image and text selection. Those were the good old days.

My experiences with publishers have been largely positive. Publishers, who are collaborative and respectful of the art and the artist, are out there. To find such publishers, your need to do the research by questioning the editors and their authors.

The reasons to self-publish is mainly for editorial control and potential profit. A regular publisher carries the burden of financing the publishing process. You will only receive royalties after the publisher covers their costs. If you invest in self-publishing, you’ve earned the right to make all of the decisions in terms of design, text, image selection, and printing quality. Of course, you also inherit the burdens of recovering costs, the stress of production schedules, and the delivery of a high-quality product. I have not self-published a real book project, only ebooks and one-off printings by Blurb.

Regarding market tests, I have never done that, nor am I aware of my publishers doing so. The publishers often rely on their networks of sales staff, listening to what their clients might be interested in when attending book trade shows. For self-publishing, you would need to understand what your followers might want before taking the risk.

As you mention in your question, this topic is a broad one. Most of my publishing experience was in the 1990s, and it is challenging to keep up with trends. My two recent books were done with small publishers who worked with photographers that I respect. I looked carefully at their design and reproduction quality before approaching them.

For anyone wanting to start working on a first book project, first focus on creating depth to your portfolio. Develop your writing skills. Find your passion, learn to edit tightly and develop themes that reflect those passions, be it focused around your art or on techniques you want to teach. Learn how to put a book proposal together to shop it around.

I hope this helps, but I feel I barely scratched the surface.

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Thanks for sharing Bill. Interesting to hear about the consultants but makes sense. Some of my biggest sales have been through consultants over the years as well.

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Thank you for asking your question. My need to experience the beauty of nature keeps me motivated to photograph. Looking for, finding and sometimes photographing it, is a vital ballast to the chaos of the “real word.” Although money is far from my primary motivation, I do need a paycheck to get my kids through college during a pandemic and recession. Although I never thought it would happen but I would like to retire from marketing. Never from making art!

There are many places I would still like to see and photograph, but I rarely get to travel lately as I am too busy “making a living.” I plan to change that in the next few years (re: kids out of college). Exploring new avenues thematically and stylistically are definite motivations to continue my creative path. See new work here: https://portfolios.williamneill.com/portfolio/C0000VHzKJNq3npw/G0000Ye_1yjn0mtg

So to summarize, exploring the creative process and seeking beauty around me every day keeps me going.

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The sharing and promoting locations has become a big issue, particularly with social media becoming so popular. I agree with and support the principles offered by Nature First: https://www.naturefirstphotography.org
I have tried to avoid sharing locations too specifically, and have written about the issue in Outdoor Photographer in the past and in the next issue.

THE NATURE FIRST PRINCIPLES

  1. Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
  2. Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
  3. Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
  4. Use discretion if sharing locations.
  5. Know and follow rules and regulations.
  6. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
  7. Actively promote and educate others about these principles.

Here an article about my experience in the early days of photography at Antelope Canyon.
https://www.williamneill.com/blog/index.php/2019/07/protecting-place/

I hope that this answers your question.

Hi Mark. You are not alone with trying to figure out how best to process their images. I’ve found that many folks find their own balance of how much to use Lightroom over Photoshop. I know many pros that are in full control of their image processing just using Lightroom. It has become more and more powerful, and capable of man adjustments that Photoshop can due. My approach is to use LR for global adjustments and make most local adjustments in Photoshops.

There are many pros who offer excellent ebooks and YouTube videos on both programs.
Recommendations:
Michael Frye for Lightroom techniques
Sean Bagshaw for videos on Photoshop and luminosity masking techniques
Jack Curran for BW processing in Lightroom
Alister Been for ebooks and processing videos
Alex Noriega for processing videos
And so many more but its past my bedtime! Dig around this site what the pro contributors are offering.

Bill, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions here. I’ve been a fan since the release of Landscapes of the Spirit. I’ve got all of your books except A Sense of Wonder; I’ll have to track that one down at some point. I’m looking forward to the new release, and I hope at some point that I can make it up to Oakhurst and Awahnee for the Sierra Art Trails weekend.

You alluded to it in your answer to @Max_Waugh, but how do you think you’ve been enriched or challenged by spending so much of your career (so far?) near Yosemite? My own day job has had me move around the West extensively, and while I’ve welcomed the chance to keep exploring new areas, I’ve also found that many of my best images are from backpacking in the Eastern Sierra, where I keep returning even when I live elsewhere.

In case anyone is interested, here is my book publishing history:

LIGHT ON THE LANDSCAPE

WILLIAM NEILL – PHOTOGRAPHER, A RETROSPECTIVE

TRACES OF TIME

LANDSCAPES OF THE SPIRIT

THE COLOR OF NATURE

YOSEMITE: THE PROMISE OF WILDNESS

THE TREE

BY NATURE’S DESIGN

THE SENSE OF WONDER

I like your plan! It is good to have goals but it is hard to schedule artistic progress!. Focus on themes about which you are most passionate. Read ebooks, listen to podcasts and YouTube videos on technique but most especially on the creative process. Take workshops where image reviews are offered for constructive feedback. Find a local community of photographers that share and give feedback on each other’s photographs. Select images that are most meaningful to you, not what images you think will please others.

You have just begun your artistic journey so enjoy the ride and be patient with your progress. It is unlikely to be consistent or exponential or linear!

William, I am a big fan of your work, thank you for all the sharing you’ve been doing over the years! I’ve been making images occasionally since the days of slides and now digital, and enjoy the process and some of the results. What suggestions do you have for improving the print results? My goals are to print outdoor/landscapes for displaying in my home. I tried with a desktop printer but couldn’t keep it active enough, so the heads get clogged. Not to mention the constraints on space and size.

Given my background of being influenced by Ansel Adams and having worked at his Gallery in Yosemite, I do hold the print to be the ultimate expression of a photograph.I cherish the chances I get to exhibit my fine art prints in places like The Ansel Adams Gallery or the Weston Gallery where many world-class masters also exhibit.

That said, I have thousands of “print-worthy” images that will never be printed. When I process my images in the digital darkroom, I refine and interpret my experience as if I will make a print to exhibit. Sometimes it is discouraging to realize that I don’t have the time, money, or more exhibit spaces to show more of my work. The book publishing process allows me the opportunity to show more images, and my latest book is so well produced that the prints I am currently making for the Light on the Landscape Collector’s Edition are just like the photographs in the book.

Looking back over the decades, I wish I had made small proof prints to file away for future reference, as a print catalog.

Thanks for your question Anna! Maybe someday you can edit together our long interview in Yosemite Valley!