Home : Interviews Photography : William Milner
Welcome to InsideGraphics.com As your info page says, you are Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. Could you tell us how did you turn towards this profession?
I actually got interested in Photography in High School. I took a basic photo class my senior year learning B&W darkroom processing and printing. At the time I was really into hunting and fishing and was reading all the outdoor magazines and thought what a great living it would be to go out and photograph the outdoors and get paid to do it. When I went off to college majoring in photography I found I really liked the control of lighting things and shooting in the studio. It was there that I learned more about the commercial photography industry and began my path in that direction. I still love to shoot nature for the fun of it and occasionally sell an image or two but really just do it for myself.
Your work consists of People, Architecture, Industrial/Location and Studio Products. Which one of this area you love to work with? And Why?
I have a real appreciation for good architecture and find it very interesting to photograph so I think I would have to choose it as my first choice. I have always had a very clean graphic style and architecture tends to run in that direction. Architects are coming up with some really creative designs these days and along with that their awareness of lighting has developed exponentially in the last 10 years, which has really added to the environments we find ourselves in everyday and makes it even more interesting to photograph. I like industrial more for the interest of what you find being created and the processes used. It is always a learning experience for me to photograph these locations. Studio was my first location when I started for the shear control and creative aspect of lighting something, unfortunately this area of photography has mostly been relinquished to in house applications as digital and web needs took hold.
The areas of your expertise are People, Architecture, Industrial/Location and Studio Products. They are individually the separate streams of photography. How do you manage to balance yourself while working on those entirely different areas?
In a smaller market like Salt Lake you can not really specialize on one thing and survive financially, so you must diversify and I am grateful for that as I think you get unique experiences from each area which keeps the job interesting. Really photography is all about light, whether creating your own or using and or manipulating existing light, the subject matter really doesn't matter after that. Designing within the frame and use of the light is what is important other than with people, where the emphasis is more on the expression and feeling portrayed by the individual.
While capturing people, do you have certain priorities? What exactly attracts you as a subject of photography when you choose people?
Most of the people I shoot are for assignment so I really don't have a choice of who I am shooting, it is my job to get the best shot possible of that person usually within and environment to illustrate something about a company or that person. As I said I have a clean graphic style so my goal is usually to eliminate as much as possible and still tell the story of the person and to light them in a way that enhances the image.
Architecture is one of the most fascinating galleries of your work. Please elaborate your thought about this area. How do you prepare yourself for clicking architecture? What type of gears you use?
You really have to look at a building and try to understand what the architect had in mind with the design elements of the space. Framing your shot is critical as to what you include and what angle it is photographed and the light has to be right. If possible it really helps to scout a building before the shoot so you can see if there are going to be any existing light problems like direct light coming in a window. This helps you determine what time of day or night you should photograph.
I have been in business over 25 years and for most of that time 4X5 was the only thing I shot. Now with digital being the predominant media I haven't touch a 4X5 in several years and actually just sold all that gear. So I shoot DSLRs, sometimes stitching images if needed for panoramas or multiple exposure layering. As mentioned above, architects are doing a better job of creating interesting light with their building so capturing interiors sometimes requires less lighting than it did in previous years and makes for more interesting images. Digital has really made it possible to do that effectively as you can do selective color correction for areas lit by different light sources. That was always a near impossible situation back in the film days. Perspective correction can now take place in post production if needed so the use of view camera is really not needed. With new DSLR's in the 20 megapixel range we may not be at 4X5 quality but we are darn close and with the advantages of local color correction and other techniques of balancing lighting I think digital is just as good.
Industrial/ location are another master stroke. You converted metallic goods into artwork. How did you do this magic?
I am not sure what metallic goods you are referring to but light is usually always the key. It cant make the shot or kill it if not used properly. In general you can not shine light on metal, it all comes down to what the metal is reflecting so you usually light up that, a ceiling or wall or something. Sometimes you put a big softbox or fly over it but on industrial locations sometimes that is not possible. The machines photographed are many times just to big and most shoots have a very limited budget so you can't go in and light it up like a movie set as it would take you all day. You have to set-up and shoot and get out of the way.
We would be interested in knowing about your gears for studio products. There are few amazing photos comes closer to Macro work.
Nothing special in the studio, DSLR cameras, traditional strobe studio lights, softboxes, scrims, gridspots, etc. I did go through a time when I was using glass block and tungsten spots for a while. It created a a nice mottled lighting and I would add colored gels to individual areas by taping small pieces of gel to the block wall I built. It was great on smaller items but could not really be used on large subjects.
For the most part I like keeping my lighting simple and use white and silver reflectors for fill and accents. I usually find myself setting up with a 3/4 backlight as I like using shadow to create form, then fill it to an appropriate level for whatever feeling I am trying to create for the particular subject I am photographing. I also like grids spots for accents or backgrounds.
How much you rely on your gears and more than that how much Photoshop do you use for the final touch?
I try not to "rely" on Photoshop at all, but I do shoot all RAW and know I will have the ability to open up shadows or layer in a hot spot if needed. I probably use those abilities more in location work than anything else. I would say for the most part I capture the image and lighting as I would have in the film days but since there is no inherent color or contrast bias to digital it is then up to me to set that correctly in post. That is really the advantage of digital over film but I don't really see that as a crutch as you may be implying with the use of the word "rely". Digital post production is a tool and when used properly a perfectly justifiable one. I have always felt the end result is the only thing that counts, how you got there is really of no matter.
There are many purists out there who will disagree with me on that, but to each his own. I once had a beautiful image of fall leaves on rocks and water in a show and a guy came up to me and complimented me on the image and how beautiful it was. He asked me where I shot it and when I told him I created it in the studio he was totally disappointed and said the image was not valid to him anymore. I just laughed' and thought how ridiculous that was. One minute before he loved it and now just because I didn't capture it in nature he no longer liked it. That is just like a lot of people who find out an image was manipulated in Photoshop feel. I just don't get that attitude, the end result is what all that matters to me.
What is your philosophy about photography? Is this a way of your life?
I really don't have a philosophy about photography nor would I call it a way of life. I enjoy it and find I rewarding personally. The act of isolating elements in the viewfinder, choosing an angle and focal length of lens that matches the vision you have of a particular subject is just a fun experience and many times just doing all that is what I enjoy. I may never even print the image even though I really like it. Many people need their images to be seen, that is important to them to be recognized for their abilities. I don't find I need that justification. I have only had images in a few shows over the years and never enter competitions. Mainly I get what I want out of photography when I am doing it not by the accolades after the fact. I also hate all these current competitions that fill my inbox these days that are just corporations preying on photographers who will shell out $30, $40, $50 and image to enter something. I am sure these guys are racking in big bucks on behalf of all the photographers who submit.
What would be your advice to the new comers in this field?
Tough question and I get asked this by many. I hate to put a damper on peoples dreams and if they are truly interested, talented and have the commitment they can still make it in this business. But, it is a lot harder that it use to be. I read a statement by a local photographer years ago when digital was just gaining a foothold and he said "Digital is the best thing that ever happened to photography and the worst thing to ever happen to photographers". I would have to say that is absolutely true. The advances in digital quality have made everyone with a camera (and that pretty much means everybody) a photographer, and diluted the professionalism of what was once a respected career. There are fewer jobs paying way less money and way too many people who will do it for just about nothing. I would not want to be entering photography right now, though there are more in house jobs than there were years ago and with that you get a little job security and probably benefits but you lose a lot of freedom too.
I guess I would have to say, if you really want it, go for it. If you make it you will have an extremely rewarding experience and a lot of fun.