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BetterPhoto Photography Interview with William Neill - Part I

William Neill is a prolific writer of articles and books, in addition to being an award-winning nature photographer. He is also the longtime "On Landscape" columnist for Outdoor Photographer magazine. Through his writings and online photo courses, William teaches and guides others who desire to learn how to become better photographers.


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You are a successful photographer and writer, William. Did you go to a school to learn photography?

William Neill:

I am largely self-taught. I took three photography courses in college, and also attended as an assistant at Ansel Adam's workshops where many famous photographers came to teach.

Did your early photographic goals include earning a living from photography, or did it start as a way to express yourself creatively?

William Neill:

I started creating photographs for expressive reasons, and still do! As an employee of The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite, I met many excellent photographers who were making a living, which helped me believe that it might be possible for me to also.

When did you know you finally "made it" as a professional?


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William Neill:

I was fortunate to have positive responses to my work even before becoming a pro. When I started to see my work selected to appear in books and calendars, I gained confidence that I would succeed in my dream.

I must comment that the phrase "made it" is a dangerous one, implying that once you've made it, you can relax. I try to always try to do better, both creatively and in terms of my business. One can never rest on his or her laurels!

Do you remember your first photography sale?

William Neill:

The first image I had published was in 1980 when an image of mine was used as a postcard by the Mono Lake Committee. Around that time, I also had an exhibit of my photographs at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. I sold many prints, for a very low cost!

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© William Neill
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How did you get your first book deal?

William Neill:

The first book using my photographs was The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, the great environmental writer. Six years earlier, I had shown my work to the master book designer and publisher, Jim Robertson of Yolly Bolly Press. He was the designer for Mountain Light by Galen Rowell. When he was chosen by the publisher, The Nature Company, to design the book, he requested that I contribute the photographs. The book was very successful, having been reprinted nine times.

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