Chippewa Falls’ Howard had no idea when his son brought home a camera that would change his life

If you live in Chippewa Falls, there’s a good chance you know about Mike Howard Photography. Although Howard didn’t buy a camera for himself until he was in his 40s, the skill with which he wields one was impressive.

Photography started for Howard when his son came home from school with a camera while taking a photography class.

“I grabbed it and then just started using that. I think that was about 2016. I just loved it and started learning everything I could about, you know, how to run a camera. I watched YouTube videos. I was obsessed with it,” Howard said.

When his son had to take the camera back to school, Howard decided to buy a camera starter, and a new career blossomed.

Now, it’s a family affair since his wife got into photography, too.

“Suddenly we needed two cameras. And after a bit, I thought it was about a year, I was posting pictures on my Facebook page. And I’m like, you know, people probably don’t want to see this all the time, so I created a photo page. Then the pictures are just kind of taken off,” he said.

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It wasn’t long until Howard started getting requests. At the time, he was mostly doing landscape photography.

“Suddenly, people would say, ‘Hey, do you do weddings or senior pictures or this or that?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I don’t.’ But I said I’d like to. And I just started learning that. Now I’m kind of doing everything — real estate photography, products, weddings, Seniors, family pictures and landscapes,” he said.

So it just happened; it wasn’t planned, he said.

“But I’ve always loved photography” he said. “Just there was something about a picture that spoke to me, and so that’s kind of how it was developed.”

Howard was born in Rhinelander, and after months in the foster care system he was put up for adoption as a baby.

He and his adopted parents lived in Ladysmith until his father got a job in Chippewa Falls when Howard was about 4 years old.

“I kind of grew up here, went to school here. And then after high school, I moved away for about a year, got a job” he said.

But it wasn’t long until he returned to Chippewa Falls, where he worked as an engineer for more than 20 years. However, his photography business got so busy about two years ago that he eventually decided to pursue his passion full time.

“I said I’m going to do photography. That’s my love. And I was actually making more money doing that than being an engineer,” he said. “I told them I had to quit for good. So I quit in July and then worked full time with photography since then.”

Originally, Howard shot with a Nikon camera but switched over to Sony a few years ago. He said good equipment is nice but developing your skill set is far more important than expensive gear.

“I guess my opinion on gear is kind of like Eddie Van Halen guitar. You could get him a $100 guitar, and he would still sound great,” Howard said. “I played guitar for 20 years myself. You could give me Eddie’s guitar, and I would not sound like Eddie Van Halen. I guess the way I look at the gear makes the job easier. But if you don’t have the skill set, it doesn’t matter.”

Howard said his favorite thing about photography is making people feel seen.

“When I do, either weddings or senior pictures and have a subject who may not think that they’re attractive, or maybe their self-confidence isn’t very high and I start taking pictures and showing them a picture on the back of the screen , you can see the smile on their face and they’re just like, ‘Wow, you know, I do look good.’ And to me that’s worth more than a million dollars. I mean it’s so satisfying,” he said.

“I think that makes people feel good about themselves and captures those moments, like for weddings between a mother and a daughter or a mother and a son or whatever — it may be just the emotion — but that’s pretty huge.”

The digital revolution continues with AI use in photography

Since the shift away from film in the late 20th century, innovators have quickly taken advantage of digital photography’s possibilities. Digital technology offers photography, editing, and sharing on larger scales and faster timelines than ever before. It also allows for almost unbelievable manipulation capabilities.

Tools like Luminar AI, Pixlr, Ribbet, and the giant Adobe Photoshop now even use artificial intelligence to help streamline the work of removing backgrounds, upscaling low-resolution images, and detecting faces. Image companies are continually advancing the depths to which photographers can edit and enhance their work: Photo editing software is projected to balloon to a $1.48 billion market by 2027.

Today, the term “photo” spans definitions, from a raw, unprocessed image to a heavily manipulated and altered piece of art, leading to debates on whether both merit the title “photograph”—or another title entirely.

This story originally appeared on Giggster and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

lightpoet // Shutterstock

From film to AI-powered images: How the photography industry has changed over time

Many early photography professionals would likely struggle to conceptualize a handheld camera in the hands of nearly every US citizen, let alone the added capacity to create videos, time-lapses, and panoramas instantly with the click of a button.

Today, most of us carry a highly advanced camera at all times, with the unprecedented ability to photograph, edit, and share swiftly. Getting to this level of sophistication took many decades and followed some truly incredible innovations from engineers and photographers throughout the 20th century.

Early on, the first step to capturing an image was using a camera obscura, which translates to “dark chamber” in Latin. The tool could project images onto a surface but lacked the light-sensitive plate to retain that image, so artists would trace the final pictures onto surfaces.

When Joseph Nicéphore Niépce paired this technology with a pewter plate coated with light-sensitive bitumen to capture a landscape, an enduring image was born in 1826. From there, more innovations in photography came in rapid succession, from daguerreotypes (which yielded detailed images) to calotypes (which decreased exposure time to mere seconds) to a wet collodion process (which was even faster and more detailed).

While many incremental steps were taken, the progress that got us to this point was largely spurred by Kodak. Its invention of the film camera, and subsequent innovations toward disposable cameras, brought photography out of the darkroom and into the home. In doing so, they created an entirely new mass market, introducing average Americans to the pastime of preserving everyday moments and events, which they coined “Kodak moments.”

The consumer demand that followed led to a century of reinvention. Giggster delved into five ways the photography industry has shifted over time using sources from across the internet, including the Smithsonian Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

From 35mm film to digital cameras; from mailing in disposable cameras for development to instant prints; from raw images to heavily edited ones, the photography industry has consistently and rapidly evolved over the past decades. With the advent of cellphone cameras, instantaneous digital photography and editing are more popular than ever, and as the world moves ever forward, more developments are already on the horizon.

Bettmann // Getty Images

The 10th Annual Jig’s Up ice fishing competition took place Saturday on Lake Wissota. A couple thousand people turned out to fish and compete for numerous prizes.

On Saturday the 10th Annual Jig’s Up ice fishing competition took place on Lake Wissota. The Kids Club event took place on the ice at 11 am

David Prescher, a member of the Wissota Lions Club said his organization focuses on kids during the Jig’s Up ice fishing competition.

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