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.”
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