I’ve recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing a very talented Photographer based in Asheville, North Carolina. His name is Neal McClure and he strives to provide his viewers with a unique view of the everyday beauty in which the world brings. Through his travels, Neal captures and conveys his passion for everyday moments and makes them into something rather extraordinary. As you browse through his photos below, I think you’ll agree that he’s quite accomplished at his craft.
Neal, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us and thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses. You have given the readers an opportunity to glimpse into the mind of a person who truly enjoys what they do.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Neal McClure and I grew up in sunny Fort Lauderdale, FL. I’m 33 years old, married, and love photography. I shoot mostly landscape and street photography in my free time. However, by trade, I shoot interior architecture (hotels, private residences, real estate, businesses, offices, etc). I love traveling and exploring new places.
Where is home?
After browsing through your bio, I see that you are truly immersed in the field of photography. What is it that led you towards photography and how long have you been working in it?
I grew up performing, producing, and mixing music throughout my teens and twenties. As I grew older, I found myself wanting to do something else creatively. Around that time social media was booming and I found myself posting a lot of photos I was taking with my cellphone camera. My friend Chris Bellus noticed I had an eye for the photos I was posting and offered to lend me an older camera he had. He suggested that I borrow his old Canon 40D and 50mm 1.8f lens to play around with and instantaneously I fell in love. This was about 5 years ago. Around this time also I worked at a craft beer bar named Laser Wolf that had many locals/regulars that I became friends with. One of my regulars was a lifelong professional photographer by the name of Chris Kakol. He became like a mentor to me as I immersed myself in photography.
In regard to marketing, how much of your time do you dedicate to social media? Do you use any special programs or services?
I don’t post as much as I would like. On IG, I aim to publish a photo once a week and to post some stories/snapshots every couple of days. I have a Tumblr page that receives a lot of questions from aspiring photographers. So, I check that daily and respond with my tips/tricks that I think may help them. Twitter and FB I am not that involved in as my engagement seems a lot lower on those platforms. As far as IG, I won’t spend that much time on there unless I am posting a photograph that day. When I do post, I want to make sure to respond to every comment that I receive and invoke engagement.
What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly? Would any stand out as particularly motivational or inspirational for someone who might be interested in learning about photography?
I frequent fstoppers.com. I visit kenrockwell.com for reviews/tech specs on new gear. I don’t follow that many blogs, but I am subscribed to a bunch of YouTube channels that involve photography. AdoramaTV, PiXimperfect, PHLEARN, The Art of Photography, Mattias Burling, etc. As far as inspiration/motivation I would suggest subscribing to Lynda.com’s creative learning services. Ben Long is a pro photographer/instructor that has a class on Lynda that’s called ‘The Practicing Photographer’. His classes/techniques are so easily explained and fun to watch. After every segment, I wanted to go out a shoot and practice what I just learned.
What type of session do you look forward to the most vs what type of session you most often do?
The type of session I look forward to most is street photography. I love exploring a city with only one prime lens and chasing interesting moments. The sessions I now do most is interior architecture shoots.
If there is one thing you would want prospective clients to know about you, what would it be?
One thing that I would want prospective clients to know is the amount of focus, time, and energy I put into my workflow and images. I am a perfectionist. I strive to deliver the highest quality images possible.
What is your favorite part of being a photographer?
The exploration, adventure, and the privilege to be able to take the beauty back home with you.
What is the most challenging part of being a photographer?
Standing out among the other million talented photographers.
What do you do to keep your photography fresh and how do you stay motivated?
I keep my photography fresh by trying new editing techniques and compositions. I have never had a problem of staying motivated, but I will say that the more I shoot, the more I WANT to shoot. You just got to get out there and shoot anything to get yourself going.
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
My wife. My daughter. My family. This vast unknown world. All things in life inspire me, even the mundane.
What do you hope viewers take away from your images?
I would hope viewers take away the boldness and beauty in a single moment that can be relived over-and-over. Most photographs I publish I intend to be printed. I want viewers to be able to enjoy my images time and time again.
Share with us your favorite image and why?
My favorite image is of an abandoned roller-coaster shot in Dania Beach, FL. The theme park was called Boomers. It is my favorite image because I shot this early on in my career, and it was the first long-exposure night shot I ever attempted. I was very ill-equipped to sneak into this abandoned theme park as it was my first time ever doing something like this. Aside from the overgrown grass that hid snakes, or the curious raccoons and patrolling security, I somehow managed to capture the roller coaster in pitch-black darkness.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer?
Learn the basics, the rules, the foundation. Start with one lens. Start with Black and White photography. Chase the light and composition. Once you feel comfortable with a camera in your hands, and understand all the settings and parameters – go wild. Get creative. Go and find what you really enjoy shooting, and master it.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I am a full-frame Nikon DSLR shooter. I have an older D610 and the current D850. I try to also carry around a pocket-sized Ricoh Griii for everyday street shooting. My current favorite lens is the Nikon Zoom 28-300mm F/3.5-5. It replaces a bag full of lenses when traveling and is sharp as a tack.
What is in your camera bag?
It really all depends on what the subjects are I am going to be shooting for that day. But, usually, it’s one camera body, 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm lenses. I’ll always carry a 50mm 1.4 lens as well. One Speedlight, tripod, various filters (polarizer, ND, etc), cable release, multi-use tool set, lens cloth, air blaster, extra batteries + charger, flashlight, headlamp, etc.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
My favorite accessory, hands-down, is my L-Bracket. This bracket allows me to switch between landscape + portrait orientations without having to adjust the ball head on my tripod. Game changer.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
High-powered battery pack strobes + modifiers. Flash photography is something I haven’t dived into yet, but want to start working with soon.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
For me, I couldn’t live without it. Post-editing is just as important (and fun) as the images you take in-camera. The landscape images I take have a huge dynamic range I need to balance in post. Without Photoshop, for me, the final images I post would not look the same, at all. They would most likely have blown out skies, or muddy-pure-black subject areas. Photoshop or any image editing software allows me to retain highlight + shadow detail and optimize the high dynamic range of my camera’s big sensor.
Was there a point in your journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that ‘tipping point’?
The moment I started to feel really good was when I started to sell prints of my work. It’s not that difficult to post some pretty images online and get a few likes, but it’s something entirely different for folks to want to purchase your work, frame it, and have it hung in their living room. That was definitely the tipping point for me to continue investing time + money into my craft. Every image I create, I create with the idea that it will go to print. Editing images to look great on a smartphone is vastly different from getting an image to print nicely. For me, there is a lot more involved in the editing process to get it to that point. It’s easy to cut corners during editing if you aren’t printing your work. It makes me feel good that the time spent processing an image is justified when it becomes framed.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I would hope the future holds more travel and adventures. It’s nice to be able to make money off of photography, but really I just want the opportunity and free time to be able to photograph new places. That’s all I ask for, is the chance to enjoy the trip. I see myself in the next few years traveling and solely selling prints. For me, that is a dream come true.