Creator Spotlight with Photographer Cheryl Ritzel

Cheryl Ritzel

This week we’d like to introduce you to photographer Cheryl Ritzel. You can follow her work on YouTube, Etsy, and Twitter @focusedcamera.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

There wasn’t a decisive moment when I decided to become a creator. All my life creative ideas have come to me and as long as I dedicated the time to acting on that creative impulse and followed through, I have not been disappointed. I have two published mystery novels, dabbled in poetry and painting, worked in graphic design, and taken award winning photos. Currently, I work as a photography coach and take photos of my own for fine art sales. To me, everything about the creative process is enjoyable—from coming up with an idea (or having one hit me out of the blue) to executing that idea and finally presenting it (whether that be a print or digital publication, a YouTube video, or simply sharing it on social media).

Can you take us through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

Depending on what I am creating, the process differs as does the length of time until completion. If I get an idea for a YouTube video it might take months to research the idea, gather all the images and video roll needs, and then film and edit the video. If I get an idea for a photograph, it might take only a few hours to set it up, take the images, and then edit them. One aspect that is consistent across all my creative endeavors is doing the research or homework for the idea and a lot of trial and error. I am rarely happy with something the first time through whether it is a photographic composition or mystery novel. I go back and rework the idea many times before I am satisfied that it fulfills my artistic vision. Sometimes this means I have to do more research or practice before I can get it right and sometimes it means going back to the drawing board and completely starting fresh. Ultimately, the goal is to have fun and I’d love it if everything I spent time on made money, but it doesn’t. And that’s okay. Not all rewards in life are monetary!

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

I believe the biggest misconception about starting a photography business is that all you need is a camera. There are many people who get a camera and think that within the month they will be an income-earning portrait photographer. While camera technology has gotten better and better, it’s just not as simple as picking up the camera and getting a great portrait or an award winning composition. There are many technological aspects to learn in addition to having a creative or artistic vision.

Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?

As a photography instructor I have written some lessons and created some photography related products. I was notified by a member of a Facebook group that someone in the group had bought some of my products and was offering to reproduce or give out digital copies of those products for free. This group had 187,000 members! This was upsetting so I immediately joined the group and located the post. I notified that person in a private message that they were breaking copyright law. That person took the post down and apologized and then posted a retraction in the group. I did not pursue any action, but was surprised by the number of responses to the retraction that were misinformed or just plain wrong information about copyright law. There were persons who believed it is okay to give away free copies and that copyright only applies if a person profits. I ended up making some posts in the group and recommending they locate the resources on the Copyright Alliance webpage and become more informed.

What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

My advice to other creators is to learn all you can about what you can and cannot protect and the actions you can take if you feel your rights have been infringed upon. In addition, I think as creators it is important to be aware of copyright so that we don’t somehow infringe on another creator. Treat others the way we want to be treated, right? Even when you know about copyright it can be very tricky to navigate. For instance, there are websites where you can go download images and the site claims the images are free for use even commercially. But who uploaded the image in the first place? Did the person who added the photo or artwork have the right to do so? Or is the artist out there unaware that someone else added their art to this site? Be sure to do your homework and research, and be sure to always register your works for copyright protection with the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

get blog updates