On Photography: Jim DiVitale, 1957-2016

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On Photography: Jim DiVitale, 1957-2016

“Getting it right in camera was critical when I was shooting 8 by 10 film. There was no retouching. I didn’t take pictures then, I made pictures. Each was a work of art that could take a day or more to create. I continued to work this way when I moved to digital capture. The only time photographers make money is to get it right the first time” -Jim DiVitale

Jim DiVitale was an award-winning commercial photographer and photographic artist who loved helping other photographers. His work has been highly regarded by his clients with whom he has worked for many decades.


Jim DiVitale started photography in the tenth grade, quite by accident. The only art class left was photography. So he borrowed a camera.

He began combining negatives from his first roll of film into composites because he was not satisfied with the results of just one negative in the magnifying glass. He made prints with montages of images. His photography teacher encouraged him to enter them in the South Florida Student Art Contest.

He thought nothing of it until a letter came from his congressman. His work hung in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of an exhibit of high school photography. He was so excited by the letter that he said, “Mom, buy me a camera!”

He discovered the book Impact: Photography for Advertising by William Reedy. This convinced him that he wanted this as his life’s work. He bought an 8 by 10-inch wooden view camera.

He knew right away that he didn’t want to be a sports photographer or a portrait photographer. “I like to shoot things…” he said. “I wanted to do commercial advertising photography.”

Digital pioneer

Jim DiVitale was a pioneer of digital imaging. Out of necessity, he mastered digital color control. The Internet was then in its infancy and the printing press was king when it came to getting photos into mass distribution. Before digital, printers handled the color.

Jim DiVitale photo by Kevin Ames

Color management works

“Color management before Photoshop 5.5 depended on rubbing your finger over a four-leaf clover,” Jim said. “Whoever last had their finger on the file, without a color reference, can shift the color.”

Jim DiVitale made an 8 by 10 color transparency of the RGB file so the printer would know what the file was supposed to produce. It took him out of the loop of responsibility for the color. The transparency cost $125.00 to make and it was cheap insurance on a press run.

When Photoshop 5.5 was released in early 1997, color management became the purview of photographers. By now, Jim DiVitale was an expert at making sure what appeared on his monitor looked the same on the printed page.

Jim DiVitale produced a 20 page book of his work to send to advertising agencies as a promotion to get more work. He did all the digital pre-press work, including the RGB to CMYK conversions. He was at the printer as his project was on the press. The press operator came to him and said they needed him on the press room floor.

Jim was nervous because this was a run he had commissioned. He wondered what could possibly be wrong. The pressman said: “I’ve been on this press for forty years. Every morning I have to adjust the press so that the right side and the left side and the density match. I have a question for you… Your project had no tweaks and it comes out perfect on the first try. what did you do here We are really confused.”

Jim replied with three words…”Color management works.”

Fine art

Jim DiVitale was approached to create photographs of historic Civil War era homes in Marietta, Georgia. He was not an architectural photographer. He believed that taking on challenges kept his core work fresh.

The book was already written. Only the photos remained. Jim took on the project pro-bono.

The 125 houses in the book took Jim DiVitale three years to photograph.

The 400 page book was published and led to an exhibition of the houses as fine art black and white prints. Jim DiVitale used his expertise in photography and color management to make large exhibition prints on an Epson 44″ printer.

“I learned a lot. I only wish the photos at the beginning were as good as the ones at the end of the project,” said Jim.


Jim DiVitale is a PPA Master Photographer, Master of Electronic Imaging, Photographic Craftsman and a Fellow of the American Society of Photographers.

He is an X-Rite Coloratti, and a sponsored instructor for Canon, Adobe and KelbyOne. Jim has lectured on digital photography and Photoshop at conferences and workshops across North America and Europe.

Jim’s award-winning digital photography has been featured in many publications including Professional Photographer, Photoshop User Magazine, Photo District News, Digital Imaging, After Capture Magazine. Graphis photo, print, archive Journal, Create Journal, Creativity and Rangefinder.

His clients include Cisco, Mizuno USA, Rubbermaid, William Carter Co, Toshiba, TEC America, Kenneth Cole, Bellsouth, BP Amoco, COX Media, Genuine Parts Company, JP Morgan Financial and Coca-Cola USA.

Sources: Photofocus Podcast,

Read more stories about inspiring photographers in On Photography.

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