Ron Gould

Photographer Ron GouldRon Gould is ‘a low-key guy’ at the peak of a high-profile career in celebrity, corporate and travel photography. Based in Chicago, where he was born and raised, Ron radiates positive energy about his profession and the famous people he’s photographed. But if you want to push his buttons, just ask about paparazzi. ‘I hate them,’ he says. ‘I even hate the word. There are two kinds of people who photograph celebrities– — the paparazzi hanging around on the outside, and the professionals who are paid and hired to be there. I’ve always been the guy on the inside of the ropes. Celebrities and politicians know I’m there to make them look as good as possible, not to take salacious pictures of them doing something they shouldn’t.’

During his 30-year career, Ron has been ‘inside the ropes’ to photograph celebrated singers (Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks), champion athletes (Michael Jordan and a host of Olympians) and powerful pols from both sides of the aisle, including Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Jack Kemp, and George and Barbara Bush. People with names that big often have egos to match but you won’t hear it from Ron.

‘Very rarely, you run into a jerk who’s had a bad day and wants to make sure you have one, too,’ he says. ‘But most celebrities are professionals. Even when they’re sick, they suck it up and make sure I get what I need to make them look good.’

Asked for a story about a celebrity showing grace under photographic pressure, Ron offers a classic anecdote about working with Michael Jordan at the height of his glory run with the three-time champion Chicago Bulls. The location was a mansion outside Chicago, where Coca Cola was shooting a TV spot with MJ in the living room, and Ron had arranged a big studio downstairs for stills. For the commercial, Michael was supposed to walk into the living room, drain a big bottle of Coke and lob it blind over his shoulder into a recycling bin about 15 feet behind him in the kitchen.

‘To get the feel of it, Michael took a practice hook and made it the first time,’ says Ron. ‘So I thought we were in great shape even though his time was limited and I had this whole 4×5 agenda to do with him after the commercial. But once they started rolling film, Michael couldn’t make the damn shot. He needed 38 tries before he made it again. The TV crew wanted to catch it all in one seamless. continuous shot so that meant 38 long takes. Actually, 42 takes before they were satisfied.’

If MJ was having a bad day, he didn’t take it out on Ron when they rushed down to the studio after the commercial. ‘He couldn’t have been nicer, more professional or easier to work with,’ Ron says. ‘Every piece of film that came out of the camera was perfect. And everything was done in half an hour or less.’

Working under pressure has also been part of Ron’s presidential portrait sessions. ‘You never have enough time,’ he says, ‘but you’ve got to produce. You can’t ask the president to fly back into town. Bill Clinton has always been extremely nice to me, and I’ve photographed him three times. I’ve never a big fan of Bush senior but he was also very nice. He sent me personal letter after the shoot thanking me for making it easy for him. It’s partly the way I present myself. For a lot of these events, it’s black tie and tux, at least. You have to dress the part, act the part and be the part. Show them respect and they look at you as a professional and give respect back.’

Ron has been involved in the Olympic movement since 1972, photographing the games for corporate sponsors or attending on his own to cheer the athletes. He photographed the 1984 summer games in LA for MacDonald’s, the ’88 games in Calgary for NutraSweet and the ’92 games in Barcelona for Brunswick. The Barcelona games stand out as a highlight of his career.

‘Brunswick was trying to make bowling an Olympic sport back then,’ says Ron. ‘They built a free bowling and billiards center for the athletes to relax in away from the competition, and my and my job every day was to go in there and do photography. Olympic athletes are great, humble people, and it was a wonderful experience. I couldn’t wait to go there every day and didn’t know who I was going to meet.’ Among the people Ron met and photographed at the Brunswick center were Evander Holyfield and Prince Albert of Monaco.

Ron grew up around film and photography. His dad was a camera design engineer for Bell & Howell/Canon. They had a darkroom in the house, and when Ron wasn’t shooting sports or activities for school, he was developing prints in the darkroom. His film roots were so deep that he didn’t make the transition to digital until seven years ago, and it wasn’t easy.

‘I had been a film guy forever,’ he says. ‘If a client needed digital, I’d shoot on film and scan the prints or give the job to another photographer. Finally, I reached the point of diminishing returns. I made huge invest in equipment and computers, took classes and consulted with other ASMP photographers who had made the jump, knew what they were doing, and were willing to help me That’s what the ASMP is about, photographers helping photographers. Finally, I ramped up my knowledge to the point where I could go out on a job and shoot digital. It was a tough transition but now I’ve really embraced it.’

Having made his own transition, Ron is now giving back. For the past three years, he has been teaching digital photography at Harrington College of Design. ‘I think Harrington has one of the best programs in the country,’ he says, ‘and it’s all digital, all the time. We don’t even have a darkroom. It’s a waste of time, effort and money to have kids go into a darkroom when pros aren’t shooting film and clients don’t want it. Shooting digital makes you a better technician because digital sensors give you less latitude for mistakes than film. You learn to be more precise about exposure because you’re working in a smaller arena—around six f-stops for digital, versus eight to twelve for film.’

Ron often gives his best students more than academic instruction. He brings an assistant or two on almost every job, and many of them are recruited from his Harrington classes. ‘I pick the sharpest students and have them work with me, doing lights, background and setup,’ he says. ‘They love it; it’s great for me and good for school. I watch how well they work under pressure. Some make it and some don’t. But they all get paid. I take care of them.’

For the Digital Photo Academy, Ron is teaching classes on all levels but especially enjoys working with beginners. ‘They come in with a clean slate,’ he says, ‘and I get to mould and bend and shape them, give them their basic formation in cameras and composition. I can bring them from zero to walking out of the class after a few hours with the ability to at least take some decent pictures and get them out of the camera.’

Board Member: American Society of Media Photographers, Chicago/Midwest Chapter
Faculty Advisory Board & Instructor: Harrington College of Design
Member: InterNational Travel Writers Alliance, Editorial Photographers
Participant: “Tibet in the Eyes of 100 Photographers” (2005)
“Xinjiang Through the Lens of 100 Photographers” (2006)
“Rizhao in the Eyes of Foreign Photographers” (2007)

Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number.  It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering.  If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at or

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  1. “It was a pleasure meeting you and taking the Photoshop class with you a week ago. It was interesting to get your approach on photography. I have been thinking about the class and the Photoshop commands I learned are very useful. The commands we were able to explore were the spot healing, red eye, patch, auto levels, brightness/contrast, crop, channel mixer, cloning and dodge/burn. Were there any commands that we did not have time to explore? If so, I would be interested to know so I can read about and practice them myself. As we discussed, Photoshop can do a thousand different things, but it is best to learn the most useful tools at the beginning. I also enjoyed the general the photography knowledge that you shared. Thank you for your time.”

    – Scott Oblander

  2. “It was a wonderful workshop we had yesterday and thanks so much for taking time and explaining things outside the session.

    Definitely looking forward for the advanced class in summer.”

    – Vijay Kumar

  3. “Thank you again for your time today. I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot more about Photoshop today in a couple hrs. than in all of the days I have spent trying to figure it out myself.

    I would love to get out and take some photos with you first hand. The advanced class at Navy Pier sounds like it would be a fun time.

    Thanks again and hope to see you soon.”

    – Rudy Tardin

  4. “I took a seminar at your studio several months ago. It was great and it covered the basics about digital camera use. Thanks for putting on the seminar — I found the information really helpful. I would like to ask your advice regarding choosing a lens specifically for taking portraits. If you could recomend a specific lens I would be very greatful.

    Thanks again for everything.”

    – T J Minogue

  5. “Thanks so much. At least now I’ll be able to prove that I swam in the Dead Sea!

    I enjoyed the class and picked up lots of good pointers. Now I just need to find the time to implement them!”

    – Annika Jaspers

  6. “Was good talking to you today. Thanks again for the Italy advice and more importantly, thanks for the time you spent with me on the advanced digital course. I don’t know if the results are evident, but I certainly am thinking about the things you said when out shooting.

    Attached are some contact sheets I generated in Lightroom and printed to PDF. A subset of some shots I took in San Francisco last week. Most of the shots have very little post-processing as of yet. I’d be very interested in any feedback relative to composition, exposure, subject, etc. Also any post-processing recommendations. All handheld – no tripod.

    I don’t mean to take up much of your valuable time, but any feedback you wish to share will help reinforce the lessons learned.

    Thanks again.”

    – Jeff Marcowitz

  7. fisher
    June 13, 2014

    Hello Ron,
    “I really enjoyed your instructional photography course this weekend. I really learned a great deal as you provide details and clarification on topics that I have been reading about and could not quite figure out. I guess its true that their is not substitute for actually getting out their and doing it. So in the sprit of getting out their and practicing I took your advice and went out after the class and bought that Calumet Genesis 400
    strobe lighting key that we discussed. I guess I have got the bug and am in the game now.
    That said, I really would like to lean more about studio lighting techniques and the correct method for controlling light in a 3 light setup. On your card that you gave me I see you have a studio. Not sure if you do one on one training or rent out your space for individual use but I would love to discuss these options if available. My plan is to practice with my equipment and I would welcome any pointers and or assistance. Also, any readings that you feel would be helpful would be appreciate.
    Again, Thanks so much for the information provided during this Saturday class. I learned a great deal and hope that I have the opportunity to work with you in the future.”
    -Forrest Barnes III

  8. Steve. B
    January 25, 2019

    “Ron was very knowledgeable and was able to inform the students about what they were trying to accomplish at the beginning level (the whole class were beginners). I learned some new things and reinforced some topics that I was unsure of, which made me a better photographer.”

    -Steve. B

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