Photographer Spotlight: Fine Art Photographer Monica Royal

Posted by: on Dec 10, 2018

Photographer Spotlight: Fine Art Photographer Monica Royal
Image credit Amy Dawnelle
Bio: Monica Royal is a California-based photographer and educator specializing in fine art photography. Follow her online at and on Instagram @monicaroyal.

I would describe my style of photography as…

…ever evolving fine art. I naturally gravitate to macro abstract art but lately, I’ve been branching out and photographing dancers. That’s what I do when someone tells me I can’t. 

What was your first camera, and how’d you get started in photography?

My first camera was a Yashica. It was half broken so I had to shake it to make it work, even then it was hit or miss. The first image I made was of my mother when I was 12 and she was so taken with it that made me think I might actually have some talent. No one in my family really made photographs and I have very few from my childhood. I think it is human nature to make up for what we did not have during childhood, so hopefully, my own children will understand that later in life, as they’ve been forced to be the subjects of many photo shoots.

Why did you want to become a photographer?

I wanted to go to a specialized fine arts school in Toronto, Ontario after I finish high school in Brantford. I thought photography would be a career that would allow for variety every minute of every day. I was looking for a career that didn’t involve being stuck in an office all day long doing the same thing day after day. I didn’t have any role models for such a career so unfortunately, I was not allowed to do so and I ended up going to a regular university and getting a degree in criminology. I worked in that field for seven years. And yes, I was always in an office. Ugh. I was very unhappy. Now I have exactly what I sought after all those years ago. I’ve been a professional photographer for 12 years and I have more variety every day and I LOVE IT!

What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?

I have so many great stories of the craziness that has ensued every time I’ve tried to photograph something entirely new, but the one Image that changed everything for me was ‘The Frost” It’s a very old image of frost on a window. I photographed it on film years ago and then I printed it myself in a colour darkroom. It wasn’t the photo shoot that was difficult, it was the development and processing of color film that was complicated. I was around 23 or so and I was taking a night school photography class. It was the colour manipulation that made the image have a huge wow factor and it got a lot of attention. In fact, it got me so much attention that it laid a foundation of confidence in my art and that compelled me to keep photographing and studying and then eventually going pro. 

What image are you most proud of from your photography portfolio?

Easy. It’s a series I call, “Water Dance.” It’s no secret that artists can go from confident to insecure overnight. There was a time where I would discuss my concepts with other artists regularly. One day I saw something that inspired me to make some macro images of water doing a particular thing. I challenged myself to plan and execute these images with no input from anyone else. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. Making water bounce off of itself involves a few specific things and a lot of ingenuity. I wasn’t sure I was smart enough to be able to get the image I was after. Not only was I thrilled with the results, but the first art collector who bought one of those pieces was a lawyer who didn’t go to law school until she was 40 because she didn’t think she was smart enough. That was a cool moment.

My dream gig would be…

Being given a large stage with a large audience where I can tell funny stories about the career path I’ve walked down in the hopes that it would inspire someone else to chase something that has eluded them. 

My favorite piece of gear is…

My new Spider Holster. I talk AND shoot with my hands a lot. I’m so excited to have just found a way to put my camera somewhere so I can do both of those things! 

Do you shoot tethered?

I do now. There is no question that for macro in the studio shooting tethered is essential for speed and accuracy but now that I’m photographing pro dancers it helps me check body position. The dancers I work with won’t release an image if the technique isn’t perfect and tethering works way better than the back of the camera.

My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…

The length of the TetherPro USB cable! Finally, someone figured out that we need more space in a studio situationplus they added colour! It’s funny how a creative industry often lacks creativity in the equipment design.

What’s on your photography gear shopping list?

A small mirrorless camera with a killer macro lens.

The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…

If you want to make a living as a photographer, you have to like photography but you have to love business. Be humble and be nice. Learn more about shooting tethered for fine art photography and see how Monica made the below smoke shot! Read now.