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Past President of the Professional Photographers of Sacramento Valley Dies

Bill Smith

Bill Smith, a past president of Professional Photographers of Sacramento Valley and a California Professional Photographers Hall of Fame Award recipient as well as the founder of the leading North California portrait operation bearing his name (Bill Smith Photography) since 1952, died on July 14, 2008 from natural causes.

He was 87.

Smith opened the doors for many of today's leading professional photographers located across the country and abroad, with his mentoring, training and generosity.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Smith was one the group's key founding members who, along with other photographic visionaries, helped what would become the Professional Photographers of California (PPC) and Professional Photographers of Sacramento Valley (PPSV) photographic associations.

He was also a founding member of 4P, an elite photographic association in the U.S. and served on numerous boards in the photographic industry over his long photographic career.

Smith began his career with a view camera and a "pony" going door-to-door selling portraits of children in "western attire" when he first came to California in the early 1940s. Later, he became known as an early pioneer in professional school photography techniques, a noted speaker at photographic conventions, and a regular contributor to Rangefinder Magazine, expressing his professional wisdom and wit in his monthly column during the 1960s and 70s.

Smith grew his fixture studio in East Sacramento into one of the most successful portrait studios in N. California over his 50-plus-year career in photography before retiring in 2000. All told, he photographed the memories of more than three generations of Sacramento area families for portraits, weddings and individuals during his career (some 100,000 babies and countless tens of thousands of H.S. seniors). He also captured some of the most powerful and important clients in the State Capitol, U.S. Presidents, Governors, members of the U.S. Congress, State Senators, House Assembly members and the Queen of England.

He treated each of his subjects, from a precious newborn baby to a State Senator, with the same professionalism and respect as they came though his studio doors; it was his "Red Carpet Service," as he would like to say. Clients could count on a firm handshake with a joke not too far behind when in his studio.

During Smith's career he witnessed professional photography change though the decades, from black & white 4x5 sheet film to the color roll process and finally, the digital age, before retirement.

One thing, however, was always foremost in his head. Customer service. Personally answering the phone and waiting on the customers himself was a hallmark of his, regardless of how large his staff was year-round (34 employees in a normal year). One could count on this "gentle, tall giant" among professional photographers to help you six days a week, year round. He was always the first to arrive and the last to leave at the end of the day.

A well-known public speaker, Smith traveled the world and throughout the U.S. sharing his stories, mixed with a joke or two and peppered with his own brand of "mischief"--a style that was all his own. Smith would entertain audiences everywhere he went, always willing to listen. He was a man that who sought to continuously to educate, mentor and support other photographers for more than 50 years and because of his efforts, established a greater technical excellence and professionalism in photography today, both in California and throughout the U.S.

He will be sadly missed.