Bellevue, Wash.-Microsoft today unveiled its Icons of Imaging program, a new initiative designed to recognize world-renowned photographers who use the Windows operating system in their digital workflow.

The inaugural members are Reed Hoffmann, Denis Reggie, Bambi Cantrell, John Shaw, Matthew Jordan Smith and Art Wolfe.

The announcement was made at Microsoft’s first ever Pro Photographer Summit, held on the company’s sprawling campus outside Seattle. In introducing the Icons, Microsoft CTO David Vaskevitch said the program is meant to demonstrate Microsoft’s “commitment to listen, commitment to partner, and commitment to build the best products” for the professional photographer.

Vaskevitch explained that Microsoft’s admittedly “odd” involvement in professional photography is justified by the fact that computing technology plays such an important role in the lives of today’s working photographers, from software design to digital storage to processing power. “If you wanted to design a vocation, a hobby or profession that people do that uses computers, you couldn’t pick a better one than photography,” Vaskevitch said. “Photography is the first non-boring computer application.”

The Icons of Imaging program is not altogether unprecedented. Canon has long touted its Explorers of Light and Nikon has promoted its Legends. But the Icons program is Microsoft’s first and biggest attempt at building long-term relations with the professional photography community.

Vaskevitch hinted that the Icons will be expected to do a certain amount of evangelizing for the company, but he added that another benefit is getting feedback on the company’s operating system and software from a diverse group of professionals. Cantrell and Reggie are wedding photographers who work with massive amounts of images; Jordan Smith is a celebrity photographer; Shaw and Wolfe are nature and travel photographers; and Hoffmann participates in field workshops and consults for news agencies and newspapers on hardware and software issues.

An advisory board has been set up to propose future Icons. The board members include Patrick Donehue, VP of Photographer Services at Corbis; Dennis Keely, Department Chair of Photography at the Art Center College of Design; Christopher Robinson, Editor of Digital Photo Pro magazine; Lauren Wendle, Vice President and Group Publisher at Photo District News; Kostas Mallios, Sr. Director of the Rich Media Group at Microsoft; Tim Grey, Director of the Pro Photo Community team at Microsoft; and Mike Tedesco, Technical Evangelist on the Pro Photo Community team at Microsoft.

More information on the Icons of Imaging program, as well as portfolios for each of the photographers, can be found at