New Personal Work with Model Dakota in Loomis, Michigan


This spring I’m planning on shooting a lot of personal work. I have several shoots and consultations planned with both new models and models I’ve worked with multiple times. I especially want to shoot more in less photographed towns. I find myself frequenting many of the same locations a lot. This spring I’m challenging myself to get good photos in less attractive locations.

For this shoot I had an old friend Dakota model for me on the Rail Trail in Loomis, Michigan. A lot of times as photographers we can get caught up in the technical stuff and make things overly complex. Even though I had my vehicle crammed with all my gear including multiple lenses, several lights, and plethora of modifiers, I decided to shoot everything with one lens and natural light.

This first handful of images were shot just under the bridge near the Loomis Rail Trail entrance. We were able to get a variety of looks by shifting just a few feet. Lighting is a game of inches. Next we walked the Rail Trail towards Clare to get more backlit headshots. The final image was shot on the Rail Trail behind the Medilodge in Clare.

Huge thanks to Dakota for modeling.



A Healthy Approach to Social Media


Last year I went to one of Scott Kelby’s conferences in Lansing. I’ve been to several of his teaching events and every one has went great. Last year’s was no exception. While I was there I started talking with one of the fellow attendees. She was newer to photography and wanted to learn more about the basics. I told her about the Michigan Photography Network facebook group. I told her that many people ask photography related questions in the group. She was very anti-social media. I explained to her why I made the group. She responded with “Well I guess we can justify anything.”

I have came across several others over the last few years who have similar anti-social media views. Old friends who have wanted to hang out, but refuse to get on Facebook to see when our next get together is. Fellow entrepreneurs who have to call several people to find out when local networking events are, despite the info being clearly accessible on Facebook. Most in this camp seem to have a sense of superiority because of abstinence from social media.

On the other extreme I have came across several in entrepreneurial circles who act as if you aren’t documenting every minute detail of your life on several social media networks then you are being lazy.  

I try to avoid both of these extremes.

So how do I use social media?

I primarily use social media for business purposes. I’ll use Facebook,Instagram, and LinkedIn primarily to build awareness about Ryan Watkins Photography. Clients will also private message me on these networks. This leads to work. I also have business Twitter and Pinterest accounts. I use Buffer to schedule my business related posts. Using Buffer to schedule posts has saved me a ton of time. Now I don’t have to interpret what I’m doing to post on social media for my business.

I also use social media for networking with others in my industry. I primarily do this thru the Michigan Photography Network facebook group. Other Michigan photographers and I frequently answer people’s photography related questions in this group. I also post twice a day to this group with edifying content of some sort. Usually this is articles or videos. Dank memes seem to be the most popular content though. These twice daily posts are also posted via Buffer and scheduled in advance.

I’ll also give businesses I frequent or have had positive experiences with good reviews.

I’ll use it for meeting with people in real life such as my friends from high school, networking events, and Michigan Photography Network meetups.

For personal use I’ll use goodreads and untaped to keep track of books and craft beer I like. I also use Feedly to keep track of blogs I follow. I have an anonymous Twitter for following some interests. I have never actually sent out a tweet from this account.

I avoid posting about everything I go out and do. If I go to a networking event or hangout with friends I usually don’t post about it. I don’t complain about things in my personal life. Nor do I argue with people about politics or other contentious issues on social media.

In summary, I try to maintain a happy medium between the two extremes of approaching social media. I’ll schedule posts in advance using Buffer to my business accounts to build awareness for Ryan Watkins Photography. I’ll use personal accounts primarily for keeping in touch with old friends and following various hobbies and interests. Thus far this happy medium approach to social media has worked well for me.

FAQ: Why Do You Charge What You Do?


When I first got started in photography in high school, I was one of the cheapest photographers around. The prices made sense back then. I didn’t need to make a living from photography. I was also very green. This was prior to my formal photographic training at the Hallmark Institute of Photography.

After graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013 I moved back to Clare. I completely changed my pricing and offerings. I was one of the most expensive photographers in the area. I only sold prints. I prided myself on these things. I stuck with this pricing and structure from 2013-2016. During these years I took on far less clients but every client I did take on paid very well and I was able to live off of the income from that one shoot for some time.

I also had some very problematic clients at this time. Right after finding out about the death of my grandmother, I was screamed at by a client because the area of her home she wanted to put her print was poorly lit. Another client called to scream me out while I was trying to celebrate Christmas with my family because she wanted hundreds of dollars of reprints. No reason why she wanted the reprints was ever given.

Despite being way out of the price range for most people in my local area between 2013-2016, I would still get accused by fellow photographers in other states of being to cheap and a high volume photographer. Also during this time I’d regularly get inquiries about shoots from potential clients who only wanted digital files and many others who couldn’t afford me.

In 2017 I decided to make a change. I quit shooting to meet the approval of other photographers and started putting my clients first. I changed to far more reasonable prices. I got rid of collections and products that no one was buying. I started offering digital files and completely updated my session process.

Since my pricing changes I’ve had nothing but amazing clients. I don’t make as much off of each individual shoot. I would much rather have two great clients over three problematic ones. I do not care at all about meeting the approval of others in my industry. I just care about making my clients happy.

Clare Irish Festival 2019

I had a great time photographing the 2019 Clare Irish Festival! Here are my favorite images from the event.

New Personal Work With Model Rocio in Clare, Michigan

“It’s amazing how a good day’s work will get you right back to feeling like yourself.”
Steven Pressfield


During the spring I always like to do personal work with models. In the winter I don’t shoot much. This is my slow season. In my busy season I’m out working with clients and during my slow season I am working on the internal systems for how my business runs. Michael Gerber refers to this as working “on” your business compared to “in” my business in his classic The E-Myth Revisited. After a few months of shooting less I always feel rusty. Getting back to shooting models for personal work is how I get warmed up for the busy season.

A long time friend Rocio was willing to model for me on this dreary day. We were originally planning on shooting in Gladwin. We drove to Gladwin but ended up in a torrential downpour. We decided to postpone shooting and wait for a day with better weather. On our way back to Clare we saw that Petite Park was covered in fog. We stopped and grabbed a few shots before the fog dissipated.

The first two images were shot in natural light. The grey sky and snow made for very soft light. Rocio’s loud outfit made her stand out against the snow and fog. The last image was shot with flash. I intentionally underexposed the background and used a tungsten white balance to give the image a moody cold feel. Ideally I would have put a color temperature orange gel on the flash to make Rocio’s skin a warmer color. Due to the fog quickly receding I didn’t have time. Instead I opted to warm up the light on Rocio in post. I plan on using one of these images as my entry into Art Walk Central in Mt Pleasant.


FAQ: Why Do You Have A One Week Turnaround Time?


After graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013 I had a two week turnaround time. Like clockwork a little over a week after the session or wedding I’d get an email from the client asking how the photos were coming. Usually they’d request a preview or sample as well. During my slow season, where I have less client work, in 2016 I decided to experiment with speeding up my turnaround time to one week. As I got into my busy season I decided to stick with the one week turnaround time. This is admittedly difficult to maintain during my busy season especially with weddings.

As soon as people find out I’m a photographer they usually feel obliged to tell me all of their photographer horror stories. These usually deal with one of two scenarios. The photographer does to much retouching and removes something like a birthmark or the turnaround time took forever especially in the case of weddings. As someone who tries to learn from his own mistakes and the mistakes of others, I don’t want to fall into this error. Since 2016 I’ve had a one week turnaround time and plan on sticking with it until further notice.

Why I Put My Prices On My Website


Shortly after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013 I got a call about a potential client who was interested in a child portrait consultation. I went over to the clients home and everything was going well. We planned out the date for the shoot and figured out the specifics for the session. Then I told them my prices. At that time I was way out of their price range. It was a huge waste of both the client and I’s time.

Running a business takes a lot of trial and error. You have to be willing to learn from your mistakes. To avoid having more instances like this I started putting my full price list online. This transparency benefits both my potential clients and myself. Clients can easily see what I offer and decide if I am within their budget before we even meet. This also saves me time from having to meet with potential clients who can’t afford me.

For work outside of my normal wheelhouse, which I refer to as “commissioned work”, I don’t have set prices put on my website but will deliver a quote once I have enough details about the shoot.  

Wedding and session pricing can be found here. Product pricing can be found here.