Portrait and Wedding Photographer catering to Clare, Mt Pleasant, and Midland, Michigan. Ready to travel.
Ryan Watkins Photography specializes in portrait and wedding photography catering to Clare, Mt Pleasant, and Midland, Michigan. Ready to travel anywhere in the state.
Graduate from the Hallmark Institute of Photography and Highest Academic Honor recipient.
Published in several magazines including Shutterbug, Digital Photo, Outdoor Photographer, and PDNedu.
I primarily photograph portraits and weddings. Every now and then I get hired to do work outside of my traditional wheelhouse. A woman who worked in Midland was moving to a better job in another state. She would get a photograph of a landmark from each of the cities she had lived. Her co-workers commissioned me to photograph the tridge in Midland, Michigan for her.
I parked behind the H Hotel and started scouting out the location. I had photographed portraits and wedding group shots at the tridge before but never and image of just the tridge by itself. I walked around and found some angles that looked pleasing. The tridge is a popular location. At first I thought I’d have to photoshop out many of the people walking across. Luckily as the sun started to set the people cleared out making the post processing much easier.
I put my Nikon D600 with a wide 18-35mm lens on my Feisol Carbon Fiber tripod and started shooting. There were several reasons I used a tripod. First of all the sun was setting so I needed a longer exposure. Second I wanted detail in the entire scene so I knew I needed a narrower aperture. Lastly because the scene was so high contrast I knew I’d have to create a high dynamic range image. High dynamic range, commonly abbreviated HDR, combines several images of the same scene at different exposures. Using a process called tone mapping it makes it so there are details in the lightest and darkest parts of the photo. Due to the scene being very high contrast, bright sky and dark tridge, I knew a single exposure wouldn’t hold all of the detail I wanted. I shot three images bracketing the shutter speed but keeping the focus, focal length, aperture, and ISO the same. This gave me images with details in every part of the image.
When I got home I imported the images into Lightroom. I did the same basic global adjustments to all three images. Next I chose merge to HDR in Lightroom creating an image with detail in all tonal ranges in the image. After some further tweaking in Lightroom the image was ready to be printed. The clients ordered a 16×24 inch metal print which I got made thru White House Custom Color.
Grand Rapids is one of my favorite towns. Tons of great breweries. Tons of reformed churches. What more could you want?
In 2018 I photographed a wedding in Grand Rapids at a little Missouri Synod Lutheran church just down the road from Calvin College. The getting ready and ceremony went great. Next we went to the golf course where the reception was held. We drove around on golf carts to various locations the bride and groom had picked out. This was the only wedding I had photographed in 2018 that the clients had book me for more than eight hours of wedding coverage. Eight hours ends up being enough for almost everyone. This couple had a very specific photo they wanted at the end of the night. They wanted a shot of them running out of the reception hall with sparklers at the end of their reception. To get this shot I had to use to flash. While shooting dancing photos I used bounce flash. I kept my flash on camera and pointed it towards the ceiling. The light bounces off the ceiling making for a very flattering light. These shots would be outside though. No ceiling to bounce off of. So I had to use direct flash. I set my flash to a lower level so I could shoot quicker. As the bride and groom ran out of the reception hall with there sparklers I was able to grab several shots. They ran to there car and drove off to start there honeymoon. Usually I check with the bride and groom before leaving a wedding reception to make sure there aren’t any other shots they want. This time they had left before I did. I somewhat awkwardly packed up my gear and started my 2.5 hour drive back to Clare.
I had great time getting to photograph model Tiffany in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. I met Tiffany though another model Hayley that I recently started working with. We started shooting in Island and Nelson Park and then finished in downtown Mt Pleasant. Huge thanks to Tiffany for modeling and Hayley for helping assist. I can’t wait to work with these two again!
I had a great time getting to photograph James and Courtney’s engagement session in Howell, Michigan! I first met Courtney back in 2016 thru model mayhem. We have since done several modeling and swing dance shoots together. I can’t wait to photograph James and Courtney’s wedding in a few months!
When I tell people I am a wedding photographer, I usually get asked what crazy wedding stories I have. Luckily, I have had a lot of great clients and don’t have to many horror stories. One of the best weddings I have went to was way back in 2012 in Mt Pleasant.
I had just graduated high school. I still didn’t have my drivers license and hated driving back then. I had a friend and assistant Brandon drive me to Mt Pleasant for the wedding. It started with a reverent ceremony at a Catholic church in Mt Pleasant. Then we went to one of the couple’s parent’s homes outside Mt Pleasant. We did some conventional group shots. Then the groom came over to me and said “just document what is about to happen.” The bride and groom and rest of the bridal party all wiped out toy lightsabers. The bridal party started attacking the bride and groom with there lightsabers. I ran around with my wide angle lens as the battle continued. It was super fun! Next we headed to the reception near CMU where the bride and groom walked in to the imperial march with the lightsabers held over their heads by the bridal party. Each table was named after locations in various fantasy and sci fi fandoms. My assistant and I were seated at the Shire. It was the nerdiest thing ever and it was awesome. Hands down one of the best weddings I’ve been to.
In 2019 I’ve made a point of working with new models and in new locations. I had a great time getting to work with aspiring models Tiffani and Ashley for the first time in Barryton, Michigan. This was the first time I had gotten to shoot in Barryton. Huget thanks to Tiffani and Ashley for modeling for me!
As I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to love my hometown of Clare, Michigan. Of the things which makes this area unique is the high population of Amish. The Amish are a religious sect with their roots in Anabaptist theology dating back to the radical reformation in Europe. The Amish choose to live simple agrarian lifestyles. They have large families, and many abstain from either some or all use of modern technology, including electricity.
When I first took interest in photography I photographed a lot of wildlife and landscape work. As time went on I shifted to portraiture and later weddings. In fall 2016 I decided to get back to my roots and photograph fall colors. I would drive around the various backroads, mostly in Clare county, and photograph the foliage.
On this particular day I ended in “the tree tunnel,” as us locals call it, on Oak Road between Clare and Coleman, Michigan. The tree tunnel always makes for beautiful images especially during the fall. This time an Amish buggy was heading through the tunnel at just the right time to catch him in the middle of the tree tunnel.
Technique wise this image is very simplistic. I pulled off to the side of the road. Got my Nikon D600 and 80-200mm f/2.8 lens out. Yes 80-200mm not 70-200mm. It is cheaper and super sharp. I had my camera in aperture priority set to f/2.8. The shallow depth of field allowed the foreground and background to drift out of focus, bringing more attention to the buggy. I had very little to do in post. I simply added a preset I had made a few years prior, and the image was set.
The reason I love this image is it represents Clare. A place near and dear to me. The fall colors. The amish buggy. The scenic back roads in the woods. This image screams “home.”
I had a great time photographing Steven and Brittany’s engagement session in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. Steven and Brittany are CMU graduates currently living in Kansas. They were super fun to shoot! I can’t wait to photography their wedding next month!
I had a great time photographing model Hayley in Clare, Michigan. Huge thanks to Mike Hales for letting use use his plane as a prop from the shoot. Also huge thanks to Hayley’s boyfriend Dallas for assisting. I can’t wait to work with Hayley again!