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.


Sam Personal Work at the Energize Workspace in Midland, Michigan



I first met Sam through Model Mayhem back in early 2016. Since then we have worked together several times. My previous work with Sam has been featured in shows at the 515 Gallery in downtown Clare.

I can always count on her to come to me with cool photoshoot ideas which are outside of my typical wheelhouse.

For this recent shoot we started with shooting images with a tinfoil background. Next we did a fake underwater shoot using a tub of water. We had seen these ideas executed by other photographers in articles I had posted to the Michigan Photography Network facebook group.


Huge thanks to Sam for modeling and her friend Amanda for helping assist me.

Also a huge thanks to the Energize Workspace for letting me use their co-working space for this shoot. I would highly recommend local entrepreneurs interested in working remotely, networking, or learning about how to grow their businesses check out the Energize Workspace.

2018 A Year In Review

2018 was a great year here at Ryan Watkins Photography! I’ve had the opportunity of working with a ton of great clients, and 2018 ended up being my most profitable year in business thus far. Here is a recap of 2018 at Ryan Watkins Photography.

The winter is always my slow season, meaning that I have less client work. During this time of the year I focus on working “on” my business compared to “in” my business. This means I have less weddings and portrait sessions but spend a lot of time working on the internal systems in my business as well as networking, marketing, web presence, and continuing education.

During my slow season I got to do some personal work with several great models including Lisa, Karra, Dakota, Summer, and Sam. One of the reasons I shoot personal work is to increase my photographic skills and become more proficient with my gear. I practice with new gear and techniques on models so I will be comfortable using this gear and techniques on shoots with clients

In January 2018 I joined the Clare Area Jaycees. The Jaycees are a not-for-profit organization which focus on community service and personal development. More information on the Clare Area Jaycees can be found here.

I first started attending events at the Energize Workspace in 2017 but in 2018 I became more heavily involved in the Energize Workspace. I became an official member of the space in 2018. Now I regularly work from the space as well as attending their networking events and classes. In March 2018 I taught my first class The Fundamentals of Photography at the Energize Workspace. I also taught another class The Photo Retouching and Workflow Workshop in August 2018. After people saw that I had started teaching workshops I had people reach out to me to do one on one teaching. I had a few one on one teaching clients in 2018 and plan on continuing and better systematizing the teaching side of Ryan Watkins Photography in 2019. Also in October I hosted a headshot day at the Energize Workspace which had 14 attendants. I look forward to continuing to be involved in the Energize community in 2019.

In 2017 I created the Michigan Photography Network Facebook group. This group was originally created to connect photographers and those connected to the photography industry in Michigan. We had two in person meetups in 2017 and one in 2018. The group has now grown to over 900 members.  I usually post two helpful links a day for fellow photographers in the group. These links are usually to articles, videos, or podcasts which fellow photographers and business owners would find helpful. In February 2018 I got to meet Will Long, a fellow Hallmark Institute of Photography alumni, who recently opened his studio space in Williamston, Michigan this year. He hosts monthly studio meetups in Williamston which I would highly recommend attending. These meetups have replaced the Michigan Photography Network Meetups which I hosted in late 2017 and early 2018. I look forward to working more with Will and seeing what this leads to in the future.

During my busy season this year I got to photograph a wide variety of work including weddings, family portraits, headshots, rock bands, events, seniors, and commissioned work for other businesses. I got to work with my amazing second shooter Nikki Robinson for several weddings. These shoots have taken me all over the state. I primarily work in Clare, Midland, and Mt Pleasant, Michigan but I have also had work in Saginaw, Charlevoix, Grand Rapids, Alma, Howell, Onaway, Trout Lake, Standish, Turner, Merrill, Kalamazoo, and Gladwin.

In addition to photographing portraits and weddings I like to do pro bono work. In 2018 I had the privilege of photographing Night To Shine, Royal Family Kids Camp, Flashes of Hope, the Mt Pleasant Craft Beer Festival, and the Clare Irish Festival.

In August I joined a local chapter of BNI: the world’s largest referral networking organization. I met a ton of great people thru BNI and it brought in many great clients, but I decided to leave during my slow season due to the chapter being over a half hour away from my home, making involvement difficult.

I’ve been involved in shows at the 515 Gallery in downtown Clare since I was in high school. I had the privilege of being part of two shows this year: Open Studio and Miniature Exhibit.


I finished 2018 by starting to pick away at my offseason to do list. The first thing I completed was giving my website a completely new look which was optimized for mobile.

2018 ended up being my most profitable year and business thus far. I can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring. Next week’s blog post will include the direction I hope to take Ryan Watkins Photography in the new year.

Chase Engel and The Night Shift in Merrill, Michigan

I had a great time working with Chase Engel and The Night Shift again in December in Merrill, Michigan. My favorite images from the shoot can be seen below. 

Shirley Fitness Shoot in Bay City, Michigan

I had a great time getting to photograph Shirley at the Old Town Gym in Bay City. My favorite images from the shoot can be seen below.

Crawfard Engagement Session in Midland, Michigan

I had a great time getting to photography Alyssa, Justin, and Riley at one of my favorite locations for portraits Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. My favorite images from the session can be viewed below.

Lil Ladies Metal Working Workshop at CD Dents in Midland, Michigan

I had a great time working with local dent removal company CD Dents to document their Lil Ladies Metal Working Workshop back in November. To learn more about CD Dents click here. To My favorite images from the event can be seen below.

Riley and Katie Engagement Session in Kalamazoo, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Riley and Katie’s engagement session in late October. We started the session at a vineyard which they rent a home on. We then did more images in downtown Kalamazoo. I can’t wait to photograph these two’s wedding in 2019. 

Jeff and Nicole Engagement Session in Mt Pleasant, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Jeff and Nicole’s engagement session at Nelson and Island Park in Mt Pleasant in late October. These two are a super fun couple and super easy to work with. I can’t wait to photograph their wedding next year. My favorite images from their session can be viewed below.