5 Affordable Alternatives to Picture Frames

Framed prints look great but high quality frames can be very expensive. Luckily there are several more affordable alternatives to framing your prints.

Whether you are looking for some unique alternatives to framed prints from your portrait session or are a fellow photographer trying to find new ways to display your work this post should shed some light on unique photo products that are currently available to you.

Metal Prints with Float Mount

One of my most popular products is my ready to hang metal prints from Miller’s Professional Imaging. These are printed on aluminum and have a very glossy appearance. These look great for either black and white or color prints. On the back of the print is a “float mount” which allows you to hang it on a nail or screw. I offer metal prints in both my collections and a la carter menu. Miller’s also sells versions with stands as well. Other companies also offer acrylic and Plexiglas prints that hang in a similar fashion.

Wood Prints

I personally love wood prints from Woodsnap! These are printed directly onto wood and are ready to hang. These even come with screws. Woodsnap’s prints look beautiful especially with high key photos since the wood grain shows thru in all of the brighter parts of the image. These prints are a great compliment to a rustic interior. I offer wood prints in both my collections and a la carte menu. Woodsnap also sells stands for their prints as well.

Photo Books

Instead of having multiple small prints made I’d recommend getting a nice photo book instead. I personally use Miller’s Layflat books for my professional work. These allow you to print multiple images affordably while still retaining a very high quality print. I offer photo books in both my collections and a la carte menu.

Social Prints

If you’re like me and use Instagram a ton then you’ll love Social Prints! They let you print a wide variety of square prints, posters, magnets, and books specifically aimed towards Instagram users. Very affordable as well!


Nations Photo Lab offers very nice Christmas ornaments with your images printed on them. These can be great Christmas gifts!

Christmas Gifts for Professional Photographers


With the Holidays coming up I’ve already seen a ton of articles about the best gear and gifts for photographers for this Christmas. Buying something useful for a professional photographer for Christmas can usually be tricky especially if you don’t know much about the industry. Instead of wasting your money on some gadget they’ll never use try one of these options this year for the professional photographer on your list. Keep in mind these are geared towards professional photographers and not amateurs.

Gaffer’s Tape

There is probably a million different ways pro photographers use this stuff! Gaffer’s tape is a strong yet safe to stick to gear. Most photographers preferable color is black.

Apple Boxes

You can never have to many apple boxes! These can be used as a stool to pose clients, elevate Plexiglas in the studio, and a hundred or so other things.


Us professional photographers use foam core to create white and black cards that we use to bounce and subtract light from our subjects. Stick with white and black. This is best for studio photographers.

Gift Cards

Lastly gift cards to camera stores like B&H or Adorama are always a good gift choice. Also gift cards to print labs like Miller’s Professional Imaging, Nations Photo Lab, or Woodsnap can also be very beneficial. Nonchalantly asking which camera store or print lab they prefer before ordering is a good idea.

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The Basics of White Balance

The Basics of White Balance

White balance, which can also be referred to as grey balance or neutral balance, is the term used to describe the colors in a photograph. In most cases you want to adjust the white balance in your images so that neutral colors, grey, white, etc, look accurate and don’t have any blue, orange, green, or magenta color shifts.

White balance is measured in Kelvin. A lower Kelvin temperature, like 3000K, will result in cooler or bluer image. A higher Kelvin temperature, like 8000K, will result in a warmer or oranger image. Daylight and flash is measured somewhere around 5000K.

This is the same scene photographed at three different white balances (3000K,5000K, and 8000K respectively).

Different light sources give off different color light. For examples in the image below the tungsten lights inside the church give off a very warm light while the natural light outdoors during twilight gives off a very cold light.

The following three images are all lit by different light sources so different white balances are needed to get proper colors.

This image was shot later in the evening when the natural light was cooler so a warmer white balance of 17000K was needed to ensure proper colors.

The lights inside this church were warmer, so a cooler white balance of 3950K was needed for proper white balance.

Lastly this image was shot entirely with flash, which is similar to daylight in color, so white balance of 5100K was needed.

How to Get the Proper White Balance

Built In White Balance Presets

Many cameras have built in white balance presets like daylight, flash, cloudy, shade, tungsten, etc. Using these presents in the appropriate situation should get you close to the correct white balance. Auto white balance attempts to create accurate colors but is usually inaccurate.

18% Grey Cards

A more accurate way to get proper white balance is using a grey card. Most digital cameras will let you set the white balance manually by photographing something 18% grey. After shooting the grey card the camera can obtain the correct white balance from the image of the grey card. Your camera’s manual should tell you how to obtain a proper white balance by shooting a grey card. Grey cards can be bought fairly inexpensively from most camera stores.

You can also correct your white balance in post using either Adobe Lightroom or Capture One by clicking part of the image that is 18% grey with the eyedropper tool.

Color Checker Passport and Camera Profiles

The way I ensure my colors are always correct is by using a color checker passport. The color checker passport has several colored patches on it and after it is photographed it can be used to create color profiles that ensure the most accurate color.

First during the shoot I make sure to photograph the color checker every time my lighting changes. Next I import these images in Lightroom and change the images of a color checker to a DNG file. Next I move the DNG files to ColorCheckerPassport software where it creates a color profile from the image. After this is finished I go back to Lightroom apply the new color profile and then correct the white balance by taking the eyedropper tool and clicking on the 18% Grey square on the color checker. Creating color profiles then correcting the white balance will ensure the most accurate colors in your photographs.

Hopefully this article helped give you a basic understanding of white balance. If there are any other photography and retouching questions you have let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.


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Behind the Scenes of the My Halloween Themed Shoot


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Back in October one of my favorite models, Cassi Gross, messaged me asking if I’d be interested in doing a “post-apocalyptic themed belly dance shoot” before Halloween. This is something you simply don’t say “no” to.


Before all of my shoots I like to go “location scouting” where I look for the most fitting location for the shoot. An abandon house, that my family owns, right down the road from me ended up being the perfect location for Cassi and I’s creepy Halloween shoot.


iPhone shots of the location taken earlier that day.


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To give the images that eerie Halloween look I knew they’d have to be tonally darker so we chose to shoot after dark and light it mostly with flash.


For the first shoot I had Cassi get into fully costume and climb into this abandon building. I had my Alienbee strobe with an umbrella to camera right just out of the shot. I was also on a tripod because I was using a slow shutter speed to pick up some of the subtle blue colors in sky in the background.


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For the next image I moved my flash into the building, removed the umbrella, and pointed it towards Cassi. This lit up the textured walls of the building and helped give Cassi’s mask shape. Both this image and prior required minimal retouching in Photoshop and Lightroom.


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The last image in this shoot involved lighting the craggily tree in the front yard. To light up all of the branches I’d have to do a composite, or combine multiple images into one using Photoshop. With more flashes this look would have been achievable without compositing. I attached my camera to my tripod and photographed three images with my flash in various locations lighting up the different parts of the tree.


The three images before retouching used to make the final composite.

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I later combined the three images in Photoshop. I used layer masks to reveal the parts of each image with the tree lit up the best. I also applied some sharpening, dodging, and burning to achieve the final product.


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We shot a few less successful images that evening before hearing something that we both thought was wolf. We freaked out and packed up only to realize once we listened closer to it that it was only an owl. We talked a bit longer before parting ways for the evening. A huge thanks to Cassi for the photo shoot idea and being willing to model for me again!


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How to Improve Your iPhoneography


I love to shoot with my iPhone! I bring it with me everywhere and the image quality is surprisingly good. I even have an entire series dedicated to images photographed with it. Here are some tips for how to get better images with your smart phone.

Use Editing Apps but with Caution

I use VSCOcam, Mextures, Matter, and Filmborn to edit my iPhone images. When used right these editing apps can really enhance your images, but some filters can look awful. Most of my iPhoneography will have sharpening and contrast adjustments done in VSCOcam. I personally try to avoid filters that make the colors look unnatural in most cases. In the end your filters should enhance the photo; you can’t save a bad image with a ton of filters.

Realize Your Camera Phone’s Limitations

Smart phones sensors don’t work well in low light. Night shots and indoor images at night probably won’t turn out well when shot on your phone. These will usually result in underexposed noisy images. When shooting with your phone try to stay in well-lit areas.

Another limitation of smart phone cameras is there low dynamic range. In laymen’s terms it can’t keep details in scenes with extreme lights and darks. An example of this would be a landscape with a dark foreground against a bright sky. Your phone’s camera would only be able to retain details in the shy or the foreground. The HDR feature on many smart phones can help with some higher contrast scenes. In many scenarios you’ll only have detail in either the lights or darks. Even lower contrast light ensures details throughout the image. Intentionally letting parts of the image go pure white of pure black can make for interesting images as well.

Zooming on the iPhone 5s is the same as cropping. This cuts down on the quality of the image. Instead of zooming walk closer to your subject if possible. Avoid cropping in to far on the images as well.

Understand Composition

Understanding composition is critical to creating any good image. Avoid distractions in the background. Try having things frame your subject or use leading lines to draw your viewer’s eye to the subject. Do some research on composition before you go out and shoot next.

Find Interesting Subjects

Regardless of your equipment images with interesting subjects always look better. Aim to find interesting subjects.


I experiment with weird abstracted shots all the time. Sometimes these images work and sometimes they don’t. Play around and try to create something unique!

To see my latest iPhoneography follow me on Instagram @ryanwatkinsphotography.


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How to Photograph Fireworks

I usually have a lot of people ask me around this time of year how to take good photos of the Fourth of July fireworks. Here are some helpful tips so you can get some great images this weekend!

What gear to do you need?

You’ll need a tripod and a camera that has both manual focus and manual exposure. I love shooting with my iPhone but sadly this time it probably won’t cut it. An entry level DSLR or even a point and shoot camera with these criteria should work fine. Bring your phone or a flashlight to illuminate your camera so you can see all the buttons in the dark. Lastly remember to charge your batteries and bring plenty of memory cards.

Lens wise I usually bring my Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8. I like to switch between focal lengths to get a better variety of images. Also your location and proximity to the fireworks makes a big impact on what focal length you’ll be using as well. If you are farther away you’ll probably be using longer lenses. If you are closer you can get away with using wider lenses. Come prepared and bring a standard zoom and telephoto zoom lens.

What exposure should you use?

For fireworks you’ll need to use the Manual exposure mode on your camera. Finding the right exposure takes a bit of trial an error. I usually start with a 3 second exposure at f/11 at 100 ISO. Take a few tests shots and check your screen frequently to make sure your exposure is correct.

The longer exposure of 3 seconds makes it so the firework has time to explode so you get the trails. Shorter exposures will make the trails smaller. The opposite is also true that the longer exposure will make the trails longer.

The longer exposure makes your image more prone to increased noise so make sure to keep you ISO low. I usually shot at 100 ISO.

How do you focus?

Autofocus and fireworks don’t work well together. Just like auto exposure and fireworks don’t work well together. You’ll need to manually focus the image. The good thing is once you’re is in focus you won’t need to change it for the rest of the night if you stay in the same spot. Usually with fireworks you’re fairly far away so the correct focus is a little bit before infinity. Manually focus once the fireworks start.

How do you time the best firework shot?

To prevent blur I not only shoot on a tripod but also use a two second timer. This prevents the image from getting blurry because of me touching the camera. To time the perfect firework shot I press the shutter approximately 2 or 3 seconds before the firework explodes.

Best FREE iPhone Apps for Photographers

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Ever since upgrading to the iPhone 5s from my pay as you go phone back in December I’ve started to love iPhoneography more and more! These following apps are ones I’ve found very helpful for iPhoneography, business, and web presence.


Sample image edited using VSCOcam

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VSCOcam is hands down my favorite photo editor for the iPhone! I’ve used this for all of my iPhoneography since mid June 2014. It has a wide variety of black and white and color presets to choose from and lets you adjust exposure, contrast, sharpness, highlights, shadows, tint, saturation, and a handful of other options individually. You also have the option of purchasing other presets from them as well.

Sample image editing using VSCOcam

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Golden Hour

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Golden Hour is an incredibly simple app which tells you when sunrise and sunset start. Great for planning out shoots. It is more convenient than flipping thru the weather app to find the sunrise or sunset time.

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Pocket Light Meter

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Pocket Light Meter is a spot meter for your phone. This is great if you don’t own a handheld meter. It lets you lock down the appropriate exposure for an area and then change the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to your desired setting while maintaining the correct exposure.


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Instasize being used to add frame to image

Instasize is great for getting your photos ready to be put on Instagram or other social media. It lets you create collages or create simple frames so you can put vertical or horizontal photos on Instagram. I use this all time when I upload my professional work to Instagram and want to keep the photo vertical or horizontal.

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Final image on Instagram after the white frame had been added in Instasize


Pass is a software program that lets you share photos with clients in eye-catching galleries. It is very popular amongst wedding photographers. The Pass app lets you edit your Pass galleries from your phone that is very convenient when you’re on the go.


The Dropbox app lets you view and update your Dropbox account from your phone. If you are not familiar with Dropbox it is a free service that lets you send large files over the Internet. I use Dropbox all the time for my retouching jobs and to send digital proofs so being able to access and edit my account from my phone is very convenient.

If This Then That

If This Then That is a great app to use to back up your iPhone photos to other accounts like Dropbox or Flicker. IFTTT lets you create Recipes so when you do one action it automatically does another. For example every picture your upload to Instagram could be saved to Dropbox.


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Skitch is a simple app that lets you draw on photos similar to how you would in Snapchat.


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Aviary is another photo editor for the iPhone. It has a variety of frames and a meme creator that VSCOcam doesn’t. I only use Aviary when I want a specific frame or want to create a meme which is infrequent.

Shutter by Stream Nation

Shutter is a fairly new app that gives you unlimited cloud storage for your photos. It also offers editing similar to VSCOcam and Instagram. A great way to backup your photos without using up all of your Dropbox space!


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The most obvious photo app. I love Instagram and use it all the time (@ryanwatkinsphotography). For those who don’t know Instagram is a social network for specifically sharing photos and also has a photo editor. Instagram recently updated the editor portion of the app so you can do more precise editing similar to VSCOcam. Instagram has a tilt shift blur feature and more filters compared to VSCOcan which lacks the tilt shirt blur and has less free presets. VSCOcam also has a Fade and Grain adjustment which Instagram doesn’t. Both are great for editing iPhone photos. I personally use VSCOcam for editing because I prefer their presets over Instagram’s filters.

Free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi shows you places nearby that have free Wi-Fi. This can be very helpful when traveling to new cities for shoots.


GasBuddy shows you all of gas prices at stations near you. I have saved quite a bit since using it. Really nice when traveling.

Follow me on my social media pages, in the bottom left hand corner, for my latest blog updates!


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My 10 Favorite Products from Print Labs

A lot of photographers nerd out over photo gear and equipment; I obsess over all the different ways to showcase the final product. Here is a list of my ten favorite products from various print labs.

1. Vivid Metal Prints from Miller’s Professional Imaging

I love Miller’s Vivid Metal prints! These look great for giving color or black and white photos a great poppy look. Seniors love these. You also have the option of buying them with a float mount or stand so framing isn’t necessary. These are my most popular luxury print.

2. Wood Prints from Woodsnap

Woodsnap’s ready to hang wood prints are unlike any other print I’ve had made. Since I cater to rural mid-Michigan, I have a lot of clients who want something which is fitting for the rustic, woodsy décor of their home or cabin: these prints are the perfect fit. The wood grain shows thru on brighter parts of the photo. High key photos especially look great on wood. As with the vivid metal prints, these are ready to hang so no need for framing as well.

3. Frames from pictureframes.com

Picturesframes.com does a great job framing. They have huge section of frames from elegant to rustic. I always recommend clients use them for framing.

4. Flash Drives and Boxes from Photo Flash Drives

Photo Flash Drives makes flash drives and boxes, which you can get branded. I use these for giving clients Animoto slideshows. Inexpensive and they look amazing! I personally prefer their wood flash drives and boxes.

5. Slide Shows from Animoto

I know this isn’t really a “print product” but Animoto Slideshows are an awesome product. I use these during viewing sessions, offer them on my a la carte menu and in collections, and use them on my website and social media all the time.

To make these slide shows all you have to do is choose a theme, music, and then drop in your photos and text in and it is done. Super easy and amazing final product.

6. Photoshop Templates from Squijoo

For only $10 you can download as many Photoshop templates as you want from Squijoo. These templates are great for putting together graduation announcements, save the date cards, brochures, advertisements, and just about anything else you can think of. They even have ones for designing album pages and phone cases. Cheap and very useful.

7. Lux Business Cards from Moo

Moo’s Lux Business Cards are durable and very professional. I’ve had many clients be impressed by how thick my business cards are.

8. iPhone Cases from Black River Imaging

Black River Imaging’s iPhone Cases look great and are very popular with seniors.

9. Metal Ornaments from Nations Photo Lab

Around Christmas time metal ornaments from Nations Photo Lab can be a great product to add to holiday themed mini sessions. The quality is great. I sold several of these at a local art gallery during Christmas last year.

10. Miller’s Signature Album from Miller’s Professional Imaging

Miller’s Signature Albums are incredibly customizable and have outstanding print quality. They just recently added a bunch of new cover materials to choice from to. I offer these to both wedding and portrait clients. They are much higher quality than Layflat books.

Ryan Watkins Photography specializes in senior, family, child, engagement, and editorial portraiture, weddings, and real estate and architecture photography catering to Clare, Midland, and Mount Pleasant, Michigan. No location to far! To schedule a pre-session consultation or for inquiries about commercial photography contact Ryan here.


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10 Tips to Improve Your Pet Photography

This is the first of many basic photography tips and tutorials I’ll be posting due to several requests.



Everyone loves to take candid photos of their pets here are ten simple tips to improve your pet photography.


1.Focus on the Eyes


Keeping the eyes sharp is key to any successful portrait. Your pet’s eyes should, in most cases, be the main focal point of the image.



2.Use a Shallow Depth of Field


Using a shallow depth of field helps make your pet stand out from the background. Try shooting with apertures like f/2.8 or f/4 to throw the background out of focus to make your pet stand out. This will also make your shutter speed quicker minimizing motion blur if your pet is moving. The above photo was shot at 200mm f/4 to throw the background out of focus and emphasize the cat.


3.Use A Longer Lens


Longer focal lengths help throw the background out of focus putting more emphasis on your pet.


4.Remove Distraction from the Background


Before you start shooting remove anything, which could be distracting in the background of the photo. It is not worth your time and effort to spend hours retouching out things in the background you could have easily moved in the first place.



5.Get Out of the Direct Sun


Your pet will look a lot more flattering in the shade right next to the sunlight compared to if he or she was sitting out in the direct sun. The above photo was shot in the shade and I used an off camera flash to create the much nicer lighting than if they were in the direct sunlight.


6.Shoot in Well Lit Areas


If there is not enough light your camera has trouble focusing and it will have to use a longer shutter speed, which can lead to out of focus images. Staying in better-lit areas (like next to a window or outside in the shade) will help your camera focus easier and result in better photos. The above photo was shot next to a window to light the cat with nice soft light.


7.Have Someone Else Keep Their Attention


Have someone else keep your pet’s attention while you’re shooting. This will keep them looking the direction you want.



8.Get Down on Their Level


Get down on the ground with your pet. I was laying on the ground to take the above photo.


9.Make Sure They’re Clean


You wouldn’t go to a photo session without showering; neither should your pet.



10.Stay Calm and Be Patient


Pets are unpredictable and difficult to control you’ll need to be patient to get the best photos of them.


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