I love Grand Rapids. I’m not a city person. Grand Rapids is one of the few cities I like to visit and have fun in. I briefly considered moving their, but ultimately ended up staying in Clare.
In 2018 I had a great wedding in Grand Rapids in a little Lutheran church near Calvin College. I showed up early. During the consultations we had decided to do some group shots prior to the wedding ceremony. We left plenty of time for getting ready shots as well as these group shots. Some of these images included the groom, his family, and groomsmen. We shot all of these and were about to start photographing the bride, her family, and bridesmaids. Then someone pointed out that the guys had forgot to put their boutonnieres on. Because we planned to have plenty of time prior to the ceremony for group shots, we were able to reshoot all of the guys images with boutineers on with time to spare.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with tons of great and fascinating clients. I regularly get clients who don’t live locally. A few times I’ve even had clients from other countries, who spoke very little English.
The first instance of this was back in 2016. I was shooting a wedding in Farwell, Michigan. The clients had family fly in from all over. The bride had family coming in from down South as well as Detroit. The groom had family coming in from Puerto Rico. About half of the groom’s family didn’t speak much English. This made the group shots very difficult to coordinate.
Anytime I come across a difficulty during a wedding I try to find ways to solve it in the future. Since 2016 I’ve added a lengthy wedding worksheet that I go thru with clients prior to the wedding. I do this to figure out as much as possible about the wedding and clients before the wedding day. I also make a detailed list of the group shots.
In 2018 I got to work with some of the best wedding clients I’ve ever had. During early August I got to work with David and Rebecca who met while studying abroad in the Netherlands. Rebecca was from Au Gres, Michigan. David was from Germany. David’s family flew over from Germany to Michigan for the wedding. Despite the language barrier the wedding went great. We used non verbal communication, and plenty of prep work, to guarantee that the group shots, as well as other images requiring more communication, worked out great.
One of the funniest wedding stories comes from a wedding in 2014 in my hometown of Clare. The couple wanted to take two fish and poor them into one bowl showing unity during the wedding ceremony. While getting ready the fish died. One of the groomsmen had to run to a local pet store and buy two new fish. This is one of the reasons I recommend having someone to contact on the wedding day to take care of little issues like this.
I’m a strong believer in lifelong learning. Especially with photography you learn a lot by doing. Graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013 wasn’t the end of my photographic education, but just the beginning.
With wedding photography especially you learn a lot by the problems that arise on the wedding day. During the first wedding I did with my new second shooter, Nikki, we had beautiful weather during the rehearsal. The sun was out. The location looked gorgeous. During the wedding itself the weather changed to the complete opposite. The rain was horrible. From scouting the location the day before it was easy to move the group shots and first look inside and still get great shots. This shows how important the prep work is when going into a wedding. I have all my clients fill out a wedding worksheet with the details of the day. I also go to the rehearsal for all of the weddings I shoot. This gives me a good understanding of the location I’ll be shooting as well as the flow for the day. Do to this prep work, we still got great shots during the day despite the weather.
One of my 2019 wedding clients recently posted about a really cool unique way to get donations for your honeymoon. Instead of getting a ton of kitchen appliances or gag gifts you’ll never use, guests can donate right into a fund for your honeymoon via honeyfund. A great wedding gift idea!
Learn more at honeyfund.com
Dressing appropriately for the situation is part of having good manners.
During every wedding consultation I ask the potential clients what the dress code is for their wedding. They usually respond with a weird look. I explain to them that I try to blend in during the wedding and want to dress like a guest. This allows me to get better candids during their big day.
When it comes to how you should dress for a wedding the first thing to keep in mind is the formality of the wedding. Most weddings I go to the dress ranges from khakis and polo shirts to suits for the men. On occasion I’ve been to very informal weddings where dressing down was appropriate. It is important not to outdress the groom. Their wedding is all about them and not you. Also keep in mind the time of year. Browns and other earth tones are more fitting for fall whereas lighter colors are more appropriate for spring and summer. I usually wear dress pants, dress shoes, dress shirt, blazer, tie, and pocket square to most weddings I photograph. Black oxford or brown derbies are safe options shoe wise. Grey or khaki dress pants are a reliable choice. A navy blazer is a versatile standard. Staying with light blue or white dress shirts is always a safe bet. A white pocket square with a simple presidential fold is always classy. Sticking with simple classic ties instead of gimmicky novelty ties is good choice. Feel free to go crazy with socks as long as they aren’t white.
Dressing well doesn’t require a large budget but it can require patience. Most of the dress cloth I own come from eBay or second hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. I would highly recommend Real Men Real Style and the Gentleman’s Gazette as resources for learning about classic men’s style.
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.
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.
It has been a standard in the photography industry for wedding photographers to wear black to weddings. I only do this if the bride and groom request it. I typically only wear black to funerals.
Weddings are a happy occasion and I like to dress accordingly.
During every wedding consultation I always ask the bride and groom what the dress code will be for the wedding. During the wedding day I want to blend in and look like a fellow guest. This allows me to get better candids. I usually wear a blazer or sport coat with dress pants, tie, and pocket square. For more casual weddings I’ll dress down.
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Here at Ryan Watkins Photography I offer a wide variety of prints and products which can be displayed in a variety of different ways. Here are some recommendations for different ways to display your final prints.
One of the easiest ways to display your photographs is by ordering either my Luxury Metal or Luxury Wood prints. These speciality prints (printed on either wood or metal) come with backings which make them ready to hang. No frame is necessary. Metal prints are very popular with seniors where as wood prints tent to be popular with clients who’s home have more of a log cabin-esque decor.
If you prefer the more traditional route my Luxury Canvas prints give a timeless quality that is loved by my family portrait clients. These prints will require framing (here are some places that I recommend for getting picture frames). A more affordable alternative to Canvas are my Standard Prints. Unlike if you print your images from your session yourself, I will replace any print or product that is purchased thru Ryan Watkins Photography free of charge if it is damaged or broken. Standard prints can also be ordered from the private online gallery I send all clients within a week of their session and shipped to the client’s home.
If you have several images you’d like printed from your session Portrait Books can be a great alternative to prints. These are also portable so you can carry them with you and show them to friends and family.
For the full list of prints and products I offer visit this page.