Location Recommendations: The Farm, Clare, Michigan


This is the third of a series of blog posts showcasing the various locations I recommend for portrait sessions around Michigan.

A great location for senior portrait sessions especially is the property owned by my parents between Clare and Coleman, Michigan. This property makes for an amazing backdrop for photoshoots. The farm has several beautiful features like abandon buildings, barn, and several large trees. 

The farm is one house down from 11070 East Oak Road, Clare, Michigan 48617. This is two houses down from the dead end sign. 

I recommend starting sessions at 6pm and shooting for about an hour if the session is during the summer or fall. Studio images can also be easily set up hear as well. 

Below are some of my favorite images taken at the farm over the years.


Product Overview: Portrait Books


This is the fifth of several new blog posts explaining the various products available from Ryan Watkins Photography. 

I now offer portrait books with images from your wedding or portrait session!

Portrait books are available in both soft and hard cover each with 20 pages per book. The back and front covers of each book both feature images from your session as well. I recommend doing one image per page, 21 images including front and back cover, but more images can be included upon request. 

Softcover books are available in the size 7×7. Hardcover books are available in both sizes 7×7 and 12×12. Prices range from $100 – $400. 

Location Recommendations: Island and Nelson Park, Mt Pleasant, Michigan


This is the second of a series of blog posts showcasing the various locations I recommend for portrait sessions around Michigan.

One of my most popular locations to photograph in is Island and Nelson Park in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. This is an amazing location for seniors, engagements, and families. The two parks are connected by a winding trail. I usually prefer to meet at Nelson park and then walk to Island and back taking images along the way. Nelson usually has far less people than Island and is pretty easy to get around even during the busier time of the year. There are gazebos, a waterfall, rocks, weeping willow trees, railroad tracks, and trails which all make for great portrait backgrounds. Near by is downtown Mt Pleasant which is a great location for night portraits. Also across from Nelson Park are even more trails which I love to photograph at as well.

Nelson Park is located next to Mountain Town Brewing Company on 614 W Pickard Rd, Mt Pleasant, MI 48858. There is no charge to enter Nelson Park and it is open twenty four seven. Island does close after a certain time but is still accessible via Nelson Park. 

I recommend starting sessions at 6pm and shooting for about an hour if the session is during the summer or fall. This gives us time to shoot in both Nelson and Island Park as well as the surrounding area. The session can even go into sunset and end with night shots in downtown if that is desired. 

Below are some of my favorite images taken in and around Island and Nelson Park over the years.


Portrait Session Anytime: The Night Sessions



Between work and other responsibilities it isn’t always easy for my clients to meet in the evenings or mornings for a portrait session. Luckily by using flash I can create beautiful images at night!  By placing my strobes properly I can make it appear as if my clients are being lit with the street lights when in reality they are being lit with my flash which has a much nicer light quality. Below are some of my favorite images photographed at night in downtown Clare, Bay City, Ludington, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. 


Location Recommendations: Dow Gardens, Midland, Michigan


This is the first of a series of blog posts showcasing the various locations I recommend for portrait sessions around Michigan. 

One of my favorite, and most requested, locations for portrait sessions is Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. This is an amazing location for seniors, families, and is even a great wedding venue as well. It is also open year around but most clients prefer session in the summer and fall. Annual admission passes to Dow Gardens are $10.00 per person. Daily admission is only $5.00 for adults. Kids 6-17 and students with an i.d. are $1.00. These can be purchased the day of the shoot prior to the session. 

Dow Gardens gets a lot of traffic at various times during the year. Because of this during our pre-session consultation we can research what events are taking place at Dow Gardens before hand to make sure we plan a time when it won’t be overrun by wedding attendants nor high schoolers prior to prom. 

The address for Dow Gardens is 1809 Eastman Ave, Midland, MI 48640 and hours are as follows: 

January 1 – April 14 – 9:00am – 4:15pm

April 15 – Labor Day – 9:00am – 8:30pm

Labor Day – October 31- 9:00am – 6:30pm

November 1 – December 31 – 9:00am – 4:15pm

Dow Gardens is not open on Thanksgiving, Christmas, nor New Years day. 

I recommend starting sessions at 6pm and shooting for about an hour if the session is during the summer or fall. This leaves time for sunset or night shots to be taken at a different location.

Below are some of my favorite images taken at Dow Gardens over the years. 

Where to Buy Picture Frames

Printed canvas or standard prints always look their best when professionally framed. Here at Ryan Watkins Photography I specialize in photography and leave framing up to the professionals. Two local stores I recommend to clients for having their custom framing done at are Frames Unlimited in Mt Pleasant, Michigan and Arnie’s Arts and Crafts in Houghton Lake, Michigan. I have had nothing but excellent service from both of these stores and would highly recommend either. For an even larger selection of picture frames pictureframes.com offers a wide variety of gorgeous frames which can be shipped to your home. These frames come with simple instructions for how to insert your images into the frame. 

Product Overview: Digital Files

This is the second of several new blog posts explaining the various products available from Ryan Watkins Photography. 

I now offer digital files from your wedding or portrait session on a thumb drive!

I grant clients web and print rights to the images from their session. Even though I grant clients print rights I do encourage clients to let me take care of printing to ensure optimum print quality.

I make sure any image given to a client meets my approval, because of this I do basic retouching on all of the images put on the thumb drive. I also give most, but not all, of the images from the session or wedding to you. Unflattering images including things like blinks, sneezes, test shots, or people walking in front of the camera will not be included on the thumb drive.

These files are available for purchase on a thumb drive and cost $50.

Find the Perfect Time For Your Senior Portrait Session Using These Resources to Pinpoint Optimum Fall Colors in Your Area 

Fall is finally here and my schedule is getting busy! It’s still not to late to book your senior portrait session and take advantage of Michigan’s beautiful fall colors. I’ve compiled some resources to help you figure out when the fall colors will look the best to help you when booking your senior portrait session. I am also available to travel for sessions.

Preparing for Your Portrait Session



To have your portrait session turn out ideal it takes preparation. This is why I do pre-session consultations with all of my clients prior to the actual session. Many things like time, location, wardrobe, etc need to be considered prior to the shoot to make sure everything runs smoothly. These are the things which are discussed during the pre-session consultation.





The first thing to determine is the time of day. Usually either morning, evening, or even night is best for portrait session. During midday the sun is very high and the light is unflattering making it unsuitable for most portrait photography. Most of my sessions start in the late afternoon and we shoot thru the sunset and even into the evening. The exact time we start the session is dependent upon the time of year.





I love to travel and have had the opportunity to photograph at many beautiful locations. Many clients like to have images taken in a variety of locations. Some clients prefer to have their portraits shot on their own private property while others prefer public parks, state parks, or other public places around cities. There are several places I regularly frequent like Dow Gardens in Midland, Mi and Island and Nelson Park in Mount Pleasant, Mi. I am willing to travel and have done shoots in Ludington, Traverse City, Grand Haven, Grand Rapids, and Detroit as well. I am also willing to have the session take place on multiple days to ensure we can get the locations during the correct lighting.





Wardrobe should be non-distracting. These are portrait sessions and not fashion shoots. Avoid clothing with large text, distracting patterns, extremely loud colors, etc. For seniors bring a variety of clothing (ie. casual and formal, light and dark) is good. For family and group portraits the clothing should be complimentary. Similar tones (ie. all cool colors or all warm colors) works well.





I encourage women to wear makeup to photo shoots. Most women prefer there makeup to be done a little more in photographs then to little. I do avoid spray tans which if done inconsistently can look very unflattering.





Being well rested is very important for a successful session. I usually encourage seniors and families to book me on less stressful days for them. Days that the kids don’t have school and parents are off from work are ideal. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before also helps you look your best.


To start planning your pre-session consultation Ryan can be contacted here.



Should you have an Unplugged Wedding?

A current trend amongst brides and grooms are having unplugged weddings. An unplugged wedding is where guests, with the exception of the hired photographer and second shooters, aren’t allowed to bring phones, iPads or other cameras to the wedding. I personally think this is a great idea and will go thru some of the pros and cons of having an unplugged wedding.


The biggest reason I like the idea of an unplugged wedding is this makes it less likely that guests will photobomb images. If guests don’t have cameras, flashes, phones, or worst of all iPads it makes it harder for them to ruin important photos during the ceremony or reception. During the ceremony and cake cutting many of the guests can inadvertently get in the way or the professional photographer by stepping in the aisle to take a photo or by holding their phones or iPads in front of the photographers view. This recent Huffington Post article has examples of what I’m talking about.

Second, all the images taken during your wedding day will be by the professional photographer. They’re won’t be any unflattering or blurry images up on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter of your special day. Essentially this prevents any bad images from your wedding ending up on social media.


The biggest disadvantage to having an unplugged wedding is if something happens to the wedding photographer’s images all the photos of the wedding are lost. Granted this unlikely, but it is plausible. The first thing I do after a wedding or sometimes even during the reception is I start backing up the images from the wedding day. By the next morning I usually have three or more copies of the wedding.

There are advantages to allowing guests to take images during the wedding day to. You get far more images and from different view points that the photographer and second shooter couldn’t realistically get to. There are also apps that allow you and your guests to view and share guest images more easily. Check out this article for more info on wedding photo sharing apps. You can also have guests tag all of their Instagram photos and tweets with a specific hashtag or even get 35mm disposable cameras from guests to shoot with.

Here is another great more contemporary article about the subject of the pros and cons of unplugged weddings.