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My Favorite Images From My First Decade Of Photography


I first took an interest in photography back in 2008. The first photo I took I was really happy with was in 2009. I had a hard drive crash and much of my early work was lost. My first magazine publication in 2010. I thought it would be cool to look back over my work over the last decade. This helps me see what areas I grown and regressed as a photographer. Here are my favorite images since 2009 and little bit of there back stories.  


Raccoon, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2009

This was the first image I was really happy with. After taking this photo I decided I wanted to become a professional photographer. For the full story click here.


Nuthatch, Clare, Michigan 2010

This nuthatch hanging from my parent’s bird feeder would go on to be published in Audubon, Nature’s Best Photography, and The World of Photography Bookazine. For the full story click here.


Mountain, Field, British Columbia, Canada 2011

This mountain peak photographed on the border of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. It would later be published in Outdoor Photographer Magazine. For the full story click here.


Bryana, Turners Falls, Massachusetts 2013

This studio portrait of model Bryanna was photographed while I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. For the full story click here.


Eli and Edythe Broad Art Building, East Lansing, Michigan 2013

This architectural image was photographed while I was home on spring break during my studies at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. It was later used in catalogs promoting the school.

Feona, Bernardston, Massachusetts 2013

This pet portrait was shot during my studies at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. For the full story click here.


Doc, Holyoake, Massachusetts 2013

This portrait of a doctor in Holyoake, Massachusetts was shot during my studies at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. I used a color temperature orange gel on my flash and cool white balance to make the doctor stand out from the background.


Ciara, Clare, Michigan 2013

This portrait of Ciara was shot in downtown Clare, Michigan at night. I used off camera flash to mimic the street light.


Ian, Harrison, Michigan 2013

This image of welder and art teacher Ian was photographed in Harrison, Michigan for the 515 Gallery. For the full story click here.


Church of Daniel’s Band Pine Branch, Midland, Michigan 2014

This image was commissioned by the Church of Daniel’s Band during the winter in 2014. For the full story click here.


Jason and Rachael, Grand Haven, Michigan 2014

This engagement session was done on the ice on Lake Michigan in Grand Haven during sunset.


Chickadee, Clare, Michigan 2015

This image was photographed on an early winter morning in 2015. For the full story click here.


Amish. Clare, Michigan 2017

This image was photographed on a foggy winter morning in early 2017. For the full story click here.


Chelsea and Dayna, Ann Arbor, Michigan 2017

This image of models Chelsea and Dayna next to a beautiful church door was photographed in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Beaverton Fireworks, Beaverton, Michigan 2017

This image of the 2017 Beaverton fireworks was shot with a fisheye lens while training my second shooter Nikki Robinson.


Matt and Chelsea, Ann Arbor, Michigan 2017

This engagement portrait was shot of Matt and Chelsea in Ann Arbor, Michigan during golden hour.


Todd and Kayla, Midland, Michigan 2017

This image of Todd and Kayla was shot at one of my most frequented locations Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. This was taken just outside the gardens after we were kicked out.


Sam Smoke Bombs, Clare, Michigan 2018

This image was photographed of my of favorite models Sam while setting off purple smoke bombs. This image was later used as my entry into Art Walk Central in Mt Pleasant, Michigan.


Lisa, Charlevoix, Michigan 2018

This image of model Lisa was photographed in one of my favorite cities in northern Michigan, Charlevoix. The subtle gesture and soft natural light make this image one of my favorites.


Stark Family, Clare, Michigan 2018

The Starks have been repeat clients of mine since 2017. This image of them and there several dogs remains one of my favorite family portraits.


Shane and Chelsea, Midland, Michigan 2018

This engagement session of Shane and Chelsea was taken on one of the busiest days of my career at one of my most frequented locations Dow Gardens in Midland, Mi. The beautiful backlight and expression make this image one of my favorites.

Daniel Headshots in Mt Pleasant, Michigan

Before the corona virus outbreak, I met with Daniel at Cops and Doughnuts to plan out his headshot session. He wanted both images for his business website and his online dating profile. We were originally planning the shoot for late March, but it kept getting pushed back due to the virus, flooding, and other schedule conflicts. In mid June we were finally able to do the shoot. Dan is one of the most personable people I’ve been able to photograph. I had a great timing talking with him about a wide range of topics including our hobbies and careers.

Tom and Coi Wedding in Fenton, Michigan

I had a great time getting to photograph fellow Clare Area Jaycees members Tom and Coi’s wedding in Fenton, Michigan. Due to the corona virus the wedding ended up having lots of last minute changes but still turned out beautiful. They were able to put a stream of the wedding on Facebook live so there friends and family could still see the ceremony despite social distancing.

Health Monitor

Just before everything shut down due to the corona, I got to photograph Marci for a Health Monitor publication. We did the shoot at Sunset Shores Cottages in Clare, Michigan with her friend Jeff Chadwick who is a former NFL player. I had a great time getting to photograph both Marci and Jeff!

Best of 2019

2019 was a crazy year. It started slow with a brutal winter keeping me inside during the beginning of my slow season. I used this time to take continuing education classes via KelbyOne, read, and write my years worth of blog posts. As the snow melted so did the slowness. As spring came I started working with a wide variety of clients ranging from brides and grooms to seniors, models, bands, magazines, and art galleries. The first wedding of the year took me to Centralia, Washington which I used as an excuse for a road trip across the country. I got to work with Chase Engel and The Night Shift who’s first EP is now on streaming services. During summer and fall I ended up beating my personal record for most weddings photographed in one year. 2019 ended up being my most profitable year in business thus far. In November I briefly moved to Florida for a long distance relationship that didn’t work out. I ended up moving back to Clare, Michigan in December 2019 with a newfound appreciation of the family, friends, church, and local communities I had left behind. In 2020 I plan to continue doing photography in central Michigan but will also be looking for a second job. I also plan on working towards several other goals and projects during the new year. Below are my favorite images from 2019.

Jesse and Carly Wedding in Midland, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Jesse and Carly’s beautiful wedding at Memorial Presbyterian in Midland, Michigan. After the ceremony we headed to Gratzi for the reception followed by carriage rides through downtown.

Write a memoir.


I like listening to podcasts. One of my favorites is the Tim Ferriss Show. In one episode I listened to, Ferriss was interviewing Richard Branson. Branson mentioned that every person should write a memoir. I made a note of this. This has stuck with me.

Both of my biological grandfathers died before I was born. I don’t know a lot about them. A memoir from either of them would have been amazing to read.

I have an Irish name because my dad thought we were primarily Irish. My grandpa on his side gave all of his kids, my aunts and uncles, Irish names because he thought they were primarily Irish. I recently got my DNA results back from Ancestry and it turns out I’m about half English/Welch. A third French. A tenth Irish/Scottish. Five percent Norwegian and five percent German.

Writing a memoir. Something to consider for your family.

Why You Can Pay Me In Bitcoin


Here at Ryan Watkins Photography I want to make everything as clear, straightforward, and easy as possible. This is why I put my prices on my website. I have no hidden fees. No minimum orders. You don’t have to meet with me in person to order prints. You can order prints from anywhere and have them shipped to your house. This is also why you can pay me in Bitcoin. I try to make the payment process as easy as possible. Via my invoices people can pay via bank transfer, debit, or credit card. I also accept cash or check. I’ve occasionally had clients pay via paypal or the cash app because they prefered that method, even though it requires a bit more work on my end. Also I’m optimistic about the possibilities of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Feel free to pay for your session using Bitcoin.

Why I Don’t Work On Sundays


As a Christian, and more specifically a confessional Presbyterian and member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I believe that God’s moral law, summarized in the ten commandments, is still binding today. This includes the fourth commandment to honour the sabbath. For this reason I abstain from working on Sundays. Instead I treat the Lord’s day as a day of rest. Using it to worship God corporately and privately. As well as for works of necessity and mercy.  

The Importance of Structure and Systems


One of the best business books I have read is the E-Myth Revisited. In the E-Myth Revisited author Michael Gerber talks about why most businesses fail. Many people assume that if they are good at a technical task they will be good at running a business which does that technical task. This isn’t the case. One must also know how to run a business. One of the keys to running a successful business is making it repeatable and setting internal systems structures for how things get done. Your business should ideally be able to run without you. If the internal systems are followed. Since reading this book I’ve been spending a ton of time working “on my business” as Gerber puts it. I have been developing the internal processes at Ryan Watkins Photography for how I go about doing every task in the business. I am constantly tweaking how I do these processes for maximum efficiency and best client experience. I would highly recommend fellow entrepreneurs check out The E-Myth Revisited.