What is New at RWP? – My Mackinac Island Trip

After shooting an amazing wedding in late July I got to take a great trip to Mackinac Island with my friends Jason and Ashley. Mackinac Island is a quant island in the middle of Lake Huron where no vehicles are allowed. Mackinac Island is full of bike trails, fudge shops, and historic sites.


I took my Nikon D600, my go to professional camera body, and four lenses but never used them. All of the photographs I took where shot using by iPhone 5s and edited using VSCOcam. A few images had minor global adjustments applied in Lightroom. All of my professional work and non-iPhone personal work goes thru a lot of planning and retouching to reach the final product. With my iPhoneography I take a far different approach. The images I capture throughout my travels and daily life with my iPhone are spontaneous images of lighting and sights I find interesting. Theses images aren’t meant to be saleable but instead personal images I shoot for fun for myself.



This first image was shot on our boat ride to Mackinac Island of another boat sailing in Lake Huron. A storm was coming towards the island creating the intense clouds.




This image was also shot on our boat ride right before we got off on Mackinac Island. A thick fog was surround the island when we first arrived.




After checking into our bed and breakfast the Small Point Bed and Breakfast, which I would highly recommend staying at, we headed back to downtown. We stopped by Fort Mackinac and ate a few doughnuts under the statue of Père Jacques Marquette. We affectionately nick named this seagull Sheldon since he shooed away other birds when they got near his spot that he never left. We saw Sheldon perched on his spot several more times during out trip.



Next we grabbed a quick lunch and then hiked up to Fort Mackinac where is photo was taken. We ate a great dinner downtown and then went on the Haunts of Mackinac tour at Mission Point Hotel.



On day two we left downtown and explored the outskirts of the island more. I decided to rent a tricycle because of my lack of balance and coordination. Two wheels are to mainstream anyway.



On one of our first stops I found this patch of daisies. I decided to play with the Contrast by Hornbeck app that lets you capture high contrast black and white images on your iPhone. It also has an invert function that was used to create this image.



After triking a bit longer we stopped for a quick lunch. I went over to the beach and shot some non-inverted images of the stones using the Contrast by Hornbeck app. I loved the pattern and texture these rocks created.




Stacking rocks on the beach on Mackinac Island is popular so we decided to give it a try. Our final stacked rock formation wasn’t very impressive but we did come across this one which was. This was also shot using the Contrast by Hornbeck app and later cropped in VSCOcam.



The stacked rocks where right across the road from Arch Rock a geographical formation caused by glaciers. This was also shot using the Contrast by Hornbeck app.




Next we headed up to Mackinac Island’s highest point Fort Holmes. There isn’t actually a fort their but it does have a nice view of the island. Here is quick shot of my friends Jason and Ashley on the highest point of the island.



Later that night after dinner we went on one last walk by the water before heading back to small point. This  minimalistic shot of a few ducks near sunset was shot across from the Mission Point Hotel.



This last image was the next day shortly after returning home to Clare, Mi. I shot this down the road from my house while I went for a walk before getting caught up on retouching and other work after our trip.

What Is New at RWP? – Clare County Charity Calendar

UPDATE: I recently heard from the Clare County DHS and the printing of this calendar is being postponed until further notice

Behind the scenes image of the Dover School Shoot

July was a great month at Ryan Watkins Photography! I got to photograph an amazing wedding, had a great trip to Mackinac Island, I continued my #iPhoneography series, and got to help create some new images for a charity calendar which will be available locally in the next few months.

Two years ago before I moved to Massachusetts I was approached by the Clare County United Way about shooting images for a calendar that would raise money to help their Project Kids Christmas charity. We shot the images but sadly the funding for the project didn’t come thru. Two years later I was contacted by the Clare County DHS to see if they could use my images for the same calendar to benefit Project Kids Christmas. I was more than willing but wanted to reshoot some of the old images. I spent the last two weeks of July photographing a variety of local landmarks and still lives which where relevant to Clare County.

The final Dover School image

The first location I knew I wanted to reshoot was Dover School. The Dover School is a one room school house that was renovated to its original condition. I shot several images of the Dover School while the sun set gradually set. I ended up compositing two images for the final shot. One had the shadows from the trees in the foreground the way I liked them and the other had the exterior of the school lit with flash.

The final Farwell Cannon image

Next I photographed the cannon in Farwell, Mi. This is a real life size cannon not a replica or paperweight. I photographed this at night and lit it will flash to eliminate the distracting park surrounding the cannon.

The Farwell Cannon before being lit

Morel Mushroom Still Life

In the spring many people in Clare County enjoy morel hunting, where they look for wild morel mushrooms. I wanted to reshoot an image of morel mushrooms for the calendar but it was almost four months to late to find local wild morels. So I went on and bought an incredibly overpriced bag of morels for the shoot. For this image I placed the morels on a tree stump near my house and lit them with flash at a very low angle to bring out the textures of the mushrooms.

Black Eyed Susans shot using a Lensbaby for the blurred effect

Black Eyed Susans are another common site in Clare County. I wanted to do something different from the traditional flower shot so I tried out my new Lensbaby. A Lensbaby is a flexible lens which lets you change focus my pulling the lens in different directions. I lit these with flash and turned the Lensbaby to create this blurring effect.

My new Lensbaby used to photograph the Black Eyed Susans

The rest of the calendar will have images of nature, landscapes, and wildlife from Clare County.

The final calendar will be available later in the year at several locations within Clare County. I’ll post on my blog and on social media when I find out where and when the calendars are available.

Art Walk Central Piece up at 3 Wishes Floral and Design Studio until August 23rd


Art Walk Central annually attracts artists from across the state and country to showcase their art pieces in local business in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. My work will be hosted by the lovely 3 Wishes Floral and Design Studio. Not only was 3 Wishes gracious enough to host my work but they also gave me some free flowers to photograph for a charity calendar I’ve been working on! Below is an image I shot of their roses using my new Lensbaby!


The image at the top of this post is my piece that will be on display at 3 Wishes. This was photographed of my friends and fellow Hallmark Institute of Photography alumni Sean and Jess of River Valley Photo back in March 2014 when I made a trip down to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit them.


If you are in the Mount Pleasant area defiantly check out the amazing artists work on display throughout downtown!


3 Wishes Floral and Design Studio


Art Walk Central


River Valley Photo




Teressa Griffith Clare High School 2015 Senior Rep Session

I had an amazing session with Clare High School Class of 2015 senior rep Teressa a few weeks ago!

We started the session at on of my favorite locations Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. At Dow Gardens we shot a wide variety of images from traditional natural light portraits to warm airy shots which I added a vintage texture to in post.

After Dow Gardens we headed back to Clare for some night shots in downtown. Teressa frequently rides her bike around town so we did an image for her posed with her bike in downtown Clare. We also grabbed an image of her and her dog Floyd as well.

For the full gallery see below.

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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What to Wear to Senior Portrait Sessions

What to Wear to Senior Portrait Sessions

A big part of having a successful senior portrait session is being prepared and bringing the right clothes. Here are some suggestions for what to bring to your portrait session!

Things to Bring


What You Would Usually Wear Everyday

Most importantly you should look like you! Bring some items you wear everyday because you’ll look the most natural.

Something Light

Also bring some lighter clothing for brighter, high key images.

Something Dark

Conversely bring some darker clothing for darker low key images.

Something Casual

Casual everyday clothing is great for sessions in parks like Dow Gardens or in rural areas like near my home.  

Something Formal

Mom’s always want a photo of their son or daughter dressed up so also bring some formal clothing as well.

Something Really Loud

For environmental shots wearing something really loud is ideal! This makes you stand out amongst the surroundings.

Casual and Dress Shoes

If you want full body images wearing the appropriate shoe looks much better than wearing sneakers with dress clothes.

Something Appropriate for the Location

Where something fitting for where we’ll be shooting. Casual is great for in the country and parks. Formal is good in parks or in urban settings.

School Spirit, Athletic Wear, or Something Related to Your Interests

This is a time when you can get away with wearing big text. Show some school spirit or something related to your interests. Feel free to bring items which could be used as props as well. These could be from hobbies, sports, or other interests.

Something You Don’t Mind Getting Dirty

Some poses look great on the ground or in water. Bring some casual clothing you don’t mind getting dirty so we can add even more variety to your session!  

Dress Appropriately for the Weather

I’m a polar bear and would be confortable wearing short sleeve casual shirts into December, but I won’t recommend this. Bring some warmer clothing for if the shoot goes into sunset or the evening hours especially during fall and winter sessions.

Bring Items that are Easy to Layer so Changing Outfits is Easier

It is not always convenient to change depending on where the session is. Bringing clothing that can be layered makes this a lot easier!

Things to Avoid

This isn’t a fashion shoot so the main point is bringing clothing, which makes you look good, and draws attention to you and not your cloth. Here are few things to avoid wearing.

Clothing Which Doesn’t Fit

Most importantly wear clothing that fits. To tight or to big will look unflattering.

Sweat Pants, Sweat Shirts, Loungewear

These are unflattering; leave your pajamas at home.

Strong Patterns

If you wear a plaid shirt almost everyday feel free to bring it, but also bring some solids as well. Strong patterns and plaids can be distracting and draw attention to you and not your shirt. Subtle patterns like small checks, herringbone patterns, and gingham shirts are all acceptable. Don’t bring all shirts with strong patterns.

Big Distracting Text or Logos

Again if you wear shirts with big Holister or American Eagle logos everyday feel free to bring it, but also bring some solids. Just like with strong patters texts distracts from you and bring attention to your shirt. Subtle logos like the Polo or Lacoste logos are fine. Don’t bring all shirts with big logos.

Dirty Clothes

For the most part you ideally want your clothing to be clean with the exception of if we’re doing and country or athletic shoot which you’d intentionally look dirty.

Don’t Only Bring One Outfit

Bring a variety! I’m sure we can find ways to use a lot of your outfits. Hopefully this will help you with planning your wardrobe from you senior portrait session!

New Personal Work with Amazing Model Raven Price

I love shooting personal work especially when I get to work with amazing models like Raven Price. Featured below are a handful of my favorite images from the shoot.


515 Gallery and I featured on Hallmark Institute of Photography Blog

My alma matter the Hallmark Institute of Photography just posted a great article about the 515 Gallery’s latest show which I helped organize. Check it out!

Clare, Michigan’s 515 Gallery Featuring 11 Hallmark Institute of Photography Alumni in Upcoming Show on May 31st from 6-8pm

I’m very excited about the 515 Gallery’s upcoming show! All of the featured artists are graduates of the prestigious Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts and are close friends of mine. The styles of photography and photographers represented are incredibly diverse! We’ll be featuring a combination of photojournalistic, commercial, conceptual, nature, editorial, fashion, and portrait photography. Featured will be artists from Seattle, Los Angles, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, India, and Japan. Also three Michigan based photographers, including myself, will be represented and present at the opening.


Photographers Being Featured


Marco Colucci 

Aniruddh Kothari 

Katilyn Schwinderson 

Emily Darrow 

Ryan Watkins 

Hiro Ochi 

Jon Cospito 

Kelly Horn 

Sienna Clough 

Colton Running 

Katie Brill 


The show will be held on May 31st from 6-8pm. The 515 Gallery is open from 11am-4pm on Saturdays. This show will be up until July 12th. The 515 Galley is located in downtown Clare next to Cops and Doughnuts.