Jake and Shaneice Couples Portrait Session – Grand Rapids, Michigan

I had great session with Jake and Shaneice a few weeks ago in Grand Rapids! They were the winners of my Valentine’s Day Couples Portrait Session give away and received a free session, Facebook collection, and free 16×20 print!


We got to shoot in Coit Park and downtown Grand Rapids during sunset and early evening.


Check out the full gallery below!



What Is New at RWP? – Early Spring Recap

Spring 2014 started off with some basic headshots and one light studio portraits with an old friend Jordan who is looking to start a modeling portfolio and already has a massive Instagram following @talesofsolace.


I also got a quick headshot of dad as well.



The next week I made a trip down to Mason, Ohio to visit with my friends Sean and Jess who I’d graduated with from Hallmark Institute of Photography back in June 2013. We had a great time catching up and they showed me around Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, Kentucky where I grabbed these shots of them. They also took to me to a great restaurant Tom Chee’s, a restaurant chain specializing in grilled cheese and tomato soup, which I really hope expands to mid-Michigan eventually.



The next day I headed to Indianapolis to scout out some locations to shoot for my architecture portfolio. I spent two days exploring Indianapolis and visiting its multiple museums and war memorials. I happened upon a stunning Ansel Adams exhibit at Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. I shot several buildings which will eventually be added to my professional architecture portfolio.


April is the final month of my off-season so I made a point of doing a few fun non career related things before I get busy photographing seniors, families, and weddings.About a week later I went to Ann Arbor and got to meet up with another amazing photographer and recent recipient of the Highest Portfolio Award for the class of February 2014 from Hallmark Institute of Photography Emily Darrow. Check out her portraiture that has a beautiful vintage feel.

I’m currently planning out more personal work and can’t wait for portrait season to officially start in May!

What Is New at RWP? – Winter Recap

Here is a recap of what I was working on during the polar vortex.

I began December by helping Clare’s 515 Gallery host Help Portrait. Help Portrait is an event put on annually at multiple locations worldwide which gives free portraits to less fortunate families and individuals. I had a great time photographing local families and spending time with the amazing 515 Gallery staff! During our down time I shot some portraits of this 515 Gallery member, and amazing model, Raven, who I can’t wait to work with more in the future!

Shortly after Christmas I finally gave in and bought a smart phone; I had been using a Verizon pay as you go for years. Being a dedicated Apple user I got the new iPhone 5s. As I suspected I soon became obsessed with Instagram and iphoneography. As the polar vortex continued and our temperatures started to be consistently below zero I started spending more time inside reading and expanding my social media presence. I now have an active presence on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. The Ryan Watkins Photography Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest get a lot of neat behind the scenes photos, iphoneography, and industry news relevant to aspiring photographer and entrepreneurs that I don’t post on Facebook.

2014 rang in some new updates at RWP. Some new products like portrait books, a more affordable alterative to the portrait album, and Animoto slideshows, which I absolutely love, where introduced. Also a new pricing structure with more affordable creation fess and economy collections were announced. I also got a Square reader and started accepting credit cards!

Also in early January 2014 I announced that I’d be branching out in architecture photography.

My love of architecture started when I visited the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church in Boston back in January 2013. Since I grew up in the rural Midwest I’d never seen anything like it before. I found these structures beautiful and awe-inspiring. I photographed the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU during my spring break while I was home from my studies at the Hallmark Institute of Photography last spring. This image was featured on Hallmark’s 2014/2015 catalog back cover. This winter I had the amazing opportunity of photographing the sister churches of my church, the Church of Daniel’s Band. This is one of favorite church architecture photos so far. I’m continuing to grow my architecture portfolio with other building throughout the Midwest.

Later in January I got to spend time photographing fellow Hallmarker, Michigander, and amazing commercial photographer Kaitlyn Schwinderson and her adorable cat Sadie. Check out her stunning commercial, pet, and couple work at

I also got to work with aspiring actress Rocio for a headshot session in January as well. I can’t wait to work with her more in the future!

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In February I had a great engagement session with an amazing couple, Jason and Rachael, in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. They recommended that we go to Grand Haven during sunset after shooting in downtown Grand Rapids. It was an amazing suggestion! We went out on Lake Michigan while it was still frozen over. Despite falling on the ice several times it was still an awesome experience with some amazing people!

I also bought a cheap Ilford Black and White Disposable 35mm film camera that I can’t wait to use! I will eventually have a series of personal work shot on this.

Lastly I spent much of the winter reading various Christian, business, and photography related books and experimenting with new beard oils from beard brands, their tree ranger beard oil is my current favorite. Even though I love the cold weather the arrival of spring is much appreciated. I can’t wait to get to out and shoot more during the remaining spring and summer months. The RWP blog will be updated much more frequently from now on and coming soon will be update on what I’ve been working on this spring.

New Video Explaining my Current Products and Pricing

Visit for my current pricing and product info. Significant changes have been made since the creation of this video.


Their is a new video up on my The Session Process page explaining my current products and pricing. New blog posts soon about what I’ve been up to during the off season.





10 Great Vacation Spots in Michigan

Have the winter blues? Planning a trip around Michigan can help lift your spirits. Here are ten great vacation destinations in Michigan that will appeal to the entire family, especially aspiring photographers and art lovers.

1. The Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or U.P. as us Michiganders call it, is an amazing destination for nature lovers and aspiring landscape photographers. This pristine, rural part of Michigan has multiple lighthouses, waterfalls, and is home to the incredibly beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Saint Ignace, Paradise, Munising, and Marquette are cites you’ll want to visit while in the U.P. You can even see the Aura Borealis, i.e. Northern Lights, over Lake Superior during the right times of the year.

2. Charlevoix

Charlevoix is a quaint town in northern Michigan which has an amazing view of Lake Michigan. Charlevoix is host to numerous small shops and art galleries. Also in Charlevoix is Castle Farms an amazing wedding destination or great subject for architecture photographers.

3. Mackinaw Island

Mackinaw Island is an island known for its fudge and carriage rides. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the Island, so all travel is done my foot, bike, or horseback. This is a great peaceful place to get away from the pace of the city with numerous locations for landscape photography or portrait sessions.

4. Leelanau Peninsula

The Leelanau Peninsula is one of the best places in northern Michigan for landscape photography or an amazing backdrop for portraiture. Located in the Leelanau Peninsula are the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore, which was voted the most beautiful place in America by Good Morning America, and the Leelanau State Park.

5. Traverse City

Traverse City is a great weekend get away during any time of year. Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World and hosts the annual Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival. It is very close to some of the most scenic parts of Michigan. A beautiful city with tons of things to do both in the city and nearby on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

6. Clare

Clare, my hometown, is a great place for a quick stop on your way to either the northern or southern Michigan. It is located about an hour and twenty minutes north of Lansing on 127. This is home to Cops and Doughnuts, which has amazing coffee, doughnuts, and pastries, and the 515 Gallery, which showcases the work of both local and international artists and is open 11am-4pm on Saturdays. It also hosts the annual Irish Festival on Saint Patrick’s Day weekend.

7. Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth is an amazing place to stop on a weekend getaway. Almost all the buildings in Frankenmuth are reminiscent of Bavarian architecture. It is home to the world’s biggest Christmas store, Bronner’s, and the renowned restaurants Zender’s and Bavarian Inn which both amazing family style chicken dinners. Frankenmuth is a great place for both shopping and sight seeing. Bronner’s Christmas lights and the cities stunning Bavarian architecture during winter can be a gorgeous subject by itself or an even better background for portraiture.

8. Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second largest city, is home to many luxury hotels and museums. Grand Rapids is also home to “Art Prize” which attracts artists from all across the world. It showcases stunning architecture, which is an amazing backdrop for portrait sessions or very nice subjects for amateur photographers.

9. Grand Haven

Grand Haven is a small town about thirty minutes west of Grand Rapids on Lake Michigan. This has an amazing view of Lake Michigan and is highly recommended for landscape photographers. It is also one of my favorite destinations for portrait sessions.

10. Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan, is as put it is, “a small, friendly town with big city sophistication.” Ann Arbor is a great location to view art and museums and is one of Michigan’s most cultured cities. This is one of my favorite places in Michigan to visit especially during their annual art festival during the summer.


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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 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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New Video Explaining The Session Process

I just finished making this new video which explains how to set up a session and how the session process works at Ryan Watkins Photography!

The winner of the Free Couples or Engagement Session is…

Congratulations to Shaneice Schreiber and Jake Green from Clare, Mi! They’ve won a free couples portrait session with a complementary 16×20 print this Valentine’s Day!

Win a Free Engagement or Couples Portrait Session!

This Valentine’s Day someone will win a free engagement or couples portrait session with a complimentary 16×20 print and you get to choose who! Do you know someone who would like a free couples portrait done? To nominate a couple for a free session contact me at or message me via the Ryan Watkins Photography Facebook page and give their first and last names and the city they live in. The couple that gets the most nominations wins a free session and complimentary print. The winners will be announced at 9:00pm on February 14th.

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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