To be successful in anything, you need two things. One, a great partner or spouse that will support you and your vision. Two, luck. Pure dumb luck. As Ryan Johnson will tell you, these two things, among others, have had a big impact in his ever growing photography career.
How did you get started in photography?
In High School I got my father’s Canon AE-1, which he had forever but never really used. I started doing photography classes in High School, where they still taught film photography. They had a dark room and taught you how to do black and white and how to print as well. And so it was really much more of an art form than just learning how to take the picture. You’re learning from start to finish and that’s part of the process that I still love. You take the picture and you watch it through til the end. And that’s where my passion really began.
Were you on the yearbook committee?
No I wasn’t! (both laugh) I got to the point where I took photography classes for three years and by the third year the teacher who taught the course, who was also a great photographer herself, walked into class and told me “We don’t really have a curriculum for you so how about you figure out what you want to do and I’ll grade you on it.” (both laugh)
So it was basically an independent study class but she helped me come up with some ideas of shoots and what I wanted to do and kinda let me go. And it was probably the most freeing and most growth I’ve had just because it was all mine from start to finish. I had to think up the idea and watch it through to the end. And that, that piece stuck with me the most. And the whole development process has stuck with me also. When I started doing it professionally, digital cameras had started to come out and I thought, like everyone did, it’s a simple, quick and easy way to do what I love. And it was. But the problem was that I was never satisfied with the look. And I was never satisfied with… I had to do a lot of Photoshopping at the time to get it to the look I wanted and that’s when I decided to go back to film. And that’s when I went to FIND (Film Is Not Dead workshop). That opened my eyes in that you can do film photography and make it into a viable option for professionals. That really sparked the fire in me again because I became complacent with photography and I felt I just couldn’t do what I wanted to do. That’s when I really picked it back up again and ran with it.
How was your journey like from being in love with photography to making photography your profession?
I think like a lot of photographers you start thinking that “Hey, I can make some money on the side. This could be a great side career.” And I was going to school for Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy and I had started to work at a bank because the hours were great to go to college and work. I started doing shoots for friends and family and a few weddings here and there. Then the job I was in, I was falling in into better and better positions as I was with the bank longer. I was going from teller to banker to loan officer. I was starting to work for an international foreign exchange market trading bank and I was doing a lot more in the financial world than I thought I was going to! (both laugh) And it kinda took over and in my head I was thinking, “Some people don’t choose their career, the career chooses them” and so on. But I still loved photography but never thought I could make a living out of it. And there was that voice in the back of my head saying “Yeah, photography is great but you could never support a family with it.” And that held me back from doing it. I went to FIND in 2010 and at that point I had a real struggle in that I had a fantastic paying job, was married and we were thinking of starting a family. But I just wasn’t happy with my career. We were making great money but it was just torture going into work everyday. I was doing weddings on the side and that part of the business was slowly growing. One day I went in for a quarterly review at my job. And everything was fine. I had two offices, one in the city and one out close to our house. My review was in downtown and when I came out of the review and driving back to my other office, I pulled to the side of the road, called my wife and told her “I can’t do this anymore.” If I’m ever going to make a run at this (photography) as a business, this is the time. We don’t have kids, my wife had a great job, we have good insurance through my wife’s work if we needed it. It’s the perfect time. She reluctantly said yes (both laugh). I think she knew this day would probably come but I think it came faster than she had thought it would. For me too, it was kind of an awakening moment that this had to happen now. I turned the car around, went back to the office and quit… put in my two weeks. It’s funny, it’s kind of like the whole idea that I felt like I was in two worlds and couldn’t give myself fully to either one. I quit in the Spring and in that Fall… my wife is a big Giants fan and they won the World Series, they were interviewing one of the players, you know Brian Wilson?
Yeah, the guy with the big beard.
Yeah, him. They were interviewing him and he said when he was in school he went into his Advisor’s and Counsellor’s office and they asked him “So what do you want to go to college for? What do you want to be in your life?” and he said “I want to be a pitcher.” And the Advisors were “Yeah, but not everyone… people need something to fall back on.” And Brian Wilson said “No, I’m going to be a pitcher. That’s why I’m here.” And he said the Advisors got really frustrated with him but they didn’t realize that in his mind, you can’t do one or the other. If you want to be a pitcher, be a pitcher. And that interview stuck in my head for months and it just kinda got the ball rolling and felt the same way. If I wanted to be a photographer, I just gotta do it. That was in 2011 and now, here I am. (both laugh)
Has it been easy? No, not at all. We took a huge paycut with me quitting and it’s been very difficult. But I’d much rather stress and work 24 hours and struggle for something I believe in and I care about rather than worry about whether the bank I’m working for will fail or not. I don’t have that emotional connection with that career. Whatever business I was starting in, whether it be photography or whatever, owning my own business and running it myself felt right. For my personality, it just works. I will kill myself for this business whereas when I’m working for somebody else, I could care less. (both laugh)
Has having a finance background/ experience helped you with running your own business? Because that part seems to be the most frustrating for a lot of photographers.
It does. I’m not a financial genius by any means (both laugh) but it definitely does help you with the idea that when you get paid, you need to say this money goes here and there, and not just be happy you have money. (both laugh) Just be able to run a business because I think a lot of photographers get stuck on the fact that they’re photographers and they forget the business side. And I’ve fallen into that pit a lot where you just say “I just want to go out and shoot! I don’t care about my website or the marketing. I just want to shoot!” And a lot of the workshops I’ve been to don’t really talk… FIND was great and all and I’ll forever be happy I went because it opened my eyes that you can do this as a business. You can survive and you can succeed. But I’ve never been to a workshop that actually talked about the nuts and bolts of being a business owner. And I think that’s one thing that’s lacking in photography workshops that are around. They all talk about your vision and the art. But none of them actually say “Business sucks!” (both laugh) Most creatives find it very hard to do both. Unless you have someone that does it for you, you’re going to have to do it yourself. You’re doing what you love probably 10% of the time. The rest of the time is business. I think that a lot of people fail in this business because they jump in and don’t realize the business issue and they get burnt out. And that for me is the biggest stumbling block. Although I have a background in finance, it helps in running a business but also not the entire piece of the puzzle (both laugh). I’ve been doing this full time for almost three years…
That’s really good!
Well… (both laugh) I think I’m lucky because my wife has been so supportive. She’s been… she believes in the dream that this can work. And I don’t think a lot of people have that depth… that help. I would not be here if she hadn’t been so patient and understanding as to where we… we see the same vision for this business and want it to grow and it means that money is tight sometimes. Money is hard. Sometimes we’re running on one paycheck. And even though I’ll do a job, with all the expenses and everything, we end up coming out even sometimes. It’s all part of the growing pains of growing a business. She’s also in finance… she’s a practice manager for a Financial Planner. So she basically runs a business already for him. And that helps in that she has the perspective of what it takes to get things rolling. And though I’m sure I’ve made my share of mistakes in the business world (both laugh) you learn from your mistakes, pick yourself up and keep on going. It’s been a rough three years but I’m feeling that it’s coming to fruition.
That’s great! So is most of your business in Utah or do you travel quite a bit?
This past year most of my business has been out of Utah. I’ve had two weddings here in Utah and the rest of it has been outside. I love Utah and we both had thought about moving to other places but when it comes down to it, Utah has so much to offer and hopefully my job gives me the ability to travel so I don’t have to be somewhere else. And having been given the opportunity to work with Sundance has been a great help for us financially when we needed it so it’s kinda hard for us to think about going somewhere else. (both laugh)
How did you get involved with Sundance?
Dumb luck. (both laugh) Pure dumb luck. I really have no idea. Somebody likes me I guess. (both laugh) Like everyone back in the day, I had a Flickr page. I think I still have it? (both laugh) They called me in the Spring of 2012 and just out of the blue, I have no idea how you get connected with Sundance, the director of marketing called me and said “We’re from Sundance and we want to meet with you.” And at first I was like “Yeah, right. Ok, what are you selling?” (both laugh) “No, we’re really from Sundance and we’d like to meet with you about doing some photography for us.” Tell me where and when I’ll be there! Funny thing was that I just had back surgery and they called me the week after. I was in bed and I was like “I’ll be there!” Whatever I need to do, I don’t care! (both laugh)
Yeah, just shoot me up with whatever numbs the pain!
Hahaha. Right. So I went up there and they’re always looking for new talent and somehow they’ve come across my Flickr page and it wasn’t updated. But they kinda really liked the feel of my photos, had me in for an interview and that’s how it started. (both laugh) And its been a fun, crazy ride ever since then. It’s a very different way of working, with Sundance.
How is it different?
In the basic sense its event photography. But what they do in the summer time, they run workshops for new filmmakers up here at the resort. They bring these new filmmakers in and help them learn the ropes of working in the system. Most of these filmmakers, composers, etc have made movies and films and they’ve done everything themselves. It’s very indie project. And this is to teach them how to take that and work as a team. Work with cinematographers, producers, and show them the ropes in getting their stuff into the mainstream. And it’s really cool and so what I do for them is more documentary photography. I’m going up and document the process they’re going through. It’s a little on set photography, a little bit straight documentary and a little bit event photography all meshed into one. It’s really fun and really great to meet all these artists who are in… they’re in the same path as you are and seeing them finding their way… these people are amazingly talented. These are the future Steven Spielbergs… these are people who know their stuff and are going to be doing great things and so many of them are so nice and humble and happy to be there. Its great to be with them and know them and document their process. Its amazing to see the creative juices flowing.
Do they inspire you for your photography?
They’ve inspired to for my own photography but inspired me to… I love photography and my dream is photography but if I were to say what my biggest dream is, is to direct a movie. Ever since I was little and knew who Steven Spielberg was, he’s been my idol. I know it’s cliché to say that but you grew up watching these movies that draw you in and put you in this world that you’ve never even thought of and its another one of those things that I’m a kid from Utah and I don’t even know how I’d become a film director and going up to Sundance, and it’s another one of those things that opened my eyes to say you can do whatever you want to do. You just have to work for it. And I came back from the film festival this year and I was like I’m surrounded by so many talented people… why aren’t we doing this? (both laugh) Why aren’t we making a movie? And that kinda got the ball rolling. That’s years down the road and something on the horizon that I want to move towards.
Is there a story that you want to make? Anything boiling underneath you want to get out?
My brother in law actually went to school as an English Literature major and we’re working together and always bouncing ideas off each other. We haven’t found the right one yet but that’s kind of our collaboration. I came back from Sundance and I called him immediately and was like “We’re going to make a move.” And he was like “Ok.” (both laugh) I asked him “You have any stories?” and he said “You know I have a few outlines” So we’ve kinda been working through that.
At least now through Sundance you have a good knowledge of what you need to do get a movie going.
And that’s been the beauty for me. They think I’m just there as the photographer but I’m there as the nerd who’s been watching movies his whole life and I don’t have to pay to be here. I’m just listening to you people and soaking it in! (both laugh)
So you’re getting paid to learn as well as shoot!
Yeah! (both laugh) Definitely… that’s perfect for me.
Getting back to your photography, is there any other type of photography you’re interested in, or thinking of branching out towards, besides weddings?
I do love… it’s very hard because when I came into photography, people don’t go into it saying “I want to be a wedding photographer.” I think for most people that’s the last thing on their mind. And even after my first few weddings I though “You know, this isn’t for me.” I was having trouble connecting. And the truth of it was that the second I started shooting film, it changed my perspective on everything. Its funny because on my website you don’t see that say I shoot film. Anywhere. And I’ve gotten a lot of flack from that.
You know, from friends that we both share (both laugh), they say you shoot film and should be proud of it… stand behind it. And I think the only place I do say it is on Instagram but if you went to my website, it doesn’t say it at all. And its not because I’m ashamed or afraid clients won’t hire me. Its just… I understand the need for digital. Before I started shooting for Sundance, I didn’t shoot digital at all. And because the turnaround times they needed, I had to shoot digital. So I bought my first digital camera, in seven years, in 2012. (both laugh)
Haha. Yeah. And I had to start shooting digitally and at first it was a nightmare. I actually got anxiety shooting digital.
Yeah because it stressed me out to be able to see it immediately. Shooting film, and this is why I love shooting film, film helps me to connect so much more because I understand it. It has a latitude, has forgiveness. And that’s the funny thing, is that people think shooting film is so hard, but its so not. And it gives me a freedom to let go. I take a reading and I just go. I mean I’ve been shooting film now for 3-4 years so now I know the film, I’ve found the films I like, I know pretty much how they’d react in certain lighting situations. Whereas shooting digital for me is very… you have to nail it. You have to get a good exposure to not blow your lights or muddy your darks. It’s like shooting slide film! (both laugh) When I started shooting digital again I was freaking out because I couldn’t handle the stress of nailing the shot and it felt like it made me disconnect from what I’m shooting because I was so focused on getting that shot right. It wasn’t until this Spring that I became comfortable with shooting digital. And when I went down for the Film Show in Las Vegas, Tanja Lippert talked a little bit about shooting in camera without a meter. She was talking about it based on shooting black and whites in film. But the way I was looking at it was she was speaking to me about shooting digital. And I just kinda tweaked it and use it as part of my digital workflow now and it totally changed the way I shoot. It’s much more calming now. (both laugh)
So did you put black tape over the LCD screen?
I did at one point. (both laugh) I really did! But I found I can’t do that because like film I can’t take one reading and go. I have to constantly take a reading because the slightest change in light will change the shot. Whereas with film, you take a reading for an area and just go with it. So with digital, I was seeing I was getting a good shot here, then I’d turn and the other one would be either blown out or totally dark. And I hate shooting in RAW. (both laugh) I am the laziest photographer ever! (both laugh) I hate shooting in RAW because I hate the extra step in converting. So shooting JPEG I try to do as much in camera as I can because I just hate sitting infront of the computer hours on end. (both laugh) I feel like that’s been to my benefit slowly because it makes me try to get it right the first time. But I’d much rather be able to spend time with the people I love instead of editing.
Do you try to shoot and edit your digital photos look like film? Or you say this is my digital look and that’s my film work.
I try and get it as close as possible but I know that its not going to be close. I’ve gone through stages where I was ok with it not being the same and then getting really annoyed that its not looking the same. (both laugh) But I’ve come to the realization that with all the filters like VSCO and the Mastin… I haven’t used Kirk Mastin’s yet but I’ve heard they’re great and I’ve been wanting to try them… but there’s so much out there and the technology is not exact yet. I did a family shoot… this was the one I had wanted to throw my computer out the window… I did a family shoot where I was shooting Portra 400 and then some digital and was just trying to match those together was a nightmare. We were in open shade in a park and the green casts that were in the film… I could get the grass to look right but then the skin was off. Then I’d get the skin to look right, but the grass was off. And it was a nightmare! (both laugh) And I came to the realization that especially with Portra 160 and 400, there’s a Cyan hint in the film that is a nightmare to recreate in digital. And it was at that point I finally said I’m going to get it as close as possible but I need to let go of it not being exactly the same. I have a slight perfectionist problem. (both laugh)
That’s a good thing if you’re an artist, right?
Yeah… (hesitantly speaking) It was a good thing when I was working at film lab. Now, not so much. (both laugh) It’s very hard to go from 3 years doing your own film to now having to trust a lab to do it. I understand it’s a two way conversation. I need to be talking to them and providing feedback but, especially with the Frontier… I know that machine forwards and backwards, and sometimes I shake my screen and scream “IT’S NOT THAT HARD!” “I’VE SCANNED ON THAT MACHINE BEFORE!” (both laugh) But I just need to breathe and let go. My father was an airline pilot and there are steps and processes with that. He’s very much a perfectionist and that’s where I get it from. But I realize I just need to breathe. (both laugh)
Which lab do you use now?
I’m in between using Indie and the FIND Lab. Don’t tell anyone. (both laugh) With the FIND Lab, and having worked with both Noelle Reynolds and Becky Earl, I trust them implicitly with my film. And I know that having sat next to Noelle Reynolds scanning, she’s mindblowing. She’s better than me, and that’s on my own stuff. I took pride that I was a damn good scanner but Noelle is amazing. And its hard for me to not use her because she’s that good. So right now 80% of the time I’m sending it to the FIND Lab, until now. My brother in law and I just bought a Pakon scanner.
How are those?
Those are the ones that only scan 35mm right?
Yeah, it’s only 35 and its sad for me because I’m a medium format whore. (both laugh) But its… I’m impressed.
And they’re not that expensive either!
No they’re not! They’re $200 and when they were brand new they were $3,000! And all the technology that Kodak put into these scanners, its impressive. You can get a pretty decent 8x10 size scans . You take your film to Costco and get it developed for a $1.00 come back and in 5 minutes you have mind blowing scans. It’s totally worth it.
Is it easy to use? Cause I have an Epson V700 and it’s a pain to scan.
Its super easy to use. It runs like a bulk load scanner on a Frontier. You feed it in one end and it runs it through. It basically runs a continuous scan of the whole roll, then cuts them out. Does it all by itself in the software. And the skin tones… I was skeptical when we first got it because its so small. It’s smaller than a flatbed. It’s… hold on a second (goes and grabs his Pakon and shows it on screen)
That’s it. It just feeds through here and rolls it out over here. And its 5 minutes. Its fast.
5 minutes a roll?
Yeah. For a roll of 36, 5 minutes. You know Michael Ash Smith?
He was here visiting us and he was the one who sold us on it. He has two of them. He said they are amazing and cheap. You need to get one before everyone else gets one and the prices go up! (both laugh) Apparently some company just found some in a warehouse somewhere and refurbished them and are now selling them. The only issue we have with it is that it only runs on a Windows XP system. We have it on our Mac…
With the dual OS systems…
That’s what we’re doing. And its working perfectly. We’re really surprised by it. And it has digital ICE, dust free… it’s incredible.
Sorry, I’m just going on-line and buying one now. (both laugh)
You should! You should do it right now. I will add you to that Facebook group. I’m going to do it right now. (both laugh) Well it’s funny because we got added to the group by Michael and its hilarious to see who’s already in there. (both laugh) Because we got added in and we’re like “Oh hi everyone! I see this is a big secret group here!” (both laugh)
So how do you see your business growing over the next few years?
When I got in the business I wasn’t expecting to shoot weddings. Then I started shooting film and realized I can shoot a wedding how I wanted to. And the best day of my life was that I could turn people down… tell a client that “You know, you’re not the client for me. Let me introduce you to someone who you’ll mesh with better.” And it was a freeing moment and it made me come to really love weddings. Not only do I love weddings because there’s so much emotion to capture in one day and you’re doing so many different types of photography in one event… it’s fun. And I have a great time doing it. And maybe it’s because I’m lucky to have had the clients I’ve had. They’ve just been really genuine fun people to work with. And I’m just hoping to grow that bigger and to do more work. I mean I’d love to expand to do more editorial or fashion/product photography. But if I were to continue only to do weddings, I’d be totally happy. I really enjoy it and the people I’ve met doing wedding photography and the friends I’ve made in this little corner of film and wedding photography is great.
What have you done to grow your business over the last several years? Because you hear a lot of photographers have trouble getting started and get clients.
Getting the clients I wanted has been the biggest nightmare of my business experience. And I’m not sure if its because photographers don’t want to give you the nitty gritty details in fear of you stealing clients, which I think is a myth of itself. But I’ve never been to workshop that tells you “This is how you get clients.” I could tell people all day long how I get my clients but as I’ve found, every photography business is different and what works for me may not work for you. And what’s worked for other people hasn’t worked for me. The biggest thing I’ve done to really grow my business is to become friends with other photographers. It sounds counterintuitive (both laugh), but its not. And this is why… you get out there, you start meeting people and start talking to people. You become friends with people and when somebody gets double booked, they’re far more likely to refer this client, who’s awesome and wants to work with them, to a friend. Because they know you, they know your photography and they know you’re good. They don’t’ want to send this person to some random photographer down the street. And I think that’s one of the most overlooked thing is we’re not, as photographers, disconnected. We’re very much in this little world, especially in wedding photography. And you can’t … I can’t say you can’t do it because there are people who’ve done it (both laugh)… but I think it’s harder to be that lone wolf. You need to make friends. You need to get to know other photographers in your area, even out of your area. You need to know planners, florists, anyone. You not only need to know them, but you need to become friends with them. You need to find the people you get along with and work with them. And that’s the biggest help because when these people get jobs and they need someone to help them out on it, they’re going to call you. I feel like people overlook that and I’m not sure if people want to keep all the jobs to themselves or not. I get that times are hard sometimes and it all becomes about money. But I feel in the long run, if you’re a genuine person, and you’re genuinely putting yourself out there and be friendly and be kind to other people, it comes back to you. I mean not purposely doing it and hope it comes back to you, but just become friends with people. It’s a nicer way of saying “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” It is what it is, but if you’re doing that with friends, you’re happier doing it.
Do you second shoot with any photographers?
No, I only recently started second shooting. I’ve only second shot with Ashley Kelemen and that’s it. I think that only has to do with the fact that we work really well together. Our photography is very similar but our vision is very much the same… how we work with clients and our attitude towards an event or business. Our first time working together was seamless. And it was the first time I’ve been in a situation in a wedding where we could both say “You get this, I’ll get that.” And we were totally ok with it because we knew it’d turn out ok. So three years in and I’ve only really done any second shooting and its probably another mistake on my part. (both laugh) More second shooting! (both laugh) I do it more for the enjoyment to hanging out with people I get along with. Second shooting doesn’t pay really well but its just fun to get out especially when you don’t have something on the calendar. And second shooting is stress free. (both laugh)
Have you done a lot of workshops besides FIND?
I’ve done a few but probably the best workshop I did besides FIND was the Film Show and that ended up being something none of us expected.
How was that experience like?
It was amazing. It really was. When it came up and Ryan Muirhead told me about it… the fortunate thing is I live in an area where so amazing photographers are within arm’s reach and I’ve been lucky enough to become really good friends with a lot of them. When Ryan told me about the Film Show and they were opening it up for guests and assistant producers he told me it’d be 10 days in Vegas, it was going to be him and Tia, Tanja, Jan and Jonas. I was like that is beyond any workshop! I mean I spent the same amount of money on FIND as I did on the Film Show. And the Film Show was 10 days. When I looked at it that way… it was a no brainer. And I was going to spend 10 days in Vegas with some really cool people. I mean I’d pay that money just to hang out with them! But we’re actually going to do some fun stuff. I was in from the get go… I was probably the first one to sign up. (both laugh) We got down there and it became much more of a personal experience than a workshop. We all really connected. It’s crazy to think we had 19 people down there and all of us got along. We all stayed friends. We stay connected through social media and talk all the time. I mean these are people from all over the world. And it was a really great and personal experience. And so not like a workshop! (both laugh) It became people talk about what makes them tick and being genuine people and living a genuine life instead of trying to be the next great photographer. If you just try to be the best version of you, that will happen. People gravitate to others who are good people. If you’re just striving to be a good person and do the best work you can do, people will want to work with you. And it’s been true. A lot of us has been surprised at how many doors have opened just from changing an attitude of what we’re putting out there and changing our perspective on our own art and not criticizing ourselves too much. It was a really interesting 10 days. It was a blast. We laughed and cried… it was almost like a 10 day therapy session to be honest. And it was so worth it.
I got lucky enough to assist Jonas when they did the wedding so that was insane. I followed Jonas’ work for like forever and out of all the hosts going down there I was like I love everyone but I don’t know what I’d get with Jonas. (both laugh) From his on-line presence sometimes…. You get down there and meet him and he’s so humble, so nice. He’s very straight forward and tells it like it is. And I respect that. I would much rather someone tell me like it is than sugar coat it. Unfortunately on line that can get misconstrued as self-centered… but he’s such a nice guy. And working with him is amazing because to see the way he processes an event. Him shooting an event blew my mind because he’ll take a picture, but he’ll never focus on that picture more than he needs to. He’ll take the picture and then he’s off looking around for the next shot. He’s not just waiting for something to happen but he’s looking for something to happen. That was really amazing, to see him and all of them, work. They had 5 photographers shooting that wedding and everyone had a different style and different way of working. And it was really cool to see and how they brought all that together.
Do you know if they’ll do a third season?
I’m not sure. But it has been interesting to watch it. I watched the first two episodes and didn’t watch it for a long time afterwards because it was so different from my experience. The way that it was edited, not that it was bad, but our experience was so personal that seeing in on the screen is not as connecting with us. And I feel that other people who went have the same feeling. I like the show and they do a good job. I hope they do another year and would love to be involved somehow.
When you watch the show, that’s the show. But sometimes the more interesting stuff happens behind the scenes or are edited out.
They have parts of the behind the scenes things, but now its behind a log in, which is sad because part of the reason I think Season 1 did so well was because it was so personal but also had a lot of education. For this season, I think it lacked a little bit of the education and that’s the part they put behind the login where you now have to pay for. When you go behind the login, there’s the one they put on YouTube which is the one hour show, and behind the login there’s the director’s cut and those ones are seriously like two and a half hours long because it has the show they put out plus all the teaching and education. And I really wished they hadn’t done that because I feel like that’ll lose them some viewers. Yes, people like Ryan and all the hosts but they go there to learn as well. And if you take away that ability, and I understand they need to make money, but they need to figure out a way to do that without hurting their viewership. I’ve read through the comments and many said that this season was lacking in education. There was a lot of emotion there, but lacking in education and the education pieces were behind the login and that was sad. If they had run it more like Creative Live where if you see it live, its free and if you want to see it again, you’ll have to pay for it. And if they had advertised it like that, I think people would’ve been ok with that. And they never really advertised the videos behind the login piece.
Yeah, this is the first time I’ve heard of the login/ paywall.
So you have to go to the Frame Network site to see all that. And I don’t feel like they did a good job in putting it out there and people were blindsided by that. If they had advertised it better, it would’ve been better accepted.
Have you thought of teaching a workshop yourself?
I don’t know. It’s really hard to say Yes because I feel like I have so many ideas to add to workshops that are lacking and I have a notebook of things written down that if I ever have a workshop, these are things I’ll include. Unless you’re trying to copy someone, everyone has their own nuances and I think you can teach a workshop that talks about finding your vision and voice and also gives you the nuts and bolts on how to do that… like telling you how long it took me to find the exact black and white formula because it fits my work. (both laugh) You go through a year to test different developers and film that you finally find a blend you like. I think that’s harder to teach people because its not like tying a tiny little bow and saying “Perfect.” It’s a process.
And that’s the thing… a lot of it is experimenting and trial and error. And people don’t want to put in the time and money and effort. They just want someone to tell them you should shoot this camera, this film and use this lab. And that’s it. That’s how its done.
I’d love to open up a lab. I think that it could be done so much cheaper than it is. I think the cost of developing and scanning is much less… I feel like a lot of labs are just taking advantage because they can. There are some smaller labs that are opening up but people are still generally using Indie, FIND and Richards (Richard Photo Lab). There’s not a huge price different between Richards and FIND. Indie offers a cheaper version but its not corrected. I just feel like, especially if we’re wanting a community of film photographers to grow, we need to offer a viable, cheaper alternative for that to happen. People aren’t going to shoot film at the prices they have to pay. The only reason I was able to shoot film for three years up until now, now that I can afford to do it, is that I worked at the lab and I could do it myself. If I had not had that, it wouldn’t have happened. There are people who would shoot film if they could. And that’s another one of those dreams I see down the road. I would love to open a lab just for the sole fact of creating a community where people can come do it themselves, learn how to do it, or send us film to do it cheaper. I’ve thought about different price points for professional grade stuff and for people just starting out. But I don’t want it to have a huge difference in quality. When you’re learning you still want good quality product and don’t want to get your film back and be all crap then think you’re a crap photographer. That’s another one of those pipe dreams. (both laugh)
Hey, several years ago you had a dream of wanting to be a professional photographer and here you are!
Yeah! It’s one of those things that I’m lucky to have people around me who believe in me and believe in the stuff I do that to the point where I can say tomorrow “We should do this.” And they would say yes. Its just finding the money to get the materials to do it.
The next phase in your career!
Yeah. I love scanning and the process. I don’t mind running a lab but I’m a photographer first. I have people in my life who want to run a lab as well, but I want to have that option for people to use and not spend their life savings trying to shoot film. (both laugh)
Ok, last question… Any tips for people that want to get into photography full time?
Don’t give up. That’s the biggest thing, that people give up too early. People get into the business and get frustrated that things aren’t going taking off. Or they get stressed out and stretched too thin or take on more than they can. The biggest reason why people fail in art and especially in the photography business is they give up on it too soon. People look at photography and think its such a glamorous idea that it would be so much fun to do. But once they start doing it, they realize it’s a lot more work than they thought it was. There are a lot of people that burn out from that. I think there are some people who are meant to be photographers and some that are not. If you put in the work and time and just try to put yourself out there and do the best work you can, people will notice. The waiting phase for people to notice you is the toughest part because as artists we like to have people notice us. That’s the one piece of advice I got and its suck with me. It’s not easy and very hard to be a professional but don’t give up on it.
* You can find Ryan on the internets at the following:
Ryan’s Facebook Page
Ryan’s Other Instagram
Ryan’s Yet Another Instagram!