1. Tell us about yourself.
I have been a commercial photographer for 30 years graduating from Brooks Institute of photography in 1991. My studio is located in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
2. How did you discover your love for photography?
I discovered my love for photography at age 6 when my mom gave me an old 110 camera. (For all of you spring chickens out there that was a Kodak camera introduced in 1972 with a miniscule negative of just 13x17 mm that created grainy prints, only to be outdone in the horrible print category by the disc camera introduced 10 years later by Kodak with a measly 8x10.5 mm negative.) I was hooked when we picked up my first roll of film a week later at the local Fotomat and at age 7 stepped up the game acquiring the coveted 126 camera. When I thought it couldn’t get much better, Santa brought me a Canon AE-1 at age 8. That year I also got my enlarger and converted my shared bathroom with my two older sisters to a makeshift darkroom. Long before YouTube I was self taught and probably shortened my life span significantly by using stop bath undiluted straight out of the bottle.
Due to my sisters round the clock protest, my dad converted an old bike shed into a darkroom and I spent my junior high and high school years shooting for the school newspaper. Standing only 4’9” as a freshman, the jocks of the school were my built in body guards because they knew without protecting me from bullies, their photos would never grace the pages of the school paper or yearbook. Sitting on two phone books just to see over the steering wheel at age 16, I was also frequently pulled over by the police who mistook me for an 8 year old out on a joy ride. This jarring introduction to the law two minutes after leaving the DMV solo on my 16th birthday set the foundation for photojournalism for many years going on police ride-alongs. (Sidebar….Fortunately I grew super late freshman year in college, now I’m 6 foot even and I have two teenage daughters who wish they weren’t so tall!)
My last year at Brooks Institute I interned for a photographer by the name of Dean Collins down in San Diego and it was my first exposure to Broncolor. The flash duration, the Hazylight and the ability to control the lighting in 1/10s of stops blew me away. At the time it was far too expensive to afford but I thought some day if I was successful enough I could make the jump.
In the summer of 1991 I came back to Rancho Cucamonga to run a one hour photo my dad put in the inside of his gas station in the late 80’s. The business model harkened back to the drive thru Fotomat of the 70s but people could return just one hour later to pick up their prints and get a full tank of gas as well. (We also had a small portrait studio inside the gas station. Hard to get the higher end clientele though at this fancy place of business.) As time progressed I processed a lot of film for corporate accounts who were not good photographers. I often offered them advice of how they could improve their photographs but 9 times out of 10 they would just ask me how much I would charge to shoot their products instead. Gradually I started taking product photos, converting my condominium garage into a small studio. The problem was the homeowners association banned any business being run out of the condos and the president of the board lived right next door to me. He was quite cranky about my defiance of the cc&rs. He presented his betamax night recording of my 4x5 16 pop strobe f22 capture to the board in March of 1994. He gleefully forced me to shut down my studio operation at the condo and I moved to my studio I have been at now for the past 26 years!
- 3. What inspires you and your work?
I love looking at Instagram. It’s my go to of everything photography and definitely keeps me humble. There is so much amazing work out there! I also recently got hooked on Karl Taylor and this guy named Urs Recher. Maybe you guys have heard of them? ;) Oh and real story….my food stylist mentioned a few years back that her brother does some portrait work. “Oh, great” I said. “What’s his name?” I asked. She said it was Dan. Dan Winters….have you heard of him? My jaw hit the floor! There is so much raw talent out there and I firmly believe you can never stop learning from others. Also we need to tell photographers more that we learn from our mistakes and that old cliché that practice makes perfect. Rob Winner, an instructor at Brooks once said the only difference between him and his students is that he had made more mistakes. So true! (I’m well on my way to finishing my book of all the photography mistakes I have made. I’ll share with you guys sometime if you want a really good laugh.)
- 4. Why did you choose Broncolor?
I chose Broncolor because of the minute and precise control, the rock solid durability and build quality, the constant Kelvin temperature throughout all flash durations, and the Para light modifiers.
- 5. What is your favorite Broncolor tool?
Hands down the Para 222 with the Ringflash C. I can get such a diversity of gorgeous light from this parabolic reflector. (Would love to try out the Picolite and the Fresnel spot and also the Picobox for more precise control for small product photography. Hint hint.)
- 6. How would you describe your lighting style?
I try to make all my shots look naturally lit with one main light source. Getting texture is paramount but also achieving realistic colors of the products for reproduction. Again Broncolor’s consistent color temperature is stellar.
- 7. Where can people find more of your work?
My work can be found at ryanbeckphoto.com and @ryanbeckphoto on Instagram.