We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I think most small business owners struggle to find a work/life balance that works. I’m no different! Over the years, my work/life balance has changed dramatically. When I first started photographing weddings, couples, families and portraits, I did it part time. I was the editor of three small, community newspapers. At the same time, my family was growing. My wife and I have three boys ages 5, 8 and eleven. But they were really little at the time. Toddlers and babies! Suffice it to say, life was busy. After a day at the papers, I made it home by dinner, which was followed by baths, stories and bedtime. Then my wife and I needed time together.
My photography work was relegated to the late night hours. It worked for ta time, but as I gained clients and became more and more busy, work and life were intermingling quite a bit. You know, editing photos while watching a movie. Probably not the best way to go for either of those activities! You would think the work/life balance became easier when I decided to go full time with my photography, but it’s a continuing struggle. The first thing I changed was to set more standard working hours – more 9 to 5. Finishing work at the end of the day and transitioning to family time is important. Creating a dedicated work space was important as well. Closing the door was a signal I was looking for uninterrupted work time.
Another challenge is actually being around the house too much! It took some time for my wife and me to figure out how to stay out of each other’s way. Everyone needs a little space! With most weddings taking place on the weekend, it’s easy to forget to take days off. We’re programmed to take time off on the weekend – it’s harder to make yourself take a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday off. When my youngest was two-years-old, we had a stint heading out on mid-week morning trips to Sedona for a hike. Excellent downtime.
Over time, my work/life balance has become more fluid. And with the pandemic, it has become even more so. For the most part, the fluidity suits me. I no longer have a dedicated office. It became a room for one of my three boys. I have a desk in my bedroom, but I transitioned to a laptop computer and move around the house to work. We’re homeschooling the kids so I’m in and out of working and schooling. It’s a new challenge for sure. Sometimes my wife would like me to schedule my time in more consistent blocks so she has a better understanding of when it’s work time versus school or family time.
But, most of the time, I like jumping in and out of work. It creates built in perspective on what I’m working on. Like most things in life, communication is the key. That’s definitely at the top of the list of things to keep working on if you want a healthy relationship with your partner. And a successful business.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I characterize myself overall as a portrait photographer. Much of my work is as a wedding photographer. I photograph lots of couples and also photograph a lot of families. I love photos with people in them. I’m always looking to capture what I think of as “real moments.” People being people. Interacting with each other. The famous photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson talked about capturing the “decisive moment.” I like that a lot.
Along with my photojournalistic approach to a wedding day, I believe it’s really important to make some beautiful portraits of the couple that bring out their love for each other along with their personality. I get excited when I know I’ve captured their true spirits in a photograph that will last generations (assuming it gets printed…).
I’m always looking for a creative take on a standard portrait and a way to incorporate the environment or surroundings in a photo. If I can do this in the “decisive moment” I’ve got a compelling photo on my hands. Becoming a successful photographer is a slow process and an educational journey. I’m a self taught photographer.
At this point in history, there is so much knowledge floating around in the world. You just have to gather it up and then practice, practice, practice. I keep learning lessons. Small ones on every shoot. The biggest lesson I keep learning is to slow down. It really applies to almost everything in life, but in photography it really pays off. Take your time and wait for something special to happen in front of the camera. At the root of it all, I’m a story teller. The best photographs tell little stories and a set of photographs creates a narrative out of a series of events.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m looking forward to seeing friends and having visits after the pandemic! I love living in Flagstaff for so many reasons. One is it’s proximity to so many amazing outdoor spots. The grand canyon is obviously not to be missed. There are so many amazing spots in Sedona to explore. The Navajo Nation is right next door as is Hopi. So much culture to learn about! The Museum of Northern Arizona is amazing. Downtown Flagstaff is full of fantastic restaurants. It’s hard to single one or two out. You can eat and drink all week and not repeat yourself.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m a self taught photographer. That’s how I learn best. That being said, my success is largely due to the support of my wife Jessica. She has always believed in me and my desire to do what I love. And she has an unwavering belief in my ability to succeed.
All photos: Ryan Williams Photography