Interview: Ryan Detzel

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Ryan. I live in Cincinnati Ohio and I’m married to a beautiful woman named Allison. We have a little girl, Ava, who is about to turn 3 years old and we are expecting a new baby within the next couple of weeks. I am a full time pastor on staff with Vineyard Westside Church.

How did you become interested in photography?

I got into photography right alongside my dad. He was always interested in it, but was never able to have a decent camera because we didn’t have the money. One day when I was about 13 or 14, we found a Pentax K1000 with a 50mm lens at a flea market that was labeled $2. The guy told us it was broken and that he didn’t know what was wrong with it. We opened up the back and someone had shoved their finger through the shutter blades. Less than $20 fixed the camera for us and we started experimenting with exposures. We would take day trips around town and shoot anything and everything. Wal-mart processed the film and we provided the creativity. Soon, I would be borrowing that old K1000 and shooting photos at school and with my friends. I was hooked.

What was the first photograph that you remember making an impression on you?

I remember being confused by the images that Man Ray was able to create and I wanted to know more about how to do something like that. This is what caused me to understand that my Wal-mart, 1-hour photo prints weren’t quite in the same realm as other photography.

What were the early steps you took, to grow as a photographer? Are you a self taught photographer or did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes?

I am easily obsessed with things. I’ve always said that if I’m going to be a bear, then I’m going to be a grizzly bear. I go for things all the way. Once the photography bug had bitten me, I applied for a job at a local camera shop and got it when I was just turning sixteen. I would peruse all the cameras and figure out thier ins and outs and what made them unique. During the time I wasn’t waiting on customers, I spent all my time reading photography magazines and books. I love to teach, and to do so I have to be a learner first. I would learn as much as I could about a camera and then I would sell it to people. This gave me a pretty intimate knowledge with the camera equipment itself and once I knew how to do things with a camera from a technical standpoint…I was then able to let the creativity take over.

What sort of equipment do you use? Which is most important or vital? Any favorite lenses? Anything you don’t have that you would like to use?

I’ve used camera equipment from all over the map. Canon, Pentax, Nikon, Mamiya, Bronica, etc.. For now, I am a Nikon guy. Of all the camera equipment, Nikon always seems to make the most sense to me as far as usability goes. I’m currently shooting a Nikon D90 with a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 (which I love), Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye, and Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. As you can see…I’m not picky when it comes to names. I just want good quality stuff and I know that many lenses are crap even when they say Nikon or Canon on them. It all depends on each particular lens. I’m looking to get a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 105mm f/2.8 Micro, both from Nikon.

How do you make your subjects feel relaxed in front of the camera?

I like making people feel comfortable anyways, and as a pastor I’m always working on getting people to let down their gaurd. Usually I try to give people a good amount of personal space and start shooting with the camera at my chest level rather than in front of my face. The real key is shooting something, and then showing the person that you’ve captured them well. This will allow you to shoot with thier confidence.

How do you know when a photo, of yours, is really good?

When I find myself itching to show it to people or blog about it.

Do you ever find yourself in a “photo funk”, and, if so, how do you get out of it?

To be honest, I was in a photo funk for about 3 years where I hardly shot any images at all. I had got to a point where I had ten thousand dollars in photo equipment, and I would shoot images that I loved, and then I would see a better version of the image I had taken on the next month’s photo magazine. It drove me crazy! I started thinking that there was nothing I could “bring” to photography as a whole, so I might as well not even try. Well, once my wife had my little girl…I just couldn’t use the argument anymore. I started shooting photos again, and re-building my collection of equipment after I’d sold everything off.

Best remedy for a photo funk is to be a part of a life worth photographing.


Put on your seatbelt, as I tell you how I discovered Ryan. A long time ago (last year), my wife found this rockin’ blog called, The Pioneer Woman. It covers cooking, photography, homeschooling, and gardening. The author, Ree, invites specialists in their field to contribute, every so often. This dude named “Pastor Ryan” had contributed a bunch of sweet cooking stuff. I poked around and found his own blog, discovering that he’s a real pastor, a photographer, and clearly in love with his wife. I liked him.

Fast forward to today. Ryan’s photography inspires me, no two ways about it. There are many photogs out there that are really good, but don’t inspire me to do more myself. Ryan’s work is really great, but also in the areas that I find desireable. I wanted to shoot what he was shooting. In fact, this past mother’s day, I copied one of his ideas for a gift to my mother and mother-in-law.

Ryan can be found at This is Reverb and occasionally at The Pioneer Woman.