Anyone who has been to an After Dark or a Light Pro has met Dinger! With over 25 years in the Photography business, Mike Ridinger has seen it all. In 1999 he teamed up with Jessica Stone…(well…he actually married her.. it was cheaper) and she quickly took over the business side. With Mike’s talent and her knack for making money, they have grown their business to a very comfortable size. They use aggressive marketing, constantly educating themselves and are always moving forward. In 2009 they opened a childrens studio two doors down, targeted at the sears client, and to give their own clients an option for 3 times a year. Mike believes traditional posing and lighting is a must to stay in business. Creativity is the side effect of confidence in what you are doing.
“My philosophy is simple. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it”s all small stuff. Also.. if what someone else is doing is totally rockin.. steal it! “ If you’re thinking about coming to another After Dark Event remember, there is way too much stuff going on to even get a third if it in one shot. Plus, as you learn, your desire for learning grows and changes. Things that weren’t important at one will be at another. Plus, going to AD is a lot like visiting family.. you know.. the ones you really like. You develope relationships with people that are where you want to be.. Plus, I’ve learned that to be successful you surround yourself with success. If you’ve never been to After Dark Before remember, come with an open mind.. look past what you already know.. Before you get to Ad.. do your homework. Go to the photographers websites. Look at their work on FB. Find what you want to learn. Seek out the ones that you want to learn from. After the session.. ask questions. Some of the coolest moments at After Dark are those that are after a shoot.. just sitting around and talking.
How did you get started in the business? Who helped/guided/mentored you?
I got started in 1981 by buying an Olympus 35mm. I was hooked. I read every book the library had on photography. I bought books. Then came video tapes and I bought everything I could get my hands on. I still have that personal library to this day. In 1982 I met Ron Henry (Black Rapid) and we started giving ourselves assignments. We are still close friends to this day. I never had a mentor as I started. It wasn’t until 7-8 ears ago I started meeting other photographers and becoming friends. They became my mentors so to speak. My ah-ha moments still come to me, and I always remember that we are like doctors.. always learning and improving. Always striving to be the best. In my town, I am top dog. It was so much easier to be 2nd or 3rd.. trying to pull #1 down. Now, I am always on the pedistal trying to not fall, a balancing act… 50 sets of newbie hands pulling at me. With out sucking up, Dave Junion has been a major influence in our business. After several trips to his studio and seeing how he works, his studio and his philosophy, our business took a major leap forward. I would also add Jen Hillenga to the list.. she has taught me that emotion rules.. For inspiration, mostly anyone who totally disreguards the rules and makes it rock.
How many After Dark Events have you attended and what’s your favorite moment?
I have had the privelidge to mentor at all of the After Darks except for the Charlotte one. My bad. Hands down the very first one in Austin. We were working with bands that time. The first night, a band started playing a melody. Then.. a band next to them chimed in.. and then a third.. and then the whole room with several bands being photographed al;l began playing the same adlibbed music. It was absolutey electric.
Why is education important to you? How long have you been teaching? What made you get into teaching? What do you get out of being a mentor?
Education for me is like being a Dr. There is always something new.. better. Technology moves so fast that you have to stay on top of it. I don’t want to go to a Dr. that no longer studies.. or learns the newest techniques. I have been teaching for 7-8 years now. I got into it for the most basic of reasons. I was asked. And I found I had a knack for it.I lso learned that I learn as much by teaching.
What are the top 5 skills you’ll be teaching at After Dark?
- Connecting with a Client
- Customer Service
- Canon Shooter
- Canon 5dll with a 70-200 2.8, a 5d with an 85 1.2, and a 5d for my 16-35 or 28-70… 3-580′s with radio poppers, several black rapid straps and my expo-disc. I use a camera stand in studio and tripod outside for about 60-70% of my work
- I own a 6000 sq ft studio that has two standard camera rooms plus two existing light camera rooms. i am in the heart of downtown so I have urban locations everywhere. There are several areas that have trees and weeds that look like they are out of town within 2 minutes of the studio. I travel up to 30 miles regularly.
Majority of Business:
- This last couple of years our cheese has moved.. again. We saw it happen with the wedding side.. we currently only shoot 5 weddings a year.. first come.. So we beefed up our children and senior markets. Now, that senior market is taking a huge hit from all the fauxtographers out there. To make up for it, we again concentrated on children and added a heavy emphasis on families. We have also in the past 4 years been building up our sport and event business.
- In studio I use Photogenics and Larson. Period. I have my original Larson Starfish that I bought in the 80′s still in daily use, and still white. I usually shot alone, but on some sessions I bring an assistant with me, but to do so steals him from the computer room.