Contributor Spotlight: Ryan Longnecker.

Ryan Longnecker is an LA-based photographer, Creative Director, and Adobe Stock Premium Contributor known for his painterly travel and aerial photography. We spoke with Ryan about his career in photography, involvement with Adobe Stock, and in line with February’s Visual Trend, his fascination with drones.

AS: Can you tell about your background and how you got started in photography?

Ryan Longnecker: I grew up in the mountains, so I always had an appreciation for art and beauty. In high school joined an after school photography club and learned about the darkroom process, but to be honest, I never really took to it after that. I was more interested in the outdoors. I got my undergraduate degree in music. I picked up the camera again in my senior year, as the yearbook photographer.

AS: How did you go from a degree in music to a professional photographer?

RL: After graduation, my friend (another music grad) and I started a wedding photography business. A lot of our friends were getting married at that time, so it was a good fit for us. I did that for seven years, but decided that field of photography wasn’t what I was passionate about. After some reflection and listening to other creative colleagues suggest I pursue the things I was passionate about, I started focusing on landscape and travel photography.

Former clients who knew that I was switching gears to do landscape work gave me a few of my first assignments, but it was slow at first. 2016 was a year of learning, and now I’m more confident and excited to work with brands and companies who’s passions fit well with mine.

Aerial photo of a pier by Ryan Longnecker.

AS: Is there an overall theme that ties all of your images together? 

RL: My overall narrative is that this world and the people in it are beautiful, and the more you look for beauty, the more you will see it. I try not to manufacture stories, but instead I try to look for what story is unfolding in front of me and tell that as genuinely as possible.

AS: What sets your images apart from other landscape photographers?

RL: Hmm… maybe my work is more punchy or vibrant than the other outdoor editing styles I see a lot of. Outdoor photography definitely has a popular and widely successful look right now – it’s moody, grainy and faded. I’ve been tempted to go with that style because I see how consistently successful it is, but there are some who are passionate about and good at that style, I am neither. The kind of responses that I get to my images is that they have a unique and interesting tonality. I try to see a frame from a more painterly palette, which I attribute to my art background.

AS: Where do you look for inspiration?

RL: Whenever I get into a creative rut, I look to entirely other forms of art. I look at the work of calligraphers, artists and illustrators – things that my brain doesn’t understand or know how to create – and try to pull new ideas from that fascination and confusion.

A photo of a mountain by Ryan Longnecker.

AS: Why did you decide to contribute to Adobe Stock’s Premium collection?

RL: Adobe Stock reached out to my friend Ben Sasso, and he was cool enough to recommended me. I wanted to find a reputable and valuable platform for my work and there’s no more reputable name in the creative field than Adobe. When I was at Adobe MAX last year, I saw how central Adobe Stock is to the company, and I’m excited to be a part of that.

AS: How does contributing to Adobe Stock complement your portfolio?

RL: Other than Instagram, I didn’t have a place to share and catalog my images. I didn’t want to just throw them out there because I attach value to my work, and I want to have in a place where people will appreciate it. In the Premium collection, my work sits next to some of the best photographers in the world, so I’m in very good company.

An aerial photo of an outdoor carnival by Ryan Longnecker.

AS: How did you get into drone photography?

RL: A couple of the most respected landscape photographers were posting aerial images taken from helicopters. As drones became more readily available, they started posting drone images. When I saw how affordable they were, and the types of amazing imagery they produced and needed to participate so I picked one up. I spent a week playing around with it in the mountains and I knew immediately I’d be doing a lot more with drones.

AS: How do drones allow you to be creative or experiment in ways you weren’t able to before?

RL: It opened up a part of my creative process that had faded a little. Because it was totally new to me, I was more experimental and playful. It felt like the initial fascination I had with cameras and learning something every time I went out to shoot.

Of course the ability to see from above adds a whole new dimension to perspective. It amazes me to see how drones are being used now for composition. A 3D image becomes 2D, so you have to think carefully about lines, color, shapes, and composition. So it allows me to look at it from a more canvas point of view.AS: Have you ever crashed your drone?

RL: A couple of times, actually! Once over a frozen lake in the middle of winter, and another time into the side of a hill in the middle of an event. But luckily I’ve never crashed one to it’s death… so that’s good.

An aerial photo of a highway landscape by Ryan Longnecker.

What was the biggest challenge of getting into drone photography?

RL: The flying part was actually not that hard to get the hang of. For me the challenge was figuring out how to tell a story through this new medium.

AS: What advice would you like to part on photographers who are just getting started?

RL: There are a lot of competitive and cynical attitudes towards newcomers or amateurs that deter people from wanting to make or share art. We need to be encouraging each other, and understand that everyone is entering this world for various reasons and at different times. Try everything out and give everyone a shot to figure out their creative process.

An aerial photo of people on a beach by Ryan Longnecker.

See more of Ryan’s aerial photography Adobe Stock’s Premium collection and find out his top tips for getting started with drones here.