Ryan Schude | Interview

Currently residing in Los Angeles, California, Ryan Schude is a photographer with an ambition for high creative quality and excellent narrative in his images.

As with Brooke Shaden, Schude’s photographs are unique in the sense that each one represents his own style he has stamped in the creative field of photography – think big, bright, wonderful, ecstatic and adventurous.

The staged narratives and the personal portraits are modern masterpieces of the photographic world. Schude’s photographs often involve him working with numerous people to create a highly dynamic and intrinsic environment; with most of the larger scenes taking up to eight hours to prepare and shoot.

With a dedicated ambition and his flurry of ideas, Ryan Schude is a photographer we will be seeing a lot more of over the next few years.


Ryan Schude’s youth centred around sports, rather than the traditional art and creative scene. Whilst studying in business school, Schude joined a photo club and began shooting for a newspaper as a hobby.

“After graduating, I knew immediately I wasn’t going to apply for any jobs in the business world. I took a year at the San Francisco Art Institute to try out some photo classes since I had never had any formally.”

Utilising the world of freelance photography, Schude eventually moved to San Diego to work at a magazine, but three years later the business went under. So, packing up his things he moved to Los Angeles to “start all over” and since then has built up a professional portfolio and hasn’t pursued any other art forms since.

“(While in LA) I assisted for a couple of years and worked in a rental house before building an entirely new portfolio and shooting full time. It’s been about five years now since then and I haven’t seriously pursued any other art forms but have become a champion at dining out.”


When asked about his different photography techniques, Schude says it’s about building the narrative.

“My initial intention was to shoot an interior of a diner focused on a couple breaking up. They were to be in the foreground, looking down at their food and not saying anything. In the background I wanted to contrast with a waitress spilling a plate of food all over a family. With this rough idea I began scouting locations.”

“Once I found one I liked, the physical layout changed the story drastically. Now we were going to shoot an exterior from far away and the focus was going to be equally on the waitress spilling the food, and the couple, except the male part of the couple was going to be outside holding flowers in an attempt to rekindle the relationship.”

“Also, an entire high school marching band was littered around the diner as an added visual element due to the roadside nature of this particular diner. They were stopping for a bite before starting their long trek home after the game. Kids are rebelling in front, making out, smoking dope, etc.

“The good kids in back are reading and hanging out by the van ready to leave like they’re supposed to. This happens a lot with the story’s development. There is a rough framework and the location almost always inspires new plot points.”

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“The style of lighting always plays a part in what you are communicating. It is not uncommon for photographers to rip reference photos from magazines and simply tell their assistants to create that mood.”

“I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily since the vision is more important than the technical knowledge needed to carry that out. That said, we are assuming the photographer has the budget to hire a valuable enough assistant to create that light.”

“The benefit of knowing how to do it yourself is that many times there is no budget and so you are either physically putting the lights up or at least able to explain to a less knowledgeable person exactly how to put them up.”


Schude’s collection of photographs can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. A snapshot in time provides the viewer a glimpse into the mind of the creative.

“Generally the bigger scenes take about 6-8 hours to light and two to shoot. This is only out of necessity, since most of them were done out of pocket, time was an issue.”

“I would much prefer a full day to pre-light and then save the shooting for the next day. As for what I enjoy most about the process, it would have to be the discovery discussed a few questions back. If you knew exactly what was going to happen every time, it would probably get boring.”

"Cupcake Crop" - Ryan Schude

Can you tell us the idea behind the photograph above? Did the plan for the shoot deviate in any way?

Hah, we couldn’t have planned that segue any better. That started out as a portrait of those two girls very formally posing for the camera with big smiles. The cupcakes were a visual element we knew we were going to use but not in what capacity. After we started placing them everywhere, the idea of them just posing with them didn’t make sense. I had them position themselves as awkward as possible to give a sense of ambiguity to the scene. It ended up reading mostly as a sugar overdose which I am sure they were a lot less happy with than I was.

Do you have any advice for an aspiring photographer who wants to further their career in the advertising/fine art field?

My approach has been to make only work I want to make and try not to treat my personal work as a way to get commercial jobs. These lines continue to blur further and further and I might be doing myself a disservice by not ultimately committing to one world or the other but I don’t feel like I am compromising and that is important.


If you had one chance to speak to a very large group of people, what would you say?

I hate speaking in public so I would avoid that all costs. How about, don’t be afraid, don’t be lazy, have fun.

If you were given the opportunity to have coffee and chat with a notable person, such as a famous photographer, writer or actor; who would it be and why? 

J.D. Salinger seems like he would be interesting but probably not the best company in person. Roald Dahl might be a more practical version while still keeping it weird. I don’t read biographies so I really don’t know much about either of them other than I’ve read most of their work and draw a lot of inspiration from it. I’ve currently been watching a lot of Louie C.K., he’d have to be a riot to hang out with.

In conclusion if you could summarise your entire collection of work and what you do in under a sentence, what would it say?

Staged, narrative, tableaux.

If you’d like to view more of Ryan’s work you can view his website at www.ryanschude.com. Interview composed by Tanysha Bolger.