by Stefanie Ray

Get to know the photographers at Tim Ray Photography! Here is an interview with a professional photographer and his family who have been in the full time profession of photography for 30 years.

Well hello to you and thanks for joining us and reading our blog!  We hope that we can help you in any way we can to plan your wedding or photograph you in another capacity.  We would love to introduce ourselves!  We are a small, family-owned photography business in the Fairmont, West Virginia area. We have been in the full time wedding photography for 30 years having photographed over 1000 weddings. We also photograph family portraits, senior portraits, professional events, headshots, campaign photography, as well as many other genres of professional photography.

We would love to introduce ourselves! Firstly, the most important person at Tim Ray Photography is Tim Ray!  He is the brain and the brawn of Tim Ray Photography.  He is dad, the head honcho, husband, partner, son, teacher, and our church pastor.  We wears many hats around here.  We would be quite lost without him.  I think we will keep him!  Actually, we will treasure him all of our days.  He is much admired and adored.  

Tim, Stefanie, Josie, Emily and Maisy

Historically, who is Tim Ray?

At first, Tim began photography right out of high school as a hobby.  Out of the hobby grew an occupation as he became known for the quality of his work.  His first client was someone he had known in high school.  She knew he was a very good hobbyist and asked him to photograph her wedding.  Tim happily agreed to photograph her wedding free of charge.  Since the portraits were so good, her family ordered from him.  From his first photography “job”, he earned $900.  That was a lot of money for a young man right out of high school.

Around this time in Tim’s life, he realized he would not be able to attend college as many of his friends in high school had done.  His mother came down with severe and debilitating form of rheumatoid arthritis in a day when there was not many treatments for it.  Additionally his dad was one of the last survivors of polio before the vaccine was discovered. The polio left his father, who was a full time minister, with only one functioning leg.  Rather than going to college to be an engineer as he had dreamed, Tim would have to stay home and care for his ailing parents.  Not only was he good at photography, but this occupation would allow him to stay home and care for his elderly and infirm parents, as well as help them pastor their church of which his father was the senior pastor.

Tim realized he needed to have some better equipment if he was going to start his own business.  Since he was a boy, he and his mother collected baseball cards as a hobby.  Tim looked through his thousands of cards and found some very valuable ones.  He was able to raise $7000 to purchase his first professional camera, an RZ67 medium format film camera (which still works beautifully today – film cameras of that day were made like tanks as opposed to digital cameras which only can take a certain number of “clicks” before they die and go to camera heaven).  He became a full time photographer very quickly as word of mouth spread across West Virginia of how competent and talented he was at photography.  On the side, he was a youth pastor at his dad’s church.

In November 1 of 1991, Tim officially became a full time professional photographer, meaning all of his income comes from his professional skills as a photographer..  Since then, he has photographed over 1000 weddings as a full time professional.  He also has photographed family portraits, campaign photography, commercial photography, senior portrait photography, business photography, elopements, class reunions, various events, wedding proposals and engagement photography.  

Why does Tim love wedding photography?

One of Tim’s favorite types of photography is wedding photography.  He loves wedding work because he feels he is preserving memories for people to enjoy the rest of their lives together.  He genuinely enjoys spending the day with a bride and groom, being a part of the most important day of their lives, getting to know their friends and family and preserving the day for them in portraits. He enjoys the challenge of each wedding venue whether it be church, outdoors, in a resort, barn or field. Through his many years of experience shooting with film, he has learned to see as the camera sees and how to use available light or produce his own light to capture images that have a full depth of field rather than a pasty look from an ill used flash. When the wedding cake is eaten, the dress put away, all that remains is the wonderful relationship and the pictures to show the kids of your wedding, the memories and maybe loved ones already gone.  Portraits are timeless.  They are something to be treasured long past your lifetime.  

What makes Tim’s work different?  What makes him an artist?

Fine art photography is created as carefully as paintings.  With his years as a film photographer prior to going digital, Tim learned to see as the camera sees as a film photographer.  In the world of point and click photographers who just purchased a nice camera, who quickly snap a shot, rely on the camera to adjust the settings automatically, Tim learned his art in an era when the artist had to set the camera using a light meter manually.  In this era, there was no instant feed-back as in the digital camera age.  A photographer of a professional film camera would have to know how the camera works in different circumstances, and had to develop the fine art of understanding available light. When there is not an adequate light source, Tim had to learn how to produce his own light in such a way that the portrait still had a three dimensional look.  He learned through years of experience how to make the camera an extension of a photographer’s own eyes.

What did using film for so many years teach you in your art?

Using film taught Tim how to use available light and when to use a flash.   Tim said, “When I used film, the camera didn’t have any automatic settings.  I had to understand exposure without taking light meter readings.  I had to estimate in my head how the camera would see the picture in all the different locations I would be photographing.”  From a dark poorly lit church with high ceilings, to an outdoor wedding at noon with hard light beating down on the bride and groom, Tim had to learn how to capture the best possible photographs in all different lighting situations without the gratification of being able to look at the view screen on the back of a modern digital camera.  Oftentimes, he really didn’t know what he had captured until he would get the film negatives developed and the lab returned it to him in the mail a few weeks later.

With digital photography, a photographer has instant feedback as to how the picture looks.  An extremely unknowledgeable amateur, can click many photos and hand a disk of un-retouched pictures to a bride.  But in the era prior to digital, a professional  photographer had to pay $3 a click for each image he took at a wedding without really knowing if it was one he could actually deliver to the client.  It cost $3 each picture to develop at his lab.  Because of this, he had to understand what the picture would look like as he snapped it. He did this by studying composition and color harmony.  He had to understand how to take beautiful images directly from his camera without having the luxury of creating them on his computer in post production or simply looking at the back of a view screen of a digital camera.

Who is Stefanie Ray?

Stefanie Ray is the love of Tim’s life, his wife, his partner, the mother of his two children, and the other vital asset to Tim Ray Photography.  She is currently writing this blog post. They both work full time at the family business together as the only employees of this small, family-owned business.  They met in 1998 on July 4th after a long correspondence  on the internet.  They married on June 19, 1999.  Two years later, Josie was born and year after that Emily was born.  

Stefanie has been an assistant photographer over the years and has also been so bold as to photograph a few weddings totally by herself – four to be exact.  She is still available to shoot smaller weddings when Tim is already booked. However, at Tim Ray Photographer, Tim is the main photographer. Stefanie is more comfortable being the image enhancer for all the weddings.  She loves seeing the wedding photographs out of the camera and taking it step further enhancing them on her computer, as well as managing the facebook posts and uploading to the client ordering site, and getting them ready for the client to view.

Stefanie’s passion is music.  She plays the piano, guitar and ukulele. She has bachelor degree in music education from Southeastern Oklahoma State University as well as attended two years at a bible college, Oral Roberts University.  She adores writing music, singing, playing the ukulele, piano and guitar and leading worship in her church. While in college, she traveled across Europe singing in a college choir, has taught private music lessons and led worship for decades.  She also home schools her children full time.  One of her children has a learning disorder.  As a result, for the past ten years, she has been school teacher to her two children, who are currently high school seniors. She is passionate about teaching children with learning disorders having decided to teach her dyslexic child at home for nine years.  Currently not only is she an employee at Tim Ray Photography, but her goals are to be a published author and free lance writer someday.

Who are Tim’s other photographers when I get two photographer coverage?

Tim’s wife, Stefanie, and daughters Josie (19), and Emily (17) have been accompanying Tim in the photography business for many years.  Josie and Emily have been apprenticing as photographers for two years.  Both girls have studied digital photography through their homeschooling classes, and worked on the job with Tim.  They are very talented and are growing in knowledge of the trade.  Many of their photographs have been featured on our Tim Ray Photography facebook page as well as the website.

We hope that you have enjoyed learning more about us and that you will call us and tell us about yourself!  We would love to hear about your plans! Please know that we are not a photography mill. When you hire us, we are the ones who will photograph your wedding, event, portraits, and commercial photography. We do not pass our clients along to a long list of semi-professional photographers, or hobbyist who might get one good picture out of 500 at your wedding. We do not give our weddings out to people who are not qualified to handle all the challenges of photographing a bride on her most important day. We take the utmost care with each client to capture all the lovely details. We have our own photography style that is crisp, artistic, well lit, well composed and unique. When you hire us, you get us!

How has the field of professional photography changed in your years of business and how does that affect the client?

The field of photography as a business has changed drastically with the improvement of cameras, the amazing abilities of the iPhone, the number of people investing in high end photography, and the number of people actually getting married since the 30 years of being in the full time photography business as a professional photographer. Firstly, the quality of digital cameras has greatly improved. An ambitious amateur hobbyist photographer with no experience can buy a nice digital camera, set up a facebook page, come up with an interesting photography business name, and proclaim to all the world of consumers that they are professional photographers. They may never have photographed a wedding in their lives, but because they have a facebook business page, unsuspecting brides hire them for as little as $500 a wedding. Consumers of photography think they are really getting a great deal at hiring a “professional photographer” for $900 and getting a dj too! However, after the wedding is over, and a disk of unretouched wedding photographs is given (if the photographer even shows up to the wedding), the bride may have one nice picture out of 500 images, and no images to hang on the wall because they are all poorly composed or blurry. Other than doing research and asking a few really important questions before hiring a photographer, there is no protection for the client – no quality control. Also, with the wonderful iPhone’s photo editing tools, high school seniors opt to just take a “selfy” rather than hiring a professional portrait photographer.

How can a consumer protect themselves from bad photography at their wedding, portrait session or event?

To protect yourself from having the worst wedding images known to man, ask to see whole weddings from the photographer who will be photographing your wedding to make sure there is quality throughout. Ask to meet the photographer who will be photographing your wedding. Ask how many years he has been photographing weddings. Ask what kind of equipment does he use and does he have backup equipment to use in case. Ask how he would shoot your wedding at the venue you have chosen. Ask who his assistants will be and how much experience they have. Ask to see references from the photographer who will be photographing your wedding. Ask if there is any additional charges for traveling or retouching photographs.

Also, rising in popularity is photography mills. These mills will hire 20 amatuer photographers and dj’s and offer the bride all inclusive wedding packages for $900. The bride will be assigned a photographer on her wedding day. The photographer that gets assigned may be a high school kid or someone who has no photography experience whatsoever. Unbeknownst to the bride, the photo mill may tack on charges after the wedding for retouching, for travel, etc. With all the after charges and after all is said and done, after the wedding, the bride and groom will have spent the same at a photo mill for their final product than they would have spent with a qualified professional photographer who was up front about their final wedding cost. Always get a contract to specify what you will be getting, keep the contract and know what it says after the wedding. If you are a bride hiring a photo mill to photograph your wedding day, ask to see whole weddings from the photographer who will be photographing your wedding. Have his name in a contract that you sign to assure you will be getting the type of photographs that you will treasure. Every photographer is different. Photography is an art form. Monet’s art is different from Van Gogh. Know who you are hiring and love his art. If you hire someone for $900, that is a lot of money for pictures you don’t like.

Choose a photographer whose style you adore. Budget your wedding so that you prioritize what is most important to you – the party, which is temporary, or the photographs, which you will always have. Life belongs in print.

If you would like to call us to photograph your wedding, portraits, high school seniors, commercial photography or event, call us at 304-363-8395. Check out our work on instagram or pinterest, or click here to see our website. Tim Ray Photography.

Click here to read a list of questions you can bring to your wedding photography consultation. Be educated!


Stefanie Ray is a professional photographer, owner and operator along with her husband, Tim Ray, of Tim Ray Photography. She is highly involved in all the color enhancement of the wedding photography. Tim Ray Photography is a family owned and operated business and has been in the wedding photography business for more than 30 years.

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