Ryan Armbrust – Master of Lifestyle Photography

Ryan ArmbrustHi Ryan! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a self-taught, Louisville Kentucky based editorial photographer and a bit of a “Good-Time” Charlie. I collect Pez and Mr. Potato Heads. I actually have a whole room dedicated to my toy collection! I have a huge Rat Fink tattoo on my arm. Oh yeah, and I like to shoot people!

What is your favorite style of photography?

I would have to say classic pinup is my favorite genre of photography. Concert Photography is a close second. Explain what makes you an expert in the “Lifestyle Portrait” compared to other photojournalists. I have a studio, but shooting portraits of kids and families is just such a waist in that type of setting. I always try to snap my portraits on location. I mean, if a client wants studio portraits, I’ll do it. But be warned, I’m going to make you do some really stupid stuff to make it interesting!

Normally, I’ll figure out if there is a place that has some sort of special meaning to the client. I’ve snapped family portraits on the steps of 200 year old family farm houses, an ice cream shop that had been in the family for 70 years and an ice hockey rink. I also really like to shoot people in abandoned buildings. I love the look of a polished subject that has been dropped into a chaotic scene like an abandoned building.

What are you packing…photographic equipment wise?

I’m a Nikon man! I’m shooting with a pair of D700’s and a D300. All of my lights are Alien Bee. I’m also a full-on Apple Fanboy! I kinda hate to even touch a PC.

“Internationally Published Photojournalist” is one hell of an awesome title. What are some of the overseas publications you’ve been published in?

Oddly enough, my very first “Big Time” publication was in a model railroad magazine. I snapped a bunch of pics of a guy’s train layout and ended up getting the cover as well as 20-ish pics inside. My latest project was a book titled “Churchill Downs, Americas Most Historic Racetrack” by author Kimberly Gatto. Both cover images are shots I captured at the Kentucky Derby a few years ago. I also have over 30 pics inside the book. This interview can’t go any farther without hearing about your works for horse racing.

Ryan Armbrust - Kentucky DerbyYour imagery from the Churchill Downs is awesome! What race events have you done work for?

Since I live in Louisville, I kinda HAVE to shoot the Kentucky Derby. I’ve shot the Derby every year for the past 7 years. My coverage starts a few weeks before Derby on the “backside” of the track shooting morning workouts at sunrise every day. The day before the Kentucky Derby, The Kentucky Oaks race is ran. This has gotten to be about as big as the Derby it seems. My 2 weeks of coverage concludes with the Running of the Kentucky Derby. It’s a pretty intense feeling to be kneeling on the racetrack 20 feet from the horses when they run past. The ground shakes! I hope to cover The Breeders Cup as well.

Are you works for Churchill Downs published anywhere we can find them?

Sure! Churchill Downs, Americas Most Historic Racetrack just hit bookstores this past month. Author Kimberly Gatto contacted me about using a few of my Derby shots for the book. I sent her to the “Archive” section of my website so she could look through all of my Churchill Downs shots. I ended up with the majority of the images in the book, including the cover! I also have images published in various local newspapers and magazines. If you are sitting in your cubical, bored to death at work one day, visit my website. to view more of my Derby pics.

Ryan Armbrust - Kentucky Derby InfieldWhat was it like covering the Kentucky Derby Infield? I’ve heard it’s a wild party.

WOW! Where else can you watch grown men run across the roofs of port-o-pots while the crowd tries to knock them off by throwing beer bottles at them while people mud wrestle while girls flash the crowd?! Seriously! I think Louisville’s Hunter S. Thompson said it best “That whole thing will be jammed with people; fifty thousand or so, and most of them staggering drunk. It’s a fantastic scene–thousands of people fainting, crying, copulating, trampling each other, and fighting with broken whiskey bottles.”

Every InField story starts out with “This guy was so drunk…”. This year was great for drunk watching. I was assigned the InField by our local newspaper, The Courier Journal. 5″ of rain was in the weather forecast for Derby Day! In the past, whenever it rains people tend to make even BIGGER asses of themselves. This year was no exception. I HAVE THE PICS TO PROVE IT!

Ryan Armbrust - Kentucky Derby Infield Mudd WrestlingRyan Armbrust - Kentucky Derby Infield DrinkingRyan Armbrust - Kentucky Derby Infield IndiansRyan Armbrust - Kentucky Derby Infield Fight

Tell me about it! The action shot you caught of a fight there is bad ass.

Tell us about your background and experience with the Kentucky Cancer Program & Brown Cancer Center’s Faces of Cancer project.

Unfortunately, I know first hand about the Faces of Cancer. 3 years ago I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Since then I managed to make cancer my Bitch! I was approached as a photographer to snap the photos for the Brown Cancer Center’s project BEFORE they knew I was a fellow cancer survivor. I think the fact that everyone I was shooting knew I had been through the same thing as them helped me get great photos of each person. It was a fantastic project, and I’m glad I was a part of it.

I’m sure I speak for everyone reading this when I say, “You are an inspiration.” Beating cancer is no small feat, and giving back after makes you nothing less than a hero in this reader’s eyes. Sincerely, Thank You.

Ryan Armbrust - AC/DC AngusOn a lighter note, here at, we are obsessed with music…as I’m sure you can tell. You have done some awesome live photography work for bands such as “AC/DC” and “Bare Naked Ladies.” How do you get such great shots in the middle of a massively packed concert venue?

It’s simple! I am 6’4″ tall and 360 pounds! Crowds aren’t a problem. What IS a problem are the security folks. I normally set things up with the promoter before the show. Some artists require that you be on assignment in order to shoot the show. I do a lot of freelance work for the local newspaper and get sent out to concerts from time to time. I also try to establish good relationships with the venues. Not being an ass and staying in the background helps with this.

Dude, you get those shots freelancing without a press pass? That’s impressive.

Ok, personal favorite. Looking through your works, I came upon a fantastic Halloween set. Please tell us about shooting at the Baxter Morgue. Do you like creating “creepy” imagery?

Ah yes! That was a very fun shoot! The Baxter Ave. Morgue is right across the street from my studio in Louisville Kentucky. I shot the morgue on assignment for the local newspaper. The whole time I was there I was thinking about how I wanted to do a model shoot there! Halloween week, I contacted the owner. He gave us full run of the place during the day before it opened. I set up my lighting in a few areas a grabbed some shots. The interesting part was that in order to have the house lighting effects on for the shots, we also had to have all the haunts turned on as well. Every time we would hit a pressure switch or trip a motion sensor, stuff jumped out and scared the hell out of the models and my crew!

Ryan Armbrust - Drive-in Pin-Up ShootLet’s talk Pin-Ups. What is

Boudoir Louisville started out as my fun little side project. I wanted to re-create some of the great 50’s pinup images. I set up a few shoots with friends and started blogging about the shoots. I INSTANTLY started receiving inquiries. I decided to split the pinup and boudoir stuff from my main Sniper Photo website. Then I opened a 1300 square foot studio in the hipster “Highlands” area of Louisville Kentucky. I started Boudoir Louisville 18 months ago and have been busy snapping pinups ever since. We shot over 40 girls in the month of November! It really does make a great Christmas gift! Actually, there really is not a bad time to receive a book full of pinup pics…

How do you choose the props and outfits for your pin-up and boudoir scenes?

Since the girls are all such different sizes, I leave the clothing up to them. Have you ever tried shopping for women’s clothing? WAY to confusing… For props, I hit the local antique malls and such. All of my props are antique, none of those crappy knock-offs!

Probably best for the models to feel comfortable in their own choices for posing. Do you have to be an accomplished model to have a Boudoir or Pin-Up shoot with you, or can anyone be a classically sexy model?

The majority of girls booking sessions with Boudoir Louisville are not models. Most of my boudoir and pinup clients are looking for a unique gift to give to their special someone. What’s more unique than a coffee table book of pinup photos of yourself?!

Being a pinup photographer, I do shoot professional pinup models as well. A few months ago I shot a set with Go Go Amy and Bettina May. They were in town touring with their “Pretty Things Peepshow”. Last week I shot Catherine Jones at a great retro Drive In movie theater. Dita Von Teese and Bernie Dexter, if you gals are reading this, give me a call!

Ryan Armbrust - Pin-Up Motorcycle ShootRyan Armbrust - Pin-Up Records Shoot

Ryan Armbrust - Mini GagaWhat has been your most memorable Pin-Up shoot to date?

I had an interesting shoot with Mini Gaga a few weeks ago. She travels the country with a Lady Gaga stage act. She was also the lead singer of Mini Kiss. That was definitely memorable.

Do you accept booking for other private events? How can we book you for a shoot?

For sure! To book a boudoir or pinup session, visit

To book an event, concert, press photos or portraits, visit

You shoot children!!! Bahaha. With cameras, duh. What’s your favorite thing about photographing kids?

Kids are honest! They are not trying to be anything or anyone different than who they REALLY are.

What is the funniest thing a kiddie has done during one of your shoots?

For some sick reason, I always like when kids start fighting. Always photo-gold!

Haha. Good old sibling rivalry. Is there anything coming up for you that we should keep an eye out for?

I kinda just make all of this up as I go! I do have a bunch of layouts that should be hitting various pinup magazines in the coming months though.

With the quality of your work, that’s not a small thing man. Where can our readers find your work when it comes up?

Now that’s a link list! Lol. Make some shout-outs man! Spread the love.

The gang at Pinup Lifestyle,

Lisa Hornung at the Velocity.

My Pinup crew, Scooter, Britt and Tina Models Catherine Jones and Neisha Marie for putting up with my wacky ideas.

Author, Kimberly Gatto

Thank You Ryan Armbrust for this awesome interview, and keep up the great work!

Interview by Timothy Bonner

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