PENN YAN — Mark Griffin photographed his first wedding in 1988, but it wasn’t until seven years later that he made a career-changing decision.
“In 1995, I said, ‘I think I can do this as a business,” Griffin said. “I got more serious into the weddings and the portrait photos.”
So Griffin started Photography At Your Service, which he runs out of his home studio and office on Vine Road near Penn Yan. Nearly 25 years later, his focus has shifted to portraits, specialized sports photos and an increased interest in drone photography.
And, he still is in demand.
“I’ve sort of backed away from the weddings. There is too much involved with it for me at this point. I’ve done my wedding gig,” Griffin said with a smile. “I still do weddings for friends or people I’ve had as customers over the years, but I am not actively seeking them out.”
Griffin, a 1977 Penn Yan Academy graduate, became interested in photography as a teen when he started using his father’s 35mm Argus film camera. He started taking pictures of his classmates for the school yearbook and realized he had the eye and timing to capture images at the height of the action.
“I also realized that I liked to take ‘people pictures’ in order to capture their soul and emotion,” he said. “Mostly self-taught, I continued to take classes for specialty purposes like darkroom work and the business aspects of wedding and portrait photography.”
Griffin took classes at Finger Lakes Community College and went to seminars and workshops by professional photographers. Before the era of digital cameras, he honed his darkroom ability on his own and at the Chronicle-Express newspaper in Penn Yan, where he developed film shot by reporters.
“I’ve processed thousands of feet of film,” he said.
Before starting Photography At Your Service, Griffin worked for his father’s feed business, HK Griffin & Sons, and was a corrections officer at the Yates County Jail.
Behind the camera, Griffin transitioned to digital as the genre gained steam.
“I went from small, 35mm cameras to medium format, then larger-style cameras with big lenses and big bodies. That allowed you to make bigger pictures and have better control over the film,” he said. “As we changed from medium format into digital, I was kind of doing both for awhile because digital certainly wasn’t as good as it is now. Now, it’s just digital. I miss film, but digital allows us to make things or do things (on computer) that we were never able to do with film.”
Adorning the walls of Griffin’s office are some of his favorite photos, including many that have won awards. Among them is a 2002 portrait of a cat, titled “Golden Eyes,” that won the Court of Honor award from the Professional Photographers Society of New York.
Griffin is well known locally for taking team and individual photos for sports, including shots that appear on schedules for Penn Yan athletic teams. His wife, Mariann, helps on the business side.
“We do team and individual pictures for high school, but we also do it for the younger athletes for football, baseball, lacrosse, so the parents have a reminder of what their kids looked like in sports from the fourth or fifth grade right up to when they graduate,” he said.
Griffin also does family portraits, high school senior pictures and glamor-type photos for young ladies, including those interested in modeling.
He is experimenting with drone photography too.
“I like having the drone up there and seeings things from a different perspective,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to understand how the video works and how the drone works. I am looking to get more proficient in that. I don’t really look at it as playing. I have more of a specific purpose. I have been down on the lake (Keuka) while it was frozen over and videotaped the ice boats flying down the lake, or people ice fishing out there. That was kind of cool.”