“I never expected my video to blow up:” photographer finds video fame on TikTok


Courtesy of Riley Curtis

Photographer Riley Curtis takes a photo. Curtis’s photography gained popularity on the app TikTok.

Rebecca Parker, A&C Reporter

What started as a high school hobby brought App State junior Riley Curtis nearly 4,000 new followers on TikTok and 400 on Instagram. 

“I told myself I’d never make a video, but I started seeing photography TikToks and thought it might be a cool way to get my pictures out,” Curtis said. 

Curtis posted his first TikTok, which included photos of Boone, in July. Within hours his video was shared hundreds of times, racking up 107,400 views. 

“I never expected my video to blow up,” Curtis said. “I posted the video before work and I came back to 60 new followers on Instagram and people messaging me to do senior photos. I was surprised, and that’s what motivated me to keep doing them.” 

After the success of his first video, Curtis posted more, each getting similar responses. 

Curtis’ interest in photography began while looking through family photos, and he has been teaching himself how to take pictures since he was a senior. Curtis found himself inspired by pictures his grandfather took and decided he wanted to carry on the craft. 

“I needed a new hobby towards the end of high school, so I asked for a camera and I started taking pictures for fun,” Curtis said. 

His work got a lot of positive feedback from friends and family, which inspired Curtis to keep taking pictures. 

Curtis’ Instagram features dozens of photos he’s taken of Boone and surrounding areas. Most of his pictures are landscapes taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

His roommate Drew Neill says the process is not an easy one. Neill has accompanied Curtis to photoshoots and seen his process first hand.

“He’s very committed to it,” Neill said. “One time we were at Linville Falls and it was 15 degrees outside, and Riley spent an hour trying to focus on this one fern. He sees things as a photographer that I would never think of.”  

Although his following has grown and people from all over have seen his pictures, Curtis has not let it change him, according to his girlfriend, Reiley Baker. 

“He never really lets on how much work he puts into his photography,” Baker said. 

While photography is one of Curtis’ passions, he feels that if he is forced to do it every day he could fall out of love with it. He hopes to keep photography a weekend pastime while he pursues a career in pediatric mental health counseling.  

Curtis doesn’t plan to continue with TikTok, but he plans to keep his Instagram and website updated. 

 “I want to use my Instagram and the website as a way to make sure my friends and family can see my photos,” Curtis said.