Students make photography their future

BOTTINEAU Dakota College at Bottineau photography students are learning more than just how to take a good photograph. They’re also learning how to make money with their photography in a program that is one of a handful of its type in the United States.

Beth Nordmark, a student in the photography program from Souris, said she is interested in one day running her own photography business and Dakota College’s program is helping her get off to the right start.

Nordmark currently works in health care, but said photography is a creative outlet. Enrolling in a college course also gave her the opportunity to learn quickly and in a concentrated fashion. While she could try to teach herself some of the skills, it is faster and easier to be part of a college photography program.

“By being in the program, I can learn quicker and the time is already designated for certain tasks,” said Nordmark. “I don’t have to direct my own self study.”

Nordmark has attended classes while also continuing to work.

Student Natosha Lund, who is from Bottineau, said she’s also interested in one day owning her own photography studio.

“That’s why I love this program so much because it teaches you everything you need to know about the business aspect,” said Lund.

Students can either enroll in a one-year certificate program or pursue a two year associate degree. Those enrolled in the degree program take general education courses that are geared toward students who might one day be professional photographers, such as public speaking, basic writing, desktop publishing and web design. All are classes that will give students a better chance at making a living in the industry.

They also take different photography classes, some eight week classes and some full semester classes. Among the classes are introduction to photography, outdoor photography, portrait photography, commercial photojournalism, business portfolio and an introduction to lighting class. Students will also do a photo practicum that will take them out into the community.

Students spend much of their time out in the field taking photographs. Earlier this fall, program head Clint Saunders had the students photograph duck banding. They also take wildlife and landscape photography at sites such as Lake Metigoshe and the surrounding Turtle Mountains.

Photography students also take photographs for Dakota College at Bottineau’s marketing department, which is featured in college publications and on the college website.

Nordmark’s portrait of Saunders has already been published in an international magazine. Saunders placed third in The Chelsea International Fine Art Competition sponsored by Agnea Gallery in New York City. His work and Nordmark’s photo of him will be in the November issue of ARTisSpectrum, an international art magazine.

“I’m loving it,” said Saunders, who launched the program this fall at the college. “I’m giddy every day. This is the best job. I get to combine everything I love, photography, art and teaching and I get to do them all in one job.”

Saunders is a professional photographer who once operated a photography studio in Valley City and also has worked in photojournalism. He travels to different states for photography work and is also commuting between Bottineau and Wyoming, where his family still lives.

Saunders said the business aspect of the program is one of the things that makes it unique. Students come up with a business plan and learn how to run a photography business, as well as learning about different art forms. Throughout their college career, they will photograph landscapes, wildlife, rustic scenes such as old barns or dilapidated buildings, and learn how to take senior pictures and family portraits.

“My main focus is portraits,” said Lund, who is interested in taking senior pictures and family portraits. “That’s what I love.”

That’s also one of the areas where photographers can be successful, said Saunders, who said it is still possible for good photographers to make a living in the business.

Because digital cameras are so readily available, people may think that professional photographers are no longer needed, said Saunders, but that isn’t the case. While people may have a good camera, they probably don’t know how to operate the camera or how to how to frame a subject or how to use studio lighting.

Good photography isn’t always about having a good camera, he said, but it is all about the skill of the photographer.

“I’ve seen phenomenal stuff done with a home-made camera,” said Saunders.

Lund said she’s appreciated learning how to fix and retouch photos, which she didn’t know how to do before.

There are currently six majors in the program.

“We’re having a great time,” said Saunders. “They’re really good students, really active, they work their butts off. They’re putting out phenomenal work.”