South Dakota Professional Photographers Association: Members in Action

Today, I headed down to Jeff Viere’s studio in Sioux Falls for the SDPPA’s Members in Action program. I brought the projector and screen for Cheryl Elbers to use. Unfortunately the projector didn’t play well with the Mac computers during the program. We adapted and moved on.

I am enjoying the start of my year as president of the SDPPA. I’ve been on the state board for several years now. We have had a great group over the past few years. The photographers on the board may be my competition for weddings, seniors and families, but they are my friends first. Our state organization is full of wonderful photographers. We respect our peers. We help each other out. We push one another to get better.

Thanks to Pam Karlen, Todd Buckstead, Elaine Steen and to the Melbys for all of the advice over the past few weeks as I’ve tried to figure everything out for this next year.

Elijah picking out pictures this morning

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Mike and Amy from Pierre brought Elijah for his 9 month pictures this morning. Elijah was wonderful to work with. He’s just about ready to take off walking on his own.

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Elijah was really into looking at himself on the screen. Every time Dad tried to sit down Elijah would throw a fit. Bring Elijah close to the screen and he would laugh and giggle.

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Mom and Dad are going to be thrilled when they get their pictures.

South Dakota Children Photography: Colter & Brayden


Valentine makeover pictures

We started getting phone calls from California this morning asking about the Valentine makeover sessions that they saw on Fox 11. I was confused at first and then at caller number 4, I was able to ask enough questions to figure out what was going on. Norma Blaque has studio in California and was featured on the morning show, Good day LA, with a story done by reporter Gina Silva.  This piece showed ladies getting makeovers for Glamor Shots type of images. Our web traffic today was off the hook thanks to this story. Everyone heard the studio’s website as when in reality it was

You can check out the story from Fox 11 here:

South Dakota Baby Photography: Karstyn

Karstyn is already 9 months old. We have enjoyed every opportunity to watch her grow. As you can see she is very entertaining.






















Thank you neighbors!

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We owe a huge THANK YOU to our neighbors. Randy Carper and Denny Powell have made getting around Rutland possible. While Randy takes care of Main Street and the school, Denny has pushed snow away from the studio and alley. Without Denny, I’d be shoveling next summer.

Our piles around town and the studio are getting bigger. We still have plenty of room to park.

The cold has been brutal, but take heart: it’s supposed to warm up next week!

KJAM/Community Center Fitness Challenge: Join the Black Studios’ Team

Send your scale results to every week.


Merry Christmas from Black Studios – Rutland South Dakota

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We are taking a break from the photography studio and spending time with family. It looks as if we are staying home this Christmas because of the impending snow storm that is forecast to drop up to a foot and a half of the white stuff on Sioux Falls SD and surrounding area. We finished delivery of wedding pictures on Tuesday and senior rave books on Wednesday.

We picked up the last presents yesterday while shopping in Madison and visiting family. Getting around is a little easier this winter with our very used 1988 Ford F250 4 wheel drive pickup. The first thing we did yesterday was to lock in the front hubs and put it into 4 wheel drive. The 460 cu. in. engine eats gas but we had no trouble on the icy roads. We refilled one of the gas tanks this morning. Seven miles to the gallon was the result. I hope we don’t have to use it too often.

The kids were out playing in the snow already. I didn’t know that shoveling snow could be so much fun.

Merry Christmas!

The studio in Fall color

The Church where Black Studios is located

We love the Fall with the changing leaves and the golden hues of Harvest.  Here is an image of our studio taken from just NW of Rutland. Yes, the church is our studio. Where is the rest of Rutland? Behind those trees.

So who does all this work anyway?

Melissa is our studio coordinator. It’s her job to keep us organized and on task.

Melissa does way more than answer the phone and keep track of orders. She makes sense out of the chaos, freeing us up to do our jobs.

You can see Melissa’s talent in the recent senior video slideshows. She does a great job of putting them together and makes us look good.

So many times in life we rush about and don’t take the time to voice our appreciation for others as much as we should. Thanks Melissa for all you do for us.

Here is Melissa with Chad and their little guy Wyatt.


Here’s Melissa!


A new voice is answering the phone these days.

Melissa started yesterday as our new studio coordinator. She’ll be in training over the next few months as we gear up for another busy senior season. We want to dramatically increase the number of senior sessions available this summer so that means getting more efficient – that’s Melissa’s part: keeping us organized so that we can reach our goal and deliver better personal service than ever before.

Good bye Ralph


Today, photographers, friends and family gathered to say good bye to Ralph Richter in Watertown.

Ralph was a mentor and friend to so many of us professional photographers. We owe him a debt of gratitude because he raised the standard.

Last year, Ralph was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the SDPPA.

At his retirement party held on March 1st of this year, Ralph held court one last time and blessed us with one last slideshow.

Good bye my friend.

Down the road


We went to Albert Lea, MN this week and gave a program about our studio and projection sales to the Cornbelt PPA Guild.

It was fun showing other photographers some of fix up project that we’ve done to the studio the past few years…like the removal of the old cement steps and the replacement of the front door.

Again, it seems that winter will never leave: we drove most of the way home from Albert Lea in snow.

The dumpster came!



We’ve been wanting to redo/cleanup the basement for a very long time, but it’s one of those projects that gets put off until you have no choice. Justin has been pushing us to get a dumpster all winter so he could start at it.

OK Justin, it’s here. Go for it.

Unfortunely we can’t turn Justin loose without a little direction. Everything that we didn’t have a place for upstairs, went into the basement…for the last 13 years. We have a few things to go through.

Justin made significant headway on Saturday afternoon, knocking down the old wallboard. All of this has to go up the steps and out the back door to the dumpster. This is where the old stove sat. It was huge: two full-size ovens, 6 burners and a griddle on top.

After Justin clears out everything, we’ll have another 1400-1500 square feet to play with. We will be building a few sets with a warehouse feel to it for seniors.

The stove in the basement


It only took us 13 years, but we finally removed the old church stove from the basement. Today we realized why we had not taken it out sooner.

Justin and Hailey came this afternoon to help Mike with the great basement cleanup project. We got rid of old cupboards first. The stove was next. It was HEAVY…really heavy. The stove made it halfway up the stairway before getting stuck. We finally loaded it on the trailer for the trip to the recycler. Note the cool rust textures.

The old fuel oil tank went away too.

So we will be working off and on over the next few weeks to finish cleaning the basement and start on building our new sets for senior sessions this summer.

Pat Prostrollo honored


Tonight’s edition of the Madison Daily Leader had the back page honoring Pat Prostrollo of Madison as Dealer of the Year by Time magazine. Pat came to our studio a while back for a business portrait – the same image that was used in the Madison paper.

Congratulation’s Pat.

On the road


Today we headed south of Hurley to Todd Buckstead’s studio for a training session on our new album creation software. Todd has a very cool studio in a barn. Everything inside is very nice. It’s very cool to see an old building repurposed instead of tore down.

After going 80 miles south in the morning, we headed the opposite direction in the late afternoon. We gave a program at the Southwest Minnesota Photographers Guild in Marshall. We spoke on senior marketing. It’s always fun to share with other photographers.

Trade Show


One of the best parts of photography seminars and conventions is the trade show.

Vendors show off the lastest products from labs, sotware companies, camera makers and background designers.

We made some acquisitions that will make us much more efficient this year.

NL Winter Seminar


The NL Winter Seminar started out today.

Mike Fulton taught us the basics of high speed sync, infrared triggered, off camera flash with Nikon and Canon camera systems.

Chad Phillips and I played around during Ron Jacobson’s program on creativity.

Selling by projection


Selling by projection is a hot-button topic among photographers.

Traditionally, photographers have used proofs to sell their images to customers. The era of the film photographer is mostly dead and gone. We don’t have to wait any more for the film to be developed and the proofs to come back from the lab. Digital capture has changed everything and has added new options.

We’ve been selling by projection only for 4 years for everything except weddings. Most sales occur right after we finish taking pictures. We shoot, download and sell all in one session. This allows us for you to pick out your images right away saving you valuable time. With children’s sessions, we let the kids play with the toys while Mom and Dad review the images. Many times we do a second set of images as the kids relax and become more comfortable. For reunions, everyone can pick out their favorites right away, order their prints and write the check. We regularly to our projector and laptop out of the studio for onlocation family reunions.

With seniors, we pretouch all of the images before the sale so we do schedule a separate session for viewing the images.

The actual process is simple. We go through the images and get rid of the obvious bad pictures and then we put them up side by side to compare. In very little time, we help you get it down to the very best of each pose. We also can create composite images for wall portraits right away.


One week to Mike Fulton!


I just wanted to remind all the photographers that read the blog that we are only one week away from the NL Winter Seminar hosted by the SDPPA. I’ll be there organizing everything for the speaker and handling A/V needs.

Besides Mike Fulton, we have Ron Jacobson with a program on creativity.

You’ll find the registration form on the SDPPA website.

Trade show and registration start next sunday March 9th at 10 am at the Sioux Falls Downtown Holiday Inn. THe seminar contiues all day sunday and ends monday afternoon at 3 pm.

Happy Leap Day!


Happy Leap Day everyone!

We spent the day moving furniture for family for an auction sale. So much stuff in such a small house.

We have a small addition to announce.

Melissa will be joining our studio crew next week. She’s going to keep us organized, focused and allow us to spend more time with the kids. Work smarter not harder.

You might have seen Melissa behind the counter at Campbell Supply. We are excited to have her work for us.

Where is Rutland?


“Where is Rutland?” is a question we heard over and over today at the All Occasions Bridal Show in Sioux Falls.

Rutland is 45 minutes northwest of Sioux Falls, lying between Madison and Brookings.

It isn’t surprising that most people haven’t heard of Rutland.

Rutland is 2 blocks by 3 blocks…not counting the streets that were abandoned long ago. Population jumps when school is in session. Yes, we do have a K-12 school, but we are so small that we don’t have a bar.

We do have a convenience store that sells gas and diesel fuel. You can even get pizza and a pop there as well. The store serves as the gathering place for all of the locals: retired and just tired. It can get pretty deep in there at times and discussions about politics can be heated.

The store is run by the students of the school. A teacher serves as a parttime manager. Business students learn hands-on lessons in capitalism.

Rutland is really like stepping back in time. Green Acres and Red Green are not far off the mark. Kids here are more like kids were 30 or 40 years ago in behavior. If you haven’t lived here 4 generations, your are a newcomer. We’ve lived here almost 15 years and there are still people that walk into the store who are greeted by everyone else, yet we haven’t a clue who they are.

So how do you get to Rutland?

It’s not really that hard, but people who drive all over Sioux Falls without any problem seem to lose their sense of direction once they leave the interstate. Rule #1 – Mapquest is wrong. For whatever reason, Mapquest has Rutland a few miles off. Google Maps has Black Studios somewhere in Wentworth. We can’t figure out how to fix that one.

So to get to Rutland, you need to get off I-29 at the Flandreau exit. GO west 2 miles until you hit the stop sign. Turn right and go north 2 miles. Look for the little green sign that says “Rutland 9 miles”. Turn left and go west 9 miles. Here is where it gets tricky. You have to keep on your toes and look for Rutland after those 9 miles west because Rutalnd is still a right turn and half a mile up a county road. It’s small enough that you could easily drive by on the road half a mile to the south and nevery even know there was a Rutland to be seen. To make it easier to find, the county highway department posted signs “Rutland 1/2 mile”. Unfortunately the signage is so small you have to be looking for them to even notice.

Once you finally find Rutland, you’ll quickly notice that the Rambler Stop convenience store sits on one end of main street anf the school sits at the other end. Head toward the school and to the north just 1/2 a block up 2nd street sits the old Lake Park Church now home to Black Studios (for the last 13 years).

When you come into the studio, please park along the street to the west and enter into the west side door below the steeple.

We welcome visitors, but we are open by appointment only so please call before you come. We might be here and then we might not.

From us to you…


Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season.

We’ve had an incredible 2007 thanks to you, our customers. Our business has grown and prospered. The holiday rush is almost over.

There is still time to get your New Year’s cards done and mailed out this January. Call us for an appointment.

Keep checking the blog for our New Year’s specials…”Playtime” is coming back.

What are we working on?


It’s crunch time at the studio. We’ve framed everything that needs framing. We’re cranking out the albums on the computer. Thanksgiving is almost here.

I thought I’d give you a taste of one of our senior albums. This is a two page spread of Zach’s Rave Book.

We love this time of year and being busy. This year’s Christmas deadline isn’t Thanksgiving or even the first of December. We can push it until the week before Christmas. If we can get you in the studio and photographed by the 17th, we should be able to fill your order. Any later than that, we can try, but it might not get delivered in time for Christmas.

So what do we like the best about the holidays?

When everyone has their orders and we can spend time with our wonderful kids. The pressure is off.

And we get to sleep in…

Look at the belltower now!



We’ve been waiting to finish the belltower for a few years now. We should’ve had it done when we shingled the main part of the church, but hindsight is always 20/20.

We found a willing contractor finally and through the assistance of a 50 ft. lift, we were able to get the belltower painted and the roof edges shingled.

It’s quite the dramatic change in looks.

There’s still three louvers to put in and some tinwork to repair where the bell used to sit, but the hard part is over.

Mike helped the contractor put in the new louvers yesterday. Lumber dimensions have changed slightly since 1892. The new boards we slightly thicker, so a little beveling had to be done…40 ft off the ground and Mike is scared of heights.

So the belltower looks great but the tin on the steeple now looks a little sad. That will have to wait for another day.

So we had a real blizzard!

3-05-07_NDX_1177rideAfter 3 days of blizzard/winter storm, we were ready to get out and have some fun on Saturday. Things didn’t go exactly according to plan, but we had a good time with “Blizzard Party 2007”. We saw a bunch of snowmobiles at the Rambler Stop. The chili ran out by 1:30. The wind was still blowing 20-35 mph and it was cold, but the sun was out.

The Maher family came with a fleet of sleds. RaeLynn gave Dacey and Rachel a quick ride. They were all smiles and holding on tight.

Blizzard Party!

2-28-07 NDX_2028BLOGIf you’re like Kyle, a senior from Madison, you are loving the weather lately. To celebrate we are having a Blizzard Party at the Rambler Stop in Rutland on Saturday March 3rd from 10am to 2 pm. We’ll have chili cooking and a pair of new sleds courtesy of Interlakes Sport Center in Madison for pictures. If you want to bring your own sled we’ll do some action shots.

We have been busy this past month with things we don’t always get to do the rest of the year: spending time with our extended family and starting to plan out the new year.

We have a backlog of images to post and specials to tell you about.

Glory Lost

1-25-07_DSC_9943-1Today’s image is a PPA Competition Print from last year. Although it did not score an 80 or above to deserve a merit, I think that it is very distinctive anyway.

Last year’s Oldham-Ramona-Rutland Raiders had an incredible season, but had the bad luck of facing Arlington in the Regional Finals. The Raiders were ahead of the soon to be State B champion Arlington team in the second quarter, but the lead did not last. Senior Shane Morris ended his high school basketball career with a loss that night.