Turning Photography Passion into a Business

Sandy Hageness
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BOTTINEAU– December 8, 2021 - Lacey Grade always knew she wanted to be a photographer, but it took a push from her grandmother to set her in the right direction. She got the education she needed for her career through the photography program at Dakota College at Bottineau (DCB), but not before a brief detour.

Lacey graduated from DCB with an AAS degree in photography in 2018, along with a minor in small business management.

“I started taking photos back in the early 2000s, when I was in elementary school in Spring Creek, Nevada,” said Lacey. “I signed up for an after-school photo club and used a Fujifilm Quicksnap disposable camera. You could buy those everywhere, and you’d just point, shoot, and hope for the best.”

By the time she was in high school she had upgraded to a digital camera, a gift from her parents. Even though she had a passion for photography, she decided to take a few years off after graduating from high school in Harvey, North Dakota. “I had no doubt about what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to do it. So I worked full time in a grocery store to save some money and explore my options for college. After five years, I had not only built up my savings, but also met Gustav Grade, the love of my life. He encouraged me to follow my dreams.” 

Today, Lacey Grade Photography is thriving in Martin, North Dakota. She’s proud of following in her father's footsteps as a successful business owner.

A conversation with her grandmother, Bonnie Faul, about a newspaper article set her on the path to make her dream come true. “I was always looking at photos with my grandmother. We’d go through old family pictures, laugh, and talk about when and where they were taken. The pictures told the story of our family, and I wanted to do that for other families.” One afternoon, her grandmother showed her a newspaper article about the photography program at Dakota College at Bottineau. “She knew change was always hard for me, so she really encouraged me. She insisted that I look into it. So I went online and did my research. When I decided the program was for me, I went straight to grandmother’s house to tell her I was applying. She was so proud and happy for me.” 

Unfortunately, Lacey’s grandmother didn’t live to see her enroll at DCB. “She died in June 2016, just a few months before I started college. I was devastated. She was so excited for me and looking forward to seeing what images I would create. It was hard to accept that she wouldn’t be taking that journey with me.”

At DCB, Lacey’s classes included marketing and business in addition to photography. “When I started at DCB, in spite of all the photos I’d taken over the years, I really didn’t know how to properly use a digital camera. I was 23 and starting over with my education. Now with every photo shoot, I can hear my instructor in my head helping me apply all of the skills I learned throughout the program, and it just comes naturally.”

Lacey graduated from DCB with an AAS degree in photography in 2018, along with a minor in small business management.

Lacey graduated from DCB with an AAS degree in photography in 2018, along with a minor in small business management. “On the day of graduation, I wore a button with my grandmother’s photo in it, to let her know that I was walking across that stage because of her. I know she is smiling and that I have made her proud, and I will continue to do so.”

Today, Lacey Grade Photography is thriving in Martin, North Dakota. She’s proud of following in her father's footsteps as a successful business owner. “One of the great things about photography is you can do it anywhere. That’s important when you live in a small town. You do the marketing, reach out, and start producing work that clients love. My clients are amazing and I've been shown so much more love and support than I could have ever imagined for my small business.” Her passion for her work is evident in every photo session. “I want to capture important moments. When I started losing people close to me, I realized that a picture is a moment in time that cannot be taken away from me. Pictures will always be there even when the memories fade.” 

Lacey has some advice for other aspiring photographers. “I would tell anyone in high school that if they love being able to create and capture a moment, go to DCB. I love the people and the environment. It’s the best program in the state.”