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Photography studio specializes in weddings and senior photos

Silver Light Photography Studio owner and chief photographer John Dresler and his two-person staff (Keri Ezitts and Mark Lynch) are bringing a photojournalistic slant to traditional photo shoots such as weddings and senior photos. This fast-moving evolution in photographic style mirrors the dynamic flow of a career that has endured over time.

"We've had our studio here in the St. Croix Valley for 25 years now," Dresler said.

The photographer moved his studio from downtown Stillwater to Lake Elmo four years ago for the practical reason of obtaining better parking for customers. Another attraction: the business condominium building that Dresler owns along with five other businesses, and which contains his studio, features a large courtyard with an indoor garden and waterfall, which Dresler uses for photo shoots.

"We have plants and flowers all year around," he said.

Dresler entered his field of work as a newspaper reporter and photographer after earning a degree in journalism. He then worked for 3M for 10 years in public relations and photography, after which he opened his own studio out of a long-standing desire to be his own boss.

Dresler has been interested in photography since childhood.

"I had my first darkroom when I was 10 years old," he said.

He is largely self-taught, though he looks to Ansel Adams, Gordon Parks and Edward Weston for inspiration, along with pioneering photographers Stiechen, and Stieglistz, who did their work in the early 1900s and brought photo-realism to the forefront of the profession.

"Most of the great photographers in our industry did their work back in the 20s and 30s. That's when photography had its renaissance, when people (looked at) photography as more than (an effort) to try to capture a smile in a group," Dresler said.

Dresler said his studio is a "mom and pop" operation, "meaning it's family-owned, it's small, and we do all kinds of photography." Photo shoots of weddings; shoots for high school seniors; and a mixed bag of children's photos, family photos and commercial work (for clients such as Toro and 3M) each comprise about one-third of Dresler's business.

Children's photography represents a unique challenge for any photographer because, Dresler said, the children come in excited at the prospect of having their picture taken and often having been instructed to smile and act a certain way by their parents.This kind of preparation and expectation is not conducive to capturing an image of a child's individuality and character, he said, and must be overcome in order for the child to relax and reveal his or her character for the camera.

The "wedding journalism" that is an important part of Dresler's business requires the photographer to make the most of a one-time opportunity to capture a large number of images.

"We try to tell the whole story of the wedding with a whole lot of candid photographs," he said.

During the span of his career, Dresler has seen the number of photos taken at a typical wedding rise from a range of 30-50 images to the present-day average of 300.

"We really try to get the relationships between people attending the wedding," he said.

By the same token, high school senior photos have, for the past 15 years, evolved into more expressive, personality-oriented images.

"We try to capture the way (the subject is) as a person," he said.

The use of props and different outfits helps make this effort a success.

By far the biggest change in photography, however, has been the move toward digital imaging over the past five years, Dresler said.

"The change has come on extremely fast," he said.

Dresler sees this industry-wide move toward digital photography as a positive.

"It opens up all kinds of possibilities," he said. "You can manipulate photographs so much more easily in digital than you can with film."

In fact, Dresler said, there are many visual effects that are possible to achieve only through digital processes.

Another advantage of digital photography is that it is much more cost-effective than traditional photography, he said.

About 25 percent of Dresler's work, at this point, is done with digital media.

"We're doing digital in all aspects, primarily children's photography," he said, noting that children's photo shoots require that a large number of images be captured in order to produce just a few desirable images, and so this type of work can be done more efficiently using digital equipment.

"You don't have to worry about just snapping away," he said.

The "digital revolution," however, has brought about changes in the pricing structure of professional photography, since people are now able to copy digital files and print their own photos with relative ease.

"Now, unfortunately, photographers have to charge more for their time and talent, and less for the photographs," Dresler said.

His own fees vary widely depending on the type and complexity of the photo shoot, he said.

"We're the oldest and largest studio in the St. Croix Valley," Dresler said. "Most of our business comes from referrals. You can't please everybody all of the time, but the fact that we're successful and have been in business for so many years pretty much says that we please the majority of our clients. That is about all you can hope for."

Silver Light Studio is located on Highway 5 at 11550 Stillwater Boulevard North. For more information, contact Dresler at (651) 704-0983. Patrons with online access may also go to to access Dresler's Web site.