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Peterson photography studio thrives

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jan 25th, 2013
Posted in Peterson Features

The source of Torgerud’s inspiration, (L-R) Judah, Ashton, Linnea, Drew, and Alex. Photo by Amber Torgerud Photography

Family has a way of weaving momentous occasions in and out of daily lives. Graduations, weddings, and births are obviously so on their own. But ask a mother of a twinkle-eyed, drool-faced infant or a pair of cherub siblings and every day is momentous. That’s photography’s latch on us. It’ll capture those moments forever.

Like nearly every mother, Amber Torgerud has a camera ready at moment’s notice to permanently detail moments both big and small. The energetic mom of five, has operated Amber Torgerud Photography from a studio adjacent to her home in Peterson for over seven years and others have flocked to her to help document their own lives. While some initially cautioned or discouraged her operating a portrait studio in the small town, it doesn’t appear business will be slowing down any time soon.

“I’m primarily a word of mouth business,” she beams. “It always has been.” Torgerud may have a website, and with a click you can “like” her on Facebook, but she relies on the repeat business and referrals of her loyal clientele. “I don’t even have a sign to mark my studio. It’s sort of an ‘exclusive club’” she jokes. “I have some very dedicated clients who regularly come to me from hours, even states, away.”

Growing up in Peterson, Torgerud wasn’t given her first real camera until around the age of nine, but it wasn’t long until she was hooked. “Early on I had a tendency to get in trouble for using too much film and I was the girl with photos plastering my locker. I’d have students stop by my locker who had no idea who I was. I can’t say they were captivated by the subject matter, but the abundance of photos. I had everything; posed, candid, family/friends, pets. I’ve always been captivated with photos and being able to capture a moment in time - a moment that may never have been reflected upon again had it not been captured in the first place. It’s so rewarding.”

Now, Torgerud credits her own beginnings in motherhood for being the catalyst that began the business. “I really enjoyed it and always had a camera with me. I was eyeing a better camera when I was pregnant with my oldest, Judah. When he was six months, I bought the camera. I looked at the first pictures from it and was blown away by the difference in quality. From there it all played out.” Friends and family were soon asking her to take photos for them, as well.

In October 2003, Amber, husband Andy, and now their two young sons, moved into a home on Peterson’s Mill Street. As fate would have it, the property came with a small building a stone’s throw from the house. “That’s when the idea of a studio became an option,” she notes. A home-based business the multi-tasking Torgerud could handle. The studio, however, came with its own set of issues. Simply an open building, it would need a thorough overhaul before it could serve as a functioning studio. By 2004, the family decided to go forward with the renovations, which included drywall work, lighting upgrades, painting, carpeting, and more. In July of 2005, work on the project was completed and the business was officially created.

Although she assisted with some wedding photography prior to starting out on her own, Torgerud is almost entirely self-taught. An avid student of her craft, she dove into researching the art. “I did a lot of reading! In the beginning, the biggest challenge was learning the skills; new techniques, certain looks,” she says. The process has been slow and can be easily costly. “I accumulated equipment, dealt with processing, and added computer editing software. Now, it’s all digital, but that’s always evolving, too. Just when you think you’ve caught up, there’s something new,” she adds.

And while everyone may have a digital camera these days and think themselves an iconic Annie Leibovitz or baby-posing Anne Geddes, in all honesty there is a skill and talent to taking brilliant photos. “Equipment is important, but you have to know how to use it. Most people never unlock the full potential of their cameras. Many people think that spending a lot of money equates having a professional camera. It’s not. The difference in standard equipment vs professional equipment is having much more manual control, including speed. I often have parents complain that they are unable to get the shots they want because their camera is too slow to respond. By the time they have it ready to go, the moment has passed.”

But Torgerud stresses that the equipment is only a piece of the puzzle. “If you don’t understand how to use it correctly, it doesn’t much matter. Knowing how to use all of it in each situation is crucial. There are other factors; lighting, weather, posing/grouping, working with less than cooperative models, patience, and post-processing.” It all comes together to make a fantastic shot.

“I do have many parents that come to me saying it is not at all worth trying to do it themselves. Somebody doesn’t want to cooperate or the shots simply do not turn out the way they envision. Sometimes, they come in with a blank slate and are happy to let me do whatever I want. They have nothing envisioned and are excited to see what we come up with. I’ll take the time it needs to get a good picture,” she continues.

Plans to continue growth of the business are also being considered, such as offering digital images to clients who want to print their own photos, as well as offering different product options in addition to the wide array currently offered.

Torgerud’s work covers nearly all types of portrait photography including seniors, engagements, weddings, pregnancy, infants and children, and families. “It’s a rounded mix,” she insists. “My favorite part of the job though is the relationships and watching the little ones grow. It melts me the most when I run into some of the little ones away from the studio and they say hello to me, give me a big smile, and often times give a hug. They tend to own me,” she laughs.

Of course, Torgerud’s absolute favorite is taking photos of her own family, where it all started. Her bustling brood now includes active boys Judah (11), Ashton (9), Alex (7), and Drew (4), and doted-upon daughter Linnea (2), all of whom she also homeschools.

For more information about Amber Torgerud Photography, visit her website, or visit her on Facebook. You can also contact her directly, for questions or to set up an appointment, at 507-450-9372 or

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