An interview with Rick Heit, epic photographer

Karen Sanderson and Elliotts (10)When my original family photographer cancelled on me at the last minute (after having the appointment on the books for months!), I was scrambling for a replacement photographer. One of the gals in my MSU coffee break crew suggested Rick Heit. I checked him out online, contacted him, and made the appointment.

How happy I am now that the original photographer cancelled on me!

Welcome, Rick Heit!

A little background from Rick…

I grew up in Minot as the second oldest of six children. My father was an accomplished artist who drew many realistic pictures that I enjoyed looking at and studying. My mother loved crocheting. Their creativity rubbed off on all of their children. We all loved creating things and showing them off to the family. While we all tried to one up each other, we were very supportive and excited by what the others were making. It was the perfect setting to grow and imagine.

Work history…

My first job out of college was at the Social Security Administration. I enjoyed helping people, but I longed to do more than the often repetitive tasks the job entailed. I got a second degree in PR/Advertising/Broadcasting and went to work at an advertising agency as a graphic designer. I transitioned from that job to Minot State University where I work in the marketing office doing photography, videography, web content and social media. I’m working in my sixth year.

Wedding Night Kiss copyAbout family…

This August, my wife Erin and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary. We have three precocious and highly imaginative daughters ranging in age from 3 to 7.

Do you remember any of your early photos, perhaps one that spoke to you?

I remember my first camera. I found a camera that I could afford as a seven or eight year old on my allowance of $3 every two weeks. I was beyond excited. My parents took me to the zoo so I could try out this glorious new toy. We developed the film and the majority of them were blurry or poorly framed and I thought, I’m really no good at this. But I’ve always been an optimist so I thought, “I bet I just need more practice.” I wanted to take pictures of the family, but my mother informed me that it would be impossible. I thought she was just being difficult or too busy to pose. She informed me that I’d never be able to take pictures with that camera again because it was a disposable camera. After finding out how much a “reusable” camera was, I lost interest in photography.

Are you self taught or have you taken a bunch of photography classes?Karen Sanderson and Elliotts (12)

I’m completely self taught in photography and mostly self taught at Photoshop. I had one computer graphics class at Minot State University.

What prompted you to start your own business?

I’ve always thought it would be fun to be an entrepreneur. My lemonade stand and spring blossoms from trees stands were colossal failures, but that didn’t diminish my desire. I’ve never wanted to own a business full time though as it carries too many risks and stresses. I had been making fun family pictures of my family for a few years in my spare time. My photography business started once I realized that I could make money on my hobby. It’s actually my third job as I also get paid to exercise by delivering a paper route every morning.

Karen Sanderson and Elliotts (14)Who or what is your favorite subject?

I’m drawn to pretty much anything that captures my imagination and gets me really thinking about how to do something eye popping. Sometimes that comes in the form of putting people into a futuristic setting, a spy/adventurer theme, I’ve done Minecraft, Legend of Zelda. There are just so many fun worlds to explore and put myself or others into.

My favorite subject is my kids who have been in Tron, The Last Airbender, and my favorite, Tinkerbell and her fairy friends.

Do you inspire your subjects or do your subjects inspire you?

Most of the time I have a crazy idea in my head and I’ll ask my subject if it’s something they’d like to do. So far I haven’t been turned down for any of my pitches. I do enjoy when clients suggest something as well. I’m not afraid to try pretty much anything.

Other than people, what subjects inspire you? Nature, scenery, wildlife?

I’d really like to do more nature and scenery photos, but Epic Photography takes up a lot of time.

What motivated you to start the background Photoshop stuff for your epic photos?My Transformer

When I had my senior pictures taken I thought it was really cool that the photographer took the pictures out of his own house and got paid pretty decent money. I saw how much fun he was having and I thought, “This is something I could get into.” When I found out how saturated the photography market was I gave up on that idea. I didn’t want to compete with a bunch of other people that were all really good and all doing basically the same thing.

That started to change ten years ago when I was walking through Barnes and Noble and saw a book that taught how to do Photoshop tricks like making a person look like a living tree, set a saxophone on fire, etc. That book looked awesome and I bought it immediately. The first three pictures I Photoshopped were adding a rainbow to one of my wedding photos, turning a day shot into a night shot, and adding snow to a photo of the Bahamas from our honeymoon. They’re all awful. But at the time I was amazed by Photoshop’s power and I was hooked. I practiced for a few more years. When I turned my car into a transformer and my wife and I into Borg from Star Trek, I started to feel like I was getting really good at this. Looking back now they were kind of laughable as well.

Family Borg Photo 2It wasn’t for a few more years before I felt like I was good enough that people might actually pay me to do this. At that point I knew I had my nitch to break into the highly competitive photography field and do something that no one else in Minot was offering. So I decided to open a composite photography business.

Rick and Erin, paying it forward with Sharing Smiles Sharing Smiles

There are more ways to light up someone’s face than just making them look even more amazing in a sweet photo. Frankly, as fun as that is, there are more important, and just as fun ways, to perk up the corners of someone’s mouth. Every month Rick Heit Photography does what we call Sharing Smiles. We try to brighten someone’s day through volunteering, service, or some kind of give away. So far we’ve done a cash scavenger hunt, and for Christmas, we asked for nominations and gave away $100 to someone that’s having a rough time and who goes out of their way to help others.

Up next – I want to do some panhandling and donate whatever I receive to the homeless (I have to see if I might get arrested for panhandling before I do that), and I want to go to a fast food drive-thru and pay for the next-in-line person’s dinner. Then I want to keep cycling through the drive-thru for 30 minutes to an hour doing it over and over again to see how many people we can get to pay it forward.

Rick[1]How prospective clients can contact you

As creative as my pictures are, the name of my business is extremely boring. I can be reached at rickheitphotography@gmail.com or 1-701-822-3232.

See Rick at his website – Rick Heit Photography – or on Facebook.

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6 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers

6 responses to “An interview with Rick Heit, epic photographer

  1. It’s so much fun to get a “behind the scenes” glimpse of the lives of creative people. Rick did a fabulous job on your family photos!

  2. Paulie

    Love the hockey pics. Go Gretzky!

  3. Awesome interview. Interesting how someone gets hooked on photography. 🙂

  4. Rick Heit

    Thanks everyone for the kind words. Karen and her family were a lot of fun and very inspiring to work with!

  5. Amazing interview! I really enjoyed having this fascinating look at the mind behind the lens. Rick’s portraits are so beautifully and thoughtfully composed to compliment his subjects. Fun, memorable, and anything but ordinary. Definitely a keeper.

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