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July 20, 2023

Photography for Beginners: A Journey with Scott Dressel-Martin

Scott Dressel-Martin says that even if he someday retires as a professional photographer, he’ll keep teaching photography.

“There’s something about photography that hooked me when I was young and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he says. “For me to help people learn how to be more creative and more effective photographers, I just can’t think of a better thing to spend my time on.”

Dressel-Martin will teach Photographing the Built Spaces of DU: Cameras on Campus for DU’s Enrichment Program in September. Over three sessions – one of which is an on-campus photo shoot—students will learn how to capture “built spaces” – architecture, landscaping, roadways, and other man-made physical constructs.

“It can be really fun and valuable to actually go out and shoot with an instructor right there to answer your questions,” says Dressel-Martin. The class will also include instruction on how to approach architectural photography, with examples of Dressel-Martin’s own work, as well as a low-key peer show-and-tell session after the photo shoot.

“We all shoot architecture, any time we travel or go anywhere that isn’t purely nature,” says Dressel-Martin. “So this class is another way to look at a space, whether built or natural, and say, ‘How can I take this beautiful three-dimensional space and turn it into an interesting two-dimensional photograph?’”

Dressel-Martin got into photography in high school, in the days of film, and fell in love with it immediately. He earned a bachelor’s in communications and then a master’s in photography. After working as a photojournalist for several years, he realized he wanted to do more creative work in which he could shape stories with his images.

Now Dressel-Martin owns his own powerhouse photography business. You may have seen his work documenting the Denver Botanic Gardens; he has been the official contract photographer there for two decades. He also has worked for many nonprofit clients in the health care, early childhood education, and affordable housing sectors.

“Teaching photography is all about helping people achieve their creative goals,” he says. “There’s an element of self-discovery. When you’re out taking pictures you can oftentimes learn as much about yourself as you learn about your subjects.”

Dressel-Martin is a generous teacher, showing students his mistakes as well as his successes, and helping them navigate tricky situations. He even encourages students to keep in touch long after a course, bringing him their questions about equipment or photo composition. He says the Enrichment Program is special among the many places he has taught.

“If you feel like you’re getting a little bored or a little stagnant, go learn something new. Go listen to somebody who’s passionate about their topic,” he says. “The Enrichment Program allows people to, without committing a ton of time, step outside of their normal life and go learn something wonderful and new.”

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