HILLSBORO, N.D. – Hillsboro High School Class of 2021 member Sydney Owens is a veteran of senior portraits – taking them, that is.
Owens, owner of AesthetePix, a photography and videography business in Hillsboro, has taken thousands of pictures of high school seniors hailing from towns and cities across North Dakota. Meanwhile, the 17-year-old’s business offers family portraits and wedding videography and photography.
For as long as she can remember, Owens has had a fascination with photos, recalling that videos of her as a toddler show her saying “Me see, me see,” as her parents were filming.
By the time she was in grade school, Owens was taking photos of the wrestling matches of her older brother, Seth, with a Nintendo DS.
“I would pretend I was a famous photographer,” Owens said. As she got older, she started taking photographs of things around Hillsboro.
“I loved clocks,” she said. “There’s one hanging down on Caledonia (Avenue). I think I took 70,000 pictures of that one.”
In 2017, when she was a high school freshman, Owens took Seth’s senior pictures. A year later, she began charging for senior portraits and also advertising by word of mouth and through social media. This year, she built a website.
Owens honed her skills by watching YouTube videos of photography techniques. She uses a Nikon 750 camera and has several lenses. As her skills have improved, so has her level of confidence.
One of the challenges of being a photographer at age 17 is youth, and a perception of inexperience.
“You get underestimated a lot,” she said. “Then the best part is, when they see the videos or pictures and they say “That’s amazing.’”
Owens didn’t intend to become a videographer, but dove in head first after a friend in town asked if she could video her wedding. She agreed to do the job, then scrambled to find the equipment she needed.
“I rounded up pieces from all over town,” she said. The wedding video was a success, and a friend shared it on Facebook, which resulted in more requests and additional jobs.
Whether shooting photographs or videos, Owens likes to do the work outdoors. She chose the name of her business “Aesthete” because it expresses the love she has for the beauty in nature, Owens said
City parks in Grand Forks and Fargo are some of her favorite places to take pictures, and she also has captured images at Fort Ransom State Park near Bismarck and at Medora, N.D.
Owens strives to catch candid moments.
“I don’t like to pose people,” she said. “For senior pictures, I like to capture who they are.”
That requires taking a lot of photos and helping her clients become comfortable in front of the camera.
Owens helps her clients gain confidence by complimenting them.
"Immediately, their smiles get a little bit wider. You can see them grow in confidence,” she said.
Another rewarding part of Owens’ work is including behind-the-scenes shots, chronicling moments that members of the wedding parties missed because they were so wrapped up in attending to details.
“Brides are so busy they don’t even see,” Owens said. ”I get responses that say ‘I didn’t even get to see that happen.'”
Elle Armstrong, one of Owens’ wedding video clients, called Owens’ videography work “amazing.”
“She made it feel like, when you watched the video, that you were there,” Armstrong said. Meanwhile, Owens added extras, such as taking a few photos along with the video.
“She went above and beyond,” Armstrong said, noting that Owens also included in the video recorded messages from the couple's parents.
Owens will continue to run her business and take her camera with her wherever she goes when she returns to school in August for her senior year.
“It’s my child,” Owens said with a laugh.