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New photography studio now open

Novel Conceptions, a photography business opened last week in Kenmare by Shane and Shannon Christianson, wants to capture your memories one photograph at a time, in the convenience of your hometown.

7/22/09 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

Novel Conceptions, a photography business opened last week in Kenmare by Shane and Shannon Christianson, wants to capture your memories one photograph at a time, in the convenience of your hometown.
The Christiansons see their new venture as a way to fill a niche in the community with their passion for photography.
The concept of the business is simple, with technology providing a wide range of applications. “We offer all sorts of photography services,” Shannon said, listing senior portraits, family pictures, wedding photos and baby pictures as examples, as well as special events such as family reunions.
Novel Conceptions also handles commercial photography, from pictures for basic advertising needs to specialties such as plaques or other commemorative items. “Anything anyone could dream of with a photo on it, we can probably get made,” said Shannon.
Photography a part
of Shannon’s life
Photography has always been a part of Shannon’s life, and working in the field seems to be a natural fit. Her mother, Irene James, is an award-winning former professional photographer in Bernville, Pennsylvania, who continues developing her craft.
Irene coached her daughter to use a camera as far back as Shannon can remember. “I learned from my mother when I was just small,” Shannon said. “I started with 35 millimeter, but now I use a digital camera.”
“Since I’ve known Shannon, she’s always been taking pictures,” Shane said.
In fact, whenever the couple travels around North Dakota, they plan for stops that allow Shannon to shoot photos of landscapes, buildings and historical sites. “Shannon’s not a native of North Dakota,” Shane explained, “so she’s seeing all this stuff for the first time.”
Shannon’s eyes lit up as she talked about a recent drive the couple took to a battlefield near Killdeer, where they talked with the landowner to get permission to walk around the site. “It’s like a priceless little jewel that we found,” she said. “How many people don’t even know about this?”
She laughed as she described her mother’s fondness for color photos, while she herself prefers black and white. One reason for launching Novel Conceptions is to include Irene’s talents once she and Shannon’s father Terry relocate to Kenmare, where they already own property.
Shannon started brainstorming ideas for the business with her mother during a visit home to Pennsylvania two years ago. However, the Christiansons became serious about opening a studio after visiting Medora last August, where they enjoyed a visit to an old-time photography studio.
“It was like playing dress-up with the costumes,” Shannon said. “It was such a fun experience we thought, why can’t we do that in Kenmare? Then we thought about what other services we could provide. Now, taking old time photos is a very, very small part of it.”
Shane traced his interest in photography to pictures that have been a part of his family’s story. “I remember the camera Dad took to Germany with him when he was in the Army,” he said. “There’s nothing that preserves history like the written word and photos.”
The Christiansons call themselves history buffs, and both enjoy working with various types of computer technology. Shane, who also works for the federal government in Homeland Security, plans to draw on his college background in business and economics. “I’ll be doing the books and the accounting,” he said, then laughed as he said he was getting educated in the use of all the studio’s equipment. “I already know how to do some things and I’ll learn to do more.”
“We’re interchangeable,” Shannon said. The couple wants to accommodate all customer requests, especially if someone needs a picture on short notice, such as a passport photo or a several-generations pose during a family visit.
Studio can travel
The Christiansons have remodeled half their basement to accommodate a studio for Novel Conceptions, as well as a gallery of Shannon’s previous work. “When we started talking about equipment, it was important to me that the equipment could travel,” said Shane. “So we have a professional light kit that’s portable. Some people prefer taking photos in the comfort of their own home.”
“We’ll take the studio wherever they want,” Shannon added.
The couple has invested in new photo editing software and a laptop computer to sift through shots taken during a sitting. “We have a digital transfer system that goes immediately to the laptop, so the customer can see the picture on a larger screen,” said Shannon. “You can decide automatically if this is a picture you want to keep.”
Customers can choose from several sets and backdrops for their photos. “We have a variety of interactive sets in the studio, and we’re more than happy to take into consideration anyone’s request,” Shannon said, adding that outdoor photos provide another option.
Many other
photo services
Along with taking pictures, the Christiansons are interested in preserving and restoring them, starting with archives of customer photos taken. “We can store photos for later use or purchase,” said Shannon. “We also have access to photo album software and genealogy software where we can create image-filled family trees.”
Using their image editing software, the couple can restore photos that show age and wear. “We’ll do our best to bring it back to the original image,” said Shannon.
Novel Conceptions also offers the capability of taking old slides, negatives or photos and transferring them to DVD or CD, or reprinting them. “My parents have a trunk at home with old slides in them that nobody’s looked at for thirty years,” Shane said. “How many other people are like that? We can get those photos into a medium we use now.”
The Christiansons officially opened for business on July 15th at their home on 202 5th Avenue NE in Kenmare, as members of the Professional Photographers of America as well as Antique and Amusement Photographers International. Samples of Shannon’s photography will soon be posted on a new website under construction for Novel Conceptions, at
They offer moderate sitting fees and flexible packages for purchase, including a special reduced print rate for all appointments scheduled by August 1st.
And while they admit to dreaming about their own store front in downtown Kenmare and traveling to community events throughout the region to take specialty photos someday, they are happy to start with a modest studio and a firm commitment to their customers.
“We’ll try to work with everybody,” said Shannon. “There are just some events in life where having a professional photographer will mean more.”
For further information about Novel Conceptions or to schedule appointments, contact Shannon or Shane at 701-385-3215 or 701-848-6121, or by email at