Memories in Focus moves downtown

Memories in Focus has joined the renaissance in downtown Fort Dodge.

Troy and Lisa Schroeder launched a photographic business in their home in July 2008. Troy Schroeder is the photographer. His wife helps with the operational side of the enterprise.

By late last year, the undertaking needed a more formal and spacious retail location, Troy Schroeder said. Consequently, the decision was made to move to the historic Garmoe Building at 514 Central Ave.

The Schroeders opened for business in the new venue on Nov. 1, 2013.

The choice to be part of the rebirth of downtown was very much in sync with the couple’s assessment of how they hope Fort Dodge is evolving.

“I love downtown,” Troy Schroeder said. “The Garmoe Building is really cool. … It’s a really neat building. I love the architecture.”

He said he and his wife hope to make Memories in Focus a strong presence downtown.

“That’s something we would like to achieve and keep downtown growing and be a part of that,” Troy Schroeder said. “That’s a big goal for us.

Diverse offerings

Memories in Focus can fulfill a wide array of photographic needs.

“I think we kind of do it all,” Troy Schroeder said. “There are a couple different sides of photography. There is the portrait world or the studio work – anything from head shots to kids and families, high school seniors and also weddings. We do just about everything on the portrait side. And then there are the commercial things, whether it is for ads or a commercial project of whatever type. So, to me there are those two sides. We do both.”

At this point the portrait work is the dominant part of the business, Schroeder said.

The range of the assignments he undertakes, however, is eclectic and includes both still photography and videography.

Schroeder said the demand for videos has been on the upswing both as a standalone product and as a supplement to the more traditional still photography people associate with weddings, senior-year photos and family groupings.

“Videos became kind of huge, so we started to dabble in video as well,” he said.

One of his favorite video projects in 2013 was documenting two of the Honor Flights. He said each of the veterans and guardians on those excursions to the nation’s capital received a DVD memento of the trip.

“I was excited to do that,” Schroeder said. “It was a great experience.”

He said he is delighted to have been selected to perform the same service for the two Honor Flights set for this year.

A little history

Schroeder said what is now his profession began as a hobby.

“I bought a used film camera from a friend and kind of just jumped into it,” he said. “It was a hobby for a good eight years.”

The focus originally was more on landscapes and artistic photos. Schroeder said the move into portrait work was a bit of an accident.

“Like most photographers, a friend asked me ‘Hey, would you shoot my wedding?'” he said. “I said ‘Sure, why not?’ I kind of caught the bug a little bit.”

Schroeder said he discovered that photographing people was very appealing even though that wasn’t his original game plan.

Then one day, what had been a hobby turned into a business.

“I quit my full-time job on a Friday and started Memories in Focus on a Saturday,” Schroeder said.

Photography has now become a passion for him.

Schroeder also is committed to helping make the world a better place for people in need. He is on the board of Dando Amor, a nonprofit that helps orphans in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. He also volunteers time to PPA Charities, the philanthropic arm of the Professional Photographers of America. The group raises money for Dando Amor and Operation Smile. On April 5, Memories in Focus will have offer portraits at a discounted rate to raise money for PPA Charities and Operation Smile.

Developing a style

“What really caught my eye in photography is that you create an image that somebody is going to hold onto for 100 or 200 years,” he said. “I feel like I provide something that is everlasting. You hear people talk about ‘a picture is worth 1,000 words.’ There is so much truth to that. … There is just so much emotion that goes along with photography. The biggest thing from me or the biggest draw for me to continue doing this is the emotion that is involved in photography.”

Schroeder said the challenge in being a professional photographer is to develop your own style – an approach that sets you apart from the competition.

“In Fort Dodge we have a lot of great photographers, but I think we all offer different styles,” he said. “I think that’s your first challenge, finding your style, what makes you different.”

Schroeder said that at Memories in Focus the goal is to produce images that capture the true nature of the subject.

“I like a natural approach,” he said. “I try to stay away from the traditional, the formal things. I want it to be as natural as it can be. I want it to be them.”

That requires spending the time necessary to get to know clients.

“When we meet with a bride and groom, we tell them to not think of us so much as a photographer but as their friend,” Schroeder explained. “We’re there to capture your day. I think you take that approach with everything. With high school seniors, I think you have to be buddies to get them to relax and be themselves.”

Historic setting

The building that houses Memories in Focus has been part of Fort Dodge since 1896 when it was built by Isaac Garmoe, who was Webster County treasurer from 1861-65, an incorporator and director of the Commercial National Bank and was involved in other Fort Dodge businesses. The building’s location on an aesthetically significant City Square corner makes it an important factor in preservation efforts downtown. As a result of major renovations, the exterior of the building and many interior areas closely resemble the way it appeared more than a century ago.

That makes it a dramatic setting for studio work. Troy Schroeder said he and his wife are striving to give the store a boutique feel.

Memories in Focus is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to photography, the store does in-house framing.