Russ Burden

Photographer Russ BurdenRuss Burden has had two loves in his professional life: teaching and photography. When he can do both at once by offering workshops to small groups of aspiring photographers or leading photo tours to the scenic strongholds of the Rocky Mountains, he calls it “the perfect marriage of the two jobs that I love.” Russ was a public school teacher for almost three decades and has been a full-time photographer in Colorado for the past ten years. “But to this day,” he says, “I still feel that I’ve never really gone to work in my life because both of the jobs that I’ve held have been true passions for me. I don’t know many other people who honestly feel that way.”

Russ is ideally qualified as an instructor of photography not only because of his teaching and technical expertise but also because his professional focus is on areas that have special appeal to amateurs: nature, people, children, families, weddings and pets. His work as a nature photographer has been internationally published in magazines such as National Wildlife, Colorado Outdoors and Outdoor and Nature, in calendars by the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and in books such as The Best of Nature, which highlights the world’s foremost outdoor photographers. When it comes to creating portraits of people and pets, he works either in his studio or outside in scenic locations, where his skill in outdoor lighting enables him to capture his subjects in environments where they feel free to express their individuality.

Burden’s technical mastery is on display in the many instructional articles he has contributed to magazines such Petersen’s PHOTOgraphic and Popular Photography. He is also the author of a respected how-to manual: Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography, how to improve your pictures with a film or digital camera. Russ’ work is represented by three major stock agencies, and he has created ads for high-profile clients including Kodak, Samsung and One Hour Photo.

The success Russ now enjoys in photography did not come easily or without a leap of faith (and geography). Born and raised in New York, Russ began his working life as an elementary school teacher on Long Island, a job he held happily for 17 years. During this period, he spent many summers photographing out west as “the Rockies were always in his blood.” After discovering Colorado, he know it was only a matter of time until he would live somewhere in the state. It took until late 1989 before his dream became a reality when he and his wife settled in an area just south of Denver.

He, his wife, and 15-year-old son now live in Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver. The move provided Russ with plenty of photographic inspiration but for the next ten years, he continued to earn most of his living as a public school teacher. During his last years of teaching, he was instrumental in creating a program that encouraged gifted students to discover and follow their bliss. That program changed a lot of lives, including his own.

“I kept telling the kids that what they needed to do, what mattered most, was pursuing their loves, their dreams, desires and hopes. It had been my lifelong dream to do photography full time, and finally I started to feel like a hypocrite. I realized that I needed to do myself what I was preaching to the kids. It was a real hard choice. For years, I was teaching, doing photography on the side, raising my family, working ridiculous hours and trying to keep everything in balance. I had to give something up. I didn’t want to die regretting the fact that I had never tried to live out my dream. So I gave it a whirl and things have worked out really well.”

It all comes together for Russ when he’s leading photo tours to natural wonderlands. “How perfect is it,” he asks rhetorically, “to be out in the field teaching people about photography in places like Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons or the California Redwoods.” A true people-person, he relishes the longer tours that really give him a chance to interact with people over a week or ten days.

Russ was recruited to teach Panasonic workshops by the series organizer, photo-marketing guru, Richard Rabinowitz. The two have a long association as Russ contributes regular how-to articles for, which Rabinowitz serves as volunteer editor. Russ is excited about the Panasonic program and the opportunity to get his hands on their new SLRs. “With Leica lenses on Panasonic bodies, it sounds like a darn impressive system,” he says. “And there are so many things to talk about with the students that the only problem I anticipate is running out of time.”

Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number.  It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering.  If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at or

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  1. “I hope I did this correctly, I’m not the most tech savvy person!! I just have to say thank you so much for this opportunity! Russ Burden is an awesome teacher and I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this class. My husband signed me up for this class for which I felt I was most certainly not advanced, but Russ made it so it didn’t matter. The class size was also helpful so that he was able to give all of us individual help when we needed it. I learned so much about myself and photography and have a totally new vision of how to approach photography as I move forward. I love it so much more than I expected and I have a new confidence in my abilities as well. This class and Russ has changed everything….thanks again!. Here’s my favorite photo from the day.”

    – Carianne Kanda

  2. “Russ did such a great job I wanted to share it with the organization and I hope Russ keeps on teaching these classes. I learned more today than in Scott Kelby’s class on Photoshop CS4. It’s great to have a computer with hands on vs watching someone do everything themselves and then never being able to duplicate it.”

    – Nona Biddison

  3. “I very much enjoyed the few classes I took with you, so much so it made me bite the bullet. I moved to New Zealand in May, changed my career (to photographer), and this month opened my own photography studio in Auckland. I’m certainly expecting the start to be challenging and slow, but am looking forward to every bit of it.”

    – Peter Hendry

  4. “When you first projected the image, it looked like a definite throwaway to me due to the blown out highlights. You then made a spectacular recovery. Thank you for this teaching moment and for going beyond the call of duty. Now, I will try to use some of what you taught me yesterday.”

    – Grover Wrenn

  5. “After all the other responses, I feel like a fool “Ditto Head”. After two trips to Monument Valley and a trip to Zion and Bryce National Parks, I still signed up for this session. That must say something. I also signed up for the Fall trip to Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. I always learn something talking to you, whether it is meant as instruction or just a chance comment. Your love of photography and teaching come through and are infectious.”

    – Fred Stearns

  6. “Russ, I really enjoyed the class. I don’t know when I’ve been able to go that long and still be so interested I wanted more. I’m downloading my images now to Elements 6 and trying to find out if I can use Bridge with it. Look forward to some more of your “sage advice”. I’ll be looking at your web site for some more classes to take. Thanks again.”

    – Don Tolin

  7. “It was a great training session with Russ! I’ve been looking over my notes, reading over the camera manual, and trying some of the things you demonstrated. Still a long way to go, but at least I have a better idea of how things fit together. Excellent presentation on your part. And the idea of getting a photography tip every week sounds like excellent reenforcement! Thanks.”

    – Chuck Riggs

  8. “I first want to thank you, Russ, for an outstanding workshop, I learned something of importance in every area of the session. Thanks again for the extra time up front at 7:00am and again at 5:30. Your effortless teaching style makes learning and asking questions very comfortable. I just loaded Adobe CS3 and am going to be working on the 2 photos you requested.

    I would also be interested in another shoot, I have no preference as to location or subject. I can learn something no matter where we go.”

    – Jim Wolfe

  9. “Wow- I learned a lot from you, Russ! And, know how much more I need to learn. Thank you for an excellent workshop. The combination of field and class time worked very well. You are a gifted teacher- very effective making us think about answers, rather than telling us. I now look at photos as you suggested- and try to determine how was that shot?”

    – Tom Tenenbaum

  10. “That looks very good Russ. I have a few pictures where I would like to create a canvas to create room for a few of mine….I will have to try that technique. Appreciate the before and after and the steps you took. Once I have my two done and over to you, I might take yours and practice to see how I make out.”

    – Tim Visser

  11. “I have taken two classes that were “live” instructor lead workshops and several on-line courses. Without a doubt, your workshop stands head and shoulders above the rest. Your style of teaching, demonstrating techniques, classroom lecture and open communication regarding photography, will allow me to enhance my skills. I enjoyed this class, my fellow classmates and our outstanding instructor. This was a FANTASTIC experience.

    Thanks for a great day!”

    – Tim Visser

  12. “Thanks for a fun and educational day. I am so impressed with the knowledge of the group. It is an honor to be able to learn from Russ Burden. I’m anxious to get out into the field…maybe the sunflowers at dawn…”

    – Kristal Kraft

  13. “My intermediate class with Russ Burden was excellent. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I truly had mastered some understanding in this amazing field because I was able to answer many of Russ’s questions while in class. I liked the fact that he challenged each student in class, asking us individual questions to make sure we really got the gist of what he was teaching and wasn’t just following along and shaking our heads as if we understood when we really didn’t. I also particularly enjoyed his Photoshop demonstration. I had an immense fear of working with this application. It seemed so large and overwhelming, but Russ’s lecture allowed me to take those essential baby steps so I could get comfortable with Photoshop. I also appreciate Mr. Burden’s weekly photo tips and his willingness to give of his own time to respond to my emails and questions about photos I’ve taken since his course.

    I enjoyed Russ’s class so much that I even ended up dreaming about the topics covered that same night. I think I was still trying to digest everything that was spoken of even while I was sleeping! As soon as I think I’m ready, I will sign up for Russ’s advanced photography class and make plans to attend one or more of his Nature Photo Tours. Wish me luck, I’m going to be entering my first photo contest…this one dealing with some of the shots I showed in class of climbers at Eldorado Canyon State Park!”

    – Sheba Wheeler

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