Our Summer Intensive program has been running strong since 1989, and there's a reason students enroll year after year. We care about our students. And our goal? It's simple: to help you become the best photographer you can be.
Immerse yourself in five core areas of study, enhance your knowledge of everything photography, and leave feeling confident and inspired to take stunning photographs and creatively express yourself through your images.
Are you ready for the photography experience of a lifetime?
What we offer at RMSP is so unique that some of our students have described it as "unreal." For six full weeks, you'll eat, breathe, sleep and dream photography. Our classes are practical and hands-on; there's no dabbling in abstract theory or irrelevant course work. Unlike trying to teach yourself from books or online videos, our talented instructors will meet you where you are, teach you, and help you achieve your personal, creative vision. No matter your skill level, everyone develops the same solid foundation by the end of our program. Nowhere else can you walk in with limited photographic knowledge, dive headlong into an immersive, six-week curriculum, and emerge with the confidence and know-how of a well-rounded photographer. There's no substitute for pursuing what you love in an inspired community of other budding artists, and you'll learn as much about yourself in this program as you will about photography. You simply can't get an education like this and walk away unchanged.
At RMSP, you can count on learning more than you ever thought possible - about cameras, equipment, and crafting images - from some of the world's most thoughtful and dedicated instructors. What you might not realize is that an RMSP education is about more than just photography. Summer Intensive students frequently tell us that the program blew their expectations out of the water. That's because the SI experience isn't just about capturing the best images of your life — it's about undertaking the communal journey of becoming a photographer and forming the kinds of friendships that last a lifetime.
Going to school can be intimidating, especially in an intensive art program. Not at RMSP. We are a supportive community that encourages you to take risks and try something new. We're not about competition here. We're about becoming part of a family, the kind where everyone pushes one another to grow, collaborate and succeed.
Diversity is the key to creativity and learning, which is why everyone is welcome at RMSP. One of the highlights of our Summer Intensive is meeting people of different ages, skill levels and backgrounds. Some students come to us out of high school because they're looking to build a photographic foundation. Others have entered retirement and are eager to finally pursue their passion. Some students have never picked up a camera until day one, while others are eager to expand their existing skill set. We've had students who are veterans, mid-career professionals seeking a change, and everything in between. Over 2500 students in the past 29 years have traveled to Missoula from all over the U.S., England, Scotland, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, the Bahamas, Poland, Thailand, and elsewhere. It's unconventional, and we repeatedly hear from our alums that this variety is what truly makes and shapes the program. One thing that all of our students do have in common is a sense that life can't wait — that it's time to get off the couch and explore your photography calling.
Throughout six weeks, there is a lot of time for lectures, assignments, shoots, homework, fun, learning and community, but what specifically will you leave Summer Intensive knowing? Click below to see the Summer Intensive Exit Competencies for a list of what Summer Intensive students will have learned upon graduation. It must also be noted that this lists only the advanced topics. The basic skills a student needs to understand these advanced concepts will also be covered thoroughly.
Camera begins with fundamentals. Learn how to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera and how shutter speeds, f-stops, ISO and color balance affect your images. Then you'll head out on field shoots with RMSP instructors, where you'll get to tinker with your exciting new gear and understand how to make the most of your photographic toolkit.
Creative is all about perception. You'll explore the history and evolution of photography and learn about composition, story, perspective, and style. You'll grow adept at identifying the qualities of extraordinary images and engage in interactive critiques with your group. Most importantly, you'll pursue your own unique vision and discover how best to express it.
Edit is where we bring the magic of photography to life. Our instructors will teach you how to turn a good image into an exceptional one. Using the latest version of Adobe Lightroom, you'll learn how to crop, sharpen, vignette, remove lens distortion, make corrections, bring out detail in your shadows and highlights, and many additional skills. Through follow-along instruction and one-on-one lab time, you'll master techniques for capturing, processing, and maximizing every image. Last but not least, you'll learn proper storage and workflow techniques so that photo editing doesn't become a major time drain.
Light is elemental. Being a good photographer is all about mastering light in its variations and forms. This course teaches you everything you need to know, from the fundamentals of seeing light to understanding the differences between natural and artificial lighting. You'll learn how to maximize light, shoot in low light, and accentuate images with a flash. In no time, you'll understand how to create polished, captivating photos.
Output is a crucial skill for photographers. You'll learn how to get your photos from your hard drive to their next destination. Color management, inkjet printing from Adobe Lightroom, using a print lab, and an introduction to social media will prepare you to share your work with the world.
Gabriel Bidermanhas been exploring the night topography for over 20 years. Using film and digital, he blends the surreal look of the night to enhance historic and urban landscapes. Biderman’s work has been exhibited in NY, London, San Francisco, and Hawaii and he is the author of the recently released book Night Photography – From Snapshots to Great Shots.
Jessica Carter is all about balance: passion with practicality, simplicity with thoroughness, creativity with strategy. She even balanced a degree in business administration with one in public administration. Jessica has worked with small nonprofits, universities, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies. Through most of her career, she’s developed and managed programs for college students, adult learners, retirees, and alumni. (Speaking of alumni, she’s also a graduate of RMSP’s Summer Intensive.) Jessica is currently the Program Director at RMSP where she manages the Professional Intensive and Summer Intensive programs, balancing the big-picture curriculum with logistical details. She teaches business planning and management courses in Professional Intensive, and she loves bringing new ideas, helpful insights, and a boost of energy to aspiring entrepreneurs. Jessica’s love of teaching is second only to her love of nature; in addition to business courses, she also teaches wildlife, nature, and abstract photography.
Forest Chaput de Saintonge directs Rocky Mountain School of Photography with his wife, Sarah. He has been immersed in photography since he was born. He grew up in Missoula and began taking photos with an SLR when he was seven years old. He started working for Rocky Mountain School of Photography at age 13. During his free time, he likes to become a master at new things, build stuff, hike, photograph, and be an astrophotographer. Forest has a degree in Astrophysics, just because. He really enjoys teaching and loves to help students understand concepts thoroughly. Forest has vast experience working with and teaching Adobe Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Astrophotography
His astrophotography can be found here: FoFoAstro
Forest and Sarah also own an aerial media company: Altitude Media
Sarah Chaput de Saintonge directs Rocky Mountain School of Photography with her husband, Forest. She has a BA in photojournalism and enjoys experimenting with many kinds of photography, but her primary interest is portraiture. She attended RMSP's Career Training program in 2011, ran a business in consumer portraiture for a while, then started working as an instructor and teaching assistant. She successfully completed one 365 project (take a photo a day for a year) and once made it to 155 consecutive days of making self portraits. She is now documenting ten years of her life with a daily photo of a person, place, or thing. She loves people, image editing, composition, film, her cats, and Forest.
Rob Gappert is a landscape and nature photographer. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota but now calls Missoula home. Rob enjoys the outdoors and has been shooting landscapes for the better part of 15 years. He loves to travel with his family and is a self-proclaimed “National Park Junkie”. Rob is a 2015 Summer Intensive graduate and loves to share his passion for the art.
Quinn Hegwood is one of RMSP's core instructors, specializing in printing and social media. She enjoys photographing people in their natural habitat, primarily mothers and children, and she is on a constant search for light. Quinn is passionate about helping students to discover the artist within themselves.
Marcy James is a fine art documentary photographer who began teaching for RMSP during the old wet processing days when her passion was building pinhole cameras and working with antiquarian photo processes. Today, she has merged antiquarian methods with digital technology and has a special love for exploring the importance and potential with how our images live in the world regardless of whether we are presenting our work through the web or with exhibitions.
Marcy received her MFA from the University of Montana in 2005 and has taught for both the University of Montana’s School of Art as well as Rocky Mountain School of Photography where her focus has involved working with wet processes, visual studies, working in long projects and portfolio development. Marcy developed her photography through a myriad of jobs including working for CBS News and Television in London and Los Angeles, freelancing as an architectural photographer and photojournalist and owning a successful portrait studio.
In addition to teaching for RMSP, Marcy served the school as their Director of Education for seven years where she designed curriculum and coordinated classes for both our Career Training Program as well as our Workshops. As an artist, Marcy has exhibited nationally and her work has been featured in several publications over the years. Today, if she’s not out walking the hills of Missoula with her family, you will find her photographing in her favorite fictional landscape, No Mans Land.
Doug Johnson is a Colorado native now living in Missoula, Montana. Before a life-changing pursuit of photographic art, he was an outdoor educator for more than 20 years, passionately teaching people backcountry skills in navigation, mountaineering, avalanche awareness and wilderness first aid. Since graduating from RMSP’s Summer Intensive program in 1996, Doug’s work has covered many diverse projects in the documentary, commercial, fine art and educational fields. Assignments have taken him from coyote shooting in Wyoming to the last stages of a woman’s life to the graffiti-covered alleys and abandoned buildings of Denver. He is currently involved in an ongoing project called Art Music, which fuses the art of photography with live musical performance. His educational philosophy is fun, intuitive and full of creative persistence. No matter where you are in your photographic journey, Doug’s balance of the aesthetic with the technical can help you further express your unique vision.
Jeff McLain is a photographer, videographer, and digital retoucher.
After his photography education, Jeff got his start as a freelance photo assistant in San Francisco working on editorial, catalog and advertising shoots. His skills in Photoshop and computing allowed him to help photographers bridge the gap between the film days and all-digital workflows, and he stood at the forefront of the advent of the career of the "Digital Technician."
Jeff soon moved into shooting, and then moved laterally to video capture. His background as a multi-instrumental musician has also benefited his understanding of sound design and audio capture, which can be a technically challenging aspect of film-making.
He worked for many years as a digital technician for Pier 1 Imports, Pottery Barn and a slew of others. As a photographer, he has shot for Williams Sonoma, Mountain Living Magazine, Keen Shoes, Mountain Hardwear, Red Envelope, and Robert Mondavi Wines, among others.
He has loaded 15 cases of equipment onto planes, coordinated with Spanish-speaking producers in Mexico, photographed hamburgers by window-light in Hong Kong, shot smoothies on the balcony of Rudolph Valentino's Hollywood mansion, talked about film technology on a photo shoot with George Lucas, and has worked out of helicopters, Cessnas and random hotel rooms.
He has been a freelancer for over 15 years and takes a 'real-world' approach to his perspective of the photographic industry and the skills needed in today's market. Locally, he is the Director of Arrowroot Productions, LLC, a commercial videography business.
Jeff is a 2001 graduate of Hallmark Institute of Photography and has B.A. from the
University of Montana. When not shooting in-studio or on-location, Jeff spends time
with his wife, son, dog and cat in Missoula, Montana. He plays bluegrass dobro,
banjo and guitar to unwind.
My love for photography began seven years prior to "SI." It helped me through the most difficult time in my life when I couldn’t do the things I normally loved to do. Two years prior to SI, I decided I wanted to start pursuing photography as a career and everyone thought I was crazy, including myself. Photographers don’t make money, there’s so much competition. We all hear it. I continued with a job that made money while pursuing photography and officially launched my business the beginning of 2018.
I had everything in place and ready to go, but I was missing one essential thing… confidence. I had all the technical skills (or so I thought prior to SI) and the business knowledge, but I needed more time behind the camera with other people in front of me and to not question my ability while I was with them. I wanted clients to feel comfortable. SI provided this and so much more.
The instructors were top notch and always available, the hands-on aspect was exactly what I needed, and I was challenged in ways I didn’t think were possible. You will hear everyone say it’s not called “intensive” for no reason. It was intense for all the best reasons and photography was all that was on my brain for a month and a half. And I loved it!
I learned much about myself and the best part was that I built life long friends from across the county. These friends I still stay in contact with on a regular basis and will the rest of my life. They are truly like family to me and the whole RMSP staff now feels like family.
When I sat down to talk to Sarah Chaput de Saintonge (School Director) about the program a few months prior to SI, we discussed whether I'd attend SI that summer or the next summer. She said I would question myself the whole year if I waited until the next year. She was correct.
I now feel completely confident with my camera, working with clients, and my editing skills. The SI program propelled me to the level of photographer I was hoping to become. I will never be satisfied with my skill and will be learning the rest of my life, but everything I expected to achieve after completion was met, and far more.
If you are questioning whether to do it now or next summer, you know what my answer is! Life is too short to postpone following your dreams.
RMSP was an amazing experience like nothing I expected! I learned more than I thought I would. RMSP is a place to explore photography, camera equipment, art, friendships, Montana. I got out of my comfort zone and got into a new adventure.Website
Often when you wait many years for an adventure, the anticipation creates out-sized expectations and you end up disappointed when these expectations are not met. I first heard about the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in 2002, but the inability take extended leave from full-time employment resulted in having to wait until I retired to take a long-format course. The intervening 15 years allowed plenty of time to build very high expectations when I signed up for the Summer Intensive in 2017. In this case, my expectations were not only met, but exceeded...in spades! If I were grading the program, it would be A+ across the board.
First, there is the wonderful staff. To a person their focus on the students shines through. They are all about helping you, giving personal attention when needed and making it a great experience for everyone. Their passion not only for photography, but for teaching, is evident at every moment. Skill levels among students is highly variable, which on the surface would seem to create challenges to learning. However, the RMSP overcomes this challenge by having not only great teachers but classroom assistants (previous RMSP graduates), to help keep everyone on track. The course structure also promotes an atmosphere where students not only learn from the teachers and assistants, but from each other as well – in labs, field sessions and critiques. This brings everyone along in their technical and artistic skills at an amazing pace and it is awe-inspiring to watch the improvements over the course of six weeks.
Secondly, the camaraderie that develops among the students is like nothing I have ever experienced before. This results not only in amazing support of each other’s journey, but in friendships lasting beyond the temporal boundaries of Summer Intensive. The diversity in age and backgrounds of the students greatly enriches the experience.
Finally, the setting in Missoula, Montana is perfect for getting away and allowing yourself to become fully immersed in learning. A friendly town with numerous nearby photo and recreational opportunities, I thoroughly enjoyed the six weeks in what I came to call my “Missoula bubble.”
Before I came to RMSP I was so lost in my photography and I was struggling to produce quality work I was proud of. Living in a fully immersed photography community for six weeks has opened up my world to so many other types, genres, and perspectives to explore. Being at this school has allowed me to gain the confidence I needed as a photographer and It has allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone. And the instructors are all amazing at what they do. There wasn’t one class that I was not excited to go to and was so inspired by all of them. My time at RMSP was exciting, challenging, and exhausting, but it was a summer I will never forget.
Attending RMSP Summer Intensive has been one of the best experiences and best decisions of my life. I was blown away by the professionalism, care and dedication by all the instructors and staff that helped me develop my technical skills, creativity and inspiration. There are no boring classes, no meaningless assignments, it is a very interactive, hands-on learning experience with industry professionals that make sure you are getting the most of each class. I also happen to have amazing, like-minded classmates that became friends!
In addition, RMSP is located in a city that shattered all my expectations, close to National Parks, surrounded by nature and home to some of the friendliest humans I've ever met (and great ice cream shops), Missoula has a special place in my heart. If you have a passion for photography and are wondering if RMSP is for you I would encourage you reach out to the school. I did, and it turned out to be a summer I will never forget.
Tuition for the 2021 Summer Intensive program is $4395. A $500 non-refundable, non-transferable deposit is due upon enrollment. This deposit amount ($500) is applied to the tuition for the program. The balance of tuition ($3895) may be paid in two installments. A minimum first payment of $2000 is due to RMSP 60 days before the start of the program. The final balance of $1895 is due to RMSP 30 days before the start of the program.
Don't miss the Early Registration discounts! If you register by December 31st of the year before the program begins, you'll receive $500 off your tuition. If you register before March 31st of the year the program begins, you'll receive $250 off your tuition!
Save money by paying with a check! Due to the large tuition amount of Summer Intensive, credit card processing fees can really add up. We always prefer students to pay by check when possible, but we understand that can make things difficult. That’s why we’re offering $50 off of your tuition if you make your first and second payment with a check.
Here's how it works.
And yes, this can be combined with the other SI discounts that we offer.
Housing in Missoula is generally easy to find. RMSP primarily recommends The Sawyer Student Living complex, just about one-mile from the school. The Sawyer offers SI students a special 6-week (all-utilities included) rate for a fully-furnished room in their apartment building. Click here to see details about the Sawyer. RMSP also recommends that students also check with Craigslist, Airbnb, and Vrbo for listings of available housing opportunities. In the spring of 2021 RMSP will make available any housing leads we are given from the community and post them on the Summer Intensive Student Portal which is accessible by enrolled students.
To apply for Summer Intensive (SI) click the "Apply Now" button above and follow the online instructions. We accept applications for our Summer Intensive program up to the start of the program if space is available. However, due to limited enrollment, we suggest you apply early. In the event that the program is full, you will be notified and your name will be placed on a waiting list. There is no application fee.
During the application process you will be asked to:
1. Give us some information about yourself
2. Write a short essay about your photographic goals
Once your application is reviewed, RMSP will send an email to you indicating acceptance or denial. If you are accepted into the program, you will be asked to return to this website to enroll. To complete the enrollment process, you must read and agree to the Enrollment Agreement. If you are younger than 18 years old at the time of enrollment, a parent or guardian must read and agree to the Enrollment Agreement. You complete the enrollment process by paying your tuition deposit (see Tuition tab).
No prior photographic experience is necessary for enrollment in Summer Intensive. You must be a U.S. citizen, and you must be a high school graduate or have a General Educational Development (GED) certificate by the time of our program orientation. Exceptions to the high school graduation requirement are made at the sole discretion of the School Directors.
Clearwater Credit Union Summer Intensive Loan
Any student interested in Summer Intensive is welcome to apply for a student loan through the Clearwater Credit Union in Missoula. This loan option is open to any student accepted into the program, regardless of their current bank or where they currently reside. Some qualifications of this loan are:
For the full details of this loan option including payment terms and interest rate, please contact Katelyn Bykari at Clearwater Credit Union via email at Katelyn.Bykari@clearwatercreditunion.org.
What you need to bring to the program
What you need to purchase after you arrive We'll share information in classes to help you make these purchases
What we recommend you purchase after you arrive
If you are looking for more help on choosing equipment for Summer Intensive feel free to contact us! In the early spring we will release our detailed equipment list which has specific information on each item on the list and suggestions on what to purchase.
What does the SI schedule look like?
A detailed schedule will be provided on Day 1 during Orientation.
Monday, June 14 - Friday, July 23, 2021
We accept applications on a first come, first served basis until the program is full. We recommend that students enroll early due to our enrollment limit. We will accept enrollment up to the start of classes if space is available.
No prior photographic experience is necessary for enrollment. You must be a high school graduate (or have GED equivalency) to attend SI.
Summer Intensive is designed for photographers who are looking to improve their technical skills while immersing themselves in the creative process. You do not need prior photographic experience to enroll. We start with the basics (f-stops, shutter speeds, equipment) and proceed quickly to more advanced topics (flash, creative processes, digital image-editing). Student ages generally range from 18 to over 70. Students come from all over the country and world. Interests include nature, portraiture, fine art, and everything in between.
Image management and editing is an important component of the Summer Intensive curriculum, therefore, intermediate computer navigation skills are required. If you have limited experience using computers, we highly recommend that you enroll in a computer basics course in your local community as preparation for the program.
Due to the pace of teaching in SI, we encourage students to try their hardest not to miss any of their classes. Attendance is taken at all classes, and final certification is partly based on attendance. If absence is inevitable, advance notice is required in order to proactively remediate the missed work. Unplanned absences do, of course, also happen, in which case the administrative team will work with the students on a case by case basis.
All enrolled students will have access to housing information that we collect and compile from rental agencies as well as private individuals who have space to rent to our students.
Missoula is a bike-friendly city with good public bus lines. However, one of the great pleasures of the summer is being able to explore the beautiful state of Montana and shoot. A car will be necessary to be able to do that. We do encourage all students to carpool for excursions while in the program.
A list of equipment and supplies needed for the program can be found on this website under "Summer Intensive: Equipment and Supplies".
Yes. We require students to bring laptops and use them when working in our digital labs as well as during Edit classes.
In the case of a student's prolonged illness or injury, a death in the student's immediate family, or other circumstances that make it impractical for the student to complete Summer Intensive, RMSP, at its sole discretion, will make a settlement that it considers reasonable and fair to both parties. The school will propose a settlement within 30 days of the official date of withdrawal.
By registering and completing any course with us, you will automatically be eligible for EDU status with B&H Photo. EDU members can save money on select items sold by B&H.
The software you use in your workflow is almost as crucial as your camera. Register for any RMSP course and you will receive a code to save 15% on a Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for the first year.