Former student-turned-photographer enjoys life on the edge


As part of the Northern Star’s ongoing series, “The Next Step,” we continue to interview NIU graduates highlighting their career paths and how their education may or may not have helped them.

Timothy Faust

Age: 31

Occupation: Photographer

Employer: Self-Employed

Income: Mid-$100,000s

Graduated: 2002

Major: Chemistry

While many college students study to prepare themselves for a job related to their studies, Timothy Faust ended up following his passion and abandoning his degree.

Faust graduated NIU in 2002 with a degree in Chemistry to teach high school classes. He had already lined up a job with a high school in Crystal Lake, Illinois, six months before graduating and was paid about $40,000.

After teaching for about a year and a half, Faust dropped the job altogether and pursued a career as a professional photographer.

“I don’t think college prepared me to teach all that well, it prepared me in chemistry just fine, but when I graduated I only had four teaching classes which was very little teaching experience,” Faust said. “I realized pretty soon after I got out that it wasn’t for me.”

While he does not get much use out of his NIU degree anymore, Faust said it was his time spent with the NIU Outing Centre where he had made friends and developed his passion for photography.

“[The Outing Centre] made the four years of school worthwhile, but the actual classes and the degree doesn’t really help me at all right now,” Faust said.

What started as a hobby for Faust has now led him to traveling all over the world in a lucrative career.

Today, Faust lives in a condo with his wife in the ski resort town of Breckinridge, Colorado. He first worked out of his home but now owns two studios, a stock agency and a fine art gallery.

As a photographer he has shot weddings, fine art landscapes, and action/adventure photographs for outdoor magazines including National Geographic. Faust said he shoots anywhere between 400 thousand to 500 thousand images a year.

A big part of his success was him moving to a place where people had more of a disposable income.

“I moved to an area where tourism is big and people had more money so I was able to charge more and weather the economy,” Faust said. “It’s definitely a little bit of a microcosm up here where people are willing to buy fine art photography and pay six to seven thousand dollars for a wedding photographer.”

When Faust is not working the eight to nine months out of the year in Colorado, he spends two to three months traveling for business and fun.

Come spring, Faust will be in Tibet and Nepal to shoot some material while making time for his mountaineering hobbies.

For the current NIU students soon to graduate and find a job, Faust offered his advice of not having to feel obligated.

“Just because you major in a particular field, don’t feel obligated that that’s what you have to do because I really believe that you need to find someone to pay you for what makes you happy and I think in the long-run that’s more important than strictly monetary rewards,” Faust said.

Having spent many years in a curriculum that has no use for him today, Faust said he is still happy with how things have turned out.

“I don’t open my doors until 11 a.m., I ski six days a week in the winter and in the summer, I’m either mountain biking or rock climbing almost every single day, and in the spring and fall I’m traveling all over the world,” Faust said. “I’d say I’m pretty happy I finally landed where I wanted to be but it’s definitely a lot of work to get here.”