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Ground Floor: Lifelong dream of photography studio realized for Marion couple

By Deborah Neyens, correspondent, The Gazette | June 8, 2015 |

A Marion couple is growing their photography business with a new studio space.

Keith and Estelle Nester at their portrait photography business Cast of Thousands Photography in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, June 8, 2015.

Keith and Estelle Nester recently celebrated the grand opening of Cast of Thousands Photography’s new studio on Seventh Avenue in Marion. The April ribbon-cutting ceremony represented the realization of a longtime aspiration.

“It’s been my dream since I was a child to have my own photo studio,” Estelle Nester said.

The Nesters founded Cast of Thousands Photography five years ago and operated it out of their home in Wilton. When Keith later accepted a position as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Marion, the couple thought their subsequent relocation would bring about the end of their photography business.

“The business was growing in Wilton, but we didn’t know anyone here in Marion,” Estelle said. “We thought the business would die.”

Yet, Estelle was not ready to give up on her childhood dream. The couple purchased a house with enough space for their equipment and photo shoots, and Keith carved out time from his church schedule to pursue photography on a part-time basis. However, with three busy teenagers, they soon realized that running a business from home put too much of a strain on the household and that they needed a separate space.

“We made this crazy list of what we would like have in our dream studio,” Estelle said. “Location was at the top.”

In late 2013, the couple learned that the longtime home of Uncle Stan’s Military Surplus was on the market. The building’s prominent location on Marion’s main drag met their number one criterion.

“We made an offer the next day,” Keith said.

The Nesters embarked on a complete renovation of the building in December 2013. Working with a designer, they created a space to reflect their contemporary style of photography.

“We want people to know who we are and what we do just by seeing the building,” Keith said.

The renovation, which was completed earlier this year, created five different shooting areas, including a large natural light space and two infinity walls, as well as a luxurious viewing room. Props like cars and motorcycles can be brought in through a cargo door, and a personalized dressing room lets clients feel like they are models and rock stars.

“We designed the place around the experience we wanted to create,” Keith said.

Cast of Thousands Photography specializes in portraits, including high school seniors, weddings and families.

At a Glance

  • Owners: Keith and Estelle Nester
  • Business: Cast of Thousands Photography
  • Address: 900 7th Ave., Marion
  • Telephone: (319) 325-7564
  • Website:

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