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BW student snaps his way to Cleveland Cavaliers courtside

Dustin Johnson '24 went from the Baldwin Wallace sidelines to a dream photography gig with the NBA Cavs — all before he graduates.

Dustin Johnson '24, courtside with the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

As Dustin Johnson '24 roamed the sidelines of Baldwin Wallace University's George Finnie Stadium snapping pictures, he never dreamed that in just a few years, he'd be on an NBA court photographing the Cleveland Cavaliers Entertainment Teams under the bright Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse lights.

After honing his photography skills on campus, that's exactly what Johnson did, taking full advantage of BW's proximity to big opportunities in the major metropolitan area of Cleveland.

Getting a Foot in the Door

When he arrived at BW in 2020 as a media production major, Johnson wasted no time building connections on campus. He scheduled a meeting with sports information director (SID) Jeff Miller about becoming a student photographer.

His photography soon started appearing in BW Yellow Jackets athletics coverage.

"My work in the athletics communication department would have been impossible without SID Jeff Miller, AD (athletics director) Steve Thompson, GA (graduate assistant) Hailey Owens and sport management professor Alec Palmer," Johnson stated. "These individuals gave me unbelievable access to all athletic teams and events." 

Launching Jackets Studio

Photo credit: Dustin Johnson

Johnson, Owens and Palmer then founded a student-run creative group called Jackets Studio. The group provides photography, videography, graphics and social media support to all 26 Division III teams at BW.

"Everyone in this group supported and educated each other in a team-friendly environment that encouraged skill growth," explained Johnson. He cites the experience with Jackets Studio as invaluable to developing his portfolio.

Building a Versatile Portfolio

Through his involvement in shooting BW athletics, Johnson built an impressive and versatile photography portfolio.

"My advice to any new photographer looking to make a name for themselves is to shoot absolutely everything," he suggested. "And by everything, I mean everything."

Between Jackets Studio and his own personal projects, Johnson has captured every genre — weddings, landscapes, portraits and more. "You name it, and I've at least tried it," he laughed.

From Campus to the Cavs

Photo credit: Dustin Johnson

All that effort paid off when the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Johnson as a social media assistant for their entertainment teams.

The role allows him to use his photography and videography skills to create content highlighting the Cavaliers Dance Team, Scream Team, 216Stix and more. Johnson is not only gaining invaluable professional experience but also working toward his ultimate career goal: becoming an NBA photographer or producer.

Inspired to Pursue His Passion

Johnson continues to be driven by the memory of his late father, Steve, who passed away from cancer during Johnson's first year at BW. While the loss was incredibly difficult, it motivates Johnson daily to pursue excellence in his craft.

"I dedicate everything I do now to him. My father was my superhero," said Johnson.

Johnson's journey has taken him from shooting games at George Finnie Stadium to now photographing the Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Though he has accomplished much already, this is only the beginning for Johnson as he continues working to achieve his goals as a photographer.

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