This was our first year at Shutterfest, and I LOVED it!  It’s a totally different kind of conference, with hands-on classes and a pool of 250 models to shoot with.  For a solid week, downtown St. Louis is taken over by photographers from all over the country, shooting in every nook and cranny of the gorgeous Union Station and its vicinity.  Literally, everywhere you look, there are photographers and models.

Since it was my first year, I was totally lost.  (I get lost easily, as you know.)  When I arrived at Union Station, I didn’t know where to go, what to do, where the classes were, or what I needed.  My only gripe about Shutterfest is that we didn’t receive maps when we checked in at registration, and the map that was on the floor was vague.   I was left to wonder around, asking random people, “Where’s the Atrium Terrace A???”  I also didn’t receive any information about how things worked, so I was all, “How does Rent-A-Human work?  Do I need to rent a human for my hands-on class?  No?  Oh… OK, so what do I do?”  After the fact, I heard there was a document on the Shutterfest web page, but I wasn’t aware of it, so I didn’t download it.  Woops.

In any case, everyone was so helpful and nice, I figured things out!  The best thing about Shutterfest is the people!  Everywhere I went and every class I took, I met new people and became fast friends.  When you’re a small business owner, it’s incredibly valuable to have a network of people who have your back.  I even met people in the food truck line at lunch!

The classes I took were AMAZING.  My fave class, by far, was Portfolio Building: Designer Fashion with Brian DeMint.  Holy cow, it was awesome!  He had several models styled in Avant Garde fashions, complete with amazing headpieces.  Brian is a wonderful man and amazing photographer.  THANK YOU BRIAN!!!  We split up into three groups and rotated through the models.  You’re going to die when you see the photos I took.  Film won’t be back from the lab for several days, so here’s a few behind the scenes pics I snapped with my phone.

My second fave class was Is it Glamour or Fashion? with Dave Doeppel.  This class was ALL fashion (studio) lighting, which meant off-camera flash/strobe controlled by a wireless trigger on the camera.  This is something I’ve never been able to figure out.  No matter how many times I went over it in college, I couldn’t grasp studio lighting.  The teacher would explain it to me and I’d just end up setting up static (constant) lights and shooting like normal.  (Also, I can’t look at the back of my camera, which makes it harder.)  This hands-on class was EXACTLY what I needed!  Dave took the time to explain how it worked while I set up the exposures and took the shots.  FINALLY, studio lighting makes sense!  THANK YOU DAVE!!!  I got to photograph some amazing fashion models with awesome lighting, and when I get the film back, I’ll get to see how well I did!

My favorite break-out group class I did was with Laura Schumpert.  There were about seven of us students, and Laura provided a model and a few props.  We each got to set up the model and props to tell a story, with the intention of being as creative as possible.  Watching Laura work was amazing, and I was inspired by her, as well as all the other students.  Laura even critiqued some of my conceptual work and gave me information and tips on submitting to galleries.  Her work is BREATHTAKING and inspiring.  I’m looking forward to creating a whole separate web site just for artistic, conceptual work, and I hope to have a gallery showing in the future.  THANK YOU LAURA!!!

Rent-A-Human was majorly cool.  There were 250 models on site, with professional hair and makeup artists.  All you needed was a group of three or more photographers and you could have a model to work with.  That was easy because people were so nice.  “Hey, you want to shoot with us?  Come on!”  Many times while I was shooting, photographers would see how awesome our model was and ask if they could take a few shots of her.  “SURE!  Join us!”  It was like one big family, and it went both ways.  I was warmly welcomed into groups many times.  Because there were so many models, we were able to set up shoots outside of the conference times.  Photographers were shooting all night, every night.  My regret is flying in on Monday because I missed out on some amazing shoots.  Next year I’ll definitely arrive on Sunday so I can join in the Monday fun.

My fave business class was Shooting for Albums – Bigger Sales & Happier Clients with Hannah Marie.  She takes amazing family portraits and is a MASTER at helping the clients choose clothing, locations, and artwork for their homes.  I learned SO much about how to take better care of my clients and boost sales (cuz it’s about payin’ my bills, folks).  Not only was Hannah’s class wonderful, but she was open to answer all of our questions.  She’s a LOVELY person and I’m very honored to have met her.  She just got engaged!  CONGRATULATIONS HANNAH!!!!

Mark and I always divide and conquer at conferences.  He took all the business classes, while I took the creative and sales classes.  Thank goodness Mark took the SEO (Google search engine optimization) class with Justen Hong.  He learned all about Google’s new algorithm and how to optimize our web site.  Another amazing class he took was Go Clean Your Room with Skip Cohen.  Skip reviewed web sites to show what works and what doesn’t, and talked about how to fix them.  This week we’re revamping and making things better, because what’s the point of taking amazing photos if no one finds you online!

Overall, I LOVED my first Shutterfest.  Thank you Sal Cincotta and your team, for all the hard work you did to make Shutterfest possible.  It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait until next year!