Shutterfest. 2014.

I am sure it is the same in every industry. You find others work that inspires you and you start to follow them. I know I have said this before but I started watching creativeLives early on. Like, the third photographer workshop early on. I can still remember the time that a wedding/senior photographer from St. Louis was going to be on. Sal…. something. (honestly didn’t know how to say his last name). So I watched in awe and learned. And have followed him and his wife’s work ever since.

When I heard about Shutterfest I immediately signed up for the pre-registration. I had recently quit my full time job and knew that I wanted to be there. When the day came to sign up I was hesitant. (Typing that right now makes me want to go back and kick myself in the rear for hesitating one second.) I knew I wanted to one day go to WPPI. I mean that is THE thing to do right? Except one of my dear friends said it wasn’t ‘all’ that. Since I am not a big partier and from all photographs I had seen most of them were at night. She said definitely go one day but a smaller environment might be better since I am still so very new to this industry. So I signed up. I told myself that if I couldn’t go I would only be loosing the deposit.

After I signed up I got on my circle of friends photography group and told them that I was planning on going, did anyone else want to go and share cost. And luckily two of them agreed to go. Over the next few months we planned out our trip. We would save money by driving, it’s only a 10 hour drive anyway. We would room together and eat out of a cooler if we had too. (We dream on a budget around here) So when the first of April hit I was worried that I might not be able to make it after all. It seemed things beyond my control were keeping me from going. So I turned it around. I took things that I could control and worked to make it happen. And it came together perfectly.

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So early Monday morning we set out on our photography adventure. The car was packed, our husbands were now in charge of the kiddos and we were on our way to St. Louis with a quick stop to see the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.

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I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I have been to a few free photography seminars around Dallas. Most of them were ‘selling’ for the sponsors who brought them there and they weren’t all that informative. Two years ago I signed up for the one day photography conference. It was held in Dallas so all travel expenses were gone at that point. And it was great. I got to see photographers that I had admired for a while. I remember being so excited that I volunteered to help Lori Nordstrom hold a blanket or something like that in her quick hour long class. At the time it was a great conference. But looking back on it, there was a separation. The instructors seemed kept on one side and the attendees on the other. You could pay to meet with the instructors if you wanted more time with them. But for a gal on a budget (even tighter back then) that wasn’t going to happen so I felt a little left out again.

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So I was a little worried about what I would learn from Shutterfest. I wanted to learn as much as I could. The schedule came out and it was packed full of the classes that I needed. Work/Life balance – need that. Blogging, SEO, Website – need that. Lighting – need that. Posing – need that. How do you choose?? So we didn’t choose. We just kept looking on the drive. Once we arrived in St. Louis it just seemed real. It was really going to happen. We checked in, our bags were taken to our room and we were kind of hungry. We walked around to find out where we were suppose to go the next day. We found a schedule and were looking at it when Sal himself saw us and came up to see how we were doing and if we needed anything. It was a breath of fresh air already. This guy runs a highly successful business and was working towards his first conference and he stopped to say hi?? Is he crazy? Yes. Well, yes and no. But that simple act that we would see over and over throughout the two days really showed what kind of person he is. At that moment I knew this was going to be different.

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The next day came in kind of a blur. One of those good blurs like the first time at a carnival and you just look around to see everything. The first platform was with Sal talking about pricing and packaging. Talking, not speaking. With one Sal and 500 peers in the room with the ability to stop him and ask questions during his presentation. He offered his pricing and packaging up for all of us to see and learn the how and why’s he does it.

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Next up in my lineup was Kristy Dickerson’s talk on Work/Life Balance. I need some of that. Before I left I had been crazy busy. To the point where my Sophie asked me to tuck her into bed and I told her two minutes. She looked at me and said, “How long will I be counting until you come?” Ouch. That really hurt. Didn’t she understand that my work was more important than tucking her in… a huge slap of reality hit me when I thought that. And I got up and tucked my baby in! My work was no where near as important as tucking my child into bed for the night. No where near as important and it wasn’t her it was ME who had forgotten that. So yea, to say I needed that class is an understatement. I learned in Kristy Dickerson’s class that she has a schedule. She wakes up at 5am and works until 8am. I can’t do that because of Scott’s schedule, but I can wake up at 5am and work until 7am. So this week I have been. She is a genius! It is amazing how much work can get done during those few hours!

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Then it was off to lunch and we headed upstairs for a little while and accidentally fell asleep. Whoops. There was a post on our Shutterfest facebook page that the next class we wanted to try would only take 30 people. So we hurried down stairs thinking we might be a little early only to find about 75 who were a little earlier than us. It seems everyone else wanted to learn from Roberto Valenzuela as well. So as we were standing there a great gal asked if we were in Roberto’s line or Phillip’s line. Who is Phillip? Oh the guy who wasn’t on the schedule but on the digital schedule, yea. I remember seeing his class that first night thinking I should go to that class because the title is a reference to Mary Poppins “Snap! The jobs a game.” So we went from Roberto’s class to this other guy Phillip Blume. It was fabulous. Talk about a great husband and wife team of photographers with equally great work. Yes thank you! After the class we were walking back to our room when I spotted Roberto Valenzuela talking with a few ladies and decided to stop in a talk with them. They welcomed me to the little group like I was an old friend. I kept thinking this can’t be normal for a photography conference. These people are great!

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After a great class our day was over and we needed to head out to find us some dinner. But it wasn’t. You see that facebook group for the attendees had a few interesting posts. The instructors asked if anyone wanted to meet in the lobby to talk more about photography and the stuff from there classes. Hum… do a bunch of photographers want to meet to talk about photography with great photographers? Yea, you can answer that question. So I headed down to and sat listening to the same Lori Nordstrom talk for over an hour about photography. This time there was no separation like the last conference I had been to. It was just being able to sit and listen/ talk about photography. It really did seem like a bunch of friends in the lobby. As I was heading upstairs I saw that Blair Phillips was still teaching. (The man stayed up until well after 11pm to keep teaching to the people who wanted to hear him. I wanted to hear but we planned to wake up early to see the arch at sunrise)

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Oh the cold arch at sunrise. It was worth it! And group of photographers who went out there (a little earlier than us) were so nice in letting us join in with their group for a while!

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Then it was back to the world of photography starting with Blair Phillips. Another inspiring photographer that I had seen on cL. And again, like everything else in these two days, so very nice and so very personable. My next class my friend Emmie came with me. We decided to see Phillip Blume again. It was a good decision. Not only did we learn a lot but we both won a gift to Vision Art! Nice!

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Lunch again with the group and then it was on to Roberto Valenzuela’s class. We sat up front 😉 This guy had it all. He was an excellent teacher, with great techniques, and a great sense of humor. I knew that when I got home I would be buying his book. I did. It is worth it! And I keep reading it in his voice. Ya’ know, the “I have 5 things to do with hands and I didn’t do any of them”.  Excellent class. So there it was, time for my very last shutterfest class. And who better to learn from than Skip Cohen. The guy knows his stuff. I think I took more notes in his class that I did in any of the other classes. And at the end of his talk he gives us all the information we would need to contact him later if we had any questions. It really was a different kind of photography conference.
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And the whole point of this is to say that if you are truly in photography to learn and grow please head to a event like this one! Everyone has their own experiences and your just might be great! And look for the general registration for Shutterfest 2015! Thankfully alumni were able to sign up already. See ya’ in St. Louis in 2015!!

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Here is some instagram love from this year!!

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