This week’s image is a bit different to the norm as, instead of at a wedding, it was taken at Cliff Mautner‘s Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp, which I had the pleasure of attending this week. I have always admired Cliff’s use of light and been impressed with his communication skills and down-to-earth approach to teaching. For those of you that don’t know him, Cliff was voted one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo magazine and is a Nikon spokesperson and multi-award-winning all-round amazing guy. Bottom line, someone I was really looking forward to meeting and learning from.
As you can probably tell, I place a lot of emphasis on constantly trying to push myself forward and improve my photography skills and I can safely say that Cliff’s workshop checked all the boxes in those areas: composition, technique, use of natural light, off-camera flash, workflow, post-processing, business insight and even sitting in on a real client consultation meeting; Cliff left no stone unturned. We worked from 8:45 till late into the night every day, so it was very much full-on in terms of a learning curve, but great fun too.
After a reception at Cliff’s Haddonfield, NJ (on the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA) studio on the Monday evening, we reconvened on the Tuesday morning and dived right into introductions (there were 19 photographers from around the world there) and, from there, Cliff went into an overview on his ethos and approach to shooting the wedding. We then got straight into the mix with an afternoon session in the ballroom of the Hyatt at the Bellevue working on off-camera flash, which was an area I had dabbled with in the past, but never really felt I got on with. That will more than likely change in the future though as the results Cliff gets using directional light on his subjects using a simple flashgun and monopod are amazing.
Wednesday’s teaching was centered around using natural light around the clock and that is when this week’s image was taken. We worked using directional light in a number of different locations around Philly with amazing results. When it comes down to it, as wedding photographers, we pretty much have to be able to deal with lighting conditions throughout the day, whatever the weather conditions. This session is normally delivered on day-one of the workshop, but the intense heat on that day led Cliff to choose to flip-flop the schedule to stay indoors in the comfort of the studio with its A/C and venture outside once things cooled off a bit. We then returned to camp for a quick dinner and got to sit in on one of Cliff’s client meetings, which was really interesting to see, that was followed by more Q&A before calling it a day at almost 10pm.
The last day was spent on a critique on our images and I was really chuffed to get praise from the man himself for this image as he is not the type of guy to mince his words if he doesn’t like something. From there, a quick but in-depth review of the image processing workflow with the Cliff’s studio manager Noelle, before another Q&A session. Cliff tells you in advance that he is going to be an open book in all areas and he really did put it all out there. No question went unanswered at all throughout the entirety of the workshop. Nothing was off limits.
All in all, a great experience and one I would totally recommend to anyone out there that admires Cliff’s work and wants to learn from one of the best teachers in the business.
March 2012 Update: It would be remiss of me to not update this post to talk about the friends I made during the workshop. We set up a Facebook group together and it really is a fantastic resource that we all contribute to for advice and support on all aspects of photography and business. You will make great friends on this course so definitely go into it with that mindset and set yourself a goal to break the ice and get to know each other as quickly as possible! You’ll thank me later!
Some of the other amazing photographers that have made it such a great ongoing learning experience:
Michelle Krompecher – White Oak Photography
Chelo Keys – Chelo Keys Photography
Ethan Garrity – Ethan Garrity Photography
Dani Jelley – Danelle Alexis Photography
Melissa Howlett – Winding Violets
Jeremy Berg – JMB Photoworks
David Salomone – The Studio Photographers
Becky Kestenbaum – Rebecca Belle Photography
Anya Roudenko – AnyaFoto LLC
Salvador Carmona – Salvador Carmona Fotografos
Peter Forman – Peter Forman Photography
Noelle Andrews – Femina Photo + Design
Heather Reed O’Mara – Heather O’Mara Photography
Sara Blackburn – Sara Blackburn Photography
Joe Payne – Joe Payne Photography