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Wicked Star Workshop

It’s taken me a LONNNNNNNNNNNNNG time to get this skill dialed in – but I’ll tell ya…IT’S WORTH IT.

The clients love ‘em, they’re fun to make, and you can also use this skill when you’re traveling to make some of the most unique images you’ll want to frame in *your own* house.

However – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried this technique, and ended up FAILING or learning an extended lesson about why it didn’t work.

Now that I’ve taken the time, research, and deliberate effort in trying to make these special photos – I feel as if I’ve gotten it down to a science!

Several friends and fellow photographers have asked me about how I do these – and I figured the easiest way would be to create a resource for people to be able to join me for an evening to create some wicked imagery.

In the past I’ve offered skype sessions with photographers explaining how to do this, but I noticed that their end result could have been bettered through direct feedback and assistance while shooting.

And when it comes to this kind of portrait, let’s face it – you can’t just pick up at a moment’s notice and go down the street to try again.  It takes deliberate planning, preparation, and an understanding of the elements to really harness the skill properly.

So here’s what I’m currently offering:

OCTOBER 1ST (This Wednesday) – Trial Run


(***Sold Out Pending 1 response***)




This will be the small ‘test’ workshop for up to 3 people.  (Personally, I feel individualized attention is EVEN MORE valuable…so this would be the best value)  I’ll still go over everything that I would in the finalized version – but I want to try 2 “added” elements that may or may not work.  (One could actually end up being SUPER-DOPE and if so, I might just keep the secret to myself instead of including it in the official workshop)

We’ll meet at 8 PM in San Diego, and we’ll be taking my car out to a specific location 1.5 hrs away to photograph 3 different styles of night sky portraits.  There wont be models for this – as I strongly disagree with having images from a workshop in your wedding portfolio.  This workshop is to teach you how to fish, not just give you a fish for a day.

Although – you *will* come back with one of your best facebook profile photos of all time.  Email for further details and how to sign up.




October 29th – 1st official Workshop



This workshop will be limited to 6 people, and will include models for understanding directions with clientele.  (Not for portfolio, but rather understanding which poses work best and seeing the dynamic of 2 people vs 1.)

We’ll meet at 8 PM and drive out to a location 1.5 hrs away to photograph 3 different styles of night sky portraits.  Depending on how the 2 “added” techniques turn out from the trial run, I’ll share everything I’ve learned and honed regarding how to shoot these portraits.

I’ll address the 6 factors that are INTEGRAL in achieving these photos, and also provide you with a list of equipment and handy items that will help you make the best out of your shoot.  Following the shoot, you’ll also be provided with a reference sheet on everything mentioned so that you can efficiently plan your shoots in the future.

Email for further details and how to sign up.


30 minute Skype Sessions



Some people have emailed me from other parts of the country/world asking about this, and are unable to attend the workshops in San Diego.  While it’s not as valuable as the hands-on experience, a direct Q&A conversation following the explanation of the process has saved others A LOT OF TIME in improving their end result.

Side-note: if you’re interested in doing a hands-on version but live somewhere else in the world, check out my upcoming travel schedule and send me an email if I’ll be in your area.


PS – this workshop has nothing to do with business – it’s all about how to make these kind of unique photos.  However, I’ll go on to say that these photos have been the most-shared & most-engaged photos I’ve ever posted online.  Being able to showcase this kind of work is a great tie-in for wedding photography and I have no doubt it will add $500 of perceived value to your portfolio.  It’s an impressive type of image, and it’s the type that gets printed 4ft x 6ft.

PPS – if you’ve referred me work in the past and are interested in doing this, take $100 off any of the above options.




PPPS – Doing workshops is not something I’m super-focused on, so I have no reservations of telling people “no” if I feel like they might be a dick.  We’ll be spending about 5 hours together, so I’d like to ensure that everyone is friendly & easy to be around.

Conferences, Conventions, and Workshops

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about cutting costs to attend events, I’ve outlined a general description of the conferences, workshops, and seminars I’ve attended in order to help introduce some ways to invest in yourself.




WPPI (Las Vegas – End of February-ish)

This is the biggest and most-well-known conference for photographers, and I feel it’s a “right-of-passage”.  Almost all things related to wedding and portrait photography are discussed, and there’s a trade show that features products to help you in all areas of your business.

I personally feel that it’s a bit overwhelming, and it sometimes feels like trying to get a glass of water from a streaming fire hydrant.  There are speakers that come from all sorts of backgrounds – both modern and traditional, and they offer concentrated presentations based on their expertise.  There are also fine art print judging competitions, and panels of speakers discussing certain areas of interest.  The difficult aspect about the conference is that there are multiple presentations going on at the same time, so you have to pick and choose which talks you’re going to hear.  It’s also difficult to compare experiences with other attendees since there’s over 14,000 people registered.

I always go each year (mainly to see friends and a select few presentations), but I’d suggest going at least once in your career.


Canada Photo Convention


This convention has been one of the most pivotal experiences I’ve had, as it’s also led me to discover the Fearless Photographers Network.  It’s a 3-day conference featuring well-established and NEW speakers that go over a variety of content.  In 2015, they’ll feature one day on wedding photography, one day on portrait photography, and one day on the business elements of photography.

I love this conference mainly for the following reasons:

-the variety of perspectives: one presentation could be all about SEO marketing, while the very next placing an emphasis on in-person rapport in order to gain more clientele.  Dialogue, discussions, and often times – disagreements can provide great insight into helping someone figure out which approach is best for them.

-the lack of ego: despite having disagreements, everyone understands the idea of  alternative strategies having the possibility for success.  Additionally, the concentration of people (both speakers AND attendees) holds a ton of value.  It seems that each year, the speakers for the following year are attendees within the audience.  And speakers from previous years even come back as attendees!  Everyone there I’ve met comes from a place of experience, and I’ve learned just as much (if not even more) from attendees than I have from the presentations themselves.

-the community: during the first year (it’s on year 4 now), there were about 100 people that attended the conference.  It felt like a family, and the relationships that I built developed into long-lasting friendships.  It’s hard to do that at WPPI with 14,000 attendees and multiple presentations happening at once.

-the on-going value: throughout the year, CPC (Canada Photo Convention) puts out an email blast with helpful articles, contests, and interviews.  Hearing interviews from well-established photographers is really cool as it allows you to get to know them more personally prior to meeting them at the conference.  They also have a private group on Facebook called “the Wolfpack” which is awesome for asking questions or providing value throughout the wedding season.

If there was anything I’d suggest attending to the over-all photography industry, it’d be this one.  Jasser (the founder) curates his list of speakers very particularly and the content they provide is consistently useful, creative, and fresh.  I’m working on becoming more involved with this conference – not sure how, but I love what it stands behind in being something ‘different’.


Foundation Conference (Charleston, SC Nov 15-16)


Foundation conference has a very distinct value to me as a photographer, and it certainly isn’t for everyone.  I feel that those that are TRULY passionate about making great, authentic, and extraordinary images will find significant value in attending this conference.  The kind of crowd that attends this conference generally has an in-depth focus towards the quality of their imagery, so you can rely on the idea that the attendees come from similar mindsets.

While Canada Photo Convention is diverse, and has appeal towards a wide range of photographers – Foundation Conference has a strong presence of photojournalists, and the ‘editorial’ photographers that attend have a very particular style.  Dramatic lighting, complex reflections, and what seem to be ‘impossible’ angles.  For a better sense of the type of photography I’m referring to, check out this gallery.

I’m also working on getting more involved with this conference in a way that lets me get to know more of the attendees.  Really, it is an amazing group.

While I won’t go into too much detail in this brief review (if I find the time, I’ll write an entire post about this conference and how it’s impacted me) – the insights and perspectives of these photographers have made a HUGE impact on the way I view my work, and have helped me articulate how to understand the ‘impact’ of a photo in a way that delves into the feeling it creates.

*Note, it can be very intimidating to compare your own work to a lot of the people in this group.  I can wholeheartedly say that the speakers (as well as the attendees) are some of the most impressive photographers I have ever come across.  A very humbling experience to say the least.


Mystic (Portland, OR – January Late-ish)

I had the chance to attend this past year (2015), and I had an awesome time.  One of the really cool things about Mystic was how Walter partnered with the speakers to offer discounted workshops for attendees.  I of course took advantage of it and attended Sam Hurd’s workshop.

Now that I’ve been in the wedding industry for several years, it was cool to see a lot of my friends delivering their presentation.  Brianna and Ewan of The Last 40 Percent Boudoir invited me to introduce them on stage.  This was a huge privilege not only because I’m a fan of their shooting style (they do boudoir the way it NEEDS to be done), but rather because of how proud I am of them for changing the world’s views on sexuality (Myself included.  Our talks are scary, confusing and frustrating – but extremely insightful).  They’re partnering up with Walta next year and pairing a boudoir conference with the regular schedule – so if you can afford the time, I’d say this experience would be one of the best investments you can make.

I personally know several of the speakers for next year, and their presentations have been regarded as some of the best people have seen.  The content of the main conference, paired with the boudoir, and then the crowd of attendees that are present – hell, *I* will give you your money back if you don’t think it was worth it.  (I’ll also probably give you a punch in the face because I’m damn sure it will be.  I haven’t checked the cost but I’d wager the value would be close to $1500-$2000.)

One last thing worth mentioning is the *kind* of attendees that go to Mystic.  They are some of the most creative, unique, and friendly & open photographers I’ve met in the industry.  I felt like I could be myself.  One photographer in particular – Jacklyn Greenberg - made me feel this sentiment especially.  We talked about all the weird things we do and it was a point at which I felt accepted for who I am.  And *that* feeling is one that’s distinct to Mystic.  Can’t wait for next year’s event.



-WPPI would be like the “photography 101, 102, 110” courses

-Canada Photo Convention would be “Wedding Photography Marketing 201, Boudoir Photography 202, Family Photography 301”

-Foundation Conference would be like “Wedding Photojournalism 295, Creative Wedding Portraits 370, and Technical Photo Composition 401”

Hope that helps.




While I haven’t been to these, I’ve wanted to go – and I’ve heard good things about them:

Photo Field Trip  (Santa Barbara, CA – March 1st-ish)

I’m kicking myself for missing this one.  At first I really doubted it, and the idea of glamping made me want to projectile vomit – but I’m a big fan of how they’ve really broken the mold with the structure of how content was delivered.  Instead of presentations, they had campfire sessions and small group discussions.  People went on bike rides with innovators of the industry.  What initially caught me off guard was how they included a HUGE variety of photographers, ranging from well-known instagrammers to commercial portraiture photographers.  I had a few friends attend the first annual event this past year, and heard nothing but good things.  I’ll be making it a point to go next year.




Jasmine Star Creative Live (April 2010)

Jasmine is one of the most caring people I’ve met in the industry.   I can whole-heartedly say that her workshop – and the friends I met during the experience, were responsible for sparking the idea in my head that I can do things *differently* than the rest of the industry, and that I have a right to my own path.  It was ironic that it took attending her workshop to realize I didn’t want to shoot like her, or talk about fashion and small dogs – but her faith in expressing one’s individuality gave me that first boost of confidence I needed to go in my own direction.  Can’t thank her enough.


Luna Photo – One on One Mentor Session (Dec 2010)

This served as an all-around learning lesson on how to take my work to the next level.  We went in-depth into pricing, marketing, destination weddings, and several different elements of the business.  It definitely helped bring me to the next level from my introductory years.


Tyler Wirken – One on One Mentor Session (Dec 2011)

After Partnercon (Pictage Conference that no longer exists), I luckily came across his work during a presentation.  I scrambled what money I had at the time, and spent 2 hours the very next day talking about technical aspects of photography.  I was at a point in my work that I was frustrated with my composition and the lack of ‘feeling’ in my photos.  Tyler broke the limitation on that plateau for me by bringing me back to earth and critiquing my work.  He also scared the shit out of me with how intense of a photojournalist he is.  I really appreciate that about him. If there’s anything that I look back on and think had the most dramatic effect on my work as a whole, it was this meeting with him.  I finally felt like I could ‘see’ better.


The Youngrens Workshop  (April 2012)

The Youngrens have a really strong understanding of marketing to ideal clients, and I learned A TON about how to focus on my target clientele.  While we have very different types of ideal clients, the principles and strategies they teach about relay to all types of photographers.  Jeff and Erin are good friends of mine, and I have a ton of respect for them.  It’s awesome being able to talk about business with friends that target very different types of clients, but share the same passion for marketing principles related to ideal clientele, audience, and cultivating a “tribe”.


Brett Butterstein (July 2013)

One on One Mentor Session – As a recommendation from Tyler Wirken, I inquired with Brett about doing a 4 hour session to critique my images and how to better approach my work.  Our conversation about lens choice, light, composition, and ‘feeling’ in photos was really insightful.  I found myself arguing with Brett quite a bit during our session – but all in the purpose of understanding the underlying reasoning for his approach.  A lot of the concepts were difficult for me to adhere to, and I struggled to change certain technical aspects of my work – but against my own judgement I tried his suggestions…and whaddaya know, they actually made a lot of sense to me.  (As an example, one of the big changes was abandoning the practice of taking photos wider than 28mm.)  It was a costly 4 hours, but it only made sense for me to do it sooner rather than later – as I’d rather improve the quality of my work earlier on rather than delay my development.

*EDIT JULY 2015* – Brett’s session along with the Foundation Workshop (below) have both still been revealing themselves in the development in my “vision”.  I notice ways that I’m improving and recognize that they were ideas presented by Tyler, Brett and the Foundation experience.


Foundation Workshop (Jan 2014)


I should mention that Brett and Tyler are both instructors at Foundation workshop, and attending this was something I had in the back of my mind ever since Tyler had mentioned it back in 2011.  It’s an intensive 3 day photojournalism assignment which includes extensive critiques of your entire set of images following each day.  It’s a hefty price tag of over $4k, but it was well worth it.  I always think back to the movie The Game (if you haven’t seen this movie, do it), and I feel that each person’s learning experience is unique.  For some, the technical elements of their work such as light and composition are where they feel they grow most – and for others, intangible aspects such as attention of approach, time management of getting different moments, and connection with your subject are where others get most benefit.  Yes, it’s true – people cry and have breakdowns, but those lead into breakthroughs.  While I plan to write an entire post dedicated to an in-depth review of this workshop, I would suggest that anyone considering it first attend Foundation Conference prior to going.  Get a feel for the instructors (many of them present or attend the conference), and hear feedback from others that have taken the workshop (many of the attendees have done it).


Casa de Chrisman (May 2014)

I’m happy to say that Erin and Ben have now become friends of mine.  Their workshop was a learning experience unlike any other.  And while I think I signed up initially to get some cool “tricks” – I ended up learning lessons completely unrelated to photography.  The style in which they approach their workshops is one that should be embraced by all others within the industry.  When considering “who’s” taking your workshop, a lot of times it’s those that are just starting out and need guidance in understanding techniques, customer service, or knowledge about product delivery etc.  The types that aren’t shooting in high budget venues but church basements and family homes.  Erin and Ben showed how to create amazing photos in *any* space, including their downstairs bathroom of their home.  And while a lot of the techniques & critiques I was already familiar with, understanding that approach helped me become a better teacher (and leader) within my own circle.  It’s easy to make great photos at an amazing venue, but when you’re starting from scratch…it can help to know the fundamentals.  So thank you guys for teaching me how to be a better ‘teacher’ – and thank you on my students behalf for helping them learn in a more effective way.

*Side note – Erin and Ben are also kick ass people to hang out with, and they genuinely care for their students, and earnestly want them to succeed.  I know a lot of photographers out there doing workshops for the fame or the money, and it sucks to see that approach tarnishing the industry.  Erin and Ben are fighting the good fight, and I’m proud to toot their horn.


Sam Hurd Workshop (January 2015)

As I mentioned above in the Mystic review, I attended Sam’s workshop in conjunction with the conference.  To be honest with you, I’ve noticed Sam’s work and how he’s pushing forward and challenging himself to better wedding photography as a whole.  I really just wanted to hear what he had to say, and hear about his approach.  Sam takes an unorthodox approach to his work, and I found myself realizing which areas I wanted to do the same – and also, which areas I yearned to be different.  Sam’s un-afraid of being different and even catches flack at times for some of his ideas, but it comes with the territory of being a trailblazer.

I admire Sam for constantly pushing himself to grow and think differently – truly a fan of his work.




This portion of the post could get really long, so I’ll try to keep it limited to some of the ones I’ve considered attending or reputable ones mentioned from friends.

Two Mann Studios – Balls Out Workshop

Matt and Katie Workshop

Ice Society Workshop

If you feel there are some good ones you have done or thought about doing that should be mentioned here, please list them in the comments below!  Would love to hear from you!

PS – as a personal recommendation, if you’re looking to improve your work – but don’t know where to start, I’d highly highly suggest going to a conference and talking to attendees about their experiences with workshops.  Do some research on your speakers, and check out what they have to offer.  If you can’t quite afford their workshop price, inquire with them about a 1-on-1 skype session and get some personally-tailored attention on your business.  These kinds of conversations are some of the most valuable.

Here’s a great photo taken by the talented Caroline Godkin during the Foundation Workshop with instructor David Murray, and Elisha Stewart - a very well respected photographer friend of mine.  The look David is giving Elisha is so telling.

fworkshop caroline godkin

How to attend conferences for less than $100 – TOTAL

First off, I’m not writing this based off tips from other blogs, and I’m not writing this to get SEO juice or eyes directed at my work (which I hardly even show on here anyways), or because I want to look like some expert on the topic.


I’m writing this because I want you, the reader – to gain some ideas on how to attend important events that will better your business.  These ideas are comin’ straight from the brain, and hopefully they will work for you – as they have for me in the past.


So first off, let’s address how much a conference costs, shall we?


Most conferences/workshops/seminars I’ve been to are 2-3 days in length.  If you’re lucky, they’re in your home town – but if not, the cost of airfare and transit can almost DOUBLE the initial amount that you’re paying for your registration.  On top of that, the event takes place in some uber-fancy hotel in a major metropolitan city – racking up the total cost to almost THREE TIMES the cost to attend.


So let’s find a way we can cover these costs – I’ll do my best to come up with a few solutions for each obstacle, giving you some options depending on your comfort level.




For conferences, the average cost of a ticket is about $4-500.  Here are the ways I’ve approached getting the cost covered when I first started out in my business.


  1. Offer to help on the admin side.  The conference coordinators are usually so over-whelmed with planning that they NEED to delegate certain duties.  Last year, I attended a conference where I served as part of the ‘friendship committee’ and was offered a free pass to attend.  While I don’t necessarily need a break on the financial side of things, it’s also a GREAT way to meet attendees as well as all of the speakers that will be presenting.  When I look at this role, it has massive value.  Pays your ticket, and it puts you in a spot to meet almost EVERYONE!  The downside is that you might have to sacrifice hearing certain talks in order to manage your staff duties.  But hey, partial access for free is definitely better than not going at all!
  2. Book 2nd shooting gigs in advance.  Bring up the idea to photographers you currently help assist, and let them know you want to attend a conference to improve your skills.  When phrased that way, it’s not only helping YOU out, but helping them by investing in a portion of their own work.  Odds are you’ll be turning out better photos after attending, so they get to see a reward as well – just as a bonus for paying you in advance for work that you’d already be doing!
  3. Contests and sponsorships.  There are often times that these events will put out a contest on Facebook or Twitter to either discount the cost of a ticket, or even offer an ENTIRELY FREE admission based on participation in some sort of contest.  I’ll fill you in on a little secret – these contests…they DON’T get ‘that much’ participation.  The odds of winning are a hell of a lot better than usual…and if you’re the type of person that feels like you ‘never win anything’ – these contests may very well be your best bet.  I’ve actually received news that I’ll be in a position to offer these kinds of contests/scholarships for 2 conferences in particular, so if you’d like to find out about them in particular – email me at  (Tomorrow I’ll actually be posting a comprehensive list of the conferences & workshops that I’m familiar with/been to in the past)
  4. Work for the speakers.  While not all speakers are actively pursuing more conference work, the ones that *are* could definitely use help marketing themselves for future events.  Email speakers prior to a conference and inquire about photographing them or recording video of their talk.  This kind of content is great for them to use in marketing material or to self-critique their stage presence for future gigs.  *Note* – be sure to check in with the conference organizer to make sure that it’s okay for you to do this.  Some speakers are particular about content being released to the general public – particularly video recordings.  I’d suggest making it clear that the video would be used only for personal review by the speakers, and that it won’t present any conflict of interest.  This past week, I had my friend Mark take photos during my presentation, and my friend Vlad provided me with video of my talk.  I also helped my friend Matt with getting him photos of his talk.  While we all did it as favors for each other, I would have no issue paying for this kind of service if it helped someone make it to the conference.



I’ll do my best here, but these are probably the most difficult to save on out of all the different expenses.


  1. Book early, and on a weekday.  I’ve read SO MANY articles about the best time to book airline tickets and a lot of times it’s conflicting advice, but most of them (as well as based off my personal experience) will tell you to book your flight on a weekday, and over 2 months in advance.  For this most recent trip, I paid about $250 for my transportation, while a friend of mine who booked 2 weeks out paid $500.  I should also mention that flights on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Mondays are often cheaper than those on Fridays or Sundays.
  2. Check multiple websites – I suggest hipmunk, Travelocity, and kayak.  Also be sure to check direct airlines like Southwest that don’t provide their rates to 3rd party sites, and look into nearby airports to the destination of your choice.  You never know when you’ll be able to save $200 just by finding an airport that’s another hour or two away from your final destination.  (While it might not be worth it for some, I know I sure as hell would take that discount when I was in my first few years of business).  Also check for trains and busses.
  3. Don’t get a rental car, and if you do – check other locations outside the airport for their rates.  I’ve seen as low as $7/day for a rental car in Colorado.  It can all really depend on the city, too – so sometimes you can just be screwed.  Unless you’re planning on doing a bunch of sight seeing during your trip, I’d save the additional cost by traveling by bus, shuttle, or group taxi to get to your hotel.  Maybe offer to treat someone local (meet someone new) to dinner if they pick you up from the airport – kills 2 stones with 1 bird and makes your ride something more personal.
  4. See if you can find people from your city (or local area) to pitch in on a road trip.  It’ll help them save money, and on top of that – provide a ‘scenic’ route to make some great photos along the way.  I personally feel like those experiences building up to the conference are valuable in their own right!  If you REALLY can’t swing the gas money, offer to drive YOUR car as long as others take care of the cost of fuel.  That way, they don’t have to worry about driving, putting miles on their car & can get work done on laptops, etc.




This is probably my favorite way to split costs, just because there is so much potential for value.


  1. Share a hotel room.  I strongly believe in having a room at the same hotel as the conference – it just adds so much when you run into people casually in the hall and strike up conversation.  Less time in transit, and more time spent with the people you want to spend time with.  To bring down costs, split the room with someone.  To bring it down EVEN MORE, find others who are trying to cut down on costs and opt to sleep on the floor if you can pay a discounted rate.  [Hypothetically - let’s say you have 4 people, and the room is $140/night.  To opt for having a bed, it’d be $50/night.  Floor would be $20/night.  Over the course of 3 nights, you each would only spend $150 and $60 respectively.  Wayyyyyy better than forking out $420 on your own to cover the cost of an entire room.]
  2. AirBnB – awesome resource.  This website lets people rent out rooms or entire houses at rates cheaper than hotels, with sometimes even better hospitality.  I prefer doing this for my personal travel – I’ve met some really cool people by doing this, and I now consider them friends.  It gives you a local’s perspective of your destination and something different than a chain hotel.  A lot of times they’ll either be cheaper than a hotel, or closer to the location you’d like to be.  I’m using this in May when I attend the Chrisman’s workshop in Oakland.  The airbnb is located walking distance right down the street, while the nearest hotel was a 10 minute taxi away.
  3. Hostels – whenever I tell anyone about this, they always give me this look like “that’s only for poor Europeans…I’d NEVER do that.”  Granted, the standards are definitely lower than a hotel, you get an opportunity to meet people from all over the world, and you save A LOT of money.  You can often get a private room for $40/night, or a shared room for something like $10/night.  That comes down to a ton of savings.  Hell, if I didn’t value the community feeling of being at the hotel – I’d definitely opt for this route.  I don’t have problems affording a hotel, but I just love meeting new people from different countries.


If you decided to take the ‘most’ cost-cutting route above, you could really have just about everything paid for.  Maybe $60-$100 total, including ticket, room, and travel.  How the hell can you not afford that???  It’s an investment if anything.


When it comes down to it, all of these discounts…all of these ways of cutting costs…I really think the big issue that’s getting in someone’s way when they say “I can’t afford it” – is that they don’t recognize the value of these experiences.  OR they just don’t make them priorities.


It’s really unfortunate, because I feel that these conferences will ultimately provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to make your business very successful – to the point where you don’t need any of these cost-cutting tricks.  The content that you learn will bring you more income in the following year, and will serve to PAY OFF the expense it took to attend.


Don’t let your pride get in the way of your successI’m not above any of these ideas mentioned, and I’d have no shame in experiencing it the same exact way as someone making every last penny count.  Those who would judge you deserve a slap in the face, because really – these conferences are the most valuable to the people who can benefit from the tips mentioned in this post.  You SHOULD be there, and it should be expected that someone is making these kinds of sacrifices to get to experience these events.


I’ll leave you with the tail-end of one of my favorite Dr. Suess quotes that I think of just about every day in my life:


“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”


PS – if you’re a photographer interested in attending conferences, workshops, or seminars – but don’t know where to start…I’ll be posting a comprehensive review of everything I’ve attended and all the workshops I’ve done ‘tomorrow’ on this blog.  I’ll provide brief descriptions of what each was about and hopefully you’ll find a few you can vibe with.  Email me with any questions – I’m happy to help.

PPS – if you have any other tips to share, please do so in the comments below so that others can benefit from them too!

Here’s a photo I took of Matt Ebenezer during his talk at Canada Photo Convention last week.  His talk, as well as our conversations we’ve had outside of conferences have made a tremendous impact on my business.


Twyla - Tim, this is great – but you didn’t include bed and breakfasts other than AirBnB! In Canada at least, they are cheaper than hotels, include food and often some lovely conversation, and often you can split them multiple ways. Also, is a fantastic resource that not everyone knows about – that’s a place free accommodation and I’ve hosted and surfed plenty. It’s very safe and a great resource.April 29, 2014 – 1:30 pm

Cory Robbins - Hey Tim, I’ve been really trying to get back into photography for the past couple years now, and I have not spent enough time researching any workshops (or attending any at that matter). Just finding the time between learning the basics (taking phot101), and finding time to get good practice in, its difficult to see myself going on a four day adventure while working a normal 9-5′r and all. But in spite of all that, I know there are some good local workshops here in San Diego you are aware of and I will definitely look into those. Your article was very helpful in the sense that workshops, seminars, etc. are probably often times easily over looked, or underestimated, and it really was helpful… Good read, and inspiring like always! We met years ago at State, and still wish I took you up on that flag football invite… and I almost jumped on that little road trip to Mexico… maybe we will bump into each other at one of these seminars someday. Thanks for sharing!April 28, 2014 – 6:06 am

Steph MacKinnon - Great article Tim! I met you briefly 2 years ago at the 1st Canada Photo Convention in Vancouver. Would love to hear your thoughts on all the conferences you’ve attended as always want to go to the best of the best and interested in your perspective. Keep up the great work. Sincerely, StephApril 27, 2014 – 11:22 am

Lee - Hey Tim, Thanks for this post. Defintely does helpApril 27, 2014 – 10:49 am

Tracey - Great advice Tim! I am looking to network with other photographers and I think attending conferences is the perfect opportunity for that. Looking forward to your next blog on that. Thank you for your willingness to help others succeed! Very much appreciated :)April 27, 2014 – 6:28 am

Halloween Promotion Photo Shoot

Recently the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe got in touch with me through a referral from a past client.  They saw some creative event photography I’d done for a local hotel, and asked if I could do something similar…but different - for them.

They have a few seasonal events that take place at the country club each year, and were looking to spruce up their marketing material to bring something fun, fresh, and engaging to their clientele.

So what I’d be doing – would essentially be walking through and photographing a ‘haunted house’ that they’d prepared for the upcoming month’s festivities.

Well, this definitely WAS different than any kind of shoot I’d done before.


Maybe just a little different.

None the less, it was a lot of fun walking through this kind of set up, and even more of a challenge was trying to figure out how I was going to isolate the lighting for each subject while maintaining the dark & eery vibe of the surroundings.

Some of you already know this, but I love using the Lumiquest Big Bounce for my off-camera flash needs.  It creates killer soft light (is that an oxymoron?) and allows me to position my light exactly where I want it to be.  And in this situation, it definitely gave me what I needed in terms of keeping the background dark, but refrained from blowing out the subjects with harsh light.

Hope you dig the photos, and let me know if you found the easter egg content by leaving a comment below.



These guys are upright against the wall blending in with the rest of the dots and all-of-the-sudden spring out at you!  (Used may flash behind them to separate their robes from the background)



Obligatory chainsaw photo.



When I saw this guy…fear didn’t really set in.  Similar to this scene in Men In Black – he was the most unlikely threat.  You see the gun?  He’s not going to kill you…he just wants to play PAINTBALL.



This next scene was a little difficult to shoot.  Not necessarily because of the lighting, but because of the motion.  All of the dots you see here are moving in a cylindrical motion around the bridge.  As if it’s just one big wheel spinning round & round.  So while I know my exposures like the back of my hand, walking through this made me feel like I took too many drugs, and was on the verge of vomiting.



Here I made a quick adjustment to my settings to capture the bridge in “warp speed”.



Would love to see this on Pinterest under “nuclear holocaust themed office decor”.



Dead giveaway.



This shot was probably the most difficult to balance.  Had to reduce the noise on it significantly.  But loved the way the eyes give off the glow contrasted with the blue ambient light.



October kicks off the holiday season for the year, and I love the eery feeling that sets in with the colder weather, the leaves falling to the ground, and all the Halloween movies on TV.

This shoot was a ton of fun, and it made me get excited to go out and get in the holiday spirit myself.  My roommate and I were talking about hosting a halloween party this year, so maybe we’ll borrow some ideas from above!

Phil L - Dig the pics, but I’m still looking for the Easter Egg. Must be a Dead Giveaway.October 20, 2013 – 4:03 pm

Case of the Fridays – Event Marketing Freelancer Billy Gallagher


I’ve chosen event marketing manager Billy Gallagher for today’s Case of the Fridays.  While it’s not his particular industry that I’m fascinated with, what I really *do* find intriguing about him is his lifestyle.  He’s been traveling for the past 8 years straight, and it’s led him to have some pretty incredible experiences.

Billy is a great example of someone who has shaped their career to cater to their ideal lifestyle.  Flexible scheduling, extensive travel, and a variety of work consisting of meeting some pretty remarkable people.  I feel like Billy has packed a lifetime of experiences into just the first decade of his adulthood, and I think a lot of people can benefit from hearing about his approach towards life.

Here’s a portrait I took of Billy out at Anza Borrego desert this past August.  That’s the milky way you see below, and I feel this photo is a great representation of his curiosity to explore what the world has to offer.


Here’s a photo of us during the conversation that ensued below.  We met up in Pacific Beach to catch up and chat while he was in town for a few days.




What is your name/age?


Billy Gallagher – 30


What is your occupation?


I work in experiential marketing setting up events around the country.  It’s all freelance based, so sometimes it’s working for the actual event production team or sometimes it’s working for a sponsor for the event.  The whole idea to just be interacting with consumers and helping them engage with what’s going on at the event.


Where did you grow up?


The suburbs of Atlanta, GA


What level of schooling have you completed?


I graduated from UGA with a degree in Public Relations.


How long have you been doing what you currently do?


8 years now.


And where would you say you’re based out of?


My suitcase.  I’ve been traveling for the entire 8 years and haven’t had an apartment or a car the whole time..


Did you have a 9-5 job before that?


Nope, I graduated on a Friday and on the following Monday I was on a flight to the first event and I was picked up at the airport by some guy with a sign with my name on it.


Did you know how much travel was going to be involved when you first started?


That’s actually how it all started when I first got involved – some guy asked me if I wanted to drive a BMW around the country and hand out T-Shirts for the summer after I finished college.

And I was like, “Yes.  I *DO* want to do that.”


So from then on it was a constant stream of gigs?


Not immediately.  I worked as a bartender for a little bit until another marketing tour came along.  After that, it caught good momentum to keep me going.


So with these tours, do you work with just one company?  


No.  I do several kinds of events across different industries.  A lot of times I’m in control of some assets with pretty big price tags, so it’s important that I have experience with different kinds of events and have good relationships with well more known companies.


What kind of scheduling do you have, or what does your calendar look like?


Well, right now I’m on a 1 year contract with an agency – so during 2013, I have to fulfill managing 25 different events over the course of these 12 months.  So they give me a schedule about 6 months in advance, which allows me to plan for it.  I have 3 events in Colorado, some on the east coast and some out here on the west coast.  Right now I’m contracted with Gortex which does a lot of work with hunting, climbing, skiing, outdoors type of stuff – so that’s the majority of the kind of scene I’m surrounded by this year.


I’d imagine that you get to meet a lot of cool athletes through your work.


Yeah, it’s pretty awesome to see these people that power through these mulit-day sporting events.  They’re in such great physical shape it’s motivating for me to be healthier.

A few years back I worked personally with Dean Karnazes while he was doing 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states.  We set up an event each day in different cities – and it was funny…his sponsors gave me directions over the phone and told me not to worry about him being able to compete in the races each day…but just make sure he doesn’t attempt to do “2-a-days”.  As in 2 marathons in one day.  That whole experience was awesome to have gone through when I was just 23, so it helped me off to a great start during my early years.

It’s funny – the whole time I would see people lining up to take pictures with Dean in all of the different cities we were in.  At one point, Dean asked if I would mind taking a photo with him for him to have for his own keepsake.  That was pretty special.


Some people might think that traveling so much might be a hinderance towards leading a normal life – would you consider it an advantage or a disadvantage?


I think of my lifestyle as one of many opportunities, and the way I see it I’m trying to experience as much as I can.  But I definitely make sacrifices – I don’t have my own bed.  I can’t have a girlfriend – tried that a few times and it just doesn’t work.  I have a lot of good friends but we don’t really hang out on a regular basis, so that makes things a little difficult – always having to “catch up” when I see them.  Maybe it prevents me from building really ‘strong’ relationships at times.  But the flip-side is that I have a few friends in about every city I go visit, so my network has just grown to be huge.


Out of all of the places that you’ve traveled, have you had any favorites?


I love ancient civilizations and ruins, so going to see mayan temples and places like Ankor Wat & Egypt have been awesome.  I recently went to the stonehenge, and that was pretty awesome to see.  I’ve seen the great barrier reef, I’ve slept under the stars in the Sahara, I’ve hiked through the Amazon rainforest – I love seeing those kinds of terrains.  They’re so unique and unlike anything else.


You mentioned that you almost died one time while scuba diving – can you talk a little bit about that?


Sure.  It was my first ‘night’ dive, and I had faulty equipment.  Basically, even if I was exhaling – my air would just keep pumping in so it was rapidly losing air from the tank.  At first I thought I was just breathing odd because it was my first night dive, but then quickly realized that there was something seriously wrong.  It was really scary.  And at night, you can only see what your flashlight is looking at – and I had stupidly drifted a good distance away from the dive master…but luckily I stayed really calm and swam up to him – showed him the signal that I was out of air, and it went really text book.  He handed me his air supply, and we made our way back to the surface.

Once I was above water, I just started throwing up Caribbean water.  But I didn’t care, because I was alive.  We went to a bar a few minutes later and I bought a round of drinks for the entire bar because I was just so happy to be alive.


Do you think that had a big impact on how you take risks while traveling, or will it cause you to be more cautious going forward?


You know, I don’t think it will change.  Things happen.  Gear fails.  You can’t let that fear get in the way of experiencing the world and all of it’s experiences it has to offer.

And a lot of people think it’s dangerous going to 3rd world countries.  What they don’t realize is that those countries economies depend on tourism, so it’s in their own interest not to steal or harm people that are visiting.


How much longer do you envision yourself working in the field that you’re in?


I don’t know…it’s a pretty high energy job and maybe 10 or 20 years down the line, I think I’ll have to change to something else.  A lot of people get burnt out doing what I do, but surprisingly I haven’t felt that way just yet.


What kind of work could you envision yourself doing after you transition away from your current career?


I don’t know…that’s a really interesting question.

Like I said, this was my first job out of college and I just kind of ran with it.  I’d be really hard pressed to work a 9-5, have a desk looking out a window knowing that I’ve been out there…on the other side.  Kind of like what a wild animal would feel.


Do you tend to prefer to live paycheck to paycheck or with a savings plan accounted for?  Is your income predictable and regular, or entirely dependent on what you produce?


I definitely have a savings.  Since I’m a freelancer, I don’t have taxes taken out of my paycheck each time, so when April comes around – I have a big lump sum to hand over to uncle Sam.  So I usually save a good amount to handle that expense, then put some away for my regular savings, and then spend anything remaining very freefully.


When you’re traveling, do you like to stay in hotels, or stay with friends?


I usually stay in hostels – and cheap hostels at that.  I’m pretty frugal when it comes to accommodation.  Because when it comes to the experience, I’m exactly the opposite.  I don’t think that money should hold you back from having an awesome experience.

I’ve never done the thing, but I recently went to Europe and ended up staying on friends couches and avoiding paying any costs for accommodation.


Yeah, you mentioned you had recently taken a trip to Denmark for a music festival – what was that like?


I was in Amsterdam and was trying to decide where my next destination would be.  I know 10 people that live in Denmark, so I put them all in a group-chat on Facebook asking them what was going on for the next week.  8 out of the 10 people responded saying that they were going to this festival called “Roskilde.”

What was cool about that was I had met all of these different people in different countries throughout the world while traveling, and almost all of them happened to just be going to this same music concert.  So that was that, and I booked my ticket.

It became more apparent that it was a camping festival…and I didn’t really have a place to sleep.  So the festival was approaching, and I don’t know why – but I decided to just go out and buy a full-body bunny costume.  I checked out the photos of the concert on the website, and it almost looked like Halloween there were so many people wearing costumes.  A few years prior I decided that the best costume ever was a full-body animal costume, so the idea just came naturally that it was the time to get it.  Everyone knows what you are, it covers you from head to toe, and it’s just a ton of fun.

So I went to the festival by myself with a list of all of my friends phone numbers – under the assumption that people are generally nice and will let you borrow their phone to call your friends, and it worked out just like that.  I met up with one friend that let me keep my bag at their camp, and from then on – I just ran loose and met a ton of people.  There was 120,000 people there at the festival, and I probably hugged about 5,000 of them.  People loved the bunny.

There was actually a photographer from Pitchfork who bought me a bunch of drinks and took me backstage in exchange for taking pictures with people – one of them being Rihanna.  I think I made it on a local TV show too.


You mentioned that you were banking on the idea that people would just let you use their phones to call your friends…and I’ve heard you mention a few situations like this – for instance, your plans for an African safari.  Do you feel that your attitude has a lot to do with your amount of luck?


Yeah, definitely.  People always cancel out on those things though.  And I’ve found that some of my best experiences have come when nothing is planned and we figure something out right there on the spot.


How do you imagine your retirement, or lifestyle past 60?


It’ll have to be outside somewhere.  Hopefully a beach – I like to surf.


Do you see your career facilitating a lifestyle suitable for a family, or do you have the desire to have a family?


Yeah eventually.  I think if I found the right girl and was in the right situation, I’d probably settle down and have kids.  But I want to see everything, and people always say to get it all out of your system when you’re young.  Do it while you can and there are no other strong obligations or responsibilities weighing you down.


If you had any advice to someone just graduating college or thinking about switching careers, what would it be?


Follow your instincts, play to your strengths.  I’m actually afraid of going the other way actually.  I’ve had some appealing offers, but I’m just not really to call it just yet.






What did you want to be when you want to be when you grew up?


A basketball player.


If you were a character in a famous movie, who’s role would you play?


Indiana Jones.


If someone wanted to get in touch with you and ask you more about what it takes to get involved in your career, what would be the best way?


They can send me a message on Facebook.  That’s the best tool for keeping my network active, so they can find me on there and shoot me a message.



Bob Graham - Are your photos available for license?

Thank you!

Bob Graham
http://www.airwavesmusic.caMay 22, 2015 – 7:31 pm