ShutterFest 2023 Photography Conference: Shoot, Learn, Play in a Big Way!

ShutterFest 2023 Photography Conference: Shoot, Learn, Play in a Big Way!


St. Louis, MO—Billed as a photography “experience,” ShutterFest is an annual photography event that brings together thousands of professional photographers, photo enthusiasts as well as industry experts. ShutterFest 2023 was a sold-out event held April 4–6, 2023, at St. Louis Union Station, with SF+ on April 7. 

The event takes a different approach to education and community building. Instead of focusing on traditional lecture-style presentations, ShutterFest offered hands-on classes, interactive experiences as well as networking opportunities. The goal is to help attendees develop their skills, build relationships and grow their businesses, using a customized experience.

“ShutterFest is like no other conference out there. Not because we say so, but because your peers have said so. At this one-of-a-kind event, you have access to educators like never before,” the organizers state.shutterfest-2023-photography-conference-9

“They were here because they care about our industry and want to share everything they know. No rockstar mentality allowed. . .  . This is an event built on the idea that a little bit of chaos can lead to an endless amount of creativity and inspiration.”

Build-Your-Own Photography Conference

ShutterFest is a photography event attendees mold to fit their needs. Want to participate in hands-on shooting classes and photo walks for three days straight? Want to focus on all business? Additionally, attendees could plan shoots with models and friends, or hit the trade show floor and network with vendors. 

The event’s primary focus is on creativity and hands-on learning. Rather than providing a one-size-fits-all approach to photography, the conference encourages photographers to explore their own unique style and vision. The sessions were designed to help attendees break out of their comfort zones and try new techniques, styles and approaches.

Moreover, the conference is a welcoming and inclusive space where photographers of all skill levels and backgrounds could connect, share their work and learn from one another. That sense of community was built through a variety of events, including group shoots, networking sessions and, of course, social events.shutterfest-photography-conference-3

However, it also concentrates on practical education. Rather than presenting theoretical concepts, the conference provided attendees with the opportunity to learn and practice real-world photography skills. There were live models, hands-on classes and interactive experiences that allowed photographers to apply what they learned in a practical setting.

What’s more, ShutterFest is committed to staying on the cutting edge of the photography industry. The conference featured classes from industry experts on the latest trends, techniques and technologies in photography.

ShutterFest 2023: Three Days of Cutting-Edge Classes

With three days of classes to choose from, plus one day of SF+, attendees could learn from 60+ photography educators. The historic Union Station Hotel provided a great backdrop for hands-on classes.

Attendees could master new lighting and posing techniques, as well as learn about boudoir, branding photography, headshots, wedding photography, senior portraits, as well as photographing dogs! They could also advance their editing skills with Photoshop or Lightroom. Of course, there were classes on revamping a photo business, marketing and pricing. shutterfest-2023-photography-conference-7

In addition, there were specific classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced skill levels. Attendees could choose from hands-on classes, which are shooting courses; live instructor-led demonstrations; or non-shooting, room-based lecture classes.

Live Demonstrations Classes. For example, Raph Nogal explored the possibilities beyond the standard wedding portrait. In his live demonstration class, he used found objects, lights and prisms to teach attendees to think outside the box and enhance wedding portraits. This live-demo class covered lighting, posing, composition and creativity.

Hands-on Classes. In the hands-on “10 Poses in 60 Seconds” class, Mariea Rummel presented 10 power poses that can be the go-tos at every wedding or engagement session. In this hands-on course, attendees learned how to create small movements with couples to create a whole different pose and then apply them in class. When shooting, the class was broken down into smaller groups for an intimate hands-on experience.

© Heather Larkin, Sigma Ambassador

Lecture Classes. Further, a sample lecture class was “A Boudoir Photographer’s Guide to Studio Setbuilding.” Presented by Jeff and Lori Poole, attendees learned how having studio sets offers consistency from shoot to shoot. They covered how to build your own studio set that looks and feels real. The Pooles go beyond backdrops to studio sets that have both real-world depth and studio consistency. Topics included sourcing props, construction tips, creating depth as well as natural-looking studio light.

SF+ // Advanced Photography Classes

These sessions were for experienced photographers looking for a class that skips the “How do I turn my flash on?” questions. They are deep-dive classes on photography and business topics.

By adding SF+ onto a ticket, attendees got access to a choice of four two-hour advanced topics taught by hand-selected speakers. Just some sample classes included “Advanced Cinematic Storytelling,” “Advanced Postproduction in Lightroom & Photoshop,” “Advanced Social Media Strategies,” “Advanced High School Seniors” and “Advanced On-Location Lighting Setups.”

The Model Gallery

What’s more, at the Model Gallery, models were free to shoot. In return, participants are expected to share their images with the models for their portfolios. Everyone wins! Models get to build their portfolio with unique images and photographers get to work outside their comfort zone and create images for their websites and social media. shutterfest-photography-2023-tradeshow–conference-12

ShutterFest offers a Model Directory to enable participants to find models they worked with and share images directly with them. There is a button under each model’s name that participants can use to send the model their images. Moreover, those images became part of a post-event gallery.

In addition, the images were automatically included in the ShutterFest Top Talent competition. It is an annual collaborative photo contest for photographers and models.

Prizes include a $2,000 cash prize as well as a fully stylized portfolio shoot (five outfits and looks) with Sal Cincotta for the winning model.

The winning photographer receives an EOS R8 RF24–50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens kit; a Westcott FJ400, X3m universal trigger and a Westcott Rapid Box Switch Octa-M, as well as a lifestyle shoot with Sal Cincotta.

In addition, both the photographer and model get a blog post on the Behind the Shutter website.

ShutterFest 2024

Start planning now for next year. You can register for ShutterFest 2024 here. The event will again be held in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Union Station Hotel, April 2–4, 2024 | SF+ April 5, 2024.