Admittedly, I haven’t attended many photography conferences in the past 8+ years of running La Brisa. My photography journey has been built on tons of trial and error, youtube tutorials and help from other photographers. Over the past few years, numerous friends of mine in the La Brisa Aspiring Photographer Workshop group have been raving about the Shutterfest photography conference. Six months ago, the Shutterfest team announced they would be hosting a smaller conference called Project Lunacy in Tucson. The opportunity was too good to pass up and so here’s my Shutterfest Project Lunacy review!

Over the two days of Shutterfest Project Lunacy, my biggest takeaway is how much I want to speak at photography conferences. Sal Cincotta, Vanessa Joy and Michael Anthony were bluntly honest, transparent and heartfelt with their presentations and their time with the attendees. They stayed late to answer every question and they were incredibly generous with their experience and talent. Honestly, I wanted to be one of them! Someday, someday!

From the presenters, to the Shutterfest staff, to the beautiful Hilton Tucson El Conquistador, Project Lunacy was run efficiently and professionally. For me, the highlight was being able to shoot and explore at Pima Air and Space Museum. Ever since I was a kid, my parents would take me to air shows and I would ask them to take a photo of me in front of every plane. Just like this…Shutterfest project lunacy photographers

I’ve listed my Top 5 reasons to attend or not to attend Shutterfest Project Lunacy!

Top 5 Reasons to Attend a Shutterfest Project Lunacy

  1. The Learning – I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned from the presenters as well as from other attendees. Not because I feel like I know everything already, it was because everyone was incredibly willing to share, answer questions and help. The best part was hearing the presenters vocalize concepts I already knew, but didn’t know how to describe to others. Throughout all three classes, I wrote down quite a few notes and I am excited to refer back to them in the future.
  2. The Models – They provided a TON of local models for the attendees to photograph. Dressed in wedding and fashion attire, they were fantastic. What made them especially awesome was that they were real people that you could talk to and approach. I left the conference with several new local connections for upcoming workshops and personal projects!high fashion model pima air space museum
  3. The Lighting – I was exposed to numerous lighting techniques and equipment that I’ve never used or considered. One of the conference sponsors, Profoto, provided a ton of their equipment for the attendees to use during actual shoots. I’m grateful for the opportunity to try new things and to see how I my photography can continue to develop. Here’s an image I shot using the Profoto B1 Bride Groom Laughing
  4. The Exposure – immediately as you register, you are surrounded by amazing talent in the photography industry. Everyone is on a first name basis and egos are non-existent. Even though many of these photographers have reached “celebrity” status, they talked to you as an equal.
  5. The Networking – I did not realize how much Project Lunacy focused on developing relationships with the other attendees. If you attend a future conference, definitely stay at the host hotel. After hours are when the true benefits of attending this conference are found. Campfire chats, drinks at the bar and impromptu shoots all occurred after the schedule concluded. As a local, I didn’t stay at the hotel, but I wish I had to further the connections I made!

Top 5 Reasons to NOT Attend Shutterfest Project Lunacy

  1. Introverts Unite! – Intentionally, the conference is setup for attendees to network and collaborate with each other. If you want to attend a photography conference and keep to yourself, this would be difficult to do at Project Lunacy.
  2. Portfolio Building – The focus was to build your portfolio. There were models in wedding attire as well as fashion. With three hour classes, much of the time was dedicated to shooting with hopes of building your portfolio. Personally, I can’t imagine using any of these images for my portfolio because almost all of them are the same as what 100+ other photographers also shot. If you prefer a lecture based conference, this one isn’t for you.high fashion purple dress pima air space museum
  3. The Investment – I paid $500 to attend this two day conference. Then, as with any conference you attend, I spent a couple hundred more dollars on vendor products (Thanks MagMod and Evolve Edits!). Lunches were provided, but all other meals, hotel accommodations, airfare and transport to/from the airport were not included. Depending on airfare, I bet you could easily spend $1,500-$2,000 to just attend the conference.
  4. The Clique-ness – most of the attendees knew each other from previous Shutterfest events. There were distinct groups of people and as a newbie, I definitely felt like a bit of an outsider. I asked Sal about that and one of his goals is to create a clique-ness environment so that there’s an instant familiarity for the attendees.
  5. Student-to-Teacher Ratio – the conference was divided into three classes and there were about 35 people per class. During the shooting portion of the class, it was difficult to listen, follow and shoot with groups that large. If you want a more intimate learning experience, you may want to look elsewhere.2016 project lunacy behind the scenes vanessa joy

A few behind the scenes candid images of the presenters in action. Hopefully, these give you an idea of what to expect if you attend a future photography conference!

Michael Anthony showcasing the angle he shoots from for his signature shot at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador!2016 project lunacy behind the scenes michael anthony

Vanessa Joy teaching her group at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador!2016 project lunacy review

One of the photo stations next to a Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet at Pima Air and Space Museum2016 project lunacy behind the scenes pima air space museum

Laurin showcasing his dressing fluffing skills at Pima Air and Space MuseumShutterfest Project Lunacy Review pima air space museum

Sal Cincotta listening to the calling of his Canon 5D Mark IV at Pima Air and Space Museum2016 project lunacy sal cincotta

Another photo station with a model in an amazing parachute dress at Pima Air and Space Museum 2016 project lunacy behind the scenes pima air space

Sal Cincotta in the midst of Project Lunacy attendees at Pima Air and Space Museum Shutterfest Project Lunacy Review

Due to the sheer amount of photographers, I didn’t want to bump elbows to try to photograph the various models. So I only took a handful of photos over the two days and basically only when I had a bit more control of the posing/setup. high fashion pima air space museumbride groom dancing pima air space museumhigh school senior portrait walking pima air space museumbride groom laughing pima air space museumdramatic groom portrait air space museumhigh school senior portrait pima air space museum

If you’ve read this far, thanks so much for reading my ramblings about my Shutterfest Project Lunacy review! For any of you interested in continuing your photography education, I highly recommend photography conferences. There are so many opportunities for learning and you can find one that fits your learning style and expectations! Happy to answer any questions you have about my experience!

~ Chris
Check out my latest TOP TEN! post…TOP TEN Reasons Why I am Thankful for Photography!
Check out my latest Dear La Brisa post…Dear Photographers: “How To Prepare For Your First Wedding” By Chris Hsieh!

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