No, I didn’t go on a spa retreat for rejuvenation, even better… a photography conference…specifically Conference 12 Chicago. For a high school senior photographer, this conference is like going to a spa because I left there feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and filled with inspiration, motivation and ideas I want to implement in my business. I also left Conference 12 with a gallery of pictures to add to my portfolio from our shootouts, I learned from and networked with other top photographers in the industry, and I made some amazing friendships with other fellow photogs. Let me tell you about this awesome experience!


First, I settled in to my swanky, modern with a touch of rustic, room at the Ace Hotel, in the West Loop of Chicago. We were directly across from Google’s offices and what once was Oprah Winfrey’s HQ in an up and coming area with great restaurants and shops all within walking distance. I joined a group of my new photog friends for a quick sight-seeing walk on our way to dinner for some deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. It was amazing! A welcome event on the hotel’s rooftop bar was a great way to get more acquainted with some of the other attendees. It was a fun night of conversation and laughter and I knew right away that instant friendships were blooming! The conference rooms at the Ace Hotel, where we spent a lot of time the next few days, were cozy and offered amazing views of the city! Starbucks and the Do-Rite Donut Shop down the street were a definite plus too when a caffeine or sugar rush were needed!

SHP_C12-SM-Emma-GIts never easy for me to get away from work, especially during late summer/early fall when my schedule is still quite busy, but I realized how important it is to keep learning and developing my craft! I was ready for some motivation and new ideas and that’s exactly what I got. The Conference 12 presenters were some of my favorite photographers that I’ve followed and admired for years and a big reason I wanted to attend the conference. I admire each of them for different reasons so I was really excited for the opportunity to hear about their business ideas, marketing, session ideas, blogging, shooting techniques, and so much more. The small classroom setting was quite intimate and allowed me to ask questions that pertained specifically to my business. The presenters, as well the photographers in attendance, were also high school senior photographers so the information was crafted to directly impact us and our business.

SHP_C12-TR-Ally-EOne of my favorite parts of the conference was hitting the streets led by more of my favorite photographers. They shared how they work with seniors, posing, lighting, wardrobe ideas, and so much more! I loved getting quick lessons and then being able to practice and try the new techniques and settings with CG3 Models from Chicago based CG3 Photography. These girls were trained well by Caroline, owner and photographer at CG3 Photography, which allowed me to push myself a bit more with settings, lenses, locations, and posing I may not normally work with including a session in the rain! Unplanned of course but it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone!

Networking at events like this is always a plus but I wasn’t prepared for the strong friendships that I built in just a few days. A group of us photogs connected in the months prior to the conference, through the Facebook group created for Conference 12 attendees, and arranged to meet at the airport and share an Uber to our hotel. Who would have ever guessed that this group of women I met under the escalator of Midway Airport in Chicago would become so important in my life. We’ve stayed in touch daily via an ongoing group text since the conference ended and are committed to helping each other, sharing our ideas, and supporting each other in our business goals and dreams.

IMG_9267I’ve attended many conferences over the years and typically walk away with one or two main ideas that I want to try to implement in my business, but I left Conference 12 Chicago with pages and pages on my new To Do List! I plan to check one item off at a time and can’t wait to see where it takes me and my business in the upcoming years. One place I know for sure it will take me is back to the next Conference 12.


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