Although I have photographed many weddings, I am always striving to learn and develop my photography. My preference is to learn from people at the very top of their game. So, I recently attended a Workshop with Cliff Mautner in Haddonfield, New Jersey – which is just a few miles from central Philadelphia. He has been ranked in the world’s top ten wedding photographers by American Photo. I have been a long-time admirer of Cliff’s outstanding use of light and the emotions he manages to capture. Although I live in London and cover weddings throughout the UK and more recently also in Spain, I jumped at the opportunity to travel to the USA to attend Cliff’s workshop. Further, a visit the (massive) holy grail of photography shops – B&H Photo in New York was something else I had always wanted to do! Thankfully I managed to restrain myself to a reasonable degree during that visit…
Monday evening started with an opening reception attended by most of the workshop attendees. It was great to meet everyone over a few bottles of wine, beers and some delicious snacks. Cliff set the scene for exactly what would be happening over the following few days and we all departed with abounding excitement to get stuck into the workshop the following morning. Each morning started off with an excellent catered for breakfast at the studio. Lunches were provided, to order, by the deli across the road.
Cliff is a complete open book during these workshops and pretty much any question, about anything related to photography and his studio, is permitted. Not only is Cliff very friendly and extremely generous with his knowledge, he is also a very effective teacher with the rare ability to convey his message in very clear and simple terms. We were taught some simple yet very effective techniques in dealing with a multitude of scenarios, in particular harsh light and an array of amazing flash techniques. What was so refreshing is that Cliff immediately got stuck into the nitty-gritty details which we all came to learn. No beating about the bush, just rock-solid, golden nuggets of information. I had many moments when I thought to myself: “why did I wait until now to attend this workshop when I could have done so earlier…!”.
The afternoon sessions were spent shooting at some amazing venues. On Tuesday we were bussed out to a stunning wedding venue in the Monmouth County, New Jersey – The Ashford Estate. The weather was playing along and it was a perfect sunny day. We split up into three small groups each with two models and spent a good few hours implementing and practicing what we had learnt in the morning. The purpose of the session was to embrace the harsh, direct sunlight and use it to our advantage to create stunning images – not to run for the shade as many photographers do on a sunny day! Cliff roamed from one group to the next, spending 1-1 time with each photographer and providing constructive feedback and how to improve our technique.
Wednesday was spent diving into the finer details of on and off-camera flash techniques. In the afternoon we went to one of Philadelphia’s top hotels and spent a few hours in the ballroom being taught a multitude of flash techniques. Simple stuff, yet so effective. Personally my flash technique going into the workshop was quite acceptable, however I have come away with a multitude of new techniques and refinements which will really lift my game. On the way back to the studio after leaving the hotel we stopped in a small park just before sunset. Cliff asked us to go out and have a half hour play and do whatever we liked. It was great to see how all the attendees embraced the setting sun and captured fantastic images.
Each night we all went out for dinner together before returning to the studio to continue discussions on a wide range of topics related to photography, including the business aspects. We even witnessed a live enquiry meeting with a real couple to see exactly how Cliff approaches these meetings. Really interesting and very informative. The final morning, after another delicious breakfast, was spent reviewing the images we submitted for critique and then spending time with Cliff’s studio manager to review workflow, post-processing and related topics.
The workshop flew by and before I knew it, it was over. Yes it cost me a fair bit of money including flights, hotels, car hire and so on, but it was worth every penny and a lot more as it far exceeded my expectations. Another great aspect was meeting like-minded photographers and I am sure we will continue to remain in touch for a long time to come.
So for all the photographers out there considering a workshop with Cliff, stop thinking and book it now!
Below are some of the images I took during the workshop. Note: these were all my own creations taken during our free time with the models.