April 30, 2014

Cliff Mautner’s Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp

One year ago, I had the privilege to attend Cliff Mautner’s Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp.  Cliff is one of the top 10 Wedding Photographers in the world, has received numerous awards, and was recently awarded the 2014 WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award. My dear husband discovered Cliff’s work online, and immediately called  his studio to find out more information to sign me up for the bootcamp.  When he shared Cliff’s website with me, I was all in.  Cliff’s work embodied something different that I had not seen before.  I didn’t see pretty pictures, but I saw emotion, stories, and beautiful images with gorgeous light.  Although I was brand new in the industry, I knew that an image could not be made without light, and what I desired most was the ability to find light in any given situation.

The first night we were all welcomed to Cliff’s studio for a reception.  As each person arrived, Cliff greeted each person and then introduced each person by name to the others that were already present.  I remember feeling so welcomed by him, and could not believe how humble and down to earth he was.  He truly set the tone for what to expect over the next few days.  I knew that I was there to learn, and that I was a photographer, but all of that didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter what kind of photographer I was, or how long I had been shooting, or what my gear list was…it simply didn’t matter.  I felt safe to learn, and to ask as many questions that I wanted to without feeling from Cliff or any of my bootcamp buddies that I should already know the answer, or that it was a dumb question. This was a good place, a safe place. and it was freeing.

The next morning, we started bright and early and were welcomed with a nice catered breakfast spread that included grits. Yes, grits!!  I knew that I was in good company. Before heading out to find light, the day began with Cliff teaching us, and asking and answering questions.  As I look back through my notes, I experienced many light bulb moments and things just began to click.  No questions were off limits, including the business side, as Cliff was an open book.  His responses were always real, honest, and warm.

There was a chartered bus for us both days for travel to and from the studio.  Cliff had professional models to come in so that we could put our classroom knowledge to practical use, and he also provided further hands on instruction as we shot in locations in the Philadelphia area.  We split into groups, and there were more than enough models to ensure that everyone had plenty of time with the models.  Cliff even walked around to each group, stepped in with more instruction, explaining what he saw, explaining the light, and guiding us.

My initial expectations were, I’m going to have some great images to add to my portfolio, but those expectations diminished.  They quickly diminished because I wanted more than to make an awesome image at a workshop, I wanted the skill set to find light and make these images when I left the workshop.

Photography is a journey that takes time, dedication, making investments to learn and improve, and practice, practice, practice, and more practice.  Not only did I have the privilege to learn from one of the best in the photography industry, some new friendships were forged that I am thankful for as well.  During one of the days of the workshop, we each had an opportunity to share our stories of the path leading to photography.    It was so heartwarming to hear their stories, and in many ways comforting to know that we were all the same…on a path…had similar experiences…shared a common bond.  While at WPPI this year, I got a chance to spend time with three of my new friends, and it was also great to hug Cliff’s neck as he took some time out of his schedule to stop by and say hello to all of us.

This was an experience that I will never forget, and it continues to shape my journey as a photographer.  Thank you again Cliff for your realness, honesty, and warmth!  Grateful.

If you’re looking for a workshop to learn and grow, I highly recommend Cliff’s Bootcamp.  As long as you continue to work hard, you won’t be disappointed.

Here are two images that I made, and received critique from Cliff while at the bootcamp.

Cliff Mautner BootcampCliff Mautner Bootcamp


Beautiful Bristol, Rhode Island engagement session of Crystal and Manny two days after the bootcamp.  I’m looking forward to their wedding in August!
Bristol Rhode Island Engagement PicturesMaternity Picture ideaDowntown Providence picturesMassachusetts Maternity PhotographerRhode Island Children's Photographer

Portrait of me, captured by my husband, but I found the light:)

Rhode Island Family Photography



  1. Kellie Hall Saunders

    April 30th, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Love your work Shawon and you are just such an awesome person as well. Many, many hugs!!!

  2. Abbey

    May 9th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    OMG!!!! i’m taking the workshop in two weeks. I can’t wait!!! WE need to talk!

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