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Cliff Mautner's - April 2011 Skillset Bootcamp
On April eighteenth, 2011, I found myself standing on a sidewalk in Haddonfield, New Jersey, a nice, clean community not very far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was there to attend Cliff Mautner's - April 2011 Skillset Bootcamp. I was anxious, excited and ready to learn. I had very high expectations after reading a number of blog posts from previous students. I didn't really know what to expect as I climbed the steps to the studio and stepped inside to meet Cliff and the other students, but I had a feeling this was going to be something special.
Indeed, it was something special, very special. I have been a fan of Cliff Mautner for many years. Cliff's work is nothing short of astounding; powerful images that reach out and grab you by the ears and pull you in deeply. His images transcend the term iconic. In fact, Cliff himself is an icon in the wedding industry. At this point, the pertinent question is, "Are you, the reader, familiar with Cliff Mautner?" If the answer is no, you need to follow this LINK and view his portfolio. Once you've viewed his work, please come back and finish the rest of this blog post. I trust you will then find it infinitely more useful.
After reviewing images from Cliff Mautner's portfolio you will realize two things. First, Cliff is a damn good photographer, scratch that, change the word photographer to artist. Second, there is a theme in Cliff's work and it's all about capturing the emotions of the day; as Cliff describes it, "...the moments, it's all about the moments..." The next obvious question is, "What does Cliff's Skillset Bootcamp offer to photographers?" It's a fair question; my best answer, a treasure chest packed full of exceptionally useful and time saving techniques. Game changing approaches to finding and using 'the beautiful light' or creating it, only when necessary, with the use of a common speed light. Now you may or may not understand just how powerful this information is to a wedding photographer. But, when I use terms like 'game changing' I am not engaging in hyperbole; it's a fact.
Cliff's situationally adaptive methods make anyone a better photographer; be you Marcus Bell or Uncle Bob. His approach to shooting a wedding is honed by nearly three decades of actual experience. Although Cliff has earned his place as a member of wedding photography aristocracy, he prefers his reputation be dervied from his blue collar pedigree. Cliff shoots 50 weddings a year and doesn't use a second shooter. He sees himself as a gerbil running on a tread mill; petrified that if he gets off the wheel, his business, his success, his life, will crumble and fall apart. His most poignant revelation came on Tuesday morning, "It's tough enough to get to the top of your market (sic your city, region, area), it's so much tougher to stay on top." His comment reminds me of a conversation I had with my broker a long time ago, when I felt the heavy hand of the taxman on my earnings, "Jeff," he said, "those are the kinds of problems you want to have."
The most valuable facet of the workshop is Cliff lays all his cards on the table; all his cards. He doesn't hold back anything, save the financial agreement he and his office manager, assistant, image editor and heroine Noelle have established. Everything else, and I mean anything else, about his photography or how he runs his photography business, his prices, his lab, his album company, his workflow, etc... etc... etc... is all laid out on the table for investigation. It's as if all of the students are IRS agents and the workshop is not a workshop, it's an audit. That is how open, giving and sharing Cliff is about anything to do with his photography and his photography business. In fact, on Wednesday night, we actually were allowed, with the client's approval, to observe an initial inquiry meeting at the studio between Cliff and an engaged couple who were prospective clients. Are you seeing a thread here? There are no secrets and nothing is off limits; except Noelle of course.
Cliff walks everyone through a collection of proven techniques. He provides personalized one-on-one attention and he gives honest, critical feedback. He is never denigrating to a student, he is direct, but he motivates. He is critical, but his comments are invigorating. I like Cliff's workshop more than any other workshop I have attended. He gives you his honest opinion, without varnish; it's raw, real and just like his beautiful images, his words have texture and deep hidden meaning. In the modern vernacular, he keeps it very real. He is personable, approachable, a photographer's photographer if you will. Cliff is very self-confident, wouldn't you be if you had experienced his level of success? But he is also humble, kind and a generous spirit. Cliff really enjoys sharing his knowledge with other photographers; on a personal level, I liked him very much, and on a professional level it is so easy to respect such a rare talent.
I will not divulge Cliff's secrets, the value of that information correlates to the cost of reserving your seat at one of the workshops. I will tell you this, if you want a seat don't procastinate. The seats generally go pretty fast and are limited to a total of 18 students. Beyond what has been discussed above, Cliff provides a nearly 400 page PDF that is a wonderful reference, but without his accompanying narrative, or the experience of the workshop it is sterile, cryptic and at times a bit ambiguous. Here is truth, Cliff knows the value of his information, his models and the locations and transportation he provides. His workshop is not inexpensive, it's the opposite. My cost was $1,700, your price may be higher.
What I will tell you is that anyone debating, "Is Cliff Mautner worth the money for this Skillset Bootcamp?" My response is, "Unequivocally yes!!!" What you walk away with is a competitive edge; new skills that immediately multiply your value in your market. I learned more in the first day of Cliff's workshop than I had over the last three years; I am not exaggerating. The techniques he discloses are priceless, the models he provides are beautiful. He has plenty of models as well; no elbowing for position to get 'your shots.' The locations he takes you to are simply incredible; Philadelphia really is a beautiful city. We visted a gorgeous ballroom, beautiful parks and some incredible secret spots that Cliff shared with us. The food was awesome, breakfast and lunch was catered; there was always water, soda, juice, beer and/or wine available. The atmosphere was laid back, relaxed; it was a zero stress zone and man, did I need that.
Let me close by reiterating that Cliff is a great photographer, a great teacher and a great all around guy. He does not hold back, he gives his students what they ask for when they ask for it; and his Skillset Bootcamp is worth every penny. It was the best money I have ever spent save the wedding ring I bought for my wife thirty years ago.
I want to acknowledge my comrades behind the lens, the other students in this workshop. It was such a joy learning and shooting with them; and it was an absolute blast getting to know each of these very talented photographers over the course of the workshop. We have promised to stay in touch with one another and I hope we will, what a wonderful group of folks. If you are from their home area you should look them up if you need a photographer. Here are the names of the other photographers who attended the workshop and their state or city and country of origin:
Esther Cossio (Madrid, Spain)
Jennifer Spangler (NV)
Terry Brocklehurst (Toronto, Canada)
David Rizzo (MA)
Brian Ende (IL)
Mike Morby (PA)
Jery Ipkoff (PA)
Leo Djiwatampu (MD)
John Wattenbarger (DE)
George Ermanitano (VT)
Rachel Shomsky (MI)
Jill Samter (PA)
Bibi Santana (FL)
Scott Hopkins (GA)
Stephen Decato (ME)
Theodore Paradise (MA)
Finally, the models that Cliff contracted for our shoots were phenomenal and deserve some recognition. Don't be surprised if you recognize a few of these talented and great looking folks from television shows, hint it's about a great race, and/or several magazines. Thanks to each of them for being such great subjects to hone our skills on.