The After Dark Edu Experience

I first heard of After Dark at WPPI, than I continued to hear about it here and there. It was coming to Portland, I had a WPPI buddy flying in, if I was going to see what it was all about… I figured this was the best time to try. I honestly didn’t really know what After Dark was except that I knew you stayed up late and hey — I’m really good at that. I’d been so busy, so overwhelmingly slammed that I didn’t even have time to find out much more but I love me some education so I was excited to try it. I showed up for orientation ready to start figuring things out. As the next 4 days unfolded I found myself blown away over and over and over again. I was in absolute awe of everything that was available and how much I was learning. It doesn’t matter what topic you come in with — you will learn about it. For me it was all technical. They have a ton of business pods (that’s what they call them) available to learn all kinds of business stuff and I’m sure they have to be great!! Although they’d be better with me there, don’t you think? 😉 But since that’s my thing already and that’s what I mentor and teach about I wanted to stay technical and refine my skills. My primary focus: LIGHT! I wanted to learn more about lighting and in particular… Simple Studio Lighting.  I also wanted to see hands on posing and learn to really see the art of technical posing so that I could use it and in turn know how to artfully break the rules as well. I looked at the schedule to see what I would want to take. Than Kevin Jordan saw me trying to figure out my schedule and offered to help. This type of thing happens non stop! So he helped me pick what classes would be best for me and off I went. Every single class I went to was amazing. I didn’t walk away from one single class without learning valuable info that I knew I could immediately use!

After Dark is an absolute must. I don’t think you could find any photographer’s education opportunity that could surpass it. Really! I’m absolutely addicted. Everything I learned in those 4 days was hands on so it’s in my brain to stay and now that I have that knowledge I’m ready to go back and add to it with the natural progression of my education and growth. Dave and Kevin (the creators of After Dark) are both incredible guys who have put together something absolutely amazing. I had the chance to work and talk with both of them and am very happy to call them each friends now along with countless other AD mentors.

Bottom Line: If you take yourself seriously as a photographer or if you want to take yourself seriously as a photographer… This shouldn’t be an “if I go” thing it should be a “when I go” resolution.

Now I’ll share some stories….

The shooting bays are awesome! Set up with everything you could want and ready for you to play, it’s like photographer Barbie walking into a pink glitter studio that’s been designed just for her in the Barbie Mansion… You’re in heaven! And oh do you play. Sometimes you’re just watching and absorbing, like with Jen’s posing class (which was phenomenal) other times you are actively in the mix and shooting…

Image by Jim Eisele

Mike Ridinger is an insanely fantastic teacher. You listen to him for five minutes and you realize that he’s one of the most knowledgeable people in the room! As just the two of us, I asked him a question about studio lights. His explanation was so clear and so obvious that I instantly was like, ‘yes! I get this now’. I know what the umbra and penumbra are and exactly where and how I use them.  This was a one on one moment (they are happening for people everywhere) that created a little gathering and left me feeling that this ah-ha moment alone would have been worth it all.

Heidi Lawson snapped this image of me intently listening to Mike.

“Let’s go play”. You hear this a lot and quite literally, that’s what you do. We took one of the models (umm yes there are tons of fabulous models!) and went into one of the suites and started playing. Everyone helps out and takes turns creating, imagining and shooting. You can see me here peaking over while I hold a reflector.

At night things get really crazy and really fun! I watched Kevin Jordan walk by me saying he was looking for a victim. I had no idea what he was thinking but I offered to volunteer. Turned out he wanted to play with wrapping and studio lights. It’s something I would have never thought of and it was very fun to watch he and another mentor feeding off each other and attendees watching, chiming in and shooting. Eventually we found a much better model and I went back to being behind the camera… But hey if you want to be a photographer you better be willing to step on the other side sometimes too — It’s only fair!

Images by Heidi Lawson

Jen Hillenga, another mentor who just happened to be a makeup artist in a former life created this awesome look on my very favorite model, Mercedes, so as soon as I saw that Jen was up to something, I just had to follow! I’m so glad I did, it was awesome just watching the creativity transcribe.

They ended up finding some fire dancers to put behind Mercedes as she rocked 6″ platforms on a balcony rail. It was amazing! Here is a pull back I took, I wanted to show you what was actually going on… Notice the guy holding the chain down to support her and the kicker light in the back you don’t ever get to know about this kind of stuff when you’re looking at a photog’s blog.  I wasn’t hooked up with lights, but the one to the side is one I took with my iso bumped all the way up!

I don’t know who to credit for this next one? But just wanted to show you something different.

Dave Junion is awesome!! And he just happens to be one of the creators of After Dark. Here he is showing us how to keep posing fluid and continuous. I learned so much from Dave!

The next day I was so excited when Dave was working with this beautiful senior… Jordan was absolutely fantastic!! And watching Dave work was amazing. He knows exactly how to get what he needs for the shot and it’s so incredible to watch!

Here is an excerpt from Dave about some of the shots he got… “We had planned the shot the day before and both her and her mom wanted a hard core Nike feel image….what you did not hear when I was talking to her was the verbal cues I was feeding her to get into that mind set……”

Just a funny one of Dave “demonstrating” the pose…

Remember how we had the McClanahan’s on Go{4}Pro recently for an ‘Inspire Me Friday‘ Interview? Well Dan and Alex were mentors at AD Portland. On one of the nights, Dan took a few of us outside to mess around in the dark. We were doing stuff I’ve never tried and would have never thought to do but now I can’t wait to go play in the dark with an unsuspecting Senior (hmmm. that just sounded wrong).

Heidi an avid Go{4}Pro reader and friend was at After Dark too. I asked her if she would write up how she felt about her experience so you could get another perspective, here it is…

“After Dark was absolutely the best educational experience I have had so far in my photography journey. I am definitely a “hands-on” learner, and After Dark was as hands-on as it can get. The challenge was that there was simply WAY more that I wanted to do than I was able to! All afternoon and night there were mentors teaching, shooting, and advising. I tried to hop in and out of as many groups as I possibly could and learn from as many mentors as possible. I also tried to do things that were new for me or stretched me a bit, which was a lot of fun. I jumped in on plenty of studio lighting sessions (and now am drooling over owning some for myself!), lots of off camera flash tutorials, fashion shoots, sports shoots, and posing classes. I learned new ways of finding available light. I shot hundreds of pictures of teens, seniors, families, kids, babies, musicians, athletes, and more. I learned how to use Lightroom, new tips for processing in Photoshop, and heard oodles of advice on sales and marketing. And I felt like all of it was personalized to me. To what I wanted to learn and know and try out. By the last day I truly felt crammed full of information and incredibly excited to get home and try some of it out. For me, the most incredible thing about the entire experience was that everyone there had one objective: to educate those that were in attendance. They answered every single question I had. No matter what time of day I asked it. Some of my favorite moments weren’t even during the “scheduled” sessions ~ but when pulling up a chair to a mentor’s table during breakfast … or at 1:00 in the morning when one of the mentor’s grabbed me and said, “let’s have some fun!”. I had dozens of one-on-one moments with some truly amazing photographers. The number one thing I gained from the experience was actually my number one goal before going: Confidence. I have confidence now that I CAN do it. I can live my dream. I can make money living my dream. I can stretch myself and try new things and have fun. And I’m so excited. In a nutshell, After Dark exceeded all of my expectations. And I can’t wait to go to another one. Rumor is they’ll be in Arizona in January and I’m planning on being there!”   – Heidi Lawson

The next After Dark is scheduled in New Orleans for November and I suggest that you immediately start budgeting to get yourself to one as soon as you can. I can’t wait to go again. It is worth every penny you invest and more.  There is no way you could possibly regret going, unless you stay up way to late the first night and sleep through the next 3 days.

So you’ve read this, heard on another forum how amazing it is and you’ve decided you’re going (congratulations, you made a great choice)… What should you do now? First know that I personally promise that it will be worth any investment, coercing of the spouse, time… all of it. You will be inspired! Next… If you’ve been wanting to attend my workshops and learn personally from me go send Dave and Kevin a msg letting them know you would love to learn from me at After Dark (oh crap, I forgot I’m sending them a link for this post.) {smile} Next start making a list of what you want to learn. Technical? Maybe Off Camera Flash? Posing? Natural Light? Newborns? Boudoir? AND/Or Business??? Pricing? Marketing? Branding? In Person Ordering? And know that the sky is literally the limit. Come up with 5 things you want to work on and perhaps a couple mentors that you really want to watch do their thing. Break it down, determine where you need help and be ready to sponge. Next, make sure you follow After Dark on Facebook because they update like crazy on it. I hope I’ll see you there!

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  1. Kalli says:

    I’m SOLD! This has given me the motivation to really seek out more technical education. Where I feel I’m so behind on my business sense, I don’t think you can ever be too technically savvy. I’m dragging my husband to WPPI this year so he can be more of a partner in my business. Maybe I’ll have him go to all the business classes and I’ll soak in as much lighting and posing as I can! Thanks, Leah!! You really sacrificed to be at After Dark, more than most, (with moving and all). And what a great example of how important education really is!

  2. Heidi Lawson says:

    After Dark was absolutely amazing! I had a great time being there with you! Anyone interested in taking their photography to the next level should absolutely have this experience!

  3. Perfectly said – “when I go”! I’m for sure sold!

  4. jamie says:

    so cool, wish there was one closer to me… you know the senior shot outdoor with the light in the back in the dark, that’s what I want to know how to do!!!!

  5. I am quite literally kicking myself for not going when it was in my own back yard. Ugh! Guess, I’m looking into New Orleans. Thanks for the review Leah…..I’m sooooo wanting to go now!

  6. Jamie says:

    Oh, I so wish I could have gone! I wonder when they will have a schedule for next year.

  7. Krystal says:

    $400 for four days of education?! That is a steal! I can’t believe all they do with you for that kind of money. I will be watching for this to come closer to home. It is on my list of wants now.

  8. Carrie says:

    Oh this kills me to read!…I was sooo close to being able to go….sigh.
    It all sounds incredibly amazing! Definitely a must to do 🙂

  9. Don Chick says:

    After Dark is one of the most amazing learning opportunities going!!! If you want inspiration, motivation and or education this is the place to be!!

  10. ramonica G says:

    Thank you for posting this information I have been following afterdark for many months now. I am a newbie and excited about the opportunity to learn from the pro’s. Your posting is Super Fantastic!! So ready to go.

  11. Keiko says:

    I’m doing “the catch up reading”, and this looks SO much fun!!! Must do for sure!

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