“Attending” the Out of Chicago Live! Photo Conference

by May 3, 2020

This weekend I ‘attended’ the virtual “out of chicago live!” virtual photo conference. The cost to join was $300 US. For that you got access to three days of sessions. Friday had two session times, and Saturday and Sunday four each. Each session time had at least ten virtual session rooms going, so there was a huge amount of content being generated.

Session types included image critique sessions, panel discussions, image “challenges” where the host discussed a technique and attendees were expected to show off their images in the online chat areas later, and in-depth tutorials and instructional classes. Many aspects of photography were represented with Landscape and Macro having the deepest agendas, but Street, Astro/night photography, and Travel well represented as well. “Studio” type photography (portraits, etc) were not deeply represented (not surprising given the type of non-virtual workshops Out of Chicago puts on). I was suprisingly happy with the number of Bird photography items on the agenda and quite happy with the quality of the ones I attended. Ditto the landscape. There were some professional/business sessions as well as well as a featured keynote “Understanding Color” by Bryan Peterson.

All sessions were recorded and have been made available for later viewing (by streaming only). I had mostly planned on doing that myself so I didn’t submit images for critique, but ended up watching a number of sessions live while working on other things on a different monitor, and I’m now spending spare time checking into sessions I missed in real time.

I was quite impressed with — given how quickly and last minute this was organized, will all-new technology like Zoom being thrown into the mix — how well it all came off. Sessions started and ended on time; there were some technical challenges (muted or non-muted mics, etc) but it ran quite well.

Of the ones I’ve watched so far, I’ll call out “Epic Landscape Review with Gavin Hardcastle and Michael Shainblum”, “Creative Macro Photography: Indoor and Backyard Ideas with Charles Needle”, Landscape Image Reviews with Mike Hudson and Thomas Heaton”, “The Magic of Bird Photography with Judy Malloch”, “Bird Photography: Beyond the Basics with Steve Gettle”, “Bird Photography Image Review by David Akoubian and Judy Malloch” (I really regret not submitting in retrospect) as ones that have stood out. I’ve sampled about 2/3 of the many sessions I wanted to view, and all of them have been at least good, solid presentations. I haven’t run into one that I felt was poor.

I do have some suggestions for the Out of Chicago folks:

The big one: I really want a way to download sessions for offline viewing. Other learning organizations like Creative Live allow this, and it allows me to stuff them onto the iPad and view them over time when I’m in situations where I’m waiting — such as on site for a photo shoot with two hours until sunset and no cell service. Limiting my access to when I can stream means there are 8-10 sessions I’d like to watch eventually I’ll never get to because they’re things I won’t watch sitting here at home, but would down the road when I have downtime elsewhere.

I’d also like to encourage them to sell access to the sessions archives after the fact, either as a bundle ($150 maybe?) or as individual videos ($10?). if that happens, there are a number of them I’d be pointing people to and suggesting they should watch.

But overall, given the circumstances I was willing to tolerate a level of chaos that simply didn’t happen. It was well organized, the session content was solid, the hosts and were organized and prepared and it came off with no significant problems I saw. For the cost ($300US) I felt I got great value, and access to a lot of solid content. I’m definitely on board for future versions of this, if and when they occur.