The first Out of Chicago Flower and Garden Photography Conference. We’ve been running photography conferences for five years in Chicago, New York City and Acadia National Park, but this is our first conference focusing on flower and garden photography.


August 26-30th, 2018

We kick off Sunday with an evening reception at the conference hotel, followed by a meet and greet dinner with the instructors and Out of Chicago staff. After dinner, Anne Belmont kicks off the week with the opening keynote presentation.

The next three days are filled with classes, critique, one-on-one help and excursions to the Chicago Botanic Garden. You will take two three-hour instructor-led excursions to the Garden each of these three days.

On Thursday we close the week with breakfast, a closing presentation and lots of hugs.


The Chicago Botanic Garden! The Chicago Botanic Garden is located in the beautiful suburb of Glencoe. You won’t need to fight Chicago city traffic or parking.

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022

The conference classes, critique sessions, post-processing sessions, and meals take place at The Embassy Suites, Deerfield. The Embassy Suites is an easy ten minute drive to the Garden.

Embassy Suites Chicago/North Shore, 1445 Lake Cook Road, Deerfield, IL 60015

What the heck is Out of Chicago?

Out of Chicago has been running photography conferences for five years. It started as Chris Smith’s Chicago photography blog in 2011 but we are now moving “out of Chicago” and have organized conferences in Chicago, New York City, Moab, Utah and Acadia National Park. You can read the history of Out of Chicago at outofchicago.com/about. Subscribe to our newsletter at outofchicago.com/newsletter to be the first to know about upcoming events.

Why a garden photography conference?

We’ve found that flower and garden photography classes are some of our most popular classes at the summer conference, but it’s difficult to find great subjects down in the city. So why not bring together some of the best flower photographers in the world in an amazing garden setting like the Chicago Botanic Garden and make it just for flower and garden photographers?

Who is this event for?

You’re going to eat, sleep and drink flower and garden photography for five days. If you are passionate about photographing flowers and gardens, we made this conference just for you.

There will be classes and excursions designed to meet the needs of beginner to advanced photographers. If you are just starting out, we’ll have classes for you. If this has been your life-long passion, we’ll have classes designed for you too.

How many people will be at the conference?

We are limiting the conference to 100 attendees. We will have more than ten instructors each leading a group to a different area of the garden so that excursion groups will never have more than ten attendees. There are 27 different gardens and four natural areas within the Chicago Botanic Garden. We will coordinate excursion groups so that there is plenty of time and space for everyone to create amazing images.

What if it rains?

If it’s light rain, we will go shoot. This is one of our favorite times to make flower images.

If we need to rearrange the schedule, we will do it so that we are in classes and working on images during the rain and shooting when it’s not.

Why the Chicago Botanic Garden?

This is our first garden photography conference so we’re holding it in our backyard this year. And the Chicago Botanic Garden is one of our favorite places to photograph anywhere! The Chicago Botanic Garden is considered one of the best gardens in the world with a huge diversity of photographic subjects in the summer. If it’s not already on your bucket list, it should be.

What is the price of the conference?

The five day conference is an all-inclusive event designed to bring passionate flower and garden photographers together for an intimate photography experience. We’ll learn, eat, shoot, post-process and critique together.

For the “Conference only” ticket, pay $749 to save your spot. The final payment of $750 is due June 30th, 2018. If you have a discount code, this discount will be taken from the first payment.

For the “Conference and Hotel” ticket that includes hotel, pay $899 to reserve your spot. The final payment of $1100 is due June 30th, 2018. If you have a discount code, this discount will be taken from the first payment.

What is included in the price?

Instruction: All classes, excursions, post-processing sessions, critique sessions, online pre-sessions, one-on-one help and random late night photography conversations are included.

Entrance to the Chicago Botanic Garden: We will coordinate entrance to the Chicago Botanic Garden so that you will not need to pay for a membership, admission or parking.

Internet: We have negotiated to get you free WiFi access in your hotel room and in the classrooms.

Meals: On the opening night, we will gather for a reception, dinner and keynote presentation with Anne Belmont. Between classes on the three full days, we will provide catered lunches at the hotel (no box lunches or sandwiches).

The all-inclusive conference and hotel ticket includes four nights in a two-room suite at the Embassy Suites. Check in August 26th. Check out August 30th. You’ll also receive the made-to-order Embassy Suites breakfast every morning and the Embassy Suites happy hour reception with beer, wine, cocktails and snacks each evening.

Embassy Suites will accommodate special dietary needs.

What is NOT included in the price?

Travel to the hotel and dinners are not included except for the opening night dinner, which is included. There will be time in the evening for you to explore the great restaurants in the area with your fellow attendees. After dinner we will get back together for critique, one-on-one help and breakout sessions.

What if I want to share a room with another attendee?

If you’re sharing a room with another attendee you need to purchase one “Conference and hotel” ticket and one “Conference only” ticket. You can purchase them as part of the same purchase or on separate orders. If you’re sharing the room, both of you will have all-inclusive access.

Can I bring a non-photographer friend or family member with me?

Of course! They are welcome to join us for the group presentations at no charge. The excursions to the Garden are limited to ten people and are limited to paying attendees.

A meal pass will be offered at an additional charge so that they can join us for group lunches and the opening dinner. Email michelle@outofchicago.com for more information.

Is there a one-day option?

There is no single-day option for the five day conference. The magic of this experience is the combination of learning from the instructors, shooting alongside them at the garden and then working on your images with them back at the hotel. It’s also about making life-long friends with people that are just as passionate about photography as you are and spending five days together practicing your craft.

BUT… based on your survey feedback there are a lot of people that cannot commit that much time and are not interested in staying at a hotel. So we’ve created a one-day workshop event with many of the same instructors on August 20th. Get more info here.

Should I stay at the hotel if I live in the area?

There is an option to attend the conference without staying at the hotel. But if you choose this option you may miss out on a lot.

We plan to stay up late reviewing images from the day, sharing stories and working on images. Then in the morning, we’ll be up again with an early group breakfast before heading out again to the garden. If you’re driving home at 10pm and need to be back at 7am, you may wish that you had stayed at the hotel.

You’ll also miss out on the Embassy Suites happy hour reception with free drinks and snacks. You can hang out with us, but you’ll need to purchase a wristband from the hotel to participate in the reception.

Great restaurants for dinner?

We’ll have a full list at the event, but it starts with Caldwell’s in the hotel lobby, Charlie Beinlich’s (we love their burgers!), J. Alexanders, Stir Crazy, PF Chang’s as well as Mexican, Italian and lots of other great choices. These are all super close and between the Garden and the hotel.

Are there additional fees for excursions or classes?

There are no additional charges. You will choose whichever classes, excursions and sessions that you want at no additional charge. Excursions are limited to ten attendees which means that they will fill up. Register by March 5th to guarantee that you will be in the first group to choose classes.

How can I learn more about the Chicago Botanic Garden?

The Chicago Botanic Garden website

Watch or listen to our interview with Anne Belmont about her favorite locations to photograph in the Garden.

Follow Anne Belmont’s blog to see what she is shooting at the Garden.

What makes this different than a photography workshop?

Most workshops have one or two instructors. We will have 10+ instructors and each one will be teaching their photo specialty. You’ll learn in the classroom, practice it at the Chicago Botanic Garden and then return for feedback from the instructors in small group critique sessions.

Plus, you’ll hang out with a larger community of photographers where you’ll find the people that you really “click” with.

Will there be equipment that I can try? What if I forget something?

Yes! We’ll have many of your favorite equipment manufacturers on hand to loan out equipment to try during the field sessions. Gary Farber and Hunt’s Photo will be at the event to provide anything you may need during the event.

What will I learn?

Through presentations, break-out sessions and post-processing sessions you will learn a huge variety of techniques for garden photography. The over-arching theme of the conference is to learn to make unique, creative, fine art images rather than documentary-style garden photographs.

We’ll spend much of our time working on photographic composition. You’ll learn techniques like focus stacking, how to nail focus on a flower, shooting close-up macro, controlling depth of field and using off-camera flash. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn how to use shallow depth of field, selective focus and you’ll have plenty of time to learn and practice with Lensbaby lenses. You’ll learn how to use and control natural light, how to get amazing backgrounds and you’ll learn new in-camera techniques to create abstract images.

Our instructors will also give you tips on selling images and creating images that people and agencies want to buy. We’ll teach you about some of the super-fancy equipment you can buy to improve your flower photography and also how to do everything with a low-budget setup.

In the classroom, you’ll learn how our instructors post-process their images and have a chance to process your own while getting feedback from the instructors.

What flowers will be blooming at this time of year?

We chose this time of year for the great weather and great variety of flowers blooming. You never know for sure what may be planted, but you can probably expect waterlilies, lotuses, dahlias, roses, native plants, cactus flowers, zinnias, wildflowers, sunflowers in the prairie and many more.

Will we get special access to the Garden?

We will go early in the morning before the garden is officially open to get great early morning light.

What photography equipment do I need?

You’ll probably want an interchangeable lens camera and maybe a tripod, but any camera setup will work. We’ll share detailed equipment recommendations before the event.

Do I need to bring a laptop or tablet?

It’s not required, but if you do have a laptop or tablet you can work on your images during the post-processing and critique sessions and get immediate feedback from the instructors.

Will there be a chance to hang out with the instructors?

You bet! We’ll eat meals together, hang out at happy hour and shoot together in small groups. There will be time throughout the week to ask questions and just hang out with your favorite photographers.

Will I be sitting in classes all day?

This is an immersive photography experience. You will learn new techniques in class, but you’ll also be putting them to use in the field. You’ll go on two instructor-led excursions each day during the best light of the day.

During the middle of the day and at night we’ll teach classes and lead post-processing and critique sessions.

How are we getting to the photo locations?

We will carpool to each location. We did this in Acadia and it worked great. You’ll have a designated area in the hotel parking lot for drivers, passengers and the instructor to meet. We will organize car pool groups so that each car has at least one person with a Garden pass. As long as one person in the group has a pass, there are no fees for entrance or parking. If no one in the group has a pass, Out of Chicago will cover the fees.

How strenuous will the walks to the locations be?

Most of the gardens are an easy walk and handicap accessible. The prairie and the woods are a bit more difficult to get to and walk. Difficulty descriptions will be included with each excursion.

When will I choose my classes? Will I get into the excursions that I really want to get into?

We will release the full detailed schedule of excursions, classes and everything else in July.

Registration will take place over two or three weeks. The first week you’ll pick your top two sessions. The second week you’ll pick two more. Then the last week you’ll complete the rest of your schedule. This allows everyone to get as many of their top choices as possible.

What is the Refund policy?

You can the read the refund policy at the Out of Chicago terms and conditions page.

Traveling from out of town

The nearest airport is O’Hare. It is 15 minutes from the hotel. We recommend that you rent a car, take a cab or Uber from O’Hare.

Midway Airport is 45 minutes from the hotel, but can be much longer during rush hour.

Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport is 55 minutes from the hotel.

Facebook group

All critical communication from us will take place through email, but we are setting up a Facebook group for communication between attendees and instructors. When you register for the event you will be invited to the private group so that you can meet your fellow attendees right away!