Out of Chicago Botanic Garden

Flower and Garden Photography Conference

August 27 to 31, 2023

Photo by Anne Belmont


Immerse yourself in the Chicago Botanic Garden's 385 acres, which includes 27 individual gardens full of dahlias, roses, waterlilies, lotuses, hummingbirds, butterflies, and much more, along with 3 greenhouses that feature desert plants, tropical, and semi-tropical plants. The Chicago Botanic Garden cultivates a collection of more than 2.6 million living plants, including native species, unusual nonnatives, and adapted cultivars, making it a paradise for flower, plant, and garden photography.

Late August is the ideal time to visit Chicago Botanic Garden: the gardens are at their lushest and the summer crowds have begun to diminish. During the conference, you will have ample time to wander the garden paths, explore your creativity, practice mindful photography, and explore your subjects deeply. The conference, which is limited to 45 attendees to make this a more intimate, personalized learning experience, includes extended time to work with each of our talented, supportive instructors in the field.



Out of Chicago Botanic brings six leading creative flower, plant, and garden photographers together for an intimate conference experience. With guidance and coaching from the instructors, you will have the opportunity to photograph the beautiful landscapes of the garden, small scenes, and get up close to photograph macro images of flowers and plants. During the conference, you will spend one full day working with each pair of instructors, allowing for extensive hands-on, personalized instruction in a fun, supportive environment. You will also have the opportunity to meet for a scheduled one-on-one session with one of the instructors during our time together. This team brings together a broad range of photographic styles and diverse perspectives on photography in one place.

"Out of Chicago fosters an environment that encourages participants and instructors alike to build friendships, as well as photography skills. If you are looking for an opportunity to see and capture beautiful flowers and do it all with the expert guidance of incredible photographers this is the conference for you."


Anne Belmont

Alan Shapiro

Charles Needle

Tony Sweet

John Barclay

Krista McCuish


What makes this conference unique?

The Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the premier gardens in North America, and includes an extensive range of cultivated gardens, greenhouses, and naturalized areas. During the conference, you will have time to extensively explore and photograph the garden’s collections, including visits to the Japanese Garden, Circle Garden, Sensory Garden, English Walled Garden, Heritage Garden, Native Plant Garden, Greenhouses, and more.

All field sessions are offered in a small group format, and your small group will spend one full day working with each pair of instructors. You will have ample time to receive personalized instruction and photograph on your own, with coaching always available when you need it. In addition to our time at the gardens, we will have group conference sessions together during the middle of the day, along with an in-depth online orientation session in advance and an online image review after the conference wraps up. This event is limited to 45 attendees. 


  • Learning about a diverse range of approaches to garden photography through extensive hands-on field instruction time with each instructor
  • Developing a more creative workflow, including mindfulness, slowing down, deeply observing, fully exploring your subject, and conveying emotion
  • Time for experimentation and trying new ideas to expand your creativity and explore subjects in different ways
  • Finding compelling subjects and learning to see more abstractly, exploring varied compositional techniques, and improving your compositions
  • Finding inspiration in the garden, along with refining your vision and style
  • Working with shallow depth of field as a creative choice, and learning to create beautiful and harmonious backgrounds
  • Photographing flowers and plants in black and white
  • Applying techniques for plant and flower photography, including aperture choice, depth of field, focus stacking, and working with all different kinds of natural light
  • Close-up and macro photography approaches, along with photographing garden landscapes and small scenes
  • Working in the garden with a range of lenses, including wide angle, telephoto, macro lenses, and specialty lenses like Lensbaby and Helios lenses
  • Using filters for plant and flower photography, including polarizers and neutral density filters
  • Photo processing, including key techniques, workflow, and developing a personalized approach
  • Developing a body of work that reflects your learning at the conference
  • And much more…

"I debated about making the investment in attending OOC Botanic; all of us face competing demands for our time and resources, and I live in Maine - where summers are glorious and my own gardens are abundant! I decided to take the plunge and am so glad that I did! Not only did I benefit from fabulous instructors and concierge-style access to a world-class botanical garden, but I made new friends among the attendees who have helped me to grow as a person and as a photographer! Chris, Anne, and many others make these workshops more than a learning experience; they are nurturing a creative and caring community!"



The Out of Chicago Botanic Garden Conference includes two online sessions (one before and one after the conference), extensive photography time in the gardens, group conference sessions, scheduled one-on-one time for personalized feedback, and informal time with other attendees and the team of instructors. Out of Chicago events are designed to provide a fun, encouraging, and immersive environment in which you can explore your creativity, experiment with new ideas, build your technical skills, create a portfolio of photographs you love, and build your photographic community.

In-depth online orientation and classroom session (Tuesday, August 8, 12:00 pm CT)*

Check in to the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel in Northbrook, IL (4 pm)
Welcome reception to meet the instructors and fellow attendees, followed by a group dinner
Welcome by Chris Smith, founder of Out of Chicago, and opening presentations

DAYS 2, 3, AND 4
Breakfast at the Renaissance Hotel
Morning field sessions at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Group lunch and midday conference sessions at the hotel
Afternoon field sessions at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Dinner with your group or on your own at the Garden or area restaurants

Day 5
Final photography session at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Check out of the hotel (11am)
Group brunch, closing presentations, and closing remarks (conference will end by 1:00 pm)

Online image review and image celebration session (Tuesday, September 19, 12:00 pm CT)*

*Both the pre-conference and post-conference online sessions will be recorded and available to any registered attendee who is not able to attend the live presentation.

Conference Location and Accommodations

Photography Excursions: Chicago Botanic Garden
Conference Sessions & Lodging: Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel in Northbrook, Illinois

In addition to field excursions at the Chicago Botanic Garden, the conference will be based at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore, a 4-star contemporary hotel with spacious guest rooms, comfortable meeting spaces, and delicious catered meals. The hotel is a short, two-mile drive to the Chicago Botanic Garden. You can learn more about the hotel here. After registration, Out of Chicago will share information about how to make your hotel reservations using our reserved block of rooms. The closest airport to both the garden and the hotel is O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

Conference Price


Reserve your spot with a deposit of $1,000. The remaining balance is due 90 days before the event. This event is limited to 45 attendees. With the smaller group size compared to other Out of Chicago conferences, you will have ample opportunity to work with all of the instructors and build deeper relationships with fellow attendees.


  • Opening dinner, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and closing brunch
  • Daily hands-on instruction from six instructors during immersive, extended field sessions
  • In-person presentations from each instructor during the conference, along with other interactive conference sessions including the full instructor team
  • Charter Bus transportation to and from O’Hare Airport on the opening and closing days
  • Charter Bus transportation to and from the hotel and The Chicago Botanic Garden for field sessions at the Garden
  • A comprehensive online orientation to help you prepare for your time at the conference, and an online image review and image celebration with instructors after the conference concludes
  • One scheduled one-on-one session for personalized feedback (30 minutes) and lots of hands-on time with each instructor in the field
  • Private online community to connect with other conference attendees and share photos from the event


  • Airfare
  • Hotel – Room rates are $139/night plus tax. You will receive hotel registration information when you register for the conference.
  • Membership to the Chicago Botanic Garden. We recommend getting a membership or a reciprocal membership to enter the garden. If you do not have a Chicago Botanic Garden membership or a reciprocal membership, and you live 75 or more miles from the Garden, we recommend getting the National Membership for $72 in advance of the conference. Membership information can be found here.
  • Except for the first night of the conference, dinners are on your own or with other members of your group. Many excellent dining options are available within a short driving distance of the Renaissance Hotel, along with the cafe and outdoor grill at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

"I was introduced to Out of Chicago a few years ago and have attended 5 conferences. I’ve never been disappointed, my expectations were high and the conferences surpassed everything I dared hope for. Instructors are gifted and talented and take genuine pleasure in seeing you learn a new technique or master a new skill! An added bonus is all the new friendships I’ve formed with instructors and attendees, friendships that continue long after the conference ends."


Frequently Asked Questions

Plan to be at the hotel for check-in by 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 27. The conference will end at 1 p.m. on Thursday, August 31.

We will have a bus to pick up attendees at the airport several times throughout the day on Sunday, August 27. The bus will also be available to take you back to the airport after the conference finishes on the Thursday, August 31st. Details on times will be available soon. You are also welcome to rent a car at the airport and drive yourself.

After you register for the conference, you will receive information about how to book your hotel room using Out of Chicago’s room rate for the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel.

After registering, you will get an email with details about the conference including key dates, hotel information, and more. Be sure to stay connected via email to receive crucial event communication, including surveys about your preferences and updates as needed.

We recommend getting a CBG membership and are working to confirm those with reciprocal memberships will have the same privileges as CBG Members, such as early entry times.  We will update all attendees as soon as we have further clarification.  If you do not have a Chicago Botanic Garden membership and you live 75 or more miles from the Garden, we recommend getting the National Membership for $72 in advance of the conference. Membership information can be found here.

As with visiting any garden, this conference will include walking to access photography locations, carrying your gear, and being on your feet for extended periods of time. Most photography locations are accessible on paved paths.

Temperatures can range from the 70’s to the mid 90’s in August. The biggest challenge in the heat is staying hydrated, so we encourage frequent water breaks, wearing a hat, and making sure you are protecting yourself from the sun (light-colored, lightweight clothing, sunscreen, etc). Chances of rain are usually small in August, but be prepared to go out in light rain and photograph.

All levels of passionate photographers are welcome, from photography enthusiasts to working professionals. Just be ready to completely immerse yourself in flower, plant, and garden photography for five days.

You’ll want a DSLR or mirrorless camera, a tripod (optional), and lenses for flower and plant photography. While no specific lenses are required to participate, we encourage a mid-range zoom, a macro lens, a telephoto lens, and specialist lenses like Lensbabies if you use them. We’ll share detailed equipment recommendations before the event. We also suggest bringing a laptop so you can work on your images during the post-processing and critique sessions.

Yes! Throughout the week, you will be working together in the garden for extended photography sessions. During the day, there will be opportunities for one-on-one sessions with instructors, along with time to enjoy meals together. There will be plenty of time to ask questions and get to know your favorite photographers. While our instructors sometimes take out their cameras to help with teaching, their main goal is to help you create photos you love, improve your technical skills, work on composition, and help answer any questions you have.

No, the most important part of this conference is the ample time you will have working with instructors in the field twice a day. Time for presentations, one-on-one sessions, and other activities will be at the hotel around lunchtime, with photography time in the morning and afternoon.

Your schedule will be available in the weeks leading up to the conference. You will be assigned to a group with interests similar to your own that you will stay with all week for the field excursions, and your group will rotate through each team of instructors, working with each instructor team for a full day. This schedule is one of the main benefits of this conference format, since you will have extended time to work with each instructor in the field, with a lot of time for hands-on, personalized attention.

Both the pre-conference and post-conference online sessions will be recorded. Everyone registered for the conference will receive the recording a few days after each session.

Of course! They are welcome to join us for the group presentations at no charge. The in-the-field teaching excursions are reserved for conference attendees only. A meal pass will be offered at an additional charge so that they can join us for group meals.

You can read the refund policy here.

With the evolving COVID pandemic, we continue to observe recommendations by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and local guidelines for events. This includes physical distancing, masking, health screening, and sanitation protocols. We may require proof of vaccination to attend the event, as we have for our previous events, along with required masking during indoor conference sessions. This will be determined once we get closer to the event and you will receive any information about COVID requirements in advance of the conference.

You can view all of the events you’re registered for by logging into your Out of Chicago account. In the upper right corner of the website, go to My Account and My Conferences. You should see your conference(s) listed there. If your conference is not listed, please email us at support@outofchicago.com.

If you have any other questions, you can email info@outofchicago.com for more information.

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