Fearless Conference 2017 – Save The Date!
Fearless Conference 2016

Now in its 8th year – and 11 conferences later – the Fearless Conference has evolved into a unique gathering unlike any other wedding photographers event. It’s not just about photography anymore. We have grown.

These 10 speakers have been carefully selected not just for their photographic skills but also for their unique voices in their commitment to helping others. More than just good photographers, they are good people.

At FC2016, you will connect with inspirational people, challenge your own mindset, refine your purpose and find yourself a part of something bigger. And you will be making a direct financial contribution to environmental efforts as all profits from this conference will be donated to the Environmental Defense Fund.

We hope to see you in November!



It is our honor to have the documentary photographer Darcy Padilla as our Keynote Speaker at the Fearless Conference 2016.

About Darcy:

In 1991 after 12 internships at daily newspapers — including The New York Times and The Washington Post — I decided to freelance and pursue my own documentary projects.

For one of my first long-term stories, I spent a year visiting an isolation ward at a maximum-security prison in Vacaville, California,
photographing inmates with AIDS. That project received the first Alexia Foundation Grant, bolstering my commitment to my life’s work.

AIDS and its consequences became part of them when I spent seven years photographing residents of transient hotels in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco. I saw all the consequences of poverty — loneliness, broken families, drugs, and the devastation of HIV. This project received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

While I juggle several passions at once, my enduring study for the last 21 years has been the life of one woman and her family. Julie Baird personifies how the accident of birth can unwittingly fix someone’s path in life. When I met her, she had just given birth to her first child and she had just found out she has AIDS. This project is one that has set a direction for my approach to photography.


John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fellowship
W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography
Open Society Institute, Individual Fellowship
Alexia Foundation for World Peace, Professional Grant
Getty Images, Grant for Editorial Photography
World Press Photo Award
San Francisco Arts Commission, Cultural Equity Grant
Festival Photoreporter, Grant
Alicia Patterson Foundation, Fellowship




Danielle Calhoun, wedding photography turned humanitarian, speaker and socially conscious wedding blogger, founded Black Sheep Bride in 2014. After traveling to several developing countries to photograph non-profits, orphanages, and social impact projects, she often came home conflicted about the wedding industry she was supported by. Black Sheep Bride was born to highlight the amazing people in the wedding world that use their love to serve others and the environment.

With roughly 1.2 million socially conscious couples within the big pool of Millennials getting engaged, Black Sheep Bride couldn’t have been launched at a more opportune time. In under 2 years, they have gained over 160 vendors across the nation pledging to give 10% back with their businesses, including many influential social enterprise brands, and have over 12,000 followers on Instagram.




I love God, my family and friends, music and books and all that is who I am. I’m always trying to keep things simple. I appreciate sincerity in all its forms and I live my life making it an experience that will leave me with a smile on my face on the day that I die, even if this would happen in an hour or, hopefully, in 100 years.

I’m a wedding photographer since 2008 and I’ve shot more then 150 weddings, mostly in Romania, but more and more internationally since 2012. I’ve won awards at Fearless Photographers (top 10 2014), ISPWP, WPS (top 3 in 2013 and 2014) and Mywed (finalist at both their contest in 2014 and 2015, 2nd on their top list now). But these are nothing if I can’t keep it up so I’m not planning to stop here. These awards are just the fuel that keeps my creativity on the edge, always trying new things and getting the best out of me and what is front of my eyes and surrounding my soul.

My photography is who I am and if it gets better with time, then I’m becoming a better person… and the other way around. And every couple or family I’ve shot until now is a big part of my journey here, on Earth.  I am just a happy man in love with life.




Kirsten, a former BA of Child Psychology graduate, elementary school teacher, and Cards Against Humanity champion, is considered to be one of the best documentary family photographers in the world. While living and working in the Outer Banks, NC for 8 years she developed a unique type of beach portrait that not only was never before available, it created an unprecedented demand for her work, shooting over 90 families in a 3 month time period every season.

Since relocating to Colorado, she has focused on her highly sought after Day in the Life and Vacation sessions where she spends up to 72hrs with a family documenting their daily life with humor and compassion alike. Although her families are completely diverse, the majority of the clientele happen to be fellow photographers including Susan Stripling, Daniel Aguilar, Tyler Wirken and Lanny & Erika Mann, just to name a few.



Hello! I am Mónica, a photographer for almost 20 years, I have worked in all types of photography especially developing personal projects related to marginality.

I firmly believe that our lives and our personal work should be reflected in our photos as wedding photographers because just being real and honest makes the difference from other photographers. I come from the world of Punk and DIY, I love music & documentary photography. I`m always looking for madness, crazy people, wildbrides and anti-princess Brides. I want to capture the essence of each couple, with pictures that reflects who they really are and tell their story as complete as possible.

I hope that after the Conference we go back to our houses thinking of:

Are we really reflecting our lives in our wedding photos?
Are we really being honest in our work?
Is our work a reflection of us?
Hope we can find the answers!



The new trend of shooting for awards has left many clients unhappy, I’ve seen this within my family and friends who’ve hired award winning photographers only to be left with a feeling of dissatisfaction of not getting good coverage of their event. I’d love to talk about a way that photographers can enjoy shooting the things that matter to the client and still make time to push the boundaries for awards.

My inspiration flows from the people I photograph. I am sensitive, spiritual, and believe in the power of our connected souls. We just have to think of those who really matter to us in order to realize the power of our relationships. All I aim to do… is to capture those connections in single moments, so you can cherish them for years to come.

I am a happy husband, a loving son and an all-around geek who loves to read, take pictures and watch a lot of movies. If I am not busy doing any of those things, you’d catch me being a foodie with the wife, or on one of our adventure dates.




I’m Katie Merkle. I’m a photographer, and for the last 25 years I’ve battled a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease called Dystonia.

Throughout my childhood, I struggled quietly with the most basic tasks; walking, standing, holding a glass to drink water. My entire body was consumed by the disease, and the pain, was, at times, unreal.

But instead of submitting to my circumstances, I learned to navigate the world through dreams and possibilities. I wanted to walk like a normal person. I wanted to be able to speak to others. I wanted to do everything I set my mind to, with a smile on my face.

And I was unwilling to give up….



I offer stories from my 20+ year journey as a professional photographer along with my personal philosophy of what it is to live life with intent, compassion, and curiosity. I’ll relate my experience in a way that photographers can hopefully use it to find their own path to growth and development.



I work with many small business owners who are artists and feel keenly aware of the unique challenges they face. I have found that so many people dread the thought of talking about their financial concerns about as much as going to the dentist (if not more). This presentation is a crash course on personal finance and the financial issues facing most small business owners in a way that will be both engaging and ignite confidence to be “fearless” about dealing with their finances.

We are all products of our experiences – I was fortunate enough to earn a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology at St. Edwards University. My background includes my time in helping start a non-profit in Dallas during the late 90’s that worked with family’s struggling with the death of a child or a caregiver. Often I worked with distraught wives that were transitioning to a new dynamic of being the bread winner, and the financial stress and decisions that come with that. This experience provided the framework for my passion to help others today.

Clients benefit from my 15 years of financial experience, expertise and dedication to serving small business owners and families all over the country. I am especially adept at helping clients draw out their values and prioritizing their objectives with creative problem solving.

I have earned the designation of Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and currently reside in McKinney, TX. I consider myself the luckiest man on the planet to have been married to my talented and beautiful wife, Kate, for over 13 years. We take great pride & enjoyment in raising our amazing daughter Millie, and our two very loved dogs, Hazel and Noopsy (not misspelled!).



As photographers, we all need to know how to take beautiful photographs.

But clients need more than pretty photos. They need memories that mean the world to them. Our industry allows us to help them discover that, and when we give them something they couldn’t have without us, they will buy big prints, they will order big albums. and they will tell all their friends how their photographers made their lives better.

Steve has spent years reshaping how a photography business should be run, and he will show you how to turn your love of people and your passion in photography into a real business that gives your clients the experience they deserve, and the profit you are looking for.

Once you know how to take great photos, it’s time learn how to run a great business. That’s what Steve is coming to Charleston to teach.


This conference is open to all photographers.

FC2016 is our most important fundraising event in support of environmental responsibility.
100% of all profit from the Conference will be donated to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Conference venue: The American Theatre at 446 King St. in Charleston, SC

Official hotel: Francis Marion Hotel: SOLD OUT