Which photography convention should I go to??

The speakers after one of the popular Photographers Ignite presentations at WPPI

The speakers after one of the popular Photographers Ignite presentations at WPPI

One of the great things about our industry is that photographers are social critters. We love to rendezvous at the various conventions to share stories and swap high fives and fanny slaps. Oh, the education is great too, but c’mon – we gotta have new group selfies for our Instagram and FB pages, right?! Yes, we love the schmoozing, but when you shake it all out, it’s what you learn that pays for your trip and, hopefully, much more. 

I’ve been going to WPPI for almost 20 years, and speaking there for 12 years. I’ve attended just about every other convention out there – many of which come and, sadly, go. Honestly, no other convention out there brings together so much education, fun, socializing, and inspiration than WPPI. I have to admit, it is my favorite – and the only one I NEVER miss. There really isn’t any other place to find the world-class speakers with educational programs of such variety, for all ability levels. Well, and there’s Vegas.

So what’s the secret to getting the most out of your frenzied foray with friends at WPPI? I’m sure some of you have tips of your own, and I’d love to hear them in the comments, but here’s what I’ve learned: 

Plan early. Many of the popular classes fill up quickly but the pre-board system at WPPI helps significantly. Sign up for the classes you plan to attend as soon as possible and avoid waiting in line to get in, assuring yourself a seat up front where you’ll have a better chance of scoring good swag from the speakers.

Take a plethora of good notes. You might think you’ll remember a good tip, but with all the information and visual overload at WPPI, you are likely to forget as soon as the next tip rolls along. I make a habit of writing everything down that I want to remember, from details of a conversation, to that movie a friend recommends, to what my hotel room number is. (Yes, I’ve forgotten that before). Each night when you settle in to your cozy little hotel bungalow – or lobby couch, circle the top thing or two you learned that day that you want to implement. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll actually be able to do everything you learned when you get home. It’s overwhelming and if we try to do everything we actually tend to give up and do nothing at all because we encounter analysis paralysis. Work on your top take-aways from the convention and when those are done, come back to your list and pick the next 3-5 items to work on. 

Talk to everyone you can! WPPI is also the ultimate place to network with other photographers, vendors, magazines, editors, and show girls. Don’t underestimate the value of this networking opportunity that only a show of this magnitude can offer. I can’t even count how many great connections, friends, and opportunities I’ve gained by simply being at WPPI with an open mind and mouth. 

Ask for help. Since you have your mouth open anyway, face your fears and ask for help with whatever issues you’ve been having in your business, workflow, lighting, etc. What you don’t learn from the speakers can probably be learned from other photographers in attendance. The mountain of knowledge that is gathered at a convention like this is incredible. The beauty of the modern photographer is that most are willing to share and help you. All you have to do is ask!

This beautiful image was made by Melissa Niu for her Photographers ignite presentation. She was one of many inspiring speakers to grace the stage. WPPI is the only place you'll find Photographers ignite.

This beautiful image was made by Melissa Niu for her Photographers ignite presentation. She was one of many inspiring speakers to grace the stage. WPPI is the only place you'll find Photographers ignite.

Enter a competition or two. While some people may not get excited about competition for competition sake, it can be a really great way to get feedback on your work that friends or other people that actually like you may not honestly give. Judges can be brutally honest, and that’s a good thing. Just swallow your pride and listen. You’ll learn a lot. If you are really shy, use a pen name like “The Body” or something so nobody recognizes you.

And finally, avoid the temptation to stay out all night partying. Yes, I know I just told you to socialize, but stumbling in late to a workshop with a pounding headache and a vague recollection of where your left sock is doesn’t leave you open to drowning in information. Drowning in a Bloody Mary, maybe. Party responsibly and you’ll get much more than your moneys worth from WPPI. Party irresponsibly and you’ll probably leave money where you need to disinfect.  

Have you been to WPPI? What are your tips for getting the most out of it?

I’ll be hosting Photographers Ignite again at WPPI on Thursday, March 5th, from 10:30AM-12:00PM, so be sure to plan to stay for that!

I’ll also have a platform class on Monday, March 2, from 8:30AM-10AM called: The First Five Years: How to Launch a Successful Photography Business. I promise you’ll want your notebook here! I hope you’ll come say “hi”.