It ended over a week ago but now, with things getting back to normal after being away from home for several days, I wanted to take a few minutes to cover the recent WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) conference and trade show, held in Las Vegas from March 4 to 11. It was the first time a I had attended this convention and I was stunned by the size: this was the biggest in the history of the organization with some 14,000 attendees from all over the world descending on the MGM Grand Convention Center.
With the downturn in the economy and increasing price pressure from new competition, the emphasis this year was clearly on business and marketing. There was an entire track on Saturday the 10th focused just on that and many of the “platform” classes, included with the standard pass price, covered those topics as well.
There was a lot of information in the marketing seminars about “Social Media” and the techniques some individuals and studios were using to promote their businesses with Blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Jasmine Star, a huge name now in wedding photography, attributed a large portion of her stellar rise to her use of the internet (along with great word-of-mouth recommendations.)
Speaking of Jasmine Star, her seminar on “Ghetto Fabulous Marketing” was so eagerly anticipated at the conference that the first session, in a room that held about a thousand people, filled up well before it’s scheduled start time. Jasmine, and WPPI, were gracious enough to conduct a second session (not originally planned) on the following day, which also filled to capacity! A tip for next year: get in line real early for the popular speakers.
Business wasn’t the only topic of conversation, though, and there were plenty of classes on posing, lighting and capturing HD video with the new DSLR’s – so many that I wished I could have cloned myself and attended more than one at a time. Doug Gordon gave a fast-paced class on flow posing to a huge room that felt like a rock concert or big-name motivational speaker seminar - until the content started coming so fast I couldn't take notes fast enough. You could almost get a full education on the art of photographing people at this conference; I would definitely recommend attending to anyone who is actively involved in the field – or even considering getting into it.
Sharing knowledge and skill with other photographers and causes was also a theme this year. Pictage and Cannon sponsored an event where more than 100 children from the local Boys & Girls Club facility were provided with a day of instruction and hands-on field training in photography. Sandy Puc’ spoke about her involvement with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep where photographers donate their time and talents to make portraits of infants that have passed away or will not leave the hospital for their families.
There are a lot of new entrants in the field of wedding and portrait photography with a tendency to charge too little for their services - and then just handing over a disc of images to the client instead of helping them see the benefits of honoring their memories with high-quality albums and prints. The overall message from speakers like Jerry Ghionis, Dane Sanders and Jasmine Star was clear, though: Standing out, being unique, being you and being better, both as a person and a photographer, are the real keys to success in business - and in life.