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Three Things You Don’t Want To Do at a Photography Conference

By Chad DiBlasio on March 16th 2016

I don’t “need” to go to WPPI. I’ve been telling myself this for a few years. It’s been six years since I quit working a “real job” in the corporate world and moved into the unsure, but thrilling waters of complete self-employment. I don’t “need” to go to a conference and trade show for the industry I am in simply because I can figure it all out on my own. That is, after all, what has mostly propelled my career forward in so many other areas. That simple will to “do it” and move forward.

Whether that was watching YouTube videos and practicing new techniques, or taking advantage of the incredible resource libraries and articles like SLR Lounge or what used to be called “B School” started by Christopher Becker, I simply wanted to “just do it,” and so I did. Where there was a will, there was a way and, for the most part, I’ve made it work. So, I may have entered a conference like this with a bit of a different expectation than some, but here are three ways I wanted to put out there to help you get the absolute most out of your time at the incredible experience that is WPPI or any photography conference.

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The SLR crew at WPPI

Don’t miss the trade show

This may seem like a very “duh” kind of suggestion because the trade show is such a large part of what is offered there. But, what I mean is this, don’t just walk through the trade show like you are going through a vendor booth at the county fair. These are seriously the BEST of the best vendors and the hottest products in our industry. The companies who have booths at this show invest a significant amount of time and money to make sure they get to be present at this conference, and they aren’t all there to just “hawk their wares.” When I say don’t MISS the trade show, I mean spend time talking to the vendors. Ask them what they are excited about and how you can implement their products and offers to make your business better. What I found from actually talking to people in the booths (asking them things like how long they’ve been with the company, what they love about working there, what they’ve found joy in with being part of the photography community, etc.) was that there is a large number of people who truly love the photography world and the people in it.

When I say don’t MISS the trade show, I mean spend time talking to the vendors. Ask them what they are excited about and how you can implement their products and offers to make your business better. What I found from actually talking to people in the booths (asking them things like how long they’ve been with the company, what they love about working there, what they’ve found joy in with being part of the photography community, etc.) was that there is a large number of people who truly love the photography world and the people in it.

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Nathan, CEO of Photographer’s Edit who hosted us for lunch

I got a chance to hang out with the guys from Jpeg Mini for a few minutes as they showed me their latest extension for Photoshop. If you aren’t familiar with Jpeg Mini, check out this write-up by Kishore. Their software is truly remarkable in what it’s able to accomplish and, as a business owner who isn’t just looking at the time savings of using a product like this, the very real financial savings of having to pay for less than HALF the storage you would normally need each year is incredible!

Their new extension for Photoshop allows you to compress any file that you have open in the program. This is going to be revolutionary for retouchers and digital artists who don’t use programs like Lightroom to do their editing. They are very excited about what they offer the industry and even offered our readership a special discount of 20% off their bundle. You can check out the products by going to http://www.jpegmini.com/pro and use the code “SLRLOUNGE20” upon checkout. Considering you’ll save so much in file storage alone, it’s a crazy good investment for just over $100!

photo courtesy of Jpeg Mini's Facebook Page

Photo courtesy of Jpeg Mini’s Facebook Page

These vendors really want to help you succeed and, given the opportunity, they will do all they can to help you figure that out for your business! Don’t spend your time on the trade show floor looking for the discount codes and picking up the free swag. Take a few minutes at booths you are interested in to actually talk to those vendors. This brings me to my next point.

Don’t be so basic

There will be a ton of opportunities for you to see (and probably meet in person) a lot of your “heroes,” or people you admire from the industry at an event like this. They’re teaching on the smaller (and large) stages at the corporate booths, they’re eating lunch in the restaurants, and walking around the event space just like the “normal people” they are. Don’t waste the opportunity you may have to chat with them by only telling them how rad their latest photos were, or asking them things like “what were your settings for ‘x’ and ‘y’ shoots.”

[Rewind: WHY “WHAT CAMERA SETTINGS SHOULD I USE?” IS A POINTLESS QUESTION]

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Personally, I feel that having this one-on-one, personal time with some of the brightest minds in our field is going to be best used by asking them questions about their passion and drive or challenges they’ve faced, not only their products or processes. I had a great opportunity to grab some breakfast with the team from CG Pro Prints and chat about their business and where they saw things going over the next few years.

I didn’t realize they were such a printing powerhouse providing the printing and canvas goods for a number of other suppliers in their warehouse. The CG side of things actually is a very lean team of people who offer higher quality goods at a lower price to photographers as a means of helping them in their businesses. It has been an interesting venture for them because this is one of the few places in life where “you get what you pay for” isn’t necessarily a true statement. Because of already being established and funded as a company that prints for others, they were able to leverage their situation and offer a truly amazing product at a cost that otherwise wouldn’t be sustainable. Understanding where they come from in this aspect truly helped me see how their vision of being an indispensable “value adding” part of photographer’s businesses when it comes to the cost of goods sold (you can check out a little article I wrote on this topic over on their blog).

These are the kinds of conversations I would have totally missed out on had I simply walked by their booth, checked out their prices/giveaways, and moved on. I LOVE printed goods, so taking my time here to ask deeper questions and seek out a different type of relationship with a vendor whom I love and who is going to help my business make more profit while giving my clients an excellent product. (P.S. you can use the code “CANVAS2016” until 12/31/2016 to get one 16×20 canvas print for only $19.99!)

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Hanging at the CGPRO booth at WPPI

[REWIND: THE COSTS OF A BRIDAL SHOW FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS]

 don’t skip the classes

Sue Bryce is not a new name. In fact, pulling up a search on her name on our site, you’ll easily find more than a handful of helpful articles specifically dealing with her. So, it should be no surprise that her platform class on in person sales was chock full of info and tidbits of helpful insight for doing sales with people in person, rather than doing an online gallery or even including the files with the session cost. What you wouldn’t necessarily expect to receive is 2 hours worth of motivation and inspiration to pursuing your art as well as your business!

Sue has such an amazing persona and her interaction with and ACTUAL care for the people she photographs is a true game changer when she then presents those clients with real, printed photos of themselves in the preview session. She does a “reveal wall” with her clients at the end of a shoot and offers them printed goods. She say’s it’s the easiest “sale” ever because they are actually holding, in their hands, prints they are taking home instead of ordering products they will only see later.

A few of the points she stressed during this platform class that made me think about how I shoot portraits and really encouraged me to want to shoot some aspects differently. Here are a few highlights:

  • She is a photographer. She does have a brand and a style, but those things come secondary to the fact that her intent and commission is to photograph her subject as they wish to be photographed.
  • She asks every one of her clients a few questions before their shoot that ensure they not only get shots they are wanting but that she has a better understanding of the things that are important to them. This also translates well into the sales room because they are not just technically great photos, but meaningful shots that are tailored to each client.
  • Here are a few of the questions: How do you want to be photographed? What would you like to portray about yourself? What would you like our time together to be like? How would you love to see yourself? What is important for me to know about who you are as a person/your journey?
  • Confidently presenting the investment costs up front, presenting your art in a passionate way and then giving them a remarkable experience doesn’t always translate into high sales. However, not doing one or all of those pieces in the process will guarantee low sales.
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Sue Bryce platform class at WPPI 2016

There are classes on virtually any topic you could want to study, and the information you will get can change the ways you shoot, the way you conduct business, the profitability of your studio, and even the way you pursue the craft you so passionately love.

[Rewind: THREE BASIC PRINCIPALS FOR DOING IN-PERSON SALES]

conclusion

So, did I “have to go” to WPPI this year? I would’ve likely been just fine without going. And, by that, I mean that #fomo would not have totally handicapped me or kept me from running a successful business. However, I have some memories, information/education and relationships with industry pros that I could’ve never developed at the depth I was able to simply by going to Vegas for a few days and investing time and energy into the industry I love and believe in. I haven’t been able to go/haven’t gone for a number of years, but I can say with confidence that I will be hard pressed to miss it again. I would love to hear about your experiences with WPPI or any conference in the comments below and feel free to follow us on Instagram to see more photos from the show, from the shoot we did in the desert, and general life craziness like face swaps and my fun kiddos!

And, just for fun, a little face swap action with Justin Lin, one of the partners at SLR Lounge and partner/photographer and Lin & Jirsa! (and please don’t judge me for having mostly iPhone photos from the week. I wasn’t there to shoot, so I didn’t carry my “real” camera!)
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Chad is a central Ohio based wedding/portrait photographer and educator. When he isn’t busy with his 4 kiddos, watching Gray’s Anatomy (with his wife…) or making things, he spends his time pinning home improvement wishes and learning about essential oils – he’s actually a hippie in hiding. He thoroughly enjoys laughing, riding motorcycles and a nicely edged yard. He’s been shooting for a shade over a decade and loves to talk tech and business.

5 Comments

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  1. Stev Harper

    I am Agree With You, It is very Nice Post

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  2. Stephen Jennings

    Fine, you convinced me .. I’ll go next year. :D

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  3. Justin Haugen

    Great write up! I didn’t get to meet the whole crew but it was great bumping into some of the SLRlounge team.

    I feel like from top to bottom whether you’re a beginner, aspiring pro, professional, or a presenter, WPPI is the center of our photographic universe and provides everything you seek. If you go with a purpose and deliberately put yourself out there in front of the opportunities you desire , you’ll come back fulfilled. We really have a unique and awesome industry and it comes to a head at WPPI.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      for SURE! It can be a totally wasted (pun intented!) venture. BUT, with a few key insights and purpose, it can be a KILLER trip!

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