Over the last decade, the photography landscape has undergone significant change, to the point that even industry experts across several blogs and publications have questioned the future of the craft.

One area in particular where we can trace the shift across this industry involves photo trade shows, which have witnessed a general decline in attendance, despite a rise in interest in photography (due in large part to smartphone cameras). An ongoing debate centers on the question of whether or not it’s worth attending photography trade shows at all given the ease of following new releases and buying gear online. Through the years, one conference that has remained relevant in this rapidly evolving industry has done so because of how it benefits those who attend. WPPI, a conference designed to serve wedding and portrait photographers across all levels, is happening soon, and we’ve broken down what you need to know about it, including why you should attend and what you should do once it begins.

Why You Should Definitely Attend WPPI

Simply put, WPPI offers an experience you just can’t get online. In fact, SLR Lounge might not exist if it weren’t for WPPI. Here’s what Christopher Lin, one of the founders of SLR Lounge, had to say about attending WPPI back at the start of his photography career:

“In 2007-2008 we were unsure whether or not to pursue photography. Was creativity and a strong interest enough? Without a degree, formal education, or much experience, could we actually succeed in photography? We decided to attend WPPI out of interest that year. The people we met and the lectures we heard inspired us to start our wedding photography studio. We saw examples of success in the industry, people making a career out of their passion. We met peers in the same position as us, eager to learn and hungry for opportunities. Without WPPI, there is a good chance we would not be in this industry.”

To attend WPPI is to invest in the future of your photography business. Here are some of the opportunities you’ll be able to take advantage of at this year’s show:

  • Network with thousands of like-minded photographers and videographers
  • Attend educational seminars to learn new techniques from industry leaders
  • Build new relationships to grow your business
  • Experience new products & gear
  • Discover competitive ways to grow your business

So, if you’re on the fence about attending WPPI, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • Are you just getting started in the industry?  The network you build and the concepts you learn should help immensely in your business.
  • Are you getting burned out?  Your peer group and the lectures can help you regain focus and inspiration.
  • Are you seeking sponsorships or recognition? The right meetings with the right people can get you on the radar of companies in our industry who sponsor photographers.
  • Are you looking for better ways to serve your clients?  Get hands-on experience with different types of albums, wall art, and products for your clients.

Tips for Making the Most of WPPI

It’s one thing to show up, but another to strategize and make the most of your time, especially if you’re interested in growing your photography business. Here are 5 tips to help you make the most of WPPI.

1. Take Advantage of the Platform Classes

Collage of WPPI 2020 Platform Speakers
The photographers above represent only a fraction of the presenters scheduled to appear at WPPI this year.

One of the biggest benefits of attending WPPI is the access you’ll get to priceless education. With a Conference Platform Pass, the Platform classes, in particular, are also literally priceless in terms of cost. These 90-minute classes are included with your conference pass at no additional charge and they’re offered in the morning and in the evening. We’ve featured a number of this year’s educators on our site, but you can find more information on the presenters and topics in the class schedule. Be sure to choose which classes you’d like to attend ahead of time (see the next tip for an example) and show up early to get a better seat. The rooms are typically set up to hold several hundred guests, and they often fill up quickly.

It’s also worth checking out the Intensive and Master Classes, as well as the Photo Walks, if you can find an opening for a class that interests you. These classes are available for an additional cost and many of them sell out quickly.

2. Map Out a Daily Class Schedule

As I mentioned in the previous tip, it’s worth checking out the different classes ahead of time so that you can map out a daily class schedule and be sure not to miss the things you want to see and do. See the example timeline below to help give you an idea of how to plan your days; create an outline for each day you plan to attend. You can use the dropdown menu on the class schedule to quickly view the offerings by day, track (such as business & marketing, portrait, post-production, etc.), and type (Intensive, Photo Walks, Platform, etc.). See the image below.

Drop down menu
Dropdown Menu for the WPPI Class Schedule

Example for Tuesday, February 25th
8:30am-10:00am – Unleashing the Financial Potential of All Weddings – Roberto Valenzuela
10:00am-2:00pm – Lunch and Expo
2:00pm-4:00pm – Hips, Hands, and Heads PhotoWalk – Vanessa Joy
6:00pm-7:30pm – Diversity in Photography Panel

3. Explore the Show Floor

Camera Demo on Expo Floor WPPI 2020
Camera Demo on the Show Floor at WPPI. Photo provided by WPPI.

It goes without saying that you’ll cruise the expo to check out the latest and greatest gear, but there’s more than new releases waiting on the show floor. Of course, you’ll find most of the major brands and manufacturers present at the show offering a chance to get hands-on with their latest gear; they typically offer discounted prices on much of their inventory as well. You’ll also find smaller companies like print houses, strap makers, and so on.

One of the best parts about the show floor, however, lies in the additional educational resources offered. A significant number of booths (more than half, typically) will feature speakers, including some of the top names in the industry, and it’s a great way to pick up tips you can add to your arsenal. These presentations can run an hour long and rival other high-priced seminars in content as the speakers tend to share their greatest hits for teaching camera techniques, editing, lighting and more. This year, you can find our very own Pye Jirsa at the Sigma Photo Booth. Be sure to stop by and hello!

4. Stay Local to Maximize Your Time

Although costs can add up on a destination trip like this (especially in Las Vegas), it’s worth booking your room at Mandalay Bay to save time and energy on traveling to and from the conference. The convenience of being able to quickly get to your room and back is worth the cost alone, especially if you’re planning to purchase any new gear or grab items from the show floor (which you’ll otherwise have to carry around all day). If you’re traveling with friends, you can always share a room to help cut costs.

5. Network with Fellow Photographers

Photographers Networking on Expo Floor at WPPI 2020
Photographers Network on the Show Floor at WPPI. Photo provided by WPPI.

At WPPI, you’re going to surround yourself with thousands of like-minded creatives, and doing so presents a number of networking opportunities. For example, in addition to participating in WPPI’s Photo Walks, which are great for watching how other photographers work and interact with subjects, try setting up a meeting for coffee or drinks with a few of your new colleagues. It’s a great chance to talk shop with those in your field and even swap notes on the classes you’ve attended. You may also be able to set up a simple photo session in or around the hotel and really maximize your time in Las Vegas. You never know what may come from your meetings and impromptu collaborations!

One More Reason to Attend – Competition!

In the world of wedding and portrait photography, WPPI’s Annual 16×20 Print, Album and Filmmaking competition is highly anticipated. Few things can motivate you to commit to your craft like entering your photos in a major competition. Doing so allows you to get your work out in front of your peers and can potentially boost your business should you find yourself on the list of winners. The competition culminates with live judging and a gallery exhibition at WPPI’s conference in Las Vegas. Prizes include the Grand Awards, (Which includes a Conference Platform Pass to next years WPPI, several free entries for the next competition, & more), and crystal trophies.

Judges look at photos during the Photo Competition at WPPI
Photo provided by WPPI

If you don’t plan to enter the competition, you should still make time to attend the judging to see how the judges review the images and understand what they’re looking for when choosing the winners. Constructive critique, whether in regards to your own photography or another’s images, is one of the best tools to help you grow as a photographer. You don’t need to attend the entire session, but it’s definitely worth checking out! You can learn more about the competition and enter here.