There are many different professional photography conferences available in the US, Europe, South America and Asia, but there’s only one that is known for its community feel. WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) has been around for over 40 years and now makes its home in lovely Las Vegas. This year it will be held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, a sprawling hotel with a conference center, lot of bars and restaurants and even a shark tank. The conference itself will have over 160 classes and photo walks, and 200 vendors. It will run from Saturday, February 24th through the 28th. It’s a great opportunity to learn from the experts and also have a chance to see and touch the latest in cameras, lenses, bags, lights and any photo accessory that you think you might need or can’t live without.
One event that makes WPPI truly unique for conferences in the US is 2 days of live print and album competition judging (my favorite part of the show). On February 24th and 25th, you’ll be able to go from room to room, watching panels of judges critique and score over 2,000 images in 29 categories and 4 album categories. You’ll learn so much from listening to the judges discuss lighting, posing, print skills, composition and so much more. Even if you’ve never entered a competition, you’ll get a better idea of how your work stacks up against other photographers in your genre. You’ll come away inspired and ready to work to be more creative, not only for yourself but for your clients.
Classes begin on Sunday the 25th and if you purchased a full registration, you’ll have access to over 50 Platform classes covering all genres. For an additional fee, you can choose smaller classes like Plus and Master Classes and Photo Walks. The trade show begins on Monday the 26th and runs through the 28th. It can be a bit overwhelming as you wander around and not only see the larger booths of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, WHCC and others, but also you’ll be stopping to hear the vendors’s top speakers teach to crowds on the trade show floor. Again, more education that you won’t want to miss. The trade show veterans recommend that you walk the whole floor on the first day, go back to the vendors who have the equipment or software that interest you the most on the second day, and if you’re ready to purchase, do that on the third day. Or do more research after you’ve left the show, but at least you’ll have had the opportunity to view those items in person.
But what you’ll really notice is the camaraderie among the attendees whether you see them in the hotel lobby, in classes or on the trade show floor. Everyone is there for the same reason – to learn, be inspired and party. Some people have been hanging out with the same people for years, but many of the photographers are going to be there for the first or second time (you might be one of them). So take advantage of the opportunity to meet like-minded professionals – strike up a conversation with the individual sitting next to you in class, say hi to the person in the elevator wearing a WPPI badge, talk to an instructor after the class is over (they’re all very friendly because they’ve been in your shoes). People really want to have a face-to-face conversation about something they love – photography. You might find your own new community, people who you can email if you have an editing problem, or who can help you choose the best lighting to purchase for your style of photography.