As some of you may have noticed, I took a trip to Las Vegas at the end of February to attend the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Conference (WPPI), It’s by far the largest gathering of people photographers in the US and I’ve wanted to go for several years, and this year I finally got my shot! As creatives, we love education, so during the conference there are TONS of opportunities to listen to all the photog superstars speak on topics like business, shooting techniques and the psychological side of photography. There’s also parties, photo competitions, hands-on workshops and shooting opportunities and of course the mother of all trade shows with all the latest gear and supplies. With all of that going on, planning my itinerary became super overwhelming. I searched online seeking the advice of other photographers who had attended the conference. While you really have to attend the full conference to get the real WPPI experience, I decided that I really wanted to make an investment in my education and growth as a photographer and opted out of the large crowded speaking engagements and instead registered for several workshops outside of the convention. I knew this method would allow me to be in a more intimate space learning from professionals and would also afford me the opportunity to shoot with these pros and be more hands-on in the learning process.

So, for all of you who were busy working while I was in Vegas, take heart; I was certainly not sitting by the pool sipping margaritas all day– this trip was work! But oh how marvelous the work was!

 

Vegas Strip! Honestly, I was so busy running around the convention that I only saw this a few times!

I started off my trip with a one-on-one mentor session with the amazing wedding and portrait photographer out of Wilmington, North Carolina, Millie Holloman. What an amazing opportunity to be able to sit with someone whose work, attitude and philosophy I’ve admired for so long from afar and have her look at me and my work and my business and give me her thoughts! Millie has a business background, so we talked a lot about pricing and business practice. Millie was just out of high school when she started her business, and she essentially transitioned straight into  full time photography. It was refreshing to hear someone who essentially took the same path I’ve been on with photography and see how she got to where she is today. I am so grateful to Millie for being completely open with her extensive knowledge, for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to talk to a peon like me and for taking the time to answer all my crazy questions. This was hands-down the most valuable experience of the trip, and a great way to start off my weekend.

The next day, I headed over to a senior portrait workshop taught by Holli True and John Naccarato, both from Oregon. Holli focused on posing techniques for seniors and John focused on teaching us about light (more specifically using off-camera flash out in the field to achieve some pretty amazing results). It was absolutely freezing that day (who knew it was cold in Vegas!),, but we braved the cold for several hours shooting two really gorgeous girls! Holli and John helped me to look at senior portraits in a totally different way, and I can’t wait to implement some of the new ideas I have as a result of this workshop. Senior girls get ready because we are taking senior portraits to a whole new level this year!

Holli True showing some posing techniques at the senior portrait workshop

Our models were so so pretty, and yes they are real high school students!

John Naccarato teaching us how he uses a light meter!

Some of my shots from the workshop!

On Monday I spent the day in an ultra-intimate workshop (just four students, a teacher and a model!) Learning about the business and practice of boudoir photography with Robin Owen. Robin is truly making a mark on the industry, and it’s so great to see someone be as successful as she is in the industry. You can tell Robin wants her success to rub off on others, and truly believes in the cannon of “a rising tide floats all ships.” She was super open to sharing all of her knowledge and experiences with us, and she’s hilarious. As an added bonus, when our scheduled model flaked on us, Robert Alvarado came by and brought one of his models. For those who have never heard of Robert, he’s a pinup photographer from California. He’s a master of his craft and pretty much a modern legend, and here he is, just hanging out with us in the hotel lol. Kayla, the model, rocked it.

Robin Owen and our model, Kayla

Kayla handled all those photogs shooting her at one time fabulously!

I wrapped up my visit to Vegas with a trip through the WPPI  Trade Show. This thing was intense! It took up both convention halls at the MGM Grand, so a navigational strategy was necessary to see everything we wanted to see in the time we had. I must also add that my mom was nice enough to come all the way out to Vegas with me so that I would have some one to hang out with during my rare moments of free time, and that she was so wonderful to have around!

The trade show was sooo huge with so much good stuff to see!

Fabulous new wedding albums I'll be using next year!

The other wedding album I'll be carrying next year, so fancy!

It was my first time in Las Vegas and my first time at WPPI. The trip and conference overall were expensive, but the investment in my education was totally worth it. I was so inspired by all the things I took in while there and it was so nice to take a break from everyday life and completely immerse myself in the photographic world. There are certainly critics of these types of events as a waste of money, etc. and I believe it’s certainly not for everyone, but being able to share information and inspiration with each other during the conference was fabulous!

I know we’ve probably heard the Howard Thurman quote: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” and that’s how I felt during WPPI. It was a place and time full of people who were exploring what they love and feeling more alive in the process. If only everyday could be this way!

Now I’m back in sweet home Atlanta, and I’m ready to get the spring photo season started!