This past week I attended, for the first time, an annual photography conference called WPPI which stands for Wedding & Portrait Photography (not sure what the I is for) in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel. The conference and classes run just over a week long and I was there for about 3 1/2 days.
The conference offers a variety of classes and an expo area that allows for vendors big and small to come and show their stuff. The expo filled two halls and has big names like Nikon, Canon, etc. and the other hall had smaller vendors with a lot of gadgets and equipment to drool over.
Four takeaways from WPPI:
- Work hard. You get out what you put into your business.
- Network like crazy. This is a referral-based industry.
- Use your time efficiently. Automate what you can and redirect the new time to building your business.
- Believe you can do it.
Here's a recap of how I spent my time at WPPI:
Going to Market: Maximizing Portrait and Wedding Profits, Dane Sanders
Dane is a family portrait photographer out of Orange County, CA. He's also a teacher, author and founder of a Facebook group I've become pretty active in called "Better Together". The premise being that we're better together as photographers vs. trying to go it alone.
In his talk, he went over the sales process from campaign to connection to the client and walked through step-by-step how he handles the end-to-end workflow. He also talked about a popular topic among photographers which is, how to exploit what's unique about you when everyone seems to have a camera these days. This should allow you to attract the clients you want and repel the ones you don't. Very nice session and a good way to kick off the conference for me.
From Start to Finish: The Contemporary Portrait Shoot, Tamara Lackey
Tamara focuses mostly on children and families. Similar structure to Dane's class but very different sessions. Tamara has a great energy about her and gave a really nice walk through of a day in the life on a shoot with children. On the business side of things, these are points I noted:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why does it matter?
How to Avoid What Most Small Businesses Do - Fail, Zach & Jody Gray
Zach & Jody are a couple that I've known about for a few years now. They are a married couple that focuses on the wedding market. I first saw them on a DVD where they were talking about lighting, posing and editing techniques they use in their business. They are fun to watch, listen to and learn from. They seem to actually practice what they preach. Novel idea, right?
For this session, they gave an overview of how they structure their business. Here's an outline of their framework:
- Purpose - What is your vision, mission, values and goals?
- Brand - All aspects of your business (visual and otherwise) should resonate a consistent experience for your client that support your purpose. Its more than just marketing.
- Sales - Qualify the client, build rapport, educate and close the deal.
- Systems - Set up processes and environments that allow you to be consistent and efficient.
- Momentum - Focused intensity + Time = Momentum
- Belief - Our only limitations are the ones you set on yourself. Believe you can do it and you will!
For me, Sunday was about:
- Figure out the purpose of your business
- Exploit what's unique about you throughout the business
- Believe you can do it and don't let anything stop you
Get Lit "Live", Dixie Dixon
Dixie is out of Dallas (I think) and shoots fashion and commercial work. I feel more and more like this is the type of work I want to shoot more of. Since I had a shoot planned for later in the day, I was only able to stay for a short time. One take-away was that I heard her say she makes sure to set a nice atmosphere for everyone on set and builds a connection with the model and other crew which helps her produce the type of images she's enjoys.
Photo Shoot in the desert
As soon as I knew I was going to this show, I started to put together concepts for a shoot and scouting for models and make-up artists (MUA). The day didn't exactly go as planned but what day ever does.
I rented a car because it seemed that I was the only one with transportation. I arranged for Enterprise to "pick me up" but they were running late and it seemed to be how the whole day went for me. I got to the model, Meli, about an hour later than I hoped. We then drove to the MUA, Summer, but her place was in the opposite direction of where we were shooting. By the time we left Summer's place, it was close to the original time I thought we would be finishing the whole shoot.
On the upside, once we arrived on set, it was exactly what I was hoping for. We got there around 1:30 and shot until close to 4pm. This unfortunately, meant that I was going to miss a class I thought I'd have time for in the afternoon back at the conference.
I dropped the model and her husband off at their place, grabbed something to eat, drove to return the lens I rented from a local shop, got the car washed since it was pretty dirty from being in the desert and then dropped the car off. Well, almost. One thing I forgot to mention was that I brought the car USB charger for the phone from home but forgot to bring it out with me that day. So, because I was using navigation on the phone, it takes up more battery than normal use. By the end of the day, I was out of battery. I was completely out of battery just before I returned the car. I ended up returning it to the airport with about 15 minutes to spare before I would have been charged for another car rental day. I caught a cab back to the hotel at a few minutes after 6. Here's one image from the day. More to come soon.