(Taken from my window on the 15th floor of the Marriott Marquee in Downtown Atlanta at sunrise-stitched panoramic)
I am just settling in from my trip to ImagingUSA this year. Honestly, it was a last minute decision as my friend Tricia (of Tricia Petty Photography) and I were in Atlanta last weekend for the Peach Bowl and I got an email reminder from PPA about the conference so she and I began thinking about it. She had never been to any photography related conference before and I thought it would be a good start for her and also I was in need of some inspiration and motivation for the new year. As a caveat I have been to Imaging once or twice before but it was with Jon (my hubby) and I have been to WPPI but it was more of a social visit to see our friends Dave & Keri. That being said, I don’t believe either time I got the conference experience because I didn’t take many classes or listen to many lectures. This time was a bit different…we did a lot that the conference had to offer so I wanted to share my experience for those who are considering going to this or any other conference (and Tricia is adding a little blurb below as someone who went for the very first time for those newbies).
First, let me say this was a wonderful experience-we coordinated meet ups and went to lunches to meet new people. We took in as much as the expo as we possibly could and looked at new products to see if there were any new things my clients would be interested in based on what they currently love, if there were more quality products I should be offering, etc. It is neat to see what is new and fabulous in the industry. We went to a class almost every time we could and really sat in and soaked it it, made notes, brainstormed about what we heard, tried to see its applications to our current business, etc. That being said there are many things I would love to see change at ImagingUSA but I will talk about that later. First, the experience…
Travel 101 (only if you don’t travel much is this really helpful)
First, from a practical standpoint shop around for hotels no matter where you are going. By the time we decided to go the Omni which is the closest (attached) hotel to the conference was over $300 a night. We booked the Marriott Marquee about .5 miles away for under $140 a night and its been recently renovated and has great amenities. So that is several hundred dollars we saved to spend on expo purchases lol! Same thing with airfare if you are flying – on many sites that compare fares you can set fare watchers so when it drops below a certain fare it alerts you (obviously that is if you plan ahead unlike what we did). Don’t rent a car unless you are staying way away (and even then you still may not want to). Parking at hotels is expensive whether it is self park or valet so by the time you pay $30 a day for parking you could have used Uber everywhere you went and not had to worry about navigation and parking at the conference (which may have cost money as well-not sure). If you choose Uber learn the app-there are different types of cars, you an share fares now, different fares, etc. And lastly, if you register early PPA offers an early bird discount.
There are a few days prior to the actual official conference where you can take pre-convention classes. These are extra and cost money (but literally $79 a class and discounts for multiple classes). I am still not sure the reasoning behind having a pre-convention and an actual convention without them all being the same but…not my circus, not my monkeys lol. We came early and went to two pre-convention classes. I had never heard of the instructors but chose them based on their online portfolios. One was a fashion lighting & concept class (hands on). My thoughts were that it would be applicable to seniors (which Tricia enjoys). I did not find that to be true and was not particularly blown away by that class. Because of that I will not name the class or instructor. She did say one piece of information that helped me understand lighting at its root so I did walk away with that. The second pre-convention class we took was Amber Holritz’s Real Life is Beautiful. It wasn’t much about technicalities but it was so much better than I even thought it would be – if it tells you anything, we literally cried a handful of times during the hour class lol. She spoke about connections and clients and interactions and it was awesome. So much so that I emailed her to tell her so.
If it tells you anything this first picture is what we were supposed to be shooting-studio lights, settings recommended, etc. and the second I decided to do with just the modeling light on the studio light against the instructions lol….
The expo kind of rocks. I find that most of us women, especially photographers love love to shop so this is heaven! What the expo is (and keep in mind, you can usually get free passes to the expo if you aren’t interested in the “learning” portion of Imaging) is a large exposition of various photography related products & services. I am not sure the number of exhibitors this year but it took Tricia and I several hours to make it through and we probably only stopped at half of the booths. If you want to see the list of exhibitors click HERE. What is cool is that you can visit the lab you use and see their other offerings in person as well as many many other labs to see how yours compares. You can see new products and things you never even noticed that your lab and others offer. You can buy props and backdrops, camera equipment, software, see software demos, get all your questions answered, and so so much more! Canon had a large booth (#1213 below) of all their cameras and lenses so you could try them out and then purchase from one of the vendors at the expo. The expo alone is worth your time.
So everything within the official convention days are classes that are included with your ImagingUSA registration. You can go and come as you please and pick whatever classes you want. That being said, once you review the schedule and decide your classes (there is an app for the conference where you can plan out but my app never saved my stuff) always make sure you have a second class during that time that you would like to go to should you get in your first choice and realize it is not for you. I made Tricia and I a schedule with our first choices and second so we could easily leave and go if we wanted to dip out on one because it wasn’t interesting or applicable to us. I saved it as a pdf and put it in the Books on my iPhone for easy reference. It had the location of the classes so we didn’t waste time.
**A little note…if you are going to have a few drinks because sometimes we moms all get excited about getting away, you may want to wait til the last night so you can make your 8 am classes but I am just telling you that from what friends told me**
Sunday | Day 1 of Convention
Missed our 8 am class. Completely unrelated to the statement above.
Did the expo for hours upon hours.
5:00 pm Drake Busath Advanced Family Portraiture | It sounded kind of boring but I looked at their website (which you should always research the teacher to see if they mesh with you) and I loved the timelessness without being cheesy that they showed and I noticed they were a third generation studio so they must be doing something right. In addition, they were touted as a $1million studio so certainly I could learn a lot no matter what they focused on. I mean he said something about this one was taken before it was sent to the “art department” and I was like wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t my style of photography currently but I did learn a lot from their style and how I could use elements in my studio. He was a great and engaging instructor and his images are gorgeous and so well composed and perfect. Great class. If you have an opportunity at another conference he is one to watch.
6:45 pm Bianca Hubble of Photography by Axsys Design and I hosted a little Meetup. We noticed lots of people trying to coordinate meetings because we all know one another from Facebook and Forums and Instagram (I am @photogingmama btw) but some, lots, haven’t met in person. I picked a great Mexican restaurant (Alma Cocina) downtown (you know I love me some Mexican food) whose manager, John, accommodated us so well. I believe we had between 35-45 photographers/industry professionals in a little outdoor courtyard gazing up at the gorgeous Ritz Carlton’s indoor atrium and we laughed and ate and drank. It was awesome. I never do things like that, even locally, because I am kind of social anxious and weird like that (which is why I didn’t get up and walk around too much) and have 4 kids and no assistant. This convinced me I should do it more often-it was incredible to meet everyone and see the ones I had already met! Imagine that, all we got was a cell phone picture in almost pitch dark lol
There was also an opening party at 8 pm for ImagingUSA but Tricia and I headed back to hotel to rest (because we were excited about the Day 2 speakers) and wanted to decompress so cake and hot tea were on the agenda as we laid and bed and chatted…
Monday | Day 2 of Convention
8 am Lindsey Adler’s Fashion Lighting Techniques to WOW your Portrait Clients. So this is what I was hoping for when I took that Pre-Con class I spoke about up top. Lindsey rocked. I am not one of those people that go and talk to a speaker after a lecture but I actually did and went to her and told her how awesome and down to earth her presentation was. It was easy to understand, made you want to start experimenting, buy her classes to learn more (but she never pushed it) and so much more. Highly recommend hearing her in person.
(Luckily the next class we wanted was in the same auditorium so when people got up we moved down because the next speaker was in high demand as you can imagine.)
10:00 Sue Bryce’s Posing, Direction, and Connection. Look, if you have seen Sue in person or on Creative Live you know how dynamic she is. She is dynamic because she is endearing and funny, and down to earth and says what you are thinking and isn’t afraid. She really is amazing and her soul is so sweet and kind. She has commend of her knowledge. It was an awesome presentation – seriously anytime you are able to watch her, watch her. Even if you don’t shoot what she shoots, it simply doesn’t matter.
Then we went to lunch with some awesome ladies that I am so glad to have met and met in person – such sweet souls and such funny women – you know who you are! And then we raced back to the Canon stage at the Expo because Sue was speaking there again.
There was an entire other day that we didn’t stay for (mostly because I wanted to get home and watch the National Title game with my hubby and friends and we wanted to see our kids) so keep that mind…another day of expo and classes was not even included in this.
Then it was bon voyage so I could see all my littles- drinks & depressing in the ATL airport…a few of my thoughts below and a few of Tricia’s thoughts being a newbie and ImagingUSA virgin.
#1 Title of Class in the brochure is often not specifically what the speaker speaks on – for instance a few sounded like business classes but they really weren’t. If you still like what they are speaking on then awesome! If not…
#2 Don’t be afraid to switch classes (respectfully and quietly of course) – this is your dime you should get out it what you want.
#3 Fill out the speaker evals-that is the only way PPA will really be able to tell what we want from the next year. Fill out the suggestions on their website if you want something more, something different from the convention. Tell PPA who and what you are interested in learning about and from (see my suggestions below).
#4 Plan plan plan to maximize your days.
#5 Try to get over your social anxiety (if you have some like me) and meet up with girls from social media that you follow and that follow you. It was truly a blessing to meet some of these ladies. It is a risk I am glad I took and you will be too. And if you aren’t? You never have to see them again. You have nothing to lose.
#6 Take notes but thorough enough so that you know what the flow of the class was about. Sit down after each class and write down a few key things and a any inspiration you got because you will forget with all the information that is being thrown at you.
#7 Use the expo to check out products in person you have always wanted to, talk to the lab reps and ask questions-they are awesome!
My Suggestions & Wishes for Future ImagingUSA Conference:
#1 Should have more business classes-we are in this because we love it but lots of us make a living from photography. PPA should be treating this as more of a profession rather than an artistic hobby. Business & marketing is not touched on near enough in my opinion.
#2 There were a few really currently celebrated photographers that spoke (Sue Bryce, Lindsey Adler, etc.) but I would love to see more. PPA should be more in touch with what we as photographer are excited about and excited about learning and seek those speakers out even if they are not “certified” etc. Teach us what we crave to learn. There are photographers that thrive off of teaching and workshops and everyone loves them but you never see them at the conferences. Makes no sense to me.
#3 Have classes evens when the expo is open. Look no one is going to NOT go to the expo at some point because it is awesome but having good classes during the expo does allow for less people in there at one time and gives us more opportunities to learn more and have more classes to attend. On Sunday, when the expo was open there were no classes going on (that I could see) so every single person is crammed into the expo so I couldn’t see lots of stuff I wanted to or stuff that I didn’t even know I wanted to see because I couldn’t see it.
And now a note from Tricia as being a first timer:
After spending my weekend with Kansas at Imaging USA 2016, I feel like I have been given all the tools, resources and inspiration I need in order to take my business to the next level! Being that I am brand new in the photography world with only 1 year behind me; this is my first year to attending!! What an experience this was for me I am still a little speechless (lots of networking) and exhausted from all the walking!!! All of the presentations blew me away, I walked away from each speaker with tons of notes and the drive to go try something new. I have been inspired!! The expo gave me the opportunity to touch, see and talk with all the different vendors that I have only seen through websites…this will make selling products to my clients so much easier. Will I return to Imaging USA? Absolutely, is it a great opportunity for new photographers!!!
I would LOVE comments if you went on what you liked, didn’t like, what classes you went to that were awesome, suggestions, etc. It would be good for everyone to read through them for more perspective. So comment below! And if you didn’t go and still want to shop for some fun new products check out my actions & sky overlays…