I just finished my time in Vegas attending Photoshop World. This is the third Photoshop World I’ve attended. All three have been in Vegas and all three have had a different feel.

The 2009 Photoshop World in Vegas had much more focus on photography than any previous Photoshop World I’ve either attended or heard about. And for me, that was a good thing. Not only did Scott Kelby and company deliver the finest Photoshop and Lightroom trainers in the world, they delivered some of the best photography teachers in the world.

The teaching highlight for me was Joe McNally. There’s a reason you hear so much hype about this guy. He deserves it. Plain and simple. He’s one of the most dynamic teachers I’ve ever seen live. He seems to live for it. In an hour, he taught lighting in a fun and entertaining way that left the audience wanting more. My favorite tip from his class was this. If you’re working on location, trying to set up a shot that just isn’t working, stop. Reset. Break everything down. Reset all your flashes and triggers and cameras to zero and start over. It’s sometimes too easy to get sucked into a losing proposition and wasting time trying to work your way out of quicksand. Just start over and rebuild piece by piece until you get it right. Priceless!

There were wall-to-wall classes. I have no way to guess at attendance but it seemed like about 2500 people attended. There were plenty of empty seats in most of the classrooms – something that surprised me since in previous years there was almost always standing room only. But the empty seats may just be the result of better planning. I’d certainly call the conference sessions well-attended.

In addition to the learning opportunities in the conference track, there were at least three live teaching theaters on the trade show floor. You could hear everyone from Scott Kelby to John Paul Caponigro on the show floor. The trade show was well-designed, accessible and seemed to be hopping. I spoke with several vendors who said they felt like it was a great investment. Everyone I spoke with thought the traffic was good and that the support they got from the show management was superb. I personally really enjoyed the trade show floor and spent as much time there as I could.

The after hours parties were insane. They were probably the best I’ve attended at any such event. That is probably because there was a very, very strong sense of community at Photoshop World. I was privileged to participate in the official Kelby Media Live Blog of the keynote. I also attended two Tweetups. It was great meeting all the folks and everyone seemed to have a great time.

The networking at the show was top notch. I saw lots of deals being made. Expect to see lots of books, workshops, tours and other events spring forth out of the creative meetings that took place everywhere from the hallways of the conference to the trade show floor to the party buses.

The venue was great – the hotel(s) offered lots of great food choices along with the usual entertainment.

Most of all, I was impressed by the very hard-working, very dedicated Kelby Media Group staff. Some highlights for me personally included getting some face time with the man himself – Scott Kelby and I spent a few minutes hanging out at the Tweetup. He was generous, remarkably relaxed given the responsibilities he had, and very friendly. I also really enjoyed getting to meet R.C Conception, Matt Kloskowski, Nancy Masse, Dave Cross, Dave Moser and the world’s best photo assistant Brad Moore. A nicer, classier, more talented bunch of folks you simply will not find.

I was also thrilled to spend time with old and new friends. Frederick Johnson, Nicole Young, Rich Legg, Jeff & Allison Rodgers as well as many of my sponsors were at the event and I had a great time with all of them.

I think it was seeing how much the Kelby Media team and all the faculty they brought in for the event seemed to enjoy each other was a real highlight for me. As I get older – I get smarter – and I’m starting to realize it’s the relationships in this business that count – everything else is just side salad.

If you get a chance to go to Photoshop World next spring and if you’re remotely interested in any of the stuff I wrote about – do it. Go. You won’t regret it.

P.S. I almost forgot to mention meeting one of the most memorable characters in Photoshop World history – They call him “V” and despite what you read about him in Scott Kelby’s funny blog post – “V” is one of my favorite people in the world – and that’s based on knowing him a few days – but I still won’t let him touch my cell phone!

P.S.S. Here’s video from the iStock party.