You may have heard there’s a little photography convention in Vegas every year. Over ten thousand photographers (mostly of the wedding and portrait variety) gather along with every possible associated vendor for the annual WPPI convention. Just the scale alone of the event is impressive. If you want some new inspiration or to further your understanding of the industry and it’s latest trends, WPPI is where you want to be.

This was my second year attending the conference and I thought I’d share my personal take on the event. Previously held in the MGM, this year’s event was moved to the Las Vegas Convention Center. From what I understand, the move was done to offer a little more room and save on overhead costs (something we all understand as business owners).

Honestly, I prefered the MGM, but the conference is really about the people. Regardless of the venue, you’ll get your money’s worth if you make new connections and hang out with old friends. I spent the first evening at dinner with friends I had met at a workshop last summer. It was great catching up, comparing notes, and learning about different markets.

The Keynotes

As a WPPI member, you get to see all the major keynote speakers at no charge (you just have to get yourself to Las Vegas). The keynotes are a tricky balance of inspiration and education. The really good ones will leave you in tears or push to take your business to new levels.

My favorite speaker this year was Me Ra Koh, a family and wedding photographer turned serial entrepreneur. Just look her up. She does so many great things, it’s hard to keep up. The story of her journey was truly an inspiration.

Also at the top of the list was Peter Hurley, my headshot mentor. Sure I’m a little biased. But it was great to check in with his latest teachings and wisdom. A great headshot is all about the expression, and he’s always got some new tricks to share.

Both speakers really stressed the importance of our roles as photographers—not in a technical sense but a very human sense. As photographers of people, we have incredible power and responsibility to pull the best from our subjects. That hard work of course makes for a great picture, but it can also change lives.

I also really enjoyed the talk from David and Luke Edmonson, a father son duo. David, Luke’s father (insert Star Wars joke, he did), creates elaborately staged period portraits. Some are inspired by famous painters. The talk was inspiring from purely an artistic point of view, something we all need as artists.

The Classes & Expo

Throughout the conference, attendees have a wide selection of available courses to go in depth with acclaimed instructors about lighting, posing, business, or creativity. I attended a quick class with Joe McNally on location lighting. I picked up a few tricks in the hour and half class, but really I just wanted to watch Joe work & teach.

On the expo floor, I went in with a plan. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll wander from booth to booth drooling over new toys. Trust me, you will. I’ve been researching studio management software, so I spent time visiting a few vendors and peppering them with questions. I also visited WHCC, my preferred printer, to learn about the latest print and marketing pieces they offer to better promote my business.

All the major camera makers were there offering sensor cleanings. It’s a great opportunity to get your gear checked without having to send it away.

Another great feature of the Expo is the print competition. If you need a new spark in your images, you’ll want to start hanging around the print competitions. You’ll learn a ton!

Final Thoughts

Will I go next year? I’m honestly not sure at this point. It’s a costly adventure and my business focus now is really on my local market. One big frustration was the registration process. It’s quite a tedious and time consuming ordeal to simply register and select an itinerary. The additional classes typical carry a fee, which is quite reasonable, but I found myself not registering for anything beyond Joe’s class because I just didn’t want to deal with the registration software. Given where software is today, I’m really surprised there’s a not a better solution.

Last but not least, I joined Levi and fellow Photofocus readers and contributors for a photowalk on the Las Vegas strip. As a people photographer, I tend to gravitate to the behind the scenes shots of our gang having a great time or in deep thought as they get the shot.

Did you go to WPPI? Let me know what you thought in the comments!