I just attended WPPI in Las Vegas along with thousands of other photographers. The great thing about this conference is that it’s focused on portraiture. There are all kinds of classes, but even if you only attend with a free expo pass, you can learn from speaker after speaker about tips for making the best portraits of your career and how to help your business grow. I’ve attended this conference for the last 10 years, as well as many other conferences.

And you should, too.

See new gear

New gear won’t make you a better photographer, but it might just give you some inspiration. There are lots of new tools out there, and at a conference, you get to see many of the latest tools and how they can be used. This is much better than simply viewing them online or in videos because you get a feel for their quality and you can probably compare with other available tools.

I saw this light setup at one of the booths B&H had set up. They had lots of gear you could go use and experiment with, including models on hand to photograph. I tried this setup with several Genaray SprectroLED Baton Lights, a V-Flat World v-flat for the backdrop and a Lensbaby Burnside 35 lens. The lens is incredibly sharp and the built-in vignette slider is fun to use. The lights are very cool and different than what I usually use, but they gave me some ideas about how I can utilize my tools differently.

Work with others

The best thing about attending conferences, though, is meeting and working with new people. I met many of my best friends at conferences. We stay in touch throughout the year, but seeing each other in person renews our friendships and inspires us to create when we get home.

Skip and Sheila Cohen, Vanelli up front, Erin Holmstead up top and me in the hat.

Plus, you get to meet people and see their various styles when you shoot together at workshops. You can watch where they position lights and what lenses they use and you can share your pictures together to help each other learn. Erin Holmstead, Bryan Esler and I attended a shoot hosted by B&H and had a lot of fun in a marvelous place. (I guess you should also sign up for the B&H newsletter so you know when they do fun activities.)

Attending conferences like WPPI can really help you become a better photographer. You can see and handle new tools, but you can make new relationships and try new techniques, too. You deserve to be a better photographer, and attending conferences is a solid way to do it.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.