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surviving WPPI-Vegas 2012 | southwestern, pa photographer

By January 12, 2012 4 Comments

This will be my 3rd year attending WPPI…by now I’m a pro..haha! This year I’m going to WPPI with my friends and fellow photographers Courtney and our new friend Rachel (hey girlies!!). We are sharing a 2 bedroom suite at the MGM Signature in Vegas this year for WPPI…with a view of the strip WOO! Many of you have emailed asking me questions about WPPI because it’s your first year so I thought I’d just blog about it! 🙂

For those of you whom aren’t familiar with WPPI ( WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) Convention) . It’s a yearly convention which happens to be held in February. To quote last year’s blog….

I have to say, I get it now…..I use to look at all those conventions-take the Star War’s Convention for instance, and think, “What a bunch of quacks” (no offence…tee he he) These guys flock from all over the world to check out light saber memorabilia, they wear costumes and it’s like a Star Wars party 24 hours a day during those conventions. Well, I’ve gone to the dark side-so to speak. I’m going to a geeky photography convention in Vegas for all of us “quacks” that love cameras. We’re going to be dressed up as photographers, walking around looking at all sorts of “photography stuff”, and I’m going to get the chance to listen to some of the most amazing people in the industry talk about technology, how to see the light, equipment, work-flow and biz-nas stuff………and I can’t wait…EEEEK!!!

I’m not sure if some of you understand but THIS convention-the WPPI convention was on my bucket list of things I wanted to do. I know it sounds dramatic, but look at it like this, I’m from an itty bitty town, I came from a family with itty bitty money and my camera has really opened up opportunities that would have otherwise been soo out of reach for me. I’ve been able to travel to places that were once just a thought, I’ve been able to meet some incredible people through my lenses and I’m going to this conference knowing that it’s not just going to boost my creativity, my networking ability and my business to a whole new level, but that I’m going to have the chance to meet the photographers that I look up to and that are prominently known world wide. Like I said, I’m a photographer in an itty bitty town but I have big town dreams-Slap my arse and call me cheesy, but it’s true.

So in a nutshell, I’m sooo very thankful to even be going to Vegas to participate in something like this. I already have a few photo-shoot opportunities lined up, some parties to attend that are being thrown by some of the industries BEST photographers and I’ve already met (via facebook & my blog) other photographers that I’m sure will become “my good photographer friends from Vegas”

Oh and remember, WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS–GET’S BLOGGED!! Holla!!

These past few years, I not only learned sooo much, I met so many amazing people that I still keep in touch with AND I got to cross quite a few things off my bucket list but I truly believe this trip changed my business remarkably!! There is so much more I want to learn about the craft/art of photography, this conference is so inspiring and creatively rejuvenating…..AND the late night gambling/shows/and parties help too. Mostly, I can’t wait to bring back new techniques and ideas for my 2012 clients.

Let’s talk a little bit about the Trade Show….ohhh the Trade Show!

Last year I think WPPI had 14,000 plus photographers flock to Vegas from all over the country and the world! What that boils down to is a TON of people trying to get into classes, navigate their way thru the trade show and attempt to get food at the dinky food court located in the MGM Grand where the conference is held! If you could bottle up all the knowledge that was floating around the building over the course of the 4 days….you would be overwhelmed like I was trying to absorb everything. It was visual and mental overload. Speakers from all over the world presented in master and platform class formats. Amazing artists and photographers spoke during this event and a few that I had the privilege to see speakers such as: Kirk Voclain, Kevin Jaira & JVS, Jason Groupp, Beth Forester, Bob & Dawn Davis, JP Elario, Jill La Fleur, Sue Bryce and Justin & Mary. I did get to see [b] ecker, Jessica Claire and Me Ra Koh speak during the tradeshow.

The trade show was so incredible that 2 areas had to be used to host everyone. I have no idea how many vendors were there in total but it was ALOT. Vendors showed off everything from albums to cameras, photography labs to Photoshop. Some of them had some AMAZING set ups and others were kinda “sad”. I’m told that vendors with the smallest of the spaces payed upwards of 10’s of thousands of dollars so I can only guesstimate that some of the vendors are spending upwards of 50-60 thousand dollars to just be there. Then there are also all of the products and things which vendors often purchase as giveaways. Some of these things (take the Sleek Wristbands, which can be customised to represent the vendor, for example) don’t cost much, but some vendors will go really overboard and so this will just increase their costs even more! Either way, if you didn’t find what you were looking for at the Trade Show-then you flat out just weren’t looking hard enough. Most people I know purchased a Trade Show only pass-which trust me, there was tons of stuff to do. Every 1/2 hour there were speakers at some one’s booth talking about flash, camera settings, software, posing….basically anything you could think of. They even had some shooting opportunities available on the trade show-some questionable and some not! LOL Just a quick hint: If you find perverted old man standing around 1/2 naked, painted chicks…it’s probably questionable! Just sayin!

I got some “behind the scenes” look at the hustle and bustle of what it looks like to actually “set up” the trade show booths. Greg and Aric helped set up the ShootSAC booth. If you’re a female and you don’t know what a Shootsac is-stop what you are doing and click here It’s only the most amazing shooting bag ever! I’ve had one for about 3 years now and I love it. I wear it for almost every wedding/or shoot I do. Their new bag “Tote + Shoot” launches on Mother’s Day…so excited!! PLUS I got to meet Lori there and we got to hang out with for the remainder of the time in Vegas :-). I really want to thank Matt for taking us out to dinner to Diego! The food was amazing and the company was even better.

(behind the scenes-pre trade show photos)






These are the photos during the trade show. I mentioned earlier how there were little classes here and there-below are a few examples. The rest….well, it’s pure chaos!! lol



Last year I was in the process of finishing up a small studio space so lighting was one of the main things I was on the look out for. Some of the stations-this one in particular- Westcott had some lighting equipment out equipped with a model so that you could so some test shots. This is what I came up with. Below is the pull back shot of how the lighting was set up.


I remember very vividly my first year attending and how chaotic the process was to get into the platform classes at WPPI. You were simply asked to wait in a line outside of the room of the speaker you were interested in hearing. People would arrive HOURS AND HOURS ahead of time to get their spot in line only to have the lines intermingle with other lines and small cat fights of “NOO, I was here first, NO I WAS”…it was entertaining! Last year they did things a bit differently. They gave everyone the opportunity to “pre board” for up to 5 classes. Think of it like this: the pre boarders were the VIP and the other people who weren’t able to pre board had to wait in the general admission line like cattle (tee he he). Sure that worked for the most part…but it was still confusing. I was able to pre board for the majority of the classes I really wanted and I simply waited in line for the others I couldn’t pre board for. Luckily, I got into every class I wanted to!



(Us waiting in line…..I have NO CLUE what the heck I’m doing with my hand. Probably yelling at Aric not to take a photo!)

Every minute I waited in line was worth every piece of information I took away from WPPI. I came home so overwhelmed with fantastic information, I had some Ah-HA moments and I even met some new friends while waiting in line! HA-imagine THAT! I can not wait to start implementing everything into my work flow, my business procedures and my blogging. Look out 2012….it’s going to be a great year!

Below are some Tricks + Tips for the Trade Show and Platform Classes for those of you thinking about going this year:
1. Bring your own bottle of water that you can refill. Bottles of water can be anywhere from $3-5 per bottle. They have free ice cold water available so if you bring your own water bottle you can save some cash.
2. Make sure to bring a notebook to take notes…….and extra pens!!
3. Take lots of business cards with you. You will be giving these to your new friends you meet in line, but also in the platform classes when they ask you to pass your business cards forward so that they can pull a winner to the give aways they have available. 🙂 Although I do have to say, most of the people who were winning the prizes had wrote their name on pieces of paper because they ran out of cards. Maybe THAT is the key! lol
4. Bring snacks-for the same reason as #2
5. If you are there with a business partner or friends-split up. Go to different classes and take notes so that you can share them with each other.
6. Comfy shoes. I can not find the words to tell you how important this is. Also dress is layers. It can get cold in the classrooms but hot after you’ve been out moving around. You’re welcome.
7. Twitter is your friend. If you want to find out what is happening, if something is cancelled, where the cool prizes are or if some impromptu thing has been organized, Twitter is your friend.
8. Set up an alternative email address before registering for WPPI. WHY? well when you’re walking around the trade show every vendor wants to scan your badge which is linked to the email you provided. Unless you want a ton of spam-make an alternative one.
9. Don’t take everything. Remember for every piece of literature you pick up and take home with you adds up. Greg and I actually checked a separate bag on the way home weighing almost 25 pounds just of literature. Luckily we were able to check it for free-but if you were flying an airline that makes you pay per checked back, you could be forking out some dough.
10. Use your camera phone to take photos of products/booths you are really interested in. This will jog your memory but also it helps you to not to carry around your big bulky camera ( like I did all week).
11. Touch things. If you having been looking for a new album company or any new product for that matter, take this time to touch/feel the product in person. You can’t do that online. Remember you are a reflection of the products you provide your clients.
12. Have a system. Start at one corner of the trade show and work your way around. Don’t try to remember what isles you were in-you’ll miss something. GUILTY!!
13. Make friends. Step out of your shell and introduce yourself-network-make friends!
14. Just because “so and so” uses a certain product, software, or equipment doesn’t mean it’s for you. I’ve seen so many people walk out of a platform class with speaker “xyz” talks about using product “abc” and before you know it they are forking out hundreds of dollars thinking if they buy that it will make them take photos like that person. NO NO NO! Take notes and research. THEN if you think it’s for you make the purchase-even if the trade show deal is gone. I’d rather pay an extra $15-20 for something and KNOW it was the right purchase than to regret a $300-400 purchase. Just sayin.
15. Please, please, please don’t wear old lady perfume. For the sake of everyone sitting around you–don’t do it!! The seats are so close together-we dont’ want our fellow photographers to choke to death!!
16. Stay at the MGM. I’m only saying this because YES I know you get can get better rates at neighboring hotels but your feet will thank me later. Not to mention that the MGM Signature has it’s own Starbucks so you will avoid all the long lines that everyone else has to stand in…and this year we got the 2 bedroom suite and split the cost between a bunch of us. We have our own kitchen so it will cut back on the money we will need to spend on breakfasts.

This message has been brought to you by Jen McKen! Consider yourself warned! tee he he!! I hope you have a great time!!!

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  • Tom Cavanagh says:

    Scanners are intrusive and very expensive, not to mention the fake e-mails. We now only use iPads for contacts to submit an address if they want more info, or a coupon code. In the past WPPI has sent the full registration list to all vendors. Now there is a fee. Which I believe violates the spam law. In any case we only want quality contacts, not quantity. Stop by and see us @ booth#1247

  • Amanda says:

    I think next year is my year! I won’t be paying for a wedding, a honeymoon, a house, and a new office in 2013.

    Keep me in the loop!!

  • Teresa says:

    I went last year for the first time and I definitely agree with everything you just posted! I hope to run into you while there!

  • Thank you for the info. I have never been and really don’t even know where to begin to plan for 2013 but I’m keeping your tips in mind in case I can fulfill my bucket list. Saw you on creative live – great job! Love your blog and when I have time and a cup of tea I’ll dive right in.

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