Santa Fe New Mexico Family and Children Photographer – David Moore» Blog Archive » What I learned at my first WPPI conference

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This is the photography blog for photographer and writer David Moore. He's based in Santa Fe, New Mexico but speaks with a funny accent.


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    March 1st, 2011

    What I learned at my first WPPI conference

    WPPI – Wedding and Portrait Photographers International – host a giant convention and trade show every year, and this year I attended. I was looking to absorb as much information as possible on the business side of things, as well as make contacts, be inspired and get to ogle gear at the trade show.

    Here are the key things I came home with:

    1) 15,000 is a lot of photographers

    Sometimes it can seem like you’re ploughing quite a lonely furrow when you’re a photographer, so it was nice to feel like I actually have a tribe. And a large one at that – around 15,000 of us all in the one place. It meant the queues could be long, but the pre-board system worked well, and I was never turned away from any of the non-preboarded classes I turned up for.

    2) You need to love the business side of things

    If you’re doing this as a living, then you have to love doing all the other stuff besides shooting that goes along with running a business. I chose a lot of business and marketing-oriented classes because I want to able to keep doing this job for the long term, and unless I keep clients coming in and making a profit by making them happy, I won’t be able to keep the doors open very long.

    So unless you look forward to calculating your overheads and your cost of goods sold and working on a marketing plan and remembering to renew your insurance, then you’ll be miserable as a pro shooter. But if you want to embrace all that stuff, then climb aboard.

    I’d already been running my own web design business for six years, so I knew this going in, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you won’t be shooting gorgeous kids all day.

    3) Other people’s weddings and family images can make me cry

    Most of the speakers showed some of their work, regardless of the topic they were talking about – we’re photographers, after all, so show us some images. I think it’s a sign that I’m in the right job that some of these slideshow made me tear up – photos of random strangers getting married, or families I’ll never meet.

    These images tell the story of the most important things in our lives – our family and what they mean to us. It sounds really corny, but what we do when we photograph these things really does matter. So I’m not ashamed I got a bit emotional over it.

    4) The Trade show was surprisingly resistable, except for the gorgeous books and albums

    I thought it’d be risky to let me loose on the floor of the giant trade show, but actually I didn’t spend too much time there.

    The Sigma guys were friendly but didn’t make me change my opinion of their reliability after my recent bad experience with their 24-70 f/2.8. I told them about it and they shrugged – “Sometimes it’s the camera, you know?”
    “Even if every other lens you’ve ever tried is fine with it?”
    “Yep. We can calibrate the lens to work with that camera, though.”
    “But then you can’t use that lens with any other body, right?”
    “Right.” The guy didn’t seem too bothered with this unsatisfactory state of affairs.

    I’m not slagging Sigma for being rubbish – in fact, what’s frustrating is that I’ve heard great things about some of their lenses and would like to try them – I’m slagging them because it seems you can never be sure if any particular copy of their lenses will work with your particular camera. And they know that.

    The one sort of thing that did have be salivating at the trade show, however, were the albums and books. Here was a great chance for me to actually handle the merchandise. The albums and books I loved the most were the simplest and most upscale. The Asukabook coffee table style bound books were lovely, as were those from Iris Book.

    I’m not a fan of the super thick pages, glossy lay-flat flush mount style that seemed much in evidence, but the books of matted prints from finao (acutally made by Seldex) were also beautiful. To me, presenting the images from a shoot in a beautiful book makes so much sense – it frees the digital files from just sitting on a hard drive or disk somewhere, and creates an object that tells the story of that family and child at that particular moment in time. Love it.

    6) If we’re not thinking about video now, we should be

    David McLain gave an excellent talk about how he incorporates video into the stills work he does. It looked refreshingly straightforward, and didn’t require tons of extra gear and lighting (“I’m allergic to that stuff, man,” was David’s comment).

    Thinking of ways to capture small snippets of video at the same time as you’re shooting the stills (with the same camera of course, which means the same control over depth of field) makes a lot of sense.


    I’m still sorting through all my notes, but I had a great (if tiring) time, and have a lots of new stuff to work on as a result of all I learned. I’ll definitely go again, and when I do I’m bringing the largest business cards I can find. I threw my card into the bag with all the other photogs in pretty much each of classes, and didn’t win a single thing.


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