I’m photographer Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens, and in this video and article, I’m going to look at photo conferences, photo/video conferences. Are they dead? Are they going to happen this year? Is it kind of the nail in the coffin for conferences? Because they were sliding before. Where exactly are they at? What’s going to happen and what can you expect coming in 2021 and 2022?
I just went to WPPI, and it was a lot of fun to be there. It was great to be with other photographers again, to be able to sit in the classes to hear people talk about their businesses, show their work, and really teach photography principles. But it was so small. They had only about under 4,000 people that registered and about 3,000 people actually picked up their badges (at least, that’s what I heard). So it was a very small show.
The conference was lacking so many players. Sony wasn’t there. Nikon wasn’t there. Just a whole group of people that didn’t come.
So you might think, “Well, conferences are dead. There’s no place for them any longer.” I don’t believe that’s the case. I think we’re in a building process here. They had taken a year and a half off because of COVID, so this conference came at a time when most people aren’t used to having WPPI — it became a reset conference. And I think if you look at it in that way, I think it’s going to grow and be back on track in the future.
Why should you go to a conference? I think there’s a lot of great reasons.
1. You get information at conferences that is very difficult to get anywhere else.
How often do photographers open their doors and allow you to look at their business practices and understand exactly their process? Show their process, teach, and mentor. You don’t really get that in any other place except for clubs and conferences, the kinds of places that bring photographers together and allow you to be able to work together and learn together. And I think because of that it’s a really valuable experience to have.
2. There’s nothing like a hands-on to grab something and to be able to hold it.
To use the camera, to understand it, and to be able to get a sense of whether it’s going to work for you or not. And I think all this kind of equipment is really about that. What innovation is out there? What are the cameras that are coming out? What do you want to test and hold and see and figure out? And I think that’s one of the reasons conferences are so important.
But really the main one for me is #1, a kind of mentoring at a distance. People are teaching their process and talking about what they do. And I think that is really the foundation for helping you to grow in your business and be able to get new ideas to get excited again. We all become a little stale sometimes and it’s hard for us to keep going. But conferences give us a little jolt, a little heart pump to keep you going.
So here are some of the big conferences:
We just had Shutterfest on September 8th-10th. Shutterfest is a great conference. It’s a small intimate conference in a great location in St. Louis — the building is just so fun to shoot in. And people go there to shoot. They have models. You can go down and check out a model and go shoot.
And people bring their gear. They bring their strobes and they come to shoot, and that’s what made that conference so really enjoyable. You have great speakers, you have a great location, and you get to shoot.
Cine Gear Expo
Next, we have Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles, which has been a favorite show of mine for years. It has always been at the Paramount backlot, but this year it’s going to be at the LA convention center, which is unfortunate because the whole vibe of that show was outside at the lot, the place where so many famous incredible movies were made.
So many actors walked that lot and those buildings. But the expo will still have vendors and speakers and people coming together to talk about the industry and to be able to share their thoughts and views on what’s happening in the market. I think that’s really important.
Going on from there, we have PHOTOPLUS, which had been scheduled for September 30th–October 2nd in New York City in the Javits Center. They have gotten rid of all their education, which is a little unfortunate — I feel like that really was the backbone of PHOTOPLUS. The strength of that show was you got to hear speakers in a lot of commercial applications, and it’s really a trade show.
It’s a three-day trade show that brings in a lot of great vendors. What has happened is, because that education is not out in the different lecture halls, all the vendors brought that education onto the trade show floor and you’ve got great speakers in all the different booths. They and the vendors create a great vibe.
Moving on from that, we have NAB October 9th – 13th. I predict that NAB will bounce back to being a very strong show. We know NAB has been great in the past. We want it to be great in the future, and I think vendors are going to show up and they’re going to make it happen. And I think if we will come and support it, it’ll be a great show again one day.
Going into the new year, another is WPPI in February.
We also have ImagingUSA, which going to be in Washington DC from January 16 to 18. I have not been to ImagingUSA, but it’s something I’d like to do next year just to be able to see exactly how that shows going and what’s going to happen there. If you’re on the East Coast, that’s a great show to take in near Washington DC.
There are my thoughts on photo conferences. Are they dead? I don’t think so. I think they’re going to continue.
I think they may pare down, and I think a lot of them may go to a hybrid where you are in person but they also have a lot of online Zoom classes that are shared afterward. They’ve been trying this for a long time, trying to get you to buy the classes afterward or to buy a package.
I wish they would do that, offer a package where you spend X number of dollars. For an extra 100 bucks, you get all the classes as Zoom classes or all of them as recorded video classes you can go back and look at because there’s always great information there.
Grab your face mask and go to a conference. You’ll have a great time.
About the author: Jay P. Morgan is a commercial photographer with over two decades of experience in the industry. He teaches photography through his company, The Slanted Lens, which runs a popular YouTube channel. This article was also published here.