What a week I had at 2016 WPPI—Wedding & Portrait Professionals International! Whew! It was an incredible week meeting photographers from all over the world, cramming my brain with new information, gaining insight and inspiration sitting through two days of live image judging, and setting my eyes on some of the newest technology and products in the industry. I always enjoy and value my time at WPPI, but I have to say this was the most productive conference for me to date. Going into it, I knew I wanted to focus my time on lighting skills and bettering my competition images. I will try to give a run down of exactly how I spent my time (and money) during this week.
- Live Image Competition: For a few years now, I’ve been talking about the WPPI image competition. They have three contests a year: two that are digital submissions and one that you actually present a physical print. This is said to be one of the hardest image competitions, if not the hardest, in the world. I probably spent a least 12 hours looking at entries and listening to the judges critque and score these images. I’ve said from year #1, this is the most educational part of the entire WPPI. It’s like to get to jump inside the judges’ heads, look at the image through their eyes, and see the image as they do. In turn, this teaches you how to be much, much more critical of your own work. The result is, at least for me, that your work and skill grow and ultimately you produce better images for your clients. This year was different for me in that I had three prints entered: two in high school seniors and one in bride or groom alone/non-wedding day. This was my first time entering physical prints. It was very surreal seeing MY image on the light board and the projection screen, seeing the judges contemplate over MY image and then hearing their critique of MY image. I was very nervous—so nervous, in fact, that I didn’t even remember to look at the five scores I received individually. Instead, I only heard my final score. I wanted to see the individual judges’ scores to see if at least one scored me 80 or above. I can’t wait to receive them back. It will be the first time I get to look at them up close and personal.
- Platform Classes: The platform classes are hour-and-half long classes that are included with your WPPI registration. This year, the conference was free to WPPI members. This was a new (and generous) implementation. The conference is usually $125 for members and $199 for non-members (or thereabouts). The conference is basically three (or four) whole days of lectures and presentations. If you sit in on a platform class of one of the more popular speakers, you shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that 3,000 photographers will be in the same room with you. Including the master classes listed below, I sat in on 21 hours of lectures.
- Master Classes: The master classes (along with PLUS classes) are smaller, more intimate lectures in which you can freely ask questions directly to the presenter and also last longer than the platform classes. I believe the master classes are limited to 50 participants and regularly fill up. You have to purchase these independently of your regular registration. This year I invested in four master classes:
- David Beckstead, From Composition to Presentation: The Art of Increasing Your Print Scores at Composition.
- Jeremy Chan, Photoshop Retouching for Wedding/Portrait Photography.
- Kristi Odom, Elevate Your Work to Competition Level and Profit from Your Awards.
- Nik Pekridis. Simple Rules.
- Key Note Speaker: Sue Bryce! What a motivator! She literally “kicked our ass” during the key note. I wished I had recorded the talk, because it was very motivating! I kept thinking I need to make an audio recording of this so I can listen over and over. But, the OCD in me wouldn’t let me begin recording without it being at the VERY beginning. Hopefully, WPPI will put snipits of Sue’s talk online in the near future. Sue gave us permission to be creative, masterful, compensated for, and respectful of our photography and to dream big. Great talk!
- Expo: The expo is always fun! This is where a lot of the exhibitors usually launch new products and services! I took a close look at Photix’s Odin II which is already on its way to me. I also purchased a new tripod. I’ve been meaning to replace my tripod for a few years now, but could never make a decision based on information and images from a website. So, I stopped by the Manfrotto booth, spoke with a representative and she helped me choose the best match for what I needed. I also visited 17Hats, Rocco Ancora’s Capture to Print, Spider Holster, Graphi Studio, Bay Photo, H&H Color Lab, MagMod, Peak Design, and Peter Hurley’s Headshot Crew.
- Wedding Photographer Workshop: At the end of Nik Pekridis’ master class, I made a compulsive decision to attend his three-day wedding workshop. I’ve always wanted to add a workshop of this caliber to my annual photography education, but these workshops are usually in exotic locations and I could never justify the exuberant cost of the travel that would be required. Nik’s workshop will be close enough that I don’t have to worry about that! I’m so excited to attend this workshop later this year in November in TEXAS!!! Another great thing about this workshop, it’s a twofer! Salvatore Dimino will also be teaching at the workshop. Nik is from Greece and Salvatore is from Italy. Nik is listed as a Master Photographer of WPPI and both were judges during the print competition!! I will be learning from photography greats!!
- WPPI-C: I sat in on a Luke Edmonson’s platform class. Luke is a Double Master of WPPI photographer, the son of a Triple Master of WPPI and from DALLAS! The class was titled Gain Confidence and Competence Through WPPI-C. I admit that I misunderstood the exact content of the class and somehow thought this was more instruction on competition. It was actually about the certification program that WPPI started offering nearly a year ago through the New York Institute of Photography. I was early and noticed a slide on the projection screen that offered a 66% off discount on the certification program. I registered right on the spot without hearing anything that Luke or Jason Groupp had to say about it. So, I didn’t really need to sit there for the next hour-and-a-half, but I’m glad that I did. They answered a few questions I had about the program.
- Pre-Purchased Image Printing: I already purchased the service of two printings from Rocco Ancora for the 2017 WPPI 16×20 image competition. I was really blown away by Rocco’s attentiveness to speak to me about his print making process. Even though he was on his way to his next speaking engagement, he answered all my questions.
- Headshot by Peter Hurley: If you don’t know who Peter Hurley is, shame on you! Peter is NYC’s premier headshot and portrait photographer. Peter photographs actors, models and celebrities of all sorts and took MY headshot during the 2016 WPPI. I can’t wait to start using it on my social media accounts and printed marketing material!
- Making new Photographer Friends: I met a big handful of new photographer friends, including Shelly Peterson from Washington. We first met during the print competition, and somehow, we just kept attending the same lectures. She was a very soft spoken and I got along great with her! I will definitely be keeping in touch with her!
I was up every morning in image comp or class by 8:30am and in bed every night by 10:30p. Although there are opening parties sponsored by WPPI and various expo exhibitors, I prefer not to attend. Large, loud crowds are just not really my thing any more. Something else I did differently this year is book my hotel room directly through WPPI. Until this year, I had always tried to find a better deal on my own, and I have to say that the better deal is directly through WPPI.
Regrets about the 2016 WPPI Conference:
- Not taking new business cards, not taking enough cards period. I neglected to check my bag before I left town and only had about 10 or 12 old cards. I had to ration them a bit, whereas usually, I exchange them with each photographer I meet.
- Not participating in the Fun Run. Each year, there is an early morning fun run and I can never find enough information about it to decide whether or not I want to attend. I have no idea where they begin, end or how fast they go.
- Not scoring an 80 in the print comp. This is somewhat out of my control and while I’m not totally disappointed with my scores, I do wish I could have earned a silver award on just one of my prints. I am very pleased with the steps I am taking to try and get an 80 next year!
- Not eating better. I had managed to lose a few pounds before I left for Vegas. I am pretty sure I found them all and maybe a few more this past week.
- Not exercising more. The week is pretty exhausting. While I did manage to squeeze in one four-mile jog, that’s all I did. However, my daily steps were above average, but there’s no better feeling than getting your heart rate up. Walking just doesn’t do that, at least for me.
- Not having eye surgery before attending! A few months ago, my 70-year-old father had a procedure to correct both his near and farsightedness. I’ve been lusting at his non-reliance on seeing aids ever since. He can see far and he can see close and he needs no contacts, no glasses and he never will. I have worn glasses since 5th grade and probably needed them well before that. I have been blessed with the Blalock eyesight. It was Mrs. Adams, my homeroom teacher, who discovered I couldn’t see well and referred me to the school nurse. Since the time I turned about 40, I have witnessed the area in front of my face just get blurrier and blurrier. It’s gotten so bad that I can’t even see my toes clearly while standing without reading glasses. It’s a pain to shower, look through my purse, set the cruise control while driving, work on my computer, put on makeup and even take photographs—the thing I LOVE to do. I couldn’t even select the correct elevator button in Vegas without reading glasses. I don’t think words can describe how difficult it is to look down at a screen to type, then look up to see a projection screen, then down to take more notes, then up at a speaker, then to your neighbor who’s asking a question. So, just this minute I pulled out all the money from my 401K and scheduled a consultation at Parkhurt Nuvision. This will be life-changing. 🙂
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I am a San Antonio-based wedding photographer and I cater to outdoor-loving couples who prefer to have all the realness captured on their wedding days. I am the wedding photographer for the outdoor adventurers, the romantics, the laid back, the snugglers, and those who wish to capture all their realness.
I am absolutely in love with capturing the kinds of weddings where there are more hugs than handshakes, the dance floor rumbles all night long, and chairs are pretty much rendered useless after dinner. Whiskey bottles are passed around, most of the wedding party has been best-best friends since kindergarten, Grams is likely to lose her shoes and your partner is much more emotional than you are. These kinds of weddings are my jam!
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journey and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
I am a WPPI-C certified professional, full-time wedding photographer. I specialize in a 10-day image delivery, same-day prints, same-day slideshows, Italian handcrafted wedding albums and I have a mobile meeting space.
When I’m not behind my camera, you can find me hiking, cycling, backpacking, camping, enjoying water sports, listening to music (Elvis and Prince), hunting for arrowheads, reading audiobooks, occasionally eating a few glazed donuts (my only weakness to sweets) and then re-starting my keto diet about every 10 days. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of.
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