Every year, for the past six years, I’ve been making an annual pilgrimage to the Wedding and Portrait Photography International Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. Each year, I begin preparing months in advance by carefully selecting the images I will submit to the extremely-competitive international image competition. I painstakingly sift through the course schedule and decide which topics peek my interest to help to grow my skill level or business know-how in the most effective ways. And, I begin reaching out to fellow photographers who I’ve met at previous WPPI conferences asking if there’s a chance I will see them again.
This conference is in approximately one week.
Attending this conference really makes me excited. I’ve discovered some of my most respected and valued mentors in the wedding and portrait industry as a result of attending this conference.
WPPI 2019: Wedding & Portrait Photography International
Last year was the first time I attended the award ceremony. I had such a good time, I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this all along. I got to witness Rocco Ancora accept his award for becoming a WPPI Grand Master Photographer of which there are only now six in the entire world. This is such a feat! He joins the ranks of Jerry Ghionis, JB Sallee (fellow Texan photographer) Ryan Schembri, David Edmonson (another fellow Texan photographer), and Jennifer Hudson. I would like to say that the Texans are dominating this honor, but that wouldn’t be true. It’s actually the Aussies! Jerry, Ryan and Rocco are all Australian photographers. Technically, I think Jerry is Greek who lived in Australia for a long time. But he recently moved to Las Vegas, so maybe we are tied!! 🙂 Yes, I’m going with that. We are tied. Go Texas!
If you are a wedding or portrait photographer (or both), this is the premier event to attend. Nearly 13,000 photographers and film makers make this trek each year. There is so much knowledge to be gained here. Last year, after live print competition had concluded, I spent the final hours of the two-day event watching the finalists in the film category. There was so much talent. A few of the short films were so moving that I wept. Seriously. I didn’t even know the couples in any of the films I was watching, but these shorts were put together so well, I felt I did. In those four or five minutes, I became so emotionally invested, that I wept.
Being submersed in and surrounded by this much talent makes me feel more talented. It reminds me that if they can do it, so can I. This week totally inspires me.
This year, I have three images entered into the print competition—two in wedding photojournalism and one in plain ol’ journalism. Last year, I did as well and two of my images merited. This success came after a few years of trying. I picked up two points in the 16X20 Annual and one more point in the First Half Competition (digital submissions only). I’m hoping… praying for two more points in this year’s comp. If that happens, I will officially become an Associate Photographer with the WPPI. (One of my meriting images is pictured above: center, bottom row. It was entered into the wedding photojournalism category.)
I will sit through the entire two days of the live print competition. This has always been the most informative, educational, enlightening, and invaluable part of the conference to me. It’s just like getting to unlock the door to the judges’ heads, walk in, take a seat for a few hours and see the photographic world as they do. I’ve learned far more about my craft during this live print competition than any class I’ve attended.
Speaking of classes…
Being a member of the WPPI gets you a free pass to all the platform classes you can handle and into the three-day expo. If you want to attend any master classes, mentor classes, PLUS classes, or photo walks, there are extra fees for those. However, new this year, WPPI introduced the All Access Pass. For $250 (early bird pricing, I believe), you can register for any type of class you want as long as it is not sold out! I took full advantage of this and registered for the following classes:
- PLUS Class: Get Better Clients Bootcamp: A Hands-On Workshop for Leveling Up Your Brand and Business-Greg Corey, Terri Trespicio, Paula Rizzo
- PhotoWalk: How I Made that Image – Let’s Make Some More!-Sanjay Jogia
- Master Class: Mastering Wedding Photojournalism-Nacho Mora, Vinny LaBella
- Master Class: Timesaving (and Lifesaving!) Admin Workflow Strategies-Melissa Ghionis
- Master Class: How to Break the Rules in Photography-Nik Pekridis
- Master Class: Killing It with Five-Figure Portrait Sales-Amy Guild, Tavis Guild
- Master Class: How I Generated 285 Leads & Booked 21 New Clients In Five Days for an Ad Spend of Just $106.51-Easton Reynolds
- Master Class: Bridal Show Secrets: How We Closed 70k From One Show!-Ben Hartley
- Master Class: Making Something From Nothing: How to Use What’s Around You to Make the Best of Any Lighting Situation-Will Cadena
When it’s all said and done, I will probably invest somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,600 to attend this conference and compete in the image competition. And, this isn’t the only education I have scheduled for this year. I also have a $3,000 workshop in late September coming up—and that is only the price of the workshop. Do the math.
If you are not investing into the education of your craft, how serious are you? How good can you expect to ever get? Is this fair to your clients? Will you ever be a Grand Master Photographer?
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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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