WPPI 2012 – Wedding Photography convention – personal diary and review by Chicago Professional Wedding Photographer
So we just found out that our flight back to Chicago got cancelled and we won’t be flying back till tomorrow. We have a “wonderful” night to spent at the Las Vegas airport. I thought I would take the time to write a post about Sasha’s and mine experience at WPPI 2012 from a Chicago Professional Wedding Photographer perspective. So let’s start from the beginning… For those of you that don’t know what WPPI is, it is the biggest wedding and portrait photography organization. It stands for Wedding and Portrait Professionals International. I have been a member of WPPI for over a year and this was the first WPPI conference that I attended. The event takes place every year in February in Las Vegas. This year it was at MGM. A little funny story about MGM is that I didn’t know what MGM stood for. So I asked one of our taxi drivers about it. Unfortunately his English was not very good. So besides telling me that there is a big lion in front of MGM he didn’t provide me too much information. But as most of you know, I am a Wikipedia fanatic. So I wikipedia’ed it right away and found out that MGM stands for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer one of one of the biggest Hollywood studio's with its famous icon Leo the Lion that we have seen so many times at the beginning of movies.
But let’s go back to WPPI. As I mentioned before this was the first time I attended it and it was my first time in Vegas in almost 20 years. Yeah, 20 years ago while still in college I was on a cost-to-coast road trip and we stayed in a… Motel 6 because our 6-week road trip’s budget was $1,200 for the 3 of us.
I didn’t know what to expect from WPPI convention but it turned out to be a true piece of heaven for so many wedding and portrait photographers. The whole convention, that lasted a week is filled with over almost 200 workshops and classes. There was also a trade-show; and photo and wedding album competitions, and industry events.
It was really hard to choose workshops because at any time there were 4-9 workshop happening at the same time. Those workshop topics varied from business, motivational, photography, posing, lighting, retouching, post processing, video, and customer service. With so many workshops going on, there were obviously some classes that were better and some that were worse. Overall the experience was amazing.
The 3 days tradeshow is totally mind-blowing! There were two huge show halls where practically any company related to wedding photography had a booth or big show area. Just to give you an idea how big the trade show was, let me tell you that it literally took me three days to go through all the booths! My main goal for the trade show was to see in person all of the album suppliers and make a decision on my top of the line albums. It was a difficult task to accomplish because there were so many companies offering an amazing variety of albums but after touching, inspecting (with a magnifying glass), talking to the vendors Sasha and I finally decided on our WASIO signature line albums. So exciting! Stay tuned about the albums because I will get my first sample in few weeks.
So before I jump into my review of the workshops we attended here are my general thoughts about the classes and the attendees. My biggest pet peeve was the sales pitches that sometimes dominated the whole class. I understand the speakers are trying to make their living and are sponsored by different companies but when the sales push is stronger than the class’ topic I get really annoyed. There were a few classes that annoyed me so much that Sasha and I decided to leave half way through because we felt we were treated like brain-washed people that will buy whatever is offered. Those speakers that were really good didn’t have to convince me to get their additional materials. Of course the various free stuff they offer for drawings at each class were nice but I could easily live without them if I didn’t have to listen to that sales talk. That brings me to my thoughts about the attendees (other fellow photographers). Maybe because I am a Capricorn, sometimes I truly couldn’t understand why so many people were getting excited and close to euphoria when the most obvious things were said or some free stuff was thrown their way. Seriously some people were fighting over some cheap sunglasses that were thrown from the stage.
Of course I cannot write reviews of every class that was at WPPI 2012 since there were so many happening in parallel so I will write a short review of those that Sasha and I chose to attend.
Here is the list of classes I had the pleasure to attend:
Plus Class with Sal Cincotta (2 day workshop) – this was a two day workshop with Sal. I met Sal last year at an event in Chicago and really enjoyed his great business advices, photography style, and most importantly his honest approach and total openness about what made his photography so successful. We spent the first day running around MGM and photographing a couple of models. We first photographed them in engagement outfits and then in a wedding dress. We got to experience Sal’s super high energy approach to photo sessions and how he can create amazing photos practically within an hour. The second day was spent on discussion about business practices, wedding photography collections (what makes the most sense for our clients) and how to make our clients receive the best experience. The wedding day is just one piece of the overall experience. This two-day workshop was only for WPPI members and absolutely worth every penny. Sal is an amazing photographer and won multiple photo awards this year! The best part was that he showed us how to create those award-winning photos. Thank you Sal! Sal also invited us to a private event that he organized at which Ingrid Michaelsen performed some of her most famous songs. It was such a fun party, especially since one of Ingrid’s songs was the first song at Jackie & Tony wedding in Narnia! Here you can see Jackie & Tony album from last year.
Engaging with the Engaged with Zach and Jody Gray – I watched Zach’s and Jody’s workshop sometime ago and I knew that they are one of the most fun and best wedding photography teachers. This platform didn’t disappoint! It was full of amazing information and they didn’t try to sell anything. If you ever have a chance to attend their workshop I absolutely recommend it.
Lighting Secrets Illuminated with Kevin Kubota – Kevin Kubota is one of the most recognized names in portrait and wedding photography. Besides being a great photographer Kevin has an amazing set of tools for photoshop and lightroom that helps photographers get their photos look better. Since Kevin Kubota is such a recognizable figure he is sponsored by many photography related companies. It’s great when great photographers are being sponsored and rewarded for their great work but for my taste it went too far with Kevin. Kevin’s class overall content was pretty good but practically every slide contained hidden advertisement for one of the products he is sponsored by. I really don’t enjoy hidden advertisement so decided to leave Kevin’s class earlier. As you can imagine I would not recommend his class but I know many photographers I talked to told me they enjoyed his class. So take my opinion with a grain of salt.
Pure Energy, Rejuvenation and Freedom with Doug Gordon – this was the first time I saw Doug Gordon giving a presentation even though he is one of the best known wedding photography teachers. Doug’s energy and sense of humor is truly fascinating and the only person I could compare him to is Jerry Ghionis (one of top wedding photography masters). Doug has a very specific and efficient way to go through a flow of poses on the wedding day. Those poses are natural and make the couple look truly amazing and at the same time provide a great variety of photographs. I will need to study Doug’s work and teaching a lot more to get the best out of his teaching. I am sure there will be many people that don’t agree with Doug’s approach to wedding photography but I think a lot of us can benefit so much from his lesson. I would definitely recommend taking a great advantage of the opportunity to experience and learn Doug Gordon's teachings.
Picture Perfect Practice with Roberto Valenzuela – I didn’t know too much about Roberto’s work before coming to WPPI besides the fact that he was voted one of top 10 wedding photographers in the world. Roberto was also one of the judges at the photography completion this year. This is when I realized what an amazing talent he has. His talent is two-fold. He is an absolutely amazing photographer with an absolutely genius eye for composition. He is also a fantastic teacher. His class was one of the top 3 I attended this year. Sasha and I were truly fascinated by his work and approach to photography and composition. Even during the print competition he gave the best feedback and his scoring was very fair. Roberto just released a book that covers in more details what he discussed during the class. His book is so good that I purchased it even before the class started. I would recommend Roberto’s book to any level photographer to drastically improve composition and having an eye for amazing photos practically anywhere.
Take Your Business Up a Level with Sal Cincotta – this was a continuation of Sal’s two day workshop. Sal is a fantastic speaker, full of energy, and best of full willing to share so many tips that allowed him to grow his photography business in Saint Louis.
The War of Art with Brook and Alisha Todd – Even though Brook and Alisha were voted last year one of Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World this was my least favorite class. Brook and Alisha kept everything at a high level that it was practically useless information. I mean we all know that customer service and web site are important, etc. It also seemed that Brook was not very well prepared for his presentation.
Amazing Light, Anytime, Anywhere with Scott Robert Lim – I really enjoyed this platform class. Scott is an amazing photographer that takes absolutely spectacular photos with portable flashes. He gave us a great deal information about flash photography. He understands that some of the name brand speed lights can get pretty expensive especially when we combine them with remote triggers. For example a Canon 580EXII flash is about $500 and the radiopopper is another $250. So for a 3 flash set up we are talking of an investment in range of $2,2500! The price gets even crazier if we want to overpower the sun by combining multiple speed lights. So Scott Roberts offers his own light of inexpensive flashes that still perform really well and his own set of triggers and receivers. Basically his price is 1/3 of the set up from Canon or Nikon. Overall it was a very interesting class and I would definitely recommend it to other photographers.
My mistakes with posing and composition with David Beckstead – this was a really fun and entertaining session. David took us through all his hilarious composition mistakes that he made through the years. At first one could think that David Beckstead is a horrible photographer but in reality he is truly superior! His photos are amazing. I think the key message from his class was that in order to get better one cannot be afraid to make mistakes. He continuously experiments to get his photography to the next level. He told us about an interesting concept during his weddings. Basically 50% of the time is spent on those safe shots and the other 50% is Beckstead’s Time when Dave go creatively crazy. He is upfront with his customers about it and I guess they hire him because of his Beckstead time! He encouraged everybody to make mistakes and have fun with them. And maybe don’t go as crazy as he does with his 50% Beckstead time but start with maybe 5% or 10%. It’s definitely a very interesting concept that I plan to go with. It’s going to be WASIO time!
Fashion Flair for the wedding photographer with Lindsay Adler – Lindsay is an amazing wedding fashion photographer. Her photos are world-class quality. Even though this was not my top platform class I did learn quite a bit and her class gave me few ideas for fashion photography.
Beyond the Blog with JP Elario – JP is a pretty nice guy though his photography style is not exactly what I prefer. However, his class was pretty energetic, nicely structured, and full of information. I got one major idea from his workshop that I will add to my services starting this year. I think my customer will truly appreciate that extra item. For now, I need to keep it secret… :)
What Wedding Planners Want from You with Joe Photo – even though I don’t know Joe Photo personally, he seems to be one of nicest people! Joe spent last year doing a lot of research about what Wedding Planners want from photographers. During his class Joe shared his findings. Of course some of them were pretty obvious, but there were few that were really interesting to discover. My goal this year is definitely to work more with wedding planners. I would totally recommend any lecture/workshop with Joe Photo. His photography is really good as well!
Buzzworthy with Sondra and Ayers and Jerry Deck – this was the last platform class at WPPI 2012. I had a great expectation from this class. Unfortunately this ended up as a few hour long infomercial of Sondra’s and Jerry’s services. I don’t want to sound totally negative though. Sondra and Jerry gave a good number of tips and ideas but practically every idea ended with a reason why everybody should have to purchase their consultation services. We had to leave the class early to catch our flight to Chicago (that was cancelled anyway) and I didn’t feel like I had missed anything. I would not recommend this class to others.