Each year we attend at least one photography conference. These conferences are a few days to a week long and tend to range from several thousand attendees to tens of thousands of attendees from all over the world. It is super important to research any type of conference before you commit to going. Some conferences will be a better fit for your personality and genre than others! You want to make sure it is worth the time and money you will put towards attending. Websites like Eventbrite are a great place to start your research. It’s a common platform for conference planners to register and promote their events.
First and foremost: DON’T expect to get a lot of sleep.
DO attend classes and presentations.
DON’T only attend class. There are always lots of planned social events and chances to network with other photographers and industry specialists.
And because this is SUPER important, we will emphasize again. DO network with other photographers and industry specialists. NO ONE will bite. We promise.
DO go to the trade show.
DON’T get overwhelmed at the trade show. This is VERY easy to do. Generally trade shows are several days long. To minimize the potential overload of information/products/services etc. pick one or two things you want to get accomplished each day and stick to that plan. For example, one day you can talk with a variety of print labs and album makers. The next day go in search of organizational tools/software.
DO attend a styled shoot. There are almost always conference and non-conference styled shoots organized prior to the conference. Keep your eye on conference related hashtags, conference related Facebook groups etc. to find and sign up for these shoots. They are a great way to get portfolio material and meet other photographers.
DON’T forget to enjoy the sites and attractions outside of the conference center. Attend a show, go to a museum. Whatever tickles your fancy.
DO expect to go home exhausted and overwhelmed. Don’t schedule anything for the day or two after you arrive home. Conferences are exhausting, both mentally and physically. Your brain will be swimming with lots of new ways to grow, streamline and improve your business. You will be very tempted to try and institute all of these new things into your business immediately. It is best to make a list of everything you want to do, from most pressing/important to least and slowly work down the list, giving the necessary amount of time and effort to each.
DON’T lose touch with all of the new people you met! Obviously staying in touch with each individual you meet is impossible. Try and stay in touch with a handful of the people and make sure you make plans to meet up the next year!
As with any time you travel, check the weather. Pack clothing accordingly. If you’re going somewhere like Las Vegas, where it can go from 80-90 during the day to 50 at night, keep that in mind.
Bring a range of outfits from comfortable to classy (if you can do both in one, you win!). You’ll be attending classes (casual clothes), walking through the trade show (comfortable shoes) and going out at night to private parties or black-tie conference events (cocktail dress/suit and tie).
Camera equipment – Don’t weigh yourself down. Bring the bare minimum. If you’re attending a styled shoot, you’ll want a longer lens (85mm, 70-200mm) so you’re not in the way of other photographers. A wider lens (24-70mm, 35mm or 50mm) is great for capturing the sites of the city and any other general photo opportunities. We generally each travel with one camera body and 2 lenses.
Do your research before the conference, most of the time Canon and Nikon will have equipment available to rent during the conference which can cut down on what you need to bring with you from home.
Before we go into what you should attend, make sure you are staying on top of when class registration opens. Often there are classes that fill up within minutes or hours of registration being opened, and most likely these classes will be on your to do list.
We suggest going through the entire list of classes, reading the descriptions and researching the presenters before you make any final decisions. That way you have an idea of everything that is offered. We’ve gone to classes that look great based on the title, but when you get there it’s nothing at all like what you thought either because of the presenter having a background in something very different than what you do or because the title was misleading. Also, there may be 8 different classes offered on social media, and by reading through the entire schedule you have an idea of which of those 8 is most relevant to what you need.
Make sure you research the presenters. Attending classes taught by professionals that you respect and look up to are much more rewarding.
Keep an open mind and attend a range of classes. There are business, creative and technical classes, all with a wide range of experience and topics. Even if you feel you are a social media whiz and don’t need to take any social media classes, things in the social media world are always changing and you may pick up a few new or even upcoming insider tips. Keep in mind, the presenters in many of the classes are teaching from their own experience, and just because they do something a certain way or have succeeded/failed at certain things doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it will happen for you.
We are HUGE advocates for attending conferences, workshops and any other experience that can expand your knowledge, allow you to network with other professionals and grow your business!
Happy conference attending!