Photography conferences are often over-looked as an unnecessary expense; especially the longer we've been at it. However, photography conferences are an extremely valuable occasion for any kind of professional photographer and should be an annual event in your calendar - at least. Here's why.
Recently, I've had photography conferences on my mind. OK, maybe it has something to do with the upcoming Way Up North conference in Stockholm, Sweden that I’ll be attending (and I’m super excited about). In any case, I started to think about how beneficial these conferences are in general. I thought I’d use today to share with you why attending photography conferences is a must for professional photographers and why any professional photographer should attend at least a handful throughout their career.
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Growth and Development
The most practical reason to attend photography conferences is their function to teach and develop you as a photographer. Even as seasoned professionals there is always something more to learn. By definition these conferences will include presentations, demonstrations, workshops, Q & A’s, or all of the above with well-qualified and respected professionals in the field; and even out of it. In this way they’re designed to have the audience, you, walk away more knowledgeable.
Photography conferences can't hurt and, more likely than not, will help to improve your work and your business.
But that's arguably the best part. Oftentimes, a conference will expose you to something different. Take, for example, this upcoming Way Up North conference. Way Up North is a photography conference designed specifically for wedding photographers. Yet, on its bill of presenters are, of course, a selection of masterful wedding photographers and expert photography technicians, but also a former martial artist, a cool hunter, a wedding planner, a renowned fashion photographer, and a marketing specialist. Certainly, there is something professional wedding photographers can take from all these speakers to help better themselves. The question is, without attending the conference, how many of the attendees would have thought to look in those places for ways to develop their wedding photography and studio business?
Inspiration and Motivation
This train of thought gets to the second benefit of photography conferences: they inspire and motivate. Inspiration and motivation can come from any place and we're all sparked by different things.
Inspiration can come from anywhere; photography conferences are a hotbed of motivation and inspiration. Get that light bulb glaring.
Some of us can’t wait to go out and shoot after someone explains a new, specific technique in technical detail; others are stirred by the Hollywood-style rags-to-riches, rock-bottom-to-cloud-nine personal accounts. Attending a photography conference gives you the opportunity to experience both and everything in between. Also, once more, no matter what form it comes in, its purpose is all the same: to encourage you to improve yourself, your photography, and your business.
Socializing and Networking
A lot of professional photographers hate to admit it, but the reality is that professional photography is also a business. But fear not, one of the most beneficial business practices – in any field of business – is actually a social one: networking. By attending photography conferences, you are literally surrounding yourself with people related to the business and world of photography. Having the opportunity to talk to these people in person is invaluable and can pay off in dividends in the future.
Go to a conference and get together with other equally passionate photographers. You never know what will come from it.
Don’t be afraid to talk to fellow photographers attending the conference. They’ll either give you someone to relate to, someone to ask advice from or be someone you can help. They might even be all three! You might run into someone from your area who is in a similar position as you, and you decide to share a studio or discuss good locations in the area, etc.
Moreover, often, it’s not only other attendees and expert photographers that attend such conferences. You never know when you might have the chance to talk with literal potential business partners such as printing labs, photo editing software companies, camera companies, camera accessory companies, and even model firms could be present. Here is an example of something else that would be a missed opportunity if you never attend a photography conference.
Fun and Relaxation
Lastly, the REAL reason to attend photography conferences is that they’re straight-up good fun and offer you a much-needed opportunity to relax. Often, especially with more intimate conferences such as Way Up North, there are either officially planned social events or unofficial ones strongly encouraged by the organizers. This, again, is a great opportunity to socialize and network but also chill. If you know another friend or colleague in the business, go together and make a small vacation out of it. The best part of such “vacation” is you can easily justify that it’s work-related ;) I know many professional photographers, and I know the one thing you all could use is a good vacation.
Why not find a conference by the beach, bring the family or a friend, and make it a nice business getaway?
Photography conferences come in all shapes and sizes, varieties, and locations. Make yourself a late New Year’s goal and research a few you’d like to attend, then take that next step and go to at least one.
If you're stuck and are in the wedding photography business, I highly recommend checking out the Way Up North conferences. Held twice a year, they're the biggest English-speaking wedding photography conference in Europe and often feature incredible American speakers as well.
So not only can you develop yourself professionally, meet new people, and get inspired, but you can do it all while soaking in the soothing ambiance of a European city (in February Way Up North is in Stockholm; in September Cologne). I consider that a win-win-win-WIN. Bravo photography conferences.