WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) Recap

First, I apologize for the absolute antithesis of brevity that this blog post is about to become. Bare with me. I think there are a few nuggets of goodness in here…. 😉

As many of you know, I didn’t even know what WPPI was before about October of last year. A wonderful photographer, named Heidi Huber mentioned that if I was looking to make the switch from full-time photojournalist to wedding and portrait photographer/business woman extraordinaire, then I MUST, repeat MUST attend this conference. And omgeezs! was she right! This is the first almost week-long conference I’ve ever been to and I didn’t know ANYONE. It was going to be an adventure, I thought, but one of those adventures that you know you can’t pass up.

I feel extremely, extremely lucky/blessed/pleasantly surprised to have connected with several amazing woman through Twitter and the WPPI roommate finder, so I was off to a really great start. I really feel like these girls set the stage for the week and really made me feel like this was the right place for me to be.

Sarah Wineland and Ali Williamson, you two make my heart smile when I think about you. Your positive attitude and willingness to put yourself out there propelled me to do the same! You were a reminder to me to think of others first at this conference and always, as giving is the most important thing we can do and what our life and businesses should be all about (more on this later)!

Suzzanne, you allowed me to feel like I could be myself, which sometimes I feel like I can’t do. Thank you. Brittany, you just sat back in the cut and allowed me to bounce ideas off of you and to talk and talk, meanwhile, your quiet confidence made me wonder what you were hiding (in the best possible way)! It turns out, you are an amazing, amazing photographer and you’ve got business sense to boot. Your humbleness about all of that just floors me!

I was so honored to have met the amazing Rima Campbell. You are in the midst of doing great things my friend! I loved spending time talking to you about the craft and allowing me to photograph you! Studio 54 will not be the same after you!

I met two of you briefly, Rebekah Goldman and Fiona. My time spent with both of you was cherished. Believe me!

And, Maria Healey! You are one of those people who instantly draws people in. You are right when you say, “if I could just have a meeting with a client, I know they would want, no HAVE to hire me”. Keep believing that because it’s true! You are one of those people that you want to get to know more! I truly hope to see you next year in Vegas!

I met so many others besides my millions of roommates. I had such a great time hanging out with Maureen Cawlfield. Let’s stay in touch, shall we?

On the second-t0-last day I was there, I saw someone in José Villa’s class whom I had wanted to meet up with. I know her from following her blog and Twitter. Her name is Emily Scott, also known as Em the Gem. I was exhausted, yet newly invigorated after having listened to the great José Villa. So Em, you know I was a bit silly when I met you! But, I also felt like I needed to tell her exactly how I felt about her and the work that she creates. I constantly find inspiration from this girl, and I don’t even know her! She is a light. She just radiates love in the words that she writes and the images that she creates. She has a gift, and even if it’s hard for her, like it is for all of us, to offer up that gift to the world, I encourage her to do so. She has made the world better for it.

This was definitely one of the takeaways for me, from this conference: Put yourself out there. Give. Create. And don’t do it for any other reason than because it brings joy. That joy will flow from you to your clients, which will flow into your images and your business and so forth. It creates a little ecosystem that sustains itself. So many of the speakers that I heard radiated this joy and positivity. It was refreshing coming from an industry that is all negativity all the time and has been since I started. (It even thrives on it. Yuck!)

And finally, pretty much my only “must meet” person at the conference was Kevin Kubota. I honestly didn’t know much about him, except he is related to my best friend’s husband and I’d heard snippets about his cool Photoshop action business, etc. No real connection. Soon after I arrived at the conference though, it became apparent to me that there is some major love for this man from people in this industry. I now know why. I heard him speak in his platform class, “How Not to Suck” and was laughing and tearing up simultaneously! He just knows how to speak to people to make them feel like he’s speaking directly to you. He knows how hard this industry can be and he’s not afraid to share that.

The second takeaway from this conference for me is that the giving that I spoke about earlier, is the reason that this industry is still thriving. It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s figuring out how to turn a problem into a solution, a negative into a positive. Kevin Kubota embodies that to the Nth degree and therefore is the essence of this industry. He gives and shares and problem solves and in turn people want to do the same and soon, our little ecosystems join together to create a bigger, stronger, more successful one! This is incredible in such a competitive industry!

So, back to meeting Kevin. It was a bit of an embarrassing moment, I must say….He was clearly trying to gather his things and leave Photo Ignite when I came rushing up to him (with no plan of what to say…did I mention he was the only “must meet” person on my list? so, I’m not sure why I wouldn’t have come up with a plan about what to say…) and began rambling on about who I was and how I sort of know his relatives…blah blah blah. And, he sort of searched my eyes, like, “dude, I’m tired, what’s your point?” And I stopped myself…and took a breath and just told him how I really felt. Much like I did when I spoke to Emily. I knew that if I spoke from my heart, I would really begin to communicate with him. I knew that was the trick. If I’m genuine, he would be genuine. During this conference, I learned more than ever how important that can really be. As soon as I told Kevin what I really meant to say: that he makes this conference what it is. That his compassion for others and his love of what he does, propels others to want to be like him, to give the way he gives, he stopped searching my eyes and he saw me. I’m tearing up just thinking about it! He allowed me to be me. And then the embarrassment: I started to cry and sort of laugh and tell him, “I’m sorry. I’m just so tired! It’s been quite a week!” And then he gave me the most genuine hug! Like, life changing hug.

This conference, this WPPI that I knew nothing about, was tiring, and was a whirlwind of learning, talking, encouraging, DANCING, late-nighting, early-morninging, but most of all it was that genuine hug that I needed. I just felt right at home. Or, at least on that path home.

Whew! Thanks to all who made it this far. I promise to not be so verbose in my next post!

Here are a few photos from our shoot out in Vegas!

p.s. For my next post (very short, I promise) I’ll share my impromptu family photo shoot at rest stop in the desert. Yes, you read that correctly. It was more fabulous than it sounds!

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