Photography workshops can be a touchy subject for some people. There are those who dismiss them out of hand, preferring to make their own path. Even some wedding photographers, perhaps the most social of all photographers, choose to not mix it up in this manner—but I disagree. Once you set ego or shyness aside and make the time, photography workshops can be the most satisfying experiences in your photographic journeys. Of course, they teach skills and offer professional insight, but they can also create a network of friends and colleagues that might last a lifetime and, most important, they can provide you with a sense of belonging, a confidence in your work and a realization that we are part of great tradition to which we bring our unique and ever-improving style.
The first months of the New Year bring with them two of the best wedding photography events on the calendar, the first being Mystic Seminars, which fits nicely into the above description of an event that is fun, creates life-long connections, but most important, can change lives and inspire careers. To quote one attendee, “Mystic Seminars is a community of photographers, not only a convention. You can talk with anyone and have a great time—names don’t matter here, big smiles everywhere you go. A place to grow, create, and enjoy what photography is supposed to be.” I encourage you to check this page of their website for more quotes extolling the seminar and its “ridiculously inspiring” spirit.
This year’s seminar will be held from January 16-19, in Portland, Oregon, the new home of the seminar, having moved from its namesake locale in Connecticut two years ago. Opening night kicks off with two talks, by Jared Platt and Gabe McClintock, and the following day starts early with a full schedule of presentations, a trade show with representatives of the major camera and gear manufacturers, and portfolio reviews. The list of speakers and presenters is itself impressive, but the vibe of this venue provides the speakers with a forum to shed formality, talk from the heart, and interact with the attendees. There are also meals spent together, bowling, and organized downtime activities that put fun up front and give folks the chance to interact in the way that overcomes small talk and begins the path to friendship.
The photographic styles represented at Mystic are a wonderful blend, but find common ground in the idea of “story-telling” and an international selection of photographers are invited to present their work. This year’s speakers include the incredible Buffy Goodman, whose talk is summarized as “about how to make art from an authentic place, steering clear of click-bait industry traps,” and New York-based photographer Jide Alakija, who discusses “capturing images that matter… that will create a unique story.” Working themes of presentations touch on all aspects of the industry, from personal interaction to logistics to increasing profit, but the creative capture of “moments” and “keeping it real” are emphasized. Photographers presenting work and speaking include Ken Pak, Abby and Dave Moss, and Peter Jurica, among others.
The WPPI Wedding & Portrait Photography Conference is big time, by far the premier industry event for photographers and filmmakers specializing in wedding and portrait photography and filmmaking. More than fifty classes are offered during its run, and the manufacturer expo is huge, with companies from around the world bringing their latest gear. Of course, the big camera makers are there, but so are the small companies that specialize in wedding-related products, software, and services. The 2017 edition takes place February 5-9, 2017, with the Expo running from February 7-9 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Each day starts with a keynote speech given by some of the biggest names in contemporary wedding and portrait photography. This year’s speakers are Jerry Ghionis; Sue Bryce; Me Rah Koh; and Jason Groupp and Jacqueline Tobin. Classes in gear and technique are mixed with classes on developing your personal style and running your business. There is really something for everyone at this conference, and remember—it’s not just wedding photography. “Portraiture” is part of the event’s name and that opens up the field to experts who specialize in studio work, lighting, and post-process, in addition to fashion photography, birth photography, senior portraits and, of course, all the aspects of wedding work from marketing to album design. A few favorites of mine who will be in attendance are celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith, Photoshop diva Katrin Eismann, and “The Most Influential Wedding Photographer of Our Time”— 2010 WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award winner Yervant Zanazanian. If you plan with efficiency, WPPI can provide a Master’s Degree worth of photography education in just 4.5 days.
WPPI also hosts an early morning Fun Run for a healthy way to meet and greet and, needless to say, the host city provides many late-night venues for rubbing elbows with big-timers and catching up with old friends.
Finally, the competitions at WPPI are well known and, for some photographers, can be career-makers. They are open to all—members and non-members of WPPI—and the award ceremony may just be the highlight of the whole conference, although with so much going on and so many connections to be made, there are sure to be many personal highlights, and who knows what insight or contact might be the career-maker for you?