WPPI Through the Eyes of Wedding Photographer Jamelle Kelly

0Share

For an inside look at the Wedding and Portrait Photographer International conference, I followed my former MFA classmate and Flagstaff, Arizona-based photographer Jamelle Kelly around the exhibition floor for a day to see exactly what matters to a professional wedding photographer, and what her thoughts are on the latest and greatest lighting, camera systems, and presentation gear.

Jamelle Kelly has been a wedding photographer for 16 years and is a regular at the WPPI conference and trade show in Las Vegas. When she first started attending WPPI years ago, she found it to be both overwhelming and exciting. “There was so much I didn’t know existed,” she says. Fast forward a few years and the explosion of photo-centric Internet blogs and review sites, social media groups, and web-based content from manufacturers and vendors means that, unless you are off the grid, most of the products and services on display at WPPI aren’t making their first appearance for attendees.

However, the one thing that you can do at the WPPI conference (or at the B&H Photo Video SuperStore, for that matter), is to get your hands on the latest and greatest offerings from myriad vendors and service providers.

Lights

Attention all lighting companies! Kelly is in the market for some new lights. She is leaning toward battery-powered studio strobes such as the amazingly compact and capable 250Ws Profoto B10 OCF Flash Head. I dragged her to the B&H Photo Video booth on the tradeshow floor to introduce her to Profoto’s Cliff Hausner and the B10 lights, but what ended up catching her eye was the Profoto A1 AirTTL camera-mounted studio light. Hausner demonstrated both lights for Kelly and gave her some things to think about for both options.

Kelly spent some time looking at the MagMod light modifiers—especially ones used for standard speedlights. The MagMod system is magnetically based—hence the name—and slick. A rare-Earth magnet-infused silicone sleeve slides over your existing speedlight flash head and accessories simply stick on with enough force to make them secure, but not enough to make them impossible to remove or swap out quickly. In fact, it was the magnetic accessories for the Profoto A1 that Kelly found intriguing.

Nikon Mirrorless

WPPI was Kelly’s first hands-on experience with the new Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera and the new Z-series lenses. She has been a long-time Nikon shooter, but is not sure she wants or needs to make the leap to mirrorless. After several minutes with one of the Nikon reps, Kelly was certainly impressed with the tech behind the Z7, but not completely enamored with its ergonomics. As a former DSLR shooter who transitioned to mirrorless, I know the benefits of having a chunky grip filling the hand (the Nikon’s grip is substantial compared to my Fujifilm X-T3), but I also know the benefits of a smaller and lighter kit.

Bring on Loupedeck

Recently, Kelly left the world of Mac for a PC, but, along with this transition, she had to abandon her Motibodo interface with Adobe Lightroom. Because of this, she was excited to check out the Loupedeck + Photo & Video Editing Console. For those photographers doing high-speed editing on a lot of images, setting the mouse aside for knobs and wheels is a surefire way to save time. Kelly has noticed that, without her old Motibodo interface, her editing has started to take a lot more time.

The Loupedeck is basically a dedicated small keyboard-sized interface that allows you to reposition sliders in Lightroom with knobs as opposed to with a click-and-drag with a mouse. The Loupedeck controls feel great and I am tempted to grab one even though I do not spend a lot of time editing my images compared to a wedding shooter sifting through thousands of images per week.

Backpack

Kelly has seen a steep increase in what she calls “Intimate Clients”—those looking for engagement photos or off-the-beaten-path adventure weddings. Living near Sedona, AZ, she sees many couples looking to take advantage of the beautiful natural surroundings in her area, and she is thinking about ditching the shoulder bag for a dedicated camera backpack to bring the gear she needs on these hikes into the mountains.

Kelly was drawn to the Think Tank display, with the combination urban packs from Think Tank and the outdoorsy-looking bags from MindShift such as the MindShift Gear BackLight 18L Backpack.

Face to Face

Kelly uses the opportunities at WPPI to meet face-to-face with vendors and establish/re-establish contacts. She finds value in creating these personal connections and the tradeshow gives her the opportunity to spend the day connecting with people she might only know via email or as a voice on the telephone.

Professional Services

Another benefit of the WPPI show for Kelly was the opportunity to drop her camera off at Nikon Professional Services for a factory-certified cleaning. At the show, I saw camera and lens cleaning services provided by Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, and others. Having your gear serviced while you walk around the show floor was a huge benefit for Kelly because she didn’t have to find a break in her schedule to mail her camera to Nikon and patiently wait for it to return.

Albums, Albums, Albums

I remember when photo albums were basically fancy three-ring binders where you placed your prints into sleeves or on sticky cardboard underneath a transparent page. Now, with digital printing, photo albums for wedding photographers delivering images to clients are a huge deal, and Kelly was eager to sample the latest and greatest albums from different vendors.

There is a whole business to the album side of wedding photography, from layout software like Fundy (Kelly’s choice) to culling and post-processing services (she does her own) to the physical albums themselves and personalized digital delivery methods like flash drives. Kelly was all about feeling the cover materials and pages, as well as seeing how the center seam was disturbing or not disturbing the images and the flow of the photo books. She said that flash-drive delivery has been OK for her, but some couples wait years before popping the thumb drive into their computer, and have found compatibility issues.

Her other recent challenge is that most of her Intimate clients are not looking for images to be delivered in expansive (and expensive) albums. Kelly is searching for a low-cost, small-footprint image solution for these clients.

Touching Prints

One of the biggest benefits for Kelly at WPPI was getting hands on, literally, with different print papers and materials. Anyone who has printed, or received a photographic print, knows that the sense of touch should not be discounted when being handed a print—the experience of handling a print is much more than visual.

Vendors must assume that their prints will be touched by inquisitive fingers, but only Hahnemühle was kind enough to put “touch here” sections on their hanging prints.

Software and Services

The business of wedding photography is more complex than we outsiders probably realize. While it is nice to think that the hiring process, contracts, and delivery of goods is as easy as hiring a baker to make the wedding cake, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. To manage the grind part of wedding photography, companies like 17 Hats and ShootQ offer business-management software for all kinds of photographers—not just the wedding and portrait crowds. Kelly uses WPPI as an opportunity to check in with these vendors, give them feedback, and keep the business relationships fresh.

Were you at WPPI? What did you see that you liked? Are you wishing you were there? Do you have questions I can pass along to Jamelle Kelly or the knowledgeable staff at B&H? Fire away in the Comments section, below!

Close

Close

Close