27+ Tips for Going to Photography Conventions

Photography Conventions told by Christy Whitehead

On today’s blog, photographer Christy Whitehead is going to give us her tips and tricks for going to photography conventions. She’s got tons of insight on how to save time, save money, and even win some prizes!

1-First off, let’s discuss some of the biggest and best photography conventions:

Imaging USA

WPPI

Shutterfest

PhotoPlus

PhotoPro Expo

Showit United

Carolina Photo Expo

Texas school

Personally, I have been to the two largest, Imaging and WPPI. Imaging is put on by the Professional Photographer’s Association (PPA) and is usually in January every year, on the East Coast. Typically in Atlanta or Nashville, but it has happened in Orlando before. 

WPPI is in Las Vegas every year and caters to portrait and wedding photographers. This one is actually slightly larger than IMAGING. It’s usually held around Feb. every year.

How does it work?

2-Typically there are preconvention classes you can pay extra for. At least WPPI and IMAGING have it set up that way. I like to show up about two days earlier to get a feel of the city and do a little sight seeing. Once the photography convention starts, I’m usually too exhausted to do much else afterwards.

3-Once the photography convention starts there will be times for the photography convention floor to be open and times for classes. There will typically be multiple classes going in different rooms at once. I always sit down and figure out which classes I really want to go to. If I have a friend with me and we are both stuck on which class to take out of two, we’ll divide and conquer and then tell each other what we learned afterwards.

4-These conventions can be overwhelming with the number of vendors, we’re talking 100+ for the larger photography conventions. Use the first day of the trade show to quickly go through and assess the vendors. Take a map and mark the booths you want to evaluate further on the second day. Only take brochures for the vendors you are truly interested in. 

5-On the third day, look for last minute deals and display models being sold.

6-The vendors may also have some free classes right at their booth from some of your favorite photographers. So the first day you walk through, you may want to do a quick scan to find out if there are any presentations you want to see. Some vendors may also have places for you to shoot models. The last time I was at WPPI, B&H let you use whatever camera and lens you wanted and they had several models and table lay flats set up for you to play and try everything out.

Hotels

7-Each photography convention is typically tied to or next to a hotel. Convention hotels typically run $200+ a night. Staying off site is much cheaper, however, you’re likely to have to fight for a parking spot to get back. 

8-I have always gone to photography conventions with at least one photographer friend. When doing this, staying on site has worked out much better. I don’t want to miss a thing and my friend Bev always wants to sleep in. Staying on site allowed us to form our own schedules without inconveniencing the other. Plus, if one of us got worn out, bought too much stuff or just needed a break, we could easily walk back to the room without bothering the other.

What to bring

9-File Folders. At the end of the day you’ll have at least a 100 flyers. I label folders for like “Albums” “Prints,” Background companies” and that way it is all sorted and when I get home I can easily go through the stuff I picked up.

10-Address labels. Print out an old school sheet of labels with your business name, your name, phone, email and address. While most will scan your ID badge to enter you into contests, some still have old school fill in forms. 

11-Business cards. Not only can they be dropped in contest containers, but you might make some cool photog friends and you’ll need to give them your contact info quickly!

12-USB of your favorite images. Some of the vendors who have printers will offer free poster size prints. 

13-Refillable bottle and snacks. Food can be costly on site and sometimes lines can be long, be prepared with your own snacks and water bottle, just in case.

14-Phone power bank. You’re likely to be using your phone a lot. While you can usually find a free outlet along a wall, do you really want to sit and wait for an hour for your phone to charge? Here’s one that would be great to take: https://amzn.to/3nZCNOV

15-Lightweight backpack or bag to put things in while on the sales floor. This is pretty optional, as many vendors are giving away bags, but if you prefer not to carry things and just put them in a backpack, consider it.

16-Join Canon Professional Services, if you own a Canon. Canon is typically at the larger shows and they usually have techs available to you. As long as you are a member you’ll get free camera cleanings and cheap or free repairs! They usually have snacks and drinks out for free as well. And sometimes they are printing posters from their Canon printers, so bring that usb! Sorry guys, but I haven’t seen Sony or Nikon do anything like this!

17-Laptop. This is a great way to take notes at the classes but also, you might need to edit photos really quickly. For example, sometimes there are photo vignettes set up for you and if you take the best image of the day and tag the vendor on social media you might win something free.

18-A friend. Not only is it nice to have someone split the costs, but we have helped each other win things before. And there are a lot of giveaways on the convention floors!

Other Tips:

19-I would NOT advise a wagon. It gets REALLY tight in the conventions and is hard enough to maneuver as it is.

20-Most classes will allow you to take a cell phone shot or photograph of the slides in the presentation. But be prepared, some will not allow it.

21-Show up at least 2 days earlier if you can so you can check out the city that’s hosting the event. 

22-Show up to the classes early. Some classes will fill up and you might not be able to get in or get a seat. 

23-Go to the parties and bring your camera! The parties are usually themed and sometimes have over the top things going on. Not to mention, free food! The big events usually have a party on the last day that is big, so don’t go home early! When PPA has theirs in Atlanta, they often rent out the aquarium!

Saving money

24-If you are broke or need to save money, there are a couple of ways to do that. For one, split everything with a friend. Some of the conventions will give you discounts on admission if you buddy up with someone.

25-There are also usually early bird discounts for signing up early.

26-If you have no interest in the classes and just want to go for the vendors, most vendors have free passes to get into the trade show portion. Try contacting a vendor or watching their social media for announcements. If you are on their mailing list, they may email you about free passes. But I highly suggest paying for the classes.

27-Consider a hotel room with a kitchen or at least a fridge and microwave so you can fix your meals their instead of paying for food at the convention. 

Finally

And most of all, just have fun! I use conventions as a way to get away from everything for a week. It’s a good chance to bond with photographer friends, throw ideas around and get refreshed for the rest of the year. I also really like seeing all the products. And the freebies aren’t a bad perk!

Christy Whitehead is a photographer in Jacksonville, Florida. She owns Christy Whitehead Photography (www.JaxPhotographer.com) and also Cracked Egg Design (www.Crackedeggdesign.com) which is a website for photographers that provides advice, info, shirts and templates. She has an Ebook out for photographers looking to do In Person Sales, that we would highly suggest you pick up: In Person Sales E-Book for Photographers How to Work Less and | Etsy

If you need a mentor, shoot her an email!

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