Every year, hundreds of photography conferences and conventions take place all over the world. Both amateur and expert photographers travel the globe to attend these educational events where they can learn new skills and connect with some of the best in their field.
With gatherings this diverse, and of such a large scale, questions inevitably arise. How do you decide whether you should even attend a conference? Does it really help? What should you bring to a conference? How will you decide whose talks or master class to attend? Attending a photography conference can be not only a great way of experiencing different kinds of photography, but an opening to approach your photography and philosophy with a fresh new outlook. You can get to hear about the inner workings of a photographer, and how they approach their craft and business. The inspiration and motivation that you gain can be game changing for your photography.
With the fast approaching SILK INSPIRE 2017 wedding photography festival, we turned to some of the biggest names in the world of photography expos for advice. We wanted to know why they believe photographers should invest in such a structured education, in a time where online resources are vast and easily available.
“You have a front row seat to experts who have done all the hard work! It is your opportunity to learn from them and interpret their work in a way that it applies to you”, says Brian Callaway, Los Angeles based destination wedding photographer who’s been teaching at conferences around the world. “Attending a photography conference is paramount to success”.
A gathering of photographers also makes for an excellent opportunity to network, make new friends and create lasting relationships. “Relationships you build will help you more than any piece of gear you can buy,” adds Zack Arias, a seasoned editorial photographer whose famous One-Light workshop is geared to help photographers get comfortable with flash photography.
“Even if you’re shy, go out there and speak to your fellow photographers and panelists. Everybody is anxious about talking to each other, but we’re all here to connect and build”, adds Frank Boutonnet, a sought after international speaker, and multi award winning wedding photographer from France.
But with so many talks and workshops at a conference, how does one decide which workshop to attend? What should your criteria or checklist be? Sephi Bergerson, the person behind SILK INSPIRE festival, has the perfect way to begin; “Ask yourself, where am I in my career? What are my strengths and weaknesses, and do I need this? Instead of attending the talks of the photographers you know, look at their work. Does it resonate with you? Look at the panel with fresh eyes.”
Jen Huang, a dedicated medium format film photographer who shoots wedding and editorial work on location all over the world, adds to that; “Go with your gut feeling when deciding which workshops to attend. The photographer should have work that speaks to you”. Jen has been named a top photographer by Martha Stewart Weddings, and has received accolades from Rangefinder Magazine and the Framed Network. “It’s always good to attend talks and workshops that you may not be familiar with” she adds “Even if the particular style may not be for you, you may learn something about their business, or how to apply certain things to your own photography. A tip, trick or technique from their experience may benefit you in a completely different manner.”
“Make a list of 5 things you want to gain from attending the entire conference, and then go about attending the relevant talks. Don’t try to do everything and get overwhelmed in the process,” offers Rocio Vega Veroa, the Spain based photographer. Rocio has been shooting for the last 17 years and specialises in destination weddings across the globe.
“I’m just one person, one voice, this is my point of view. It is not the rule. It may be good advice, but it may not be the advice you need, and that is what you have to discover” Says Jacqueline Tobin, the Editor-in-Chief of Rangefinder magazine, After Capture and WPPI, and is one of the most experienced voices in the international photography world. “While you are gaining valuable advice and information, it is important to remember that the speaker is putting across their own professional experience, and the tips and tricks that have helped them on the path to success. As an attendee, you have to be discerning and apply what you’ve learnt from them to your own photography.”
What Should You Bring – Equipment and Attitude
When attending a conference and listening to a talk, things may seem memorable, but you are bound to forget 95% of it if you don’t note it down in some way. Bring a notebook and pen, or a laptop or a recording device. Bring an open attitude. Just as you have a certain way of seeing things, so does everybody else. Discuss and debate, don’t criticize.
The best equipment to carry is that which is relevant to the workshop you’re attending. For example, Jen Huang recommends a favourite camera and lens or equipment that you may be unsure or confused about. “A lot of the times, photographers lug around a ton of equipment. Instead, put down your camera, just see and observe what’s happening.”
Sephi puts it best when he says, “If you don’t speak the language of photography, knowing how to use a flash is not going to matter.”
A Few Do’s and Dont’s
Ask questions. Don’t hesitate or be shy.
Good questions, bad questions, dumb questions, they’re all questions and you should never stop asking them. More than asking questions about equipment, the questions like ‘what were your biggest mistakes? What failures helped shape your business today?’ will really help give you better insight into a photography business.
Be respectful of other’s opinions. Don’t be forceful and critical.
Rocio advises that if you find yourself not liking something, don’t react to it. “Instead, ask yourself ‘why do I not like this?’ there is a learning there too. That particular thing is talking to you as well.”
Respect the space and time of the panelists. Don’t interrupt.
The panelists are here to help you. But don’t overwhelm them with your requests. Portfolio reviews, Q&A sessions, and other spaces are created so that you can interact with the panelists in a professional way.
Be open. Don’t expect a magic bullet.
“There is no one piece of gear or technique that will solve your problems. If you get some solid inspiration and new technical bits of knowledge then you’ve had a great conference experience,” adds Zack.
SILK INSPIRE – India’s First Wedding Photography Festival
SILK Inspire 2017 promises to broaden the scope of storytelling in India. Eight highly talented wedding photographers are arriving from across the globe to impart their knowledge, experience, observations and learning, to one of the most exciting wedding photography scenes in the world. Attendees will have a treasure trove of information coming their way. From how to become a better artist, to handling social media and branding, and from creating an identity for yourself, to the lighting, directing, equipment and styling of a shoot, and much, much more. SILK Inspire will cover a wide gamut of sessions on the art, science and the philosophy of wedding photography.
Ultimately, everybody will take away something different from attending a photography conference. At SILK Inspire 2017, some may walk away with a better technical understanding, while others may rethink their approach with clients, or take away a deeper understanding about craft and the language of photography. Either way, each person will take away inspiration and a whole lot of new friendships and connections.
You are guaranteed to walk away a better photographer!
Come join us in Goa next week. We can’t wait to see you there…
If you’ve never attended a photography conference and want to look into going, websites like Explara or Eventbrite are a great place to start your research. You can find conferences around you that event planners have registered.