Education for you as a photographer is about to change, and this is how you can make the most of it
You want to grow as a photographer. You don’t accept things as they are now.
The photographer and entrepreneur you see yourself being a year from today is different than the one you are now.
You’re here on SproutingPhotographer.com because care about educating yourself as a photographer.
Never lose that passion and know that just by being here and by reading these very words, you are putting yourself in the top 10% of our industry, because you have a hunger for excellence.
Take a moment to pause; we are living in a time where creativity in photography is reaching new heights, technological advancements are opening doors that have yet to be discovered, and we are capable of creating more impact with our work than ever before. In my opinion, we are living through one of the greatest eras of photography. Today is the best time ever in our history to be a professional photographer.
Exciting, isn’t it?
We are also going through a time where we have the most opportunities available that allow us to grow as a photographer, at a faster rate than ever. Education is at an all-time high.
We are about to go through the resurgence of offline education
Online education is an incredible way to learn, and technology allows us to absorb more knowledge, quicker. That being said, I firmly believe that nothing will ever replace in-person education. In fact, I believe that we are about to enter an entirely new era of photography education; the resurgence of offline education.
This isn’t to say that online education is going anywhere, quite the contrary actually. I just believe that we will see a reawakening of offline education, and a new interest in all that in-person education can offer.
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There are 4 core principles that separate online education from offline education:
- The warmth and intimacy you feel when you’re in the room with a speaker. Seeing the speaker in-person is one thing, but feeling the mood, hearing the nuances, experiencing the impact of a dynamic presentation are all benefits that are only experienced in offline education.
- The inspiration of sitting beside and being amongst other like-minded photographers, who are all working towards the same goal as you are.
- The opportunity to meet the speaker, ask questions, and develop a deeper connection not only with the content, but with the meaning behind their message.
- The collaboration of sitting down with your friends after a great presentation and talking about the concepts, hashing out your notes and helping each other achieve greater clarity.
How to build a better appreciation for those that serve our industry
There aren’t many educational events that don’t also have an accompanying tradeshow, and this is one of the greatest reasons for in-person education, in my opinion. There are more products and supplies available to us today than ever before, from labs and albums to gear and accessories, and sometimes visiting the supplier’s website isn’t enough.
Being in-person at a tradeshow allows you to feel, touch, hold and experience what we can only see online. It’s where you can meet the people behind the products, ask questions, give suggestions, and develop a deeper appreciation for what's involved.
The (hidden) best part of being at an in-person educational event
One of the greatest benefits of in-person education is hidden on the surface, and many photographers forget all about it: networking.
We are photographers. Most of us photograph people for a living, and as such, we must be able to connect with our clients, quickly build a relationship with them and develop a deep trust. No matter how great your photography is, you will never survive as a wedding or portrait photographer if you are not likeable and friendly.
Networking at in-person education events is the perfect place to practice and refine your people skills. You are around tens, hundreds or even thousands of your peers, all there for the same reason and with the same passion. You instantly have common ground with every single person that you see. What a great excuse to start a conversation!
On top of being able to refine your skills as a people person, the relationships and opportunities that will come from networking with other photographers cannot be explained in a 1500 word blog post; the benefits are countless.
How to make the most of an offline educational event
Here are my 7 tips for making the most out of any educational event:
- Pick your events in advance, and budget for them.
- Book travel and accommodations far in advance to get the best deal.
- Prepare your business for your time away. Read my “planning for a vacation” article.
- Research the workshop ahead of time. Make a plan for what you want to see and do.
- Start to connect on social media ahead of time. Connect with the speakers, the sponsors and other attendees beforehand so that once you arrive at the workshop in-person, you’ve already built some connections.
- Everyone has to eat three meals a day, so don’t eat alone! Schedule “meetings” with other with other attendees, sponsors and speakers for your breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Use this as an opportunity to network more intimately.
- Leave space in your schedule when you get back to de-compress, process and implement. I suggest having a clear schedule for at least 3 days for nothing but planning, processing and following-up.
One small “old-school” technique to guarantee success
Bring a physical small memo pad with you to the workshop. After every meeting, conversation or class, write down the person(s) that you spoke with, what you talked about, their contact info and what kind of follow-up you’d like to do. This way at the end of the event, you don’t forget who you met with, and you have context for a follow-up.
The three types of educational events, and how to choose
As I said earlier, there are many educational events to choose from, and they can all be boiled down to three main “types” of offline events:
- Convention – Larger event usually lasting 4–6 days. There are typically dozens of shorter (1–3 hour) classes to choose from, as well as other educational opportunities, such as image critiques, portfolio reviews, advanced hands-on workshops, and so on. Conventions are where you’ll typically find the biggest tradeshows. There are usually anywhere from 10–20,000 photographers in attendance at the big conventions.
- Conference – Similar to a convention, only a bit smaller, typically lasting 2–4 days. These are usually more like a few thousand photographers, but still with several classes to choose from and a good size tradeshow.
- Workshop or Seminar – These are usually independently planned events by a photographer or smaller group of photographers. These are more intimate and focused, where you’ll be learning from one photographer for a longer period of time, sometimes 2–3 days, but more typically at least a full 8-hour day.
My suggestion would be to plan for at least one convention or conference each year, as well as at least one workshop or seminar. Planning your education this way allows you to stay on the “pulse” of the industry and enjoy variety at the convention/conference, but also experience a more intensive, intimate, immersive workshop that is geared very specifically to one thing you want to learn.
7 Conferences and Conventions you should consider
Here are the 7 main conventions and conferences in North America that I'd suggest considering:
- Mystic Seminars in Portland, OR
- Shutterfest in St. Louis, MO
- WPPI in Las Vegas, NV
- Photo Plus Expo in NewYork City, NY
- Imaging USA in Nashville, TN
- Inspire Photo Retreats in Portland, MN
- Canada Photo Convention in Vancouver, BC
PhotoPlus Expo 2015: A quick re-cap
Rob just published a really great re-cap article about our experience this past week at PhotoPlus Expo in New York, and so I won't get too detailed here. Let's suffice to say that it was an extraordinary experience.
Over the past 6 months, I've developed a great relationship and friendship with Skip from Skip Cohen University. We've shared lunches together, many (many many) long phone conversations, countless emails, and this past week at Photo Plus Expo, we got to hang out the entire time together. Rob and I actually stayed with Skip at the Hyatt Grand Central, and so not only did we get to walk the tradeshow floor with Skip (which was like walking around with the Mayor), but we also got to relax, de-compress, and share stories with Skip in a much more casual environment.
I told Skip this in-person, and I'll say it again here publicly – he is one of the kindest and most generous souls that our industry has and ever will have. It's no wonder that he is so well-loved in our industry and that everyone greets him with a hug. I always knew this, but spending 4 days with him and seeing him interact with all the people he's built relationships with over the years really cemented it.
Ok – enough of a love fest for Skip, because I could literally go on forever. Let's just say that you'll be seeing much more of us as we go forward, we have lots that we're working on and can't wait to share more!
At PhotoPlus Expo, I had the opportunity to meet with, talk with, share food with, and enjoy a beverage or three with, many amazing people, and if I even tried to list them here, I'd probably run out of space! Instead, let me just say “thank you” to everyone that I met, and that I am looking forward to seeing you all again soon!
Where you can find me speaking in 2015
Back to the topic of offline education. You know where you can find me (hint: you're here!) for online education, but where will you find me for in-person education? Well, aside from speaking locally at PPOC events (and in the past at Henry's, Fuji and Vistek), I'm also speaking at three conventions/conferences in 2015, and I'd like to formally make that announcement right here and now:
- Inspire Photo Retreats in Portland, MN from February 9th – 11th, 2015
- WPPI 2015 in Last Vegas, NV from March 2nd – 4th, 2015
- Shutterfest 2015 in St. Louis, MO from April 6th – 9th, 2015
And who knows … that may not be all! Who knows what else will pop up between now and 2015!
Do you want to spend more time in your creative zone?
This wrap-up is a “tease” for what's to come. I am so excited to share it with you very shortly!
Let's set the context first … as a professional photographer, it’s generally accepted that 80% of your work is business, and only 20% of your work is creative.
But – what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if you could spend more time on the creative side of the equation? What if you could flip the split? What if you could go back to your roots, when photography was just a passion, and take back your 80%?
We’re launching a free program very soon that is designed to help you take back your 80, and we can’t wait to share it with you! Check back here in a few days!