Imaging USA 2017 – San Antonio!
Every year I run away for a week to a photography convention called Imaging USA. It’s hosted by an organization of which I am a proud (though not loud) member; the Professional Photographer’s of America. It’s hosted in a different city each year that’s easy to get to in the off-season winter months. Recently, we’ve been to Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, and this year San Antonio. What happens at a photography convention? Think of it kind of like Comic Con for people who love making images. We all get together nerd out over new camera gear, new ideas, rehash old problems, make new friends, etc. This year was no exception. The count was estimated to be ten thousand photographers in attendance. That’s a lot of selfies. When we show up and take over a city, it seems like there’s a pop up photo shoot on every corner complete with lighting assistants dragging stands and models working in front of the camera.
So why go to Imaging USA?
For me, it’s a chance to recharge my batteries. Making a living in a creative field is hard, and being a self-employed small business owner is even harder. Each new year brings a ton of challenges that have to be worked through. Especially for photographers in the north east, just when you think you’re past the halfway point as far as the workload of the year goes, the leaves change. We work as much September to Christmas as we do in all the other months of the year combined. Mother Nature likes to separate the herd by putting on a fall leaf finale that CAN NOT be ignored. Imagine running a marathon and then discovering on mile 22 that they decided to double the course length and from here to the finish line you have to sprint. That’s what it’s like to get through “busy season” at the end of a long year of shooting. Christmas is a finish line usually worthy of a good exhausted collapse. I clean up my house, have my family over for food, open presents, and then hibernate in my Netflix cave for a solid week. On my beanbag. In my Grinch sweatpants.
After the fireworks on New Years Eve, the sun comes up and it’s game time again. Gotta train. Gotta update, innovate, motivate. The first wedding of the new year will be approaching and it’s like my super bowl. I’d wear war paint if I could. It’s the perfect time to gear up for the next season by going to Imaging USA! Photographers come from all over the United States and stay at hotels near the convention center of the hosting city. Remember that scene from Goblet of Fire when all the different schools show up for the Triwizard tournament? That’s what the first night of Imaging USA is like. You can tell all the people of the northern states apart because we show up in shorts like we’re visiting a tropical destination. (San Antonio in January was pretty much like Pittsburgh in early June. It even smelled like spring dirt.) We meet up with friends from home as well as friends we usually only get to see online! The conversations are always the same. “What did you do this year? What happened that was CRAZY? Did you see the latest *insert nerdy camera equipment reference here*?”
Once the convention officially kicks off for the first day, we all rush off to class like we’re back in college. There’s room assignments, lectures, live demonstration lessons. Big topics this year were lighting, posing, sales, albums, and what to do with a drone. Growth. This is always my big motivator. How to outdo myself from last year.
Want to know what’s really bothering all the photographers of the world? Here it is:
Why don’t people DO anything with their photos? Why does our work seem to always be condemned to the digital dungeon?
Why are people so afraid of BIG pictures?
How do we get people to stop hating themselves and see that they are all each uniquely worthy of being seen inside a frame?
How do we make enough money to pay the bills when our job is to sell a “luxury item” in these uncertain times?
And you thought it was just clicking a button. Photographers as a whole are OBSESSED with figuring out what you – our audience/our clients and our friends think. We spend lots of money to go sit in rooms together in big groups and talk through every client discussion we’ve had all year analyzing it’s nuances collectively and trying to figure out what was really going on behind the scenes. We want to know how we could have done better. Trust me, classes are mostly heavy. One I attended this year reminded me of a Martha Stewart recipe, it should have been titled “The 777 easy things you need to be doing immediately or you’re probably a big failure.” Insert laughing/tears emoji here. Classes can be heavy. Sometimes it’s just the kick in the knees you need though to push you through an obstacle. Like this blog post. (Look, Ma! I’m talking about my feelings! )
It’s not all hard work and introspection though. If classes are the motivating buzz kill of the convention, then the trade show is Christmas morning. All the big names come out and show off the best and brightest they have to offer. I get to walk the floor and spend time talking face to face to the vendors we use to make all of our prints and products when we’re back here at home. We talk about what we love, and also about changes we’d like to see in the future. They listen intently because they want to know what WE think too! It’s also a time to say thank you in person to the people whose names I don’t know and whose hard work is rarely recognized who lovingly bind the wedding albums I shipped to clients the week of Christmas. They are the same hands that packed boxes and boxes of prints tied with ribbon that were given as gifts. These are the people who take the photos we pulled out of light and love and thin air and put them physically into the world in a way that people can hold in their hands and make permanent.
Much, much love to our print lab, Millers, in Pittsburg, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri.
^^ This dog’s name is Nikon ! ^^New album covers from Millers I can’t wait to share!
Here are some cell snaps of the happenings at Imaging USA over the past couple years!
When we come back from Imaging USA, I always feel recharged and ready to take on the next year! Stay tuned in the future for some of our photos we shot in Texas throughout our trip to the hill country! Follow us on instagram at @photosbyaw for photos of cute critters and terrific travels, and at @storiesbyaw to see what’s happening with all of you, our clients!
If you’re a photographer and want to join the community, get in on the action at www.ppa.com !