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I Was There: WPPI U

I Was There: WPPI U

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An amazing opportunity for professional photographers

By Guest Author

October 3, 2011

Wendy Cunningham attended WPPI U in Atlanta last week. Here is her first person account, and why you should consider attending the next time it comes around.

Editor's note: Last week, WPPI U was held in Atlanta. This 2 1/2-day workshop consisted of wall-to-wall workshops with top portrait, wedding and lifestyle photographers, and was geared towards emerging photographers. The claim: “What you didn't learn in college, you'll learn at WPPI U.” In attendance was Nashville-based destination wedding photographer Wendy Cunningham. Here is her account.


WPPI U host Tamara Lackey

Last week I attended WPPI U in Atlanta with a few hundred other photographers and had the pleasure of hearing many amazing speakers who were eager to share their experiences, business and marketing advice, and resources. The lineup of speakers all shared one belief… To give back to the photography community! And that they did! I walked away from WPPI U on fire, and very eager to get home and implement some of the changes that I knew needed to happen!

I can’t tell you how amazing it is to get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in the industry. Don’t get me wrong… the huge WPPI event in Vegas is wonderful, and I will continue to go every year! But the smaller WPPI U event was very personal. I spent three days getting to know other emerging photographers, as well as some very well known people in the industry.

Speaker-by-speaker run-down

All of the speakers at WPPI U shared a wealth of information. Tamara Lackey shared a glimpse into her own home life and then spoke about balancing life and work. Finding balance seems to be something that even the most successful photographers struggle with, and Tamara shared some pretty amazing disciplines that she has implemented into her own life and business to help her keep that balance.

Suzette Allen
shared some pretty amazing Photoshop tricks, including the brilliant “content aware” feature that is available in CS5. Learning to work in layers was very helpful. I always outsource my wedding edits, but for smaller jobs I like to edit my own images.

Lindsay Adler spoke to us about implementing a fashion sense into portrait and bridal work, as well as making the most of social media for marketing your business. She shared many resources that I can refer to for inspiration in the fashion world, and how to spill that over into my photo shoots. And the social media aspect of her speech blew me away. I learned a lot about Facebook marketing and SEO for my online presence.



The very highly-anticipated speech by Jasmine Star (above) was about making changes in your business and setting goals to achieve them. She shared her story about starting out as a photographer and how it pretty much consumed her life, until one day a very dear friend of hers lost her husband and reminded Jasmine that her family was precious! So Jasmine set out to make changes to her business that would allow her to enjoy her life. There was not a dry eye in the room during Jasmine’s speech!

Tim Meyer spoke to us about lighting and posing. I learned terms that I had never even heard of such as broad lighting, short lighting, open loop, and closed loop! I have always experimented with lighting and sometimes was able to “get lucky.” But after listening to Tim, I feel like I actually know something about the technicality of lighting.

Sue Bryce blew me away! I hate to admit that I had never even heard of her, but the minute she opened her mouth to speak… I knew it was going to be good. She shared her story about starting out as a glamour photographer, and how she had to adapt to change along the way. She taught me that I am a business person first, and a photographer second. And before she was finished speaking, I wanted to schedule an appointment with her myself to have her photograph me! She seriously inspired me and put my creative mind to work.

Gene Ho had a lot to offer about creating dynamic wedding images. He shared posing, lighting, and his techniques. I love how down to earth he is, and his work is amazing!

Sal Cincotta spoke about packaging and pricing. He definitely has a different approach from anyone I’ve ever been mentored by. But what he said makes total sense, and I definitely will be making some Sal-inspired changes to my pricing structure!

I really was not prepared for the wealth of legal business information shared by Craig Heidemann. To be honest, I expected his presentation to be stuffy and boring. Wow! Was I wrong! Craig shared a wealth of information about taxes, the benefits of forming my business as an LLC, copyrights, appropriate contract verbiage, etc. Basically I learned that I have a  lot to learn!

Doug Gordon… wow! Entertainment… But also very informative. He spoke about many different things, from finding inspiration, creating and implement a plan, how to make changes, and telling a story of who our clients are with our photos. He also shared his flow posing technique, and I can’t wait to try it out!

The last speaker was Blair Phillips, who spoke about the various ways he runs his very successful business in a very small country town. His marketing ideas, posing advice, lighting techniques, and “out of the box” thinking for building props and portrait backgrounds was almost more than I could take in. Blair is a genius! And I am seriously blessed to have had the opportunity to meet him and his beautiful wife and baby.

Vendors, prizes and give-aways

There were many vendors set up in the trade show area as well. It was nice getting to see their products. The benefits of getting up close and personal with them and actually putting your hands on their albums, prints, jewelry, press printed materials, metal prints… or whatever they offer, is amazing! Not to mention that many of them gave away tons of prizes for drawings during the event!

I had originally struggled with the decision to attend WPPI U since I knew I would also be attending WPPI in Vegas. But I can honestly tell you now that taking part in the smaller WPPI U experience was worth its weight in gold. The people I met, the relationships I built, and the information I learned will be a building block in the way my life and business moves forward from here on out. If you have ever wondered if the smaller WPPI events are worth it, YES! Don’t miss out on a personalized experience that will change you forever!

Thank you so much to everyone who made WPPI U in Atlanta possible. I love where this industry is going, and that I am a part of it!


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