At the end of February we travelled to Las Vegas as instructors at WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) Conference and Expo. It kicked off with a bang this year with 10,000+ attendees pouring through the doors, in what is the largest annual expo of its kind for professional wedding and portrait photographers and film makers.
Held in Las Vegas, the week-long event offers photographers and film makers, both professional and aspiring, to experience educational seminars, classes and photowalks along with a major industry trade show. It goes without saying that part of the draw is also the huge networking opportunities that it brings, along with the prestigious print competition and awards ceremony.
The trade show and classes were held at the Mandalay Bay hotel Convention Centre this year with many of the instructors (ourselves included) staying at the neighbouring Luxor hotel. The annual print competition judging, held at the Excalibur hotel, was carried out under the scrupulous eyes of some of the industries leading photographers.
It was with a great sense of honour at being selected as first time speakers to WPPI, that we arrive to the glittering lights of Vegas at night. After a long flight, we wheeled our bags from the taxi through the doors into the expansive lobby of the Luxor hotel. Vegas hotels are not your average hotels, they are portals into different worlds!
Once inside the 30-story pyramid resort, we checked in and by luck bumped into a friendly bell-hop by the name of Greg Moment (aka one amazing photographer!) who helped us with our bags to the room before joining us at the bar for a welcome nightcap, where we met up with a handful of fellow photographers. A great start to what turned into a fantastic, action packed 4 days.
WPPI is a great opportunity for photographers and film makers to learn and leave inspired with a whole smorgasbord of workshops and masterclasses to pick from. You could spend a week in the trade show alone, such is its scale. The wide array of accessories and live demonstrations designed to wow and dazzle, have attendees tempted to stock up on kit they maybe never knew they needed until they passed through the trade show doors.
We packed so much into the 4 days we were in Vegas and it felt like our feet never really hit the ground. It really was a feast for the eyes and the imagination and given the tight schedule, there was no real time for relaxation as we had so much to fit into the time we had. Having spent the Sunday exploring the Vegas strip we changed into our glad rags for the unmissable WPPI welcome party. Held at Light nightclub at Mandalay Bay, the two hour sold out event sponsored by Canon was a packed, pulsing, laser light spectacle. The music had everyone shaking their booties and showing their best shapes on the dance floor probably helped by the generous free bar laid on for the enthusiastic party goers!
On Monday we got a little time out to do a photoshoot for the blog and in collaboration with activewear brand Asquith London and then scoped out the trade show where we were able to pick up kit for our class the next day. After meeting up for drinks with other photographers in the evening it was time for an early night before our early start the next morning.
On Tuesday morning we were up as the sun peaked over the mountains to get organised for our 8 a.m. six hour class. A two hour talk on ‘Six Steps to Amazing Wedding and Location Portraits’ followed by a four hour photowalk. We arrived to set up at 7.30 a.m. to find one eager attendee already placed in the front row, so I gave him a muffin as a brownie point for enthusiasm! The class kicked off a little after 8 a.m. as we waited a few minutes for the last of our intimate group to take their seats. We talked our way through the all important six steps: lighting, location, pose/direction, composition, expression and post-production, accompanied by visual demonstrations on our slideshow.
The photowalk followed and we stayed close to the hotel for the walk and with a drop in temperature and light rain meaning we were all feeling the cold, we ventured back inside to demonstrate some indoor portraits and to give our photographers a chance to get their own images under their belt.
When at WPPI and when in Vegas there’s always a party somewhere and Tuesday night was no exception. After a much needed two hour rest in the hotel room, we attended a little exclusive event held by Phottix and The Mac Group, giving ambassadors and associates alike from across the globe to finally meet and get to know each other.
Another early start on the Wednesday morning to instruct an 8.30 a.m. sold out photowalk which was larger than normal as we were asked to accommodate a few more keen photographers to attend. We were grateful of warmer sunshine that day and headed to the waterfalls and archways of the Mandalay Bay entrance where we were blessed with golden light and deep blue skies. It was a great class and we enjoyed watching some of our photographers getting creative with their photography skills as our patient models held their poses with true professionalism.
I am pleased to say we got some great feedback from both classes, with one in particular from our plus class saying it had been a ‘game changer’ and another saying the mornings photowalk had been the best class they’d been to WPPI! So needless to say, we ended on a high.
Of course a trip to Vegas would not be complete without a cab ride down to the iconic Vegas sign and what a stroke of luck that as I stood for a quick snap, Elvis himself appeared and without prompting swept me off my feet and up into his arms for a photo simply because he liked my ‘We Are The Art’ t-shirt! Now that’s what I call a perfect ending to a great trip…
Take a peak at my short video diary of our trip!