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5 Tips to Getting the Most out of a Photography Conference

One of the best ways to rapidly improve your photography skills and broaden your photographic community is to attend a photography conference. But, if you’ve never been to a conference before, just the idea of going can be intimidating. The rewards are great though, so read on for five tips that will help you select the right photography conference for your needs plus get the absolute most out of it once you get there.

Tip #1: Know your goals

Before you plunk down your deposit, evaluate your own specific goals for attending the photography conference. First, think about what you want to learn when you are at the conference. Obviously, if you’re a wildlife photographer and the conference focuses solely on street photography, it’s probably not right for you. But, if the conference offers many different learning options, you’ll need to do some investigating before you decide whether or not to attend.

tart by checking out the bios and websites of the instructors. Ask yourself if they are making images that inspire you. Do their images look like the images that you aspire to make yourself? Read their blogs and watch their videos too to get a good idea of whether their teaching style suits your learning style. If you find a few instructors that are simpatico, check out their courses at the conference.

Tip #2: Networking

A huge reason to go to a photography conference is to expand your photography community. One thing I really love is that I can connect with people I’ve only ever met online. Meeting “live” at a conference is almost like a reunion. Of course, you can make new friends too, plus you can meet expert instructors in person.

Big conferences versus small ones

When you’re evaluating a conference, if networking is a big part of why you’re attending, definitely reach out to past conference attendees to gauge their experiences. At a 12,000-person conference like AdobeMax, it’s not as easy to hob knob and make new friends.

At a smaller, 400-person conference like Out of Chicago, making new friends is a snap. You’ll be in the same courses with the same people over and over. You’ll probably be best friends and be planning a photography trip together before the weekend even ends.

Tip #3: Take advantage of every opportunity

In addition to seminars and hands-on courses, most photography conferences offer opening and closing keynote speeches. Big-name photographers or well-known industry experts usually give these talks. You might think of these things as “free” – just regular stuff included in your conference that everyone gets – but don’t  think that way.

Often the keynote speeches are the best parts of the conference. The opening keynote sets the stage for the week and lays out all of your opportunities for learning. The closing keynote caps the week with a review of what you did learn, and a reminder to go out and practice it.

Tip #4: Conference bonuses

There will almost always be a party and often that party will include free food, drinks, and entertainment so go! It’s a bonus. Don’t skip it. Remember, if you’re goal is to network, the party is where you’ll meet fellow photographers and instructors.

Bring your camera

That party – and probably a good bit of the conference – will be a blast to photograph so bring your camera. A lot of people won’t. Some people will bring them, but will never take them out of their camera bags. You, on the other hand, should keep your camera in hand and happily shoot away.

Even if you’re a wildlife photographer, and the images won’t go into your portfolio, making images of the conference will help you solidify everything you’ve learned over the course of the weekend.

Tip #5: Maximizing your trip

This is pretty much my favorite part of going to a photography conference. Most of them are only three or four days but there’s no rule that you can’t play hooky from work a bit longer. I recommend that you pick a conference near a cool destination. After the conference ends, stay in the area a few more days and put everything you learned to practice.

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

After the AdobeMax conference in Vegas this past October, I headed off on a week-long wild horse photography road trip. I drove through Nevada, all the way to Utah, meeting half a dozen friends along the way, and flew home from Salt Lake City.

No surprise that for me that maximizing the conference was about heading off to photograph wild horses! For you, it might be photographing the Vegas Strip at night, or creating panoramas of the nearby Grand Canyon.