From the Cubicle: WPPI 2014 Was An Explosion of the Extraordinary

by Jason Groupp

April 04, 2014

As I write this, I’m on a plane flying home from WPPI 2014 after an exhausting ten days in Vegas—I never got more than four hours of sleep a night, my feet hurt, my back hurt and my legs were sore most of the time. That said, I could not be more pleased with the way things went this year. We came together from all corners of the world to learn, celebrate and, yes, PARTY!  


All images courtesy RFWPPI

Thanks to everyone who attended. We know you have other options, and we appreciate that you choose us every year. We hope you returned home this time with a wealth of new knowledge and were inspired to take your photography and business to the next level.

Of course, we wouldn’t have a great conference without a stellar group of speakers. Our educators are the leaders in the industry and their willingness to give back each year is truly inspiring. If there was a class that really moved you or helped with something you had previously struggled with, email that speaker and let him or her know! Trust me, it will go a long way. 

To the speakers—you all came prepared and ready to not only teach in your classes, but also to spend time interacting with attendees. Whether it was in the hallways, the tradeshow floor, or at one of our parties, it was great to see all of you taking the time to help others. Thanks, you guys!

Here’s a little recap of some of the updated, revitalized programs we offered this year.

WPPI-U
This is one of my favorite programs and is designed as a jumpstart for newer photographers. Recently, we’ve added hands-on classes to the format, and it’s a great way for attendees to get some real-world, up-close experience. This new format included platform presentations as well as small breakout groups where you could choose from different studio bay demos. From lighting and posing to intimate workflow solutions, students were able to have up-close and personal attention from our teachers. We also had some great vendors on hand to answer questions and show their products (and we all know how important building relationships with 
vendors is to our businesses). 

Honors of Excellence Print,
Album and Filmmaking 
Competition
Wow, what a great start to a revitalized program. The energy and excitement this year were amazing. We had over 30 percent more entries than last year, and the work was absolutely breathtaking! During the two days of judging, people gathered to watch the competition live and enjoyed a very unique learning opportunity. Rooms were jammed, and the judges kept the excitement going despite working 12-hour days.

 

What Would Jerry Do (WWJD)  
On what used to be a quiet night for WPPI, Jerry Ghionis presented his second annual WWJD, a combination of a fun lighting and 
posing demo mixed with a dance party. 


Canon/Bay Photo Party 

The opening night party at the Hakkasan nightclub in the MGM Grand was amazing! We haven’t had a dance party like that since the days of Studio 54, and this nightclub did not disappoint. From the huge dance floor  (which was packed all night) to the lightshow to the comfy lounges, this was truly an enjoyable evening. (Check out the photo booth photos, and the slow-motion booth video at wppionline.com.)

Meet and Greet 
We had our first Members-Only party/speaker meet and greet where we gave away more than $15,000 in prizes, thanks to our sponsors. It was fun to have an evening dedicated to thanking our members, and the karaoke was fun, too. We are used to throwing parties for larger audiences, so my goal for next year is going to be making it a bit more intimate and laid-back atmosphere.

Mark Seliger Keynote

We also had our first keynote with celebrity- portrait photographer Mark Seliger (who came straight from his Vanity Fair Oscar party shoot), which included a performance by his band, Rusty Truck. Mark’s a great 
entertainer as well as a photographer, 
and his anecdotes behind photographing 
Rolling Stone covers with musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Kurt Cobain are legendary. I want to continue bringing enjoyable evenings like this to WPPI as well as introducing our audience to new inspirations outside their core networks. Mark was outstanding, and similar to our Members-Only party, I am going to work to make these kind of events a bit more intimate at future shows.

On the Tradeshow Floor
This year’s tradeshow included 80,000 net square feet with over 300 exhibitors and brands representing the best of the best from around the world. This show is unlike any other convention floor I’ve been to. Between the contests, giveaways and small talk, you get a different experience here than anywhere else. In an effort to be very transparent (as I think I have been), I was disappointed to learn about the pushy vendors outside the Marquis ballroom. I agree with all of you that they didn’t belong there. Your feedback has been duly noted.

Awards Night Ceremony
It’s the Oscars for photographers! This year, Jerry Ghionis and Roberto Valenzuela graciously served as our hosts. Their witty banter made us laugh long into the evening, and we also enjoyed some fantastic performances by Triple Scoop Music artists J’Nae and Chris Pierce. It was a packed audience for the entire evening, which ended with a teary Susan Stripling presenting our Lifetime Achievement award to one of our youngest most deserving photographers, Cliff Mautner (who is also Susan’s husband). While he is nowhere near finished with his career, we felt Cliff was our most deserving candidate as someone who has been doing this since his 20s. He’s been both a vocal advocate for helping the industry succeed through challenging times and a part of the new energy we are feeling.


MASTER CLASSES RULE

Finally, we made a strong statement (thanks to the world’s best instructors!) that our focus is on core development and fundamental education. The master classes were an exceptional hit this year—we sold out three times as many this year compared to last—sending a strong message that these small, intimate programs resonated with you. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Next year, look for us to change things up. Our industry continues to change, and we’re committed 
to moving with you. Mark your calendars—#WPPI2015 will be the week of February 26-March 5. We can’t wait!   

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