News + Features

The Portrait Masters Conference: Main Stage Presenters & More

August 18, 2022

By Abbey Pleviak

After two years of pandemic restrictions and delays, The Portrait Masters Conference will be reconvening at The Arizona Grand Resort on Sunday, Sept. 11 to Wednesday, Sept. 14. The conference, under the direct planning and guidance of educator and photographer Sue Bryce, is chock-full of educational and business opportunities for portrait photographers of all genres.

Sue Bryce at The Portrait Masters Conference
© Sue Bryce

Every day, conference-goers have their choice of activities, ranging from a curated trade show with exclusive deals, a product demo stage, and 20+ shooting bays (including a rain booth) styled by Sue Bryce, where photographers can build their portfolios with expert advice. And, every morning, Conference goers have the opportunity to attend two main stage events.

[Read: Sue Bryce Education: New Name, Membership Features, Courses and More]

Says Bryce, “Every year, I try to do two things at the Portrait Masters Conference: I try to make my stage presentation better than it was the year before, and I choose speakers who are going to bring more than your ‘average stand-and-deliver-a-talk-about-myself-for-90-minutes’ keynote. I always try to visualize what it’s like for the attendee—how they want to connect and have this in-person experience. I choose speakers that bring education, inspiration, and entertainment because this is the beauty of being at a show.”

The Portrait Masters Conference on stage demo,
© Sue Bryce

Here, we get the inside story from several photo industry leaders on what they have planned for their time on the main stage at The Portrait Masters Conference.

Sue Bryce: Contemporary Glamour

Sue Bryce, the powerhouse behind The Portrait System and The Portrait Masters Conference, was born and raised in New Zealand, where she first picked up a camera, learned the ways of the darkroom, and had her first experiences in portrait photography and sales. Bryce then immigrated to Australia, where she opened her own portrait business, creating the Contemporary Glamour genre, and cracking the code on making big sales. In 2009, Bryce attended her first WPPI Conference, and the very next year, she was up on stage delivering her first keynote talk and launching her career as an educator in portrait photography and portrait sales. Bryce relocated to the States, and in 2015, she and her team debuted Sue Bryce Education (now The Portrait System and owned by Emerald, which is also the parent company of Rangefinder). In 2016, Bryce introduced the first annual Portrait Masters Conference. She now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where this year’s conference will be held.

[Read: Portrait Master Sue Bryce Dispels Fears of Building a Photo Brand]

This year, Bryce’s presentation will be a Live Shoot Portrait Interview. Bryce says, “I’m going to interview a phenomenal human being as I am photographing their portrait. The subject is secret for now because it’s their story and their message, and how they will be photographed is very unique to them.” Bryce says interviewing a person live during a portrait session is something she’s always wanted to do. The audience will get to experience the emotional journey of the subject in a powerful way as the images are projected right off the tether unedited as the story unfolds.

Dancers in the desert, by Kara Marie Trombetta.
© Kara Marie

Kara Marie Trombetta: Boudoir

Kara Marie Trombetta is a boudoir photographer who has helped transform the genre into the empowerment movement it is today. Trombetta’s mission is to spread the “epidemic” of confident women through her work. Her signature black-and-white photographs honor the power and beauty of the feminine form, helping women discover and celebrate their confidence. Trombetta has been a force in the photography industry for the last 15 years. Her Boudoir Series has educated countless photographers in the art and business of boudoir photography, and she will be releasing a sequel to the series later this year. This will be her second time speaking on The Portrait Masters Conference stage. Trombetta is based in Como, Italy, with a second studio in Austin, Texas.

Trombetta says, “I’ll be trading in my slide-clicker and podium for a theatrical, performance-art-style demonstration. Without giving too much away, I can say that the main objective of my presentation is to demonstrate that boudoir-style photography has about as many different interpretations as there are boudoir photographers; it is not one-size-fits all. . . My demonstration will encourage photographers to think differently and will help them define what their own unique sub-niche can look like.“ Trombetta aims for her presentation to inspire photographers to experiment with all the possibilities in the popular, lucrative, and impactful niche that is boudoir photography.

Portrait of Black woman by Leslie Andrews.
© Leslie Andrews

Leslie Andrews: Fashion & Beauty

Leslie Andrews has been in the portrait photography business for the last 20 years. She specializes in fashion and beauty photography, having graced the covers of magazines and billboards, and also has a profitable niche from bringing her high-fashion aesthetic into her portraits and rebranding sessions for entrepreneurs. Additionally, Andrews and her husband run an events company. Andrews also is running multiple portrait campaigns for Musicians of Color, Women Over 40, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). She is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Andrews’ presentation will be called “One Light Magic,” and in it, she will be teaching multiple one-light setups. Andrews says, “You can achieve so much with just one light in the studio. When I began my career, most of my setups only consisted of one light, and even today many of my favorite images are created with just one light. Using just one light with various modifiers, reflectors, and simple accessories can give you a portfolio of stunning images from beautiful, soft light images to moody and dramatic portraits. One of the best parts about using just one light is that it helps you learn to tap into your creativity and gain the most of your equipment!” In addition to sharing beautiful lighting setups, Andrews will also tell the story of her career and how she came to run not one, but two, successful portrait studios.

Image of woman against colored wall by Chris Orwig.
© Chris Orwig

Chris Orwig: Lifestyle

Chris Orwig is a Santa Barbara, California, portrait photographer well-known for his authentic, down-to-earth portraits, including a series on legendary surfers. He has written five-bestselling books, including his latest, Authentic Portraits: Searching for Soul, Significance, and Depth. Orwig also teaches at Brooks Institute for Photography and has many online courses on photography and editing, including his Lightroom and Photoshop Bundles in The Portrait Masters Store.

[Read: How to Combine Passion with Market Need to Guide Your Photo Career]

Orwig’s mainstage presentation will be on the power of portraiture, how it changed his life, and how to tap into the wisdom and healing that can be generated in portrait sessions. Orwig says, “The Portrait Masters is one of the most unique and powerful conferences in the world. The combination of insight, inspiration, and wisdom is like nothing else. And the community is made up of so many like-minded, talented, and wonderful people. All this together makes it one of the best of the best! I can’t wait!!!”

Even More Presenters at The Portrait Masters Conference

The main stage will also be graced by globe-trotting professionals such as wedding photographer Dan O’Day who is known for his storytelling style in his destination wedding photography. While no information has yet been released on O’Day’s presentation, sources say it might include a clown.

A wedding image by TPM speaker Dan O'Day.
© Dan O’Day

Business and life coach Tabatha Coffey will be making a return appearance to the Conference main stage. She is certain to bring the common-sense flair and inspiration that has made her a well-known tv personality.

[Read: Creative Portrait Photography: Jason Vinson on Making The Ordinary Look Epic]

Last but not least, there will be a three-way shootout competition with Northwest Arkansas wedding photographer Jason Vinson, who is know for the epic scope of his images, retoucher and educator Pratik Naik, who’s attention to perfection also extends to his photography, and Tokyo-based photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, known for his cinematic lighting and diverse clients including major companies and magazines and celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson and Martha Stewart.

Sue Bryce on stage at The Portrait Masters Conference
© Sue Bryce

More Portrait Masters Conference!

In addition to hearing speakers on the main stage, there will also be opportunities to hobnob with these speakers and other industry professionals at multiple networking events and parties. Photographer Matt Stagliano says, “This is a conference like no other with the most incredibly supportive community.” He advises photographers to, “Relax and soak up the energy. Stay present in every moment. Enjoy the fact that you get to experience it all.” Stagliano says the way to get the most out of the conference is to get clear on your goals ahead of time. He says, “Want to try new gear? Make the list of vendors you want to visit. Want to work on posing? Ask mentors for tips. Want to meet your favorite instructor? Introduce yourself but stay conscious of their time and space and who they are with. A quick hello without being overbearing is usually best. Want business advice? Find other photographers in your niche or genre who are successful and have one or two questions ready for them!”

The Portrait Masters Conference pool party.
Pool party! © The Portrait Masters

The Portrait Masters Conference is four days that are full to the brim with opportunities for photographers to network, try new gear, build their portfolios, learn valuable advice about personal, craft, and business growth, and have a great time. Photographers who are looking to level up their portrait skills and business abilities will enter an immersive, like-minded community experience with others who are driven to succeed and help each other along the way.

For more tips from Matt Stagliano and other TPM photographers on how to make the most out of your time at The Portrait Masters Conference, especially at the shooting bays, click here.

Find out more about this year’s Portrait Masters Conference and purchase tickets here. To redeem a $200 discount just for Rangefinder readers use the code: RFTPM2022.