by Jesse McLaughlin
Imaging 2019 is now in the books, let’s take a quick look back at Imaging. What it is, who should go, and why. And then a few tips for both those that went, and those that are thinking about it next year.
Disclaimer: This review is done by an NFL fan, a landscape photographer, and someone with a huge fear of missing out.
Imaging is an annual PPA event that occurs during the final playoff week of the NFL, (you know, the week where both AFC and NFC Championship games went into overtime). It usually rotates between Atlanta, Nashville, and San Antonio. Every year, over 10,000 of your closest photography friends converge on a huge conference center for 3-5 days of education, motivation, inspiration, parties, food, and shopping.
Education: Pre convention classes are available for the few days before Imaging, Thursday – Saturday. If you wanted to knock out your CPP training, you can take an intensive 2 day course where you learn everything you need to know in order to pass the written exam. There is even a block of time during the convention where you can take the exam. Hands on classes for lighting techniques are available if you wanted to hone your skills in a specific area; groups, seniors, wedding, pets, food, architecture, etc. Classes that focus on the business side of photography such as marketing, in person sales, pricing, branding, etc. are also available Classes can range from 2 hours to 2 days. They are relatively inexpensive and you get a discount for signing up for more than one!
The average convention day is broken up into 1.5 hour programs. The first class of the day starts at 8am, and you will have a choice of about six programs to select from. Choose wisely! You don’t want to hear all your friends talk about how great their class was.
Here are the titles of the first classes offered:
How Beyoncé Can Teach the Modern Photographer to Rule the World
How Technology Will Shape the Future of Photography
How to Win with the Next Generation of Consumers
The Four Parts of a Great Sale
Portraits of the Famous and Infamous
Children’s Portraits with Authentic Character
They do their best to have a wide assortment of topics at every session, so that something will be of interest to everyone. You have 30 min between classes where you can talk with the instructor outside, use the restroom, grab a coffee, and then find where your next class starts. This continues for three days, with 3-4 educational classes per day.
Motivation: PPA brings in some pretty big names for their Keynote speakers. Mel Robbins, Amy Purdy, Ryan Estis, and most recently, Scott Stratten. Scott’s keynote was titled, “The Age of Disruption- Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different”. Not only are these keynotes extremely entertaining, they are equally motivational. Whether they are discussing personal obstacles and setbacks, or discussing the current state of business, you leave with a sense that you can conquer anything you put you mind to. Scott’s keynote also helped set the stage for PPA’s current Focus Track – Bridging the Gap.
Inspiration: Sure, inspiration can be found in the keynotes and the many classes, but don’t forget about the International Photographic Competition Exhibit. Found inside the Trade Expo, all the printed merited and loan images from that year are on display on pipe and drape. You can walk around for hours looking at every image as close as you want. You can strike up a conversation with other attendees, or even the maker. Even if you don’t care for the image, examining the exhibition borders will be well worth your time. The digital submissions are displayed on a constant loop on several banks of monitors as well.
Parties and Food: There is an opening party Sunday night and a closing party Tuesday night. Food, live music, a dance floor, and one drink ticket are provided. You supply the rest…
Shopping: About 200 exhibitors fill a huge room for the Trade Expo. If it is photography related, you can buy it here. Backdrops, baskets, frames, paper, insurance, print shops, software, etc. If you are looking to bring albums into your sales, you can sample albums from all the biggest print labs. Pick them up, open them, lay them flat, check the binding, check paper weight and texture, ask them what makes theirs different. Local photography shops are even present, so if you need a tripod, bag, SD card, soft box… The prices aren’t amazing, but you can usually get 10%-20% off.
So, who should go? Everyone should go at least once, especially if you are a PPA member. While there are only 1-2 classes for landscape photographers, (in a good year), there are still other educational opportunities for those with an open mind. You can schedule a private critique session with a certified juror to go over your images. You can pick up tips for social media marketing. All PPA members receive a Service Merit toward their degree for attending all 3 days of Imaging. You also receive a merit for attending pre-convention classes-each class is a merit! CPP designees get the $100 recertification fee waived if they have attended imaging for the past three years. And those are just the tangible benefits.
Have a game plan – read the course descriptions ahead of time and select the ones you want to go to. They have an Imaging App for your phone and you can do all this there, it even creates a calendar for you with the room numbers! When in doubt, just go to the class that is in the largest room.
Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking. Between your hotel room, walking to opposite sides of the venue for your classes, the trade show floor, lunch, the print competition exhibit, you will put several miles a day on them.
Bring a notebook and a writing instrument that you enjoy using. You will be taking a lot of notes. A laptop really isn’t necessary. If you must, bring a tablet to take notes on. You can even use it or your cell phone to take snapshots of the screen when you get tired of writing all the info down. Just keep in mind, you will still have to transfer that knowledge to your memory somehow later.
Lots of vendors will have free offers like free albums, free prints, etc. Take advantage of them. Order up the same print or album from each vendor. That way you can compare each of them side by side at home.
Imaging 2020 will be held in Nashville, on January 19-21, 2020. Or during the AFC and NFC Championship weekend of the NFL.