WPPI 2017 starts in just over two weeks and with one major change from years past, a lot of people were wondering if it was still an event worth attending. Now taking place at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) versus the familiar MGM, the 2017 WPPI Conference + Expo might feel like you’ve transferred schools during senior year, but if you’re still on the fence we’re here to tell you that you should most definitely attend. We sat down with Jason Groupp (Director of Education and Membership for the Photo+ Group) to get the skinny on why you should attend, what to pay attention to, and how to get the most out of your time there.

There are lots of conferences and workshops for photographers to attend. What makes WPPI one to not miss?

“WPPI is the largest Conference + Expo for wedding and portrait photographers in the U.S. It attracts more than 13,000 attendees, offers more than one hundred seminars, workshops, and photo walks taught by world-leading photographers and educators, and includes one of the largest expos dedicated to photography in the industry.  If you wanted to attend one event that encapsulated all aspects of wedding photography and filmmaking, WPPI would be the one event to attend.

“Beyond the world-class education and expo, WPPI offers a community atmosphere that cannot be found with any other conference or expo, large or small. Attendees and instructors alike openly share their experience and wisdom throughout the show, which is why WPPI includes numerous social activities — to help promote and support the sharing of ideas and knowledge.  Outside the classroom, socializing with peers is probably the best education attendees will receive all year.”

What’s new and exciting this year?

“Since WPPI will be held at the LVCC this year, we are able to expand the size of existing programs and activities and add a number of new opportunities for attendees.  For example, keeping with the spirit of community and information sharing, we created The Photo Den; a lounge area located right on the expo floor where attendees can relax, meet up with friends, share their portfolios with instructors, and then venture out to visit all the manufacturer expo booths located just steps away.

“We are also hosting a series of keynote presentations each morning before the Expo opens. Jerry Ghionis, Sue Bryce, and Me Ra Koh are three of the biggest names in the business and their inspirational stories will spark the energy and creative juices to carry attendees throughout the new day.

“For the second time we are offering a one-day university course for attendees who are interested in entering the school and sports photography business. Organized by the Professional School & Sport Photographers International (PSPI), now a subsidiary of WPPI, the program will teach best business practices, how this arena can help grow your business, and many other aspects of this business.

“We are also working directly with Canon to create the Power of Print (POP) Pavilion located right on the expo floor.  Attendees can bring their favorite digital file to the pavilion and Canon will produce a large print at no charge. A number of speakers are scheduled to present their work at POP and speak about ways photographers can earn more income through the Power of Print.”

What part of WPPI do you wish more people would pay attention to/attend?

“There are so many important aspects to WPPI that it is hard to break it down to specific activities or events.  However, I would say there are three general areas that attendees should focus their time on, excluding the socializing element that is so important.

“Our seminars and educational tracks are probably the most important aspect of WPPI. Everyone who attends wants to either learn new skills or hone existing ones.  The question they need to ask themselves is ‘what do I want to learn or focus on during my time at WPPI.’ We offer many Master Classes and a new four-day filmmaking course. We also offer dozens of seminars and photo walks to help them master existing skills they have. The important thing is to decide what they want to learn, review our extensive curriculum, and go for it.

“Another part of WPPI I think attendees sometimes forget about or take for granted is our annual Live Print, Album, and Filmmaking competition judging.  This is a unique opportunity to see beautiful images creatively critiqued and discussed amongst a panel of industry judges.  It is one of the most educational experiences you will ever receive.  The ability to hear renowned industry leaders discuss what makes an image good or what would make it better, is an invaluable lesson that can applied to their own work.

“The third aspect of WPPI I feel is important to attendees to experience is the expo itself.  There will be more than 200 industry manufacturers demonstrating the newest and most innovative products and services in our business and it’s all under one roof.  Cameras, lenses, accessories, software, and hundreds of new ideas to increase your service offerings to clients are all available in one place. And, when you get tired and need to get off your feet for a few minutes, you can spark up a conversation at The Photo Den right there on the show floor.”

Who’s a new speaker to be sure to hear?

“This year we have more than 30 photographers and educators making their speaking debut at WPPI and it would be virtually impossible for me to narrow it down to just one speaker you need to hear.  However, I can try to narrow it down to a small handful of folks whose topics and backgrounds are as unique and diverse as the conference itself.

“Tomayia Colvin, Selena Rollason, David Bastianoni, Vicky Papas Vergara, Salvatore Dimino, and Dan O’Day all bring their unique brand of learning, inspiration and knowledge to WPPI. 

“Anyone currently working in school portraits, or interested in learning to break into this area, should definitely add Tomayia Colvin’s class, Creating Stunning Senior Images Your Clients Will Love, to their list of must-see at WPPI.

“Selena Rollason explores how to capture meaningful images during one of the most personal and intimate moments in a couple’s life with her seminar, The Art of Birth Photography.

“David Bastiaoni will present a Master Class dedicated to the art of creating an award-winning album.

“Vicky Papas Vergara shares how she is literally redefining art and photography for her clients and how they simply can’t get enough of her unique and creative approach to the traditional portrait.

“If you’re just starting out or trying to find your own style of shooting, the presentation by Salvatore Dimino should not be missed.  Sal will discuss the reasons behind changes he’s made in his photography, and where photographers can find inspiration to develop their own creative direction.

“Dan O’Day will show attendees how they can use basic “common sense” to make big changes in their business at a very small cost.”

It’s my first time attending WPPI and I’m coming to Vegas alone. Where’s a good place to start?

“Assuming that you will be arriving on February 6th in time for the opening of the expo on February 7th, I would highly recommend attending our annual Launch Pad event on February 6th from 4:00-6:00 p.m.  Launch Pad is a product preview event where numerous exhibitors showcase their latest products and services before the show opens. The event is in a casual setting and gives attendees an opportunity to see some of the cool new technology before the expo officially opens.  It is a great way to get a head start on touring the exhibits and maximizing your time at the Conference + Expo. Adult beverages will be available and it is a great way to network with your peers in a social environment.”

It’s my 10th time to attend WPPI and I’m meeting up with all my old friends. What’s something new to do?

“If you’re connecting with a bunch of friends, you may want to consider registering to participate in one of our many photo walks as a group.  It would be a great team activity, provide a great way to spend some quality time together as photographers, and also learn something new from one the world class educators hosting our extensive list of photo walks.

“You may also want to participate in our 2nd annual Fun Run to benefit Beautiful Together, a charity founded by Tamara and Steve Lackey.  The Fun Run is approximately 4 miles and the course takes you down the Vegas Strip and will stop at the Bellagio Hotel for a team photo; definitely something you can look back on with fond memories.

“And, of course, there are the parties and lounges throughout the show.  The F-Stop Lounge is a great place to unwind with friends after the show.  The lounge will be located inside the Westgate Hotel, the host hotel for WPPI.  There will be a DJ, cash bar, charging stations, and lots of laughs.”

What’s a good strategy to get the most out of the expo floor?

“As I mentioned earlier, attending our annual Launch Pad event is the best way to ensure you get to see everything on the show floor. Checking off a number of exhibitors on your list before the show even opens is a great strategy for ensuring you have enough time to see everyone.

“I would also recommend taking full advantage of The Photo Den, a large lounge situated right on the show floor.  It is a great place to rest your feet, take a break from the crowds, and schedule meetings with friends and peers to discuss photography, or anything else, without having to leave the show floor.  This will help maximize your time at the expo and even allow time for other activities you are trying to squeeze into your busy schedule while in Vegas.”

Who’s one person I never thought to network with that I should be talking to?

“The person sitting or standing right next to you. Seriously, we’re a friendly bunch! Whether you’re sitting in a seminar room, hanging out in one of our lounges, or in the show floor theater, you should reach out and say, “Hi my name is (insert your name here). What’s yours?” I’ve met some of my best friends that way and we are all here to network. Be brave, you wont regret it!”

Where should I stay?

“As I mentioned, WPPI headquarters for this year’s show will be at the Westgate hotel, which is located just off the convention center property.  Most after-show activities will take place at the Westgate and getting to and from the convention center is very convenient by foot.

“However, WPPI has negotiated special rates for attendees at other Las Vegas hotels, which are equally convenient to most activities throughout the day and evening.”

What’s the must attend social event?

“We just added a two-hour concert on Tuesday night at the Westgate Hotel! Right after the F-Stop Lounge closes, Songfreedom and Fyrfly will host a two-hour concert right next door to the lounge! The concert is open to all!

“To see more information on WPPI 2017, including how to register and hotel information, head over to the website.”