The official convention season for professional photographers is about to kick off in January. I've already written a lot about getting the most out of a trade show or convention, including my article in this month's issue of Shutter Magazine. (If you're not already a subscriber, just click on the banner to the right to connect to the Shutter Magazine subscription page and find out more.
One area I didn't spend a lot of time on in my article was paying attention to which speakers/programs you need to attend.
From my perspective, there are three key reasons to attend any photographic convention. First is networking, meeting and talking with other photographers as well as the staff of the manufacturers/vendors whose products you use. This is critical to having an effective support team. Anybody can collect business cards. However, not everybody builds relationships, and that's your goal at every convention. Second is building your skill set and education. Third is staying on top of technology and the most current trends.
For this post, I just want to concentrate on your skill set. Since you already know what you do well, then spread out your time to attend workshops/programs beyond your skills. Step out of your comfort zone. Attend programs that seem like they're miles away from the direct focus of your business.
Here's a prime example, let's assume you're a wedding photographer. You love it, and you're quite good at capturing the emotion of a wedding. However, you hate children's photography. Attending a convention and a program by Lori Nordstrom, for example, will give you new ideas on lighting, posing, composition and even sales. Lori is one of the finest instructors in the industry. While her passion is babies and children, her skill set is focused on exceeding client expectations. I can guarantee a wedding photographer will pick up new ideas on marketing and selling, just by spending some time with Lori. Plus, couples get married and most eventually start families. Why wouldn't you want to be skilled enough to meet their needs later on when the first child is born?
Here's another example, wedding photographers need to attend workshops on tabletop commercial photography and macro. Why? Because at every wedding many of you are struggling with ring shots, scene-setter table shots, flower and cake shots. A tabletop or macro class will give you ideas on how to expand your skill set to be stronger in capturing the details of a wedding.
And, let's not forget all you "natural light" specialists. Look, we all love natural light, but for most of you the passion for natural light is directly related to your fear of working with studio lighting or simply not taking the time to understand it! Take a lighting course at the next convention. Learn how to light your subjects no matter what time of day it is or under any conditions.
We all have our favorite speakers at every convention, but time is your most valuable commodity. So in 2016, get the most out of the time you're away. Along with your favorite topics and presentations, throw in a few that just don't seem to make sense. Work to make your skill set as well-rounded as possible.
Competition is tough these days, and there's very little room for one trick ponies. Keep working to be the very best at your core business, but recognize the potential to learn new techniques outside your primary skills.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.