I really started this blog as a way to journal. I think that every experience that we jot down online, whether through a Facebook status or Instagram post, is a means of self preservation. When someone passes, you can look at their online life as a type of journal- a reflection on their life. As part of my “digital journey” I want to share my experience with you at the Showit United photography conference in Tempe Arizona.
I want to start off this post by saying this was my first ever conference. I have seen conferences on TV and mostly comedic parodies. I thought I would show up to motivational speakers with catch phrases offering me Kool-aid saying “you can do it!” I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find just the opposite. HOWEVER, I will also say that I am not a hugger. When I rolled in to United to find a “hug list” at the back of my name tag, I nearly vommed. Hugs aside, I found plenty of non-huggers to share whiskey-cokes and sarcastic comments with all weekend long. Dare I say, I even met some huggers that I couldn’t help but fall in love with.
Truth be told, I admire so many entrepreneurs in our field for their commitment to this profession. It doesn’t matter whether they are a well-known name shooting 40 weddings a year or a mother of three in a tiny town who has one wedding under her belt. This is a tough business and I have been met with nothing but acceptance and love by those in it.
It is hard to unpack each day, each breakout session and each meaningful conversation I had at United so I will just leave you with my top 5 list. Here are the top 5 things I valued from this year’s United:
1. Being inspired by incredible breakout sessions
I found such value in the words of inspiring men and women photographers. I learned about profitability from Amy and Jordan Demos and immediately read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover with my husband as soon as I got home as a result. I got to talk to Jenna Kutcher about authenticity on Instagram which, if you follow me, you know I can be a little too authentic haha. I really was forced to think about my ideal client by the infamous Jasmine Star and am inspired to give back through my business thanks to Ike and Tash. I have to say, my favorite speech was given by Mary Marantz. As soon as her book releases, I will be first in line to buy it. I have deemed her the Meryl Streep of photography. She is not only my style twin but we both share an insane love of Halloween. This was the first time I saw a bit of myself in another creative and I cannot tell you how much I needed to hear her commencement speech.
2. Meeting so many dope photographers that share my vision and sense of humor
Strangely enough, United felt a bit like camp. I didn’t know what to expect when mingling with other “huggers” but I met so many amazing humans it was insane. I only wish I could meet up with these homies more than once a year. Shout out to Field Denny, Ryann Lindsey, Chad DiBlasio, Ashley Burbank & Knolla, Megan Noll, Tiffany Bailey, Ty Wilson, Leigh Schrage, Angie Rushing, Ryan Shedrick, Dawn Wolff & Carly Someplace. Miss you guys! (Told you it felt like camp)
3. Becoming closer with photographers in my area
This one I did not expect. In fact, when traveling somewhere new, Ben will tell you, I like to go stag. Traveling alone allows you so many freedoms to meet new people and do what you want when you want. I did not think I would become closer to the people I actually came here with or with other Virginia photographers! Getting to chat squirrels with Natalie Jayne, catching Hope Taylor order late night, snuggling with Brett Denfeld and Ashley Mapp and taking cute portraits and having drinks with Bethanne Arthur was a weird highlight to my week. Also hearing DMV gal Natalie Franke slay at her keynote was incredible! Good thing these bitties live close by!
4. Katelyn James
If you know me, you know about my unhealthy obsession with this woman. Even my non-photographer friends know who this person is in my life. In fact, when I changed my last name, my husband asked, “Are you sure? You’ll no longer have the same initials as Katelyn James.” I would rather buy Katelyn James a Diet Coke than have a sleep over with the cast of Friends (which, hello, that would be amazing). The funny thing is, I had never met her before United. Yes, I know she is just a person with a camera. So why am I so star struck by this redheaded beauty? Well, she basically inspired the birth of Kir2ben. Although I studied photography in college, my first photo job at VH1 left me jaded and creatively broke. I thought all photography jobs led to jobs in offices that I hated. When I finally stumbled on KJ’s blog, she had written the exact same thing that was in my heart. I too felt like I couldn’t chase a dream, like I wasn’t good enough or that I would fail. Her words and free resources kick started me to launch into my passion and never look back. After shooting heaps of my own weddings, I was finally able to meet her in person. What if she wasn’t anything like I built her up to be? What if she thought I was a stage 5 clinger? What if she was too busy with her six figure business, baby on the way and key note speech to make time to meet me?
To answer all these questions: she is a goddess among women. Not only was she gracious and brilliant and kind but she also SLAYED at karaoke. I will always be a KJ fan through and through. Meeting a lifelong idol- check!
5. Styled Shoots & Cacti
I really do tend to have mixed feelings about styled shoots. Sometimes they set up unrealistic expectations for our real brides. However, these weren't just for brand building, these were actually educational. It is fun to see how other photogs operate their wedding day! Here are the 4 styled shoots I took part in including who led them and my favorite shot.
Krista & Davey Jones | Stunning Wedding Details
Major Takeaway: Bring your own "dressings"
Cassie Jones | Bride & Groom Posing
Major Takeaway: You don't have to touch your couples to get your pose across
Jess & James Sunset Lighting
Major Takeaway: To avoid lens flare, shoot with the sun behind, obstructed or out of frame
Drew & Veronica Brashler | Bridal Party Posing
Major Takeaway: Use the bridal party as a backdrop
Overall, I would say my first ever photo conference was a success. I got to learn some invaluable advice that will grow my business and create more space in my life for people I admire. I am crazy thankful that I got to go on this journey out west! Can't wait to apply all I've learned and start working on my action list.