Never Stop Learning {IAWP}

I made a decision last year that 2015 was going to be the "year of the conference" for me. I inherently knew that building this business was not something I could do in a vacuum. Google and I can only go so far! Networking and in person learning is hard to put a price tag on. The money invested in these resources is not easy to part with but I knew every penny would be well spent. 

I had already planned on attending WPPI, but when the opportunity came up in November to sign up to attend Amy & Jordans workshop in Arizona I made a rather quick decision to invest in attending. Both of these experiences have helped shape my business purpose and goals. Instead of floundering around online in a sea of "how to take better photos" information, I was now focused on building a strong, sustainable and successful photography business. 

In between A&J's workshop and WPPI I was made aware of an incredible opportunity. A group of photographers whom I have great amounts of respect for launched an online Academy for Wedding Photographers called The International Academy for Wedding Photographers (IAWP). Even though I have only done one wedding thusfar, wedding photography is where I want to live. 

I struggled for a bit on weather this was something I should invest in. I felt like all of this was happening at once and I didn't want to get sucked into trying to educate my self "too much" in such a short period of time. I knew that I had already invested quite a bit in the other two workshops and also my new branding project, so it took some time for me to really weigh if this was something I should do RIGHT NOW.

In the end, I decided to do it! The launch offer was such a great deal and I am coming upon a time where my business will likely slow quite a bit (when we move) and I will have lots of time to invest in educating myself and getting ready to implement all of what I have learned after we move. 

The certificate program at IAWP is a series of courses regarding all things Wedding Photography. They are video based and you can learn at your own pace. There are homework assignments as well and quizzes to make sure you are retaining the information taught. I am a part of the inaugural 2015-2016 class and I could not be more excited to be a part of what this team of instructors is trying to accomplish. Their heart for learning, teaching and pouring into the lives of others is honestly so refreshing in what can sometimes be a lonely and overly  competitive field. 

The other benefit of this online school, is that instead of investing in in-person workshops with all of these instructors, I can learn in-depth subject matter from ALL of them from the comfort of my own home. Yes, the in-person aspect of networking with other attendees is missing, but we have a facebook group and forums where we can all discuss and learn from each other. I am sure there will be opportunities in the future for some of us to meet and get to know each other and discuss our experiences with how we applied the info we learned at the IAWP! 

I've said it before and I am sure I will say it again and again in the future, but one of the best things about Photography is that there is so much to LEARN. You literally never stop learning new things and the day you think there is nothing left to learn is literally the same day your business starts to die. 

For more information about the IAWP click HERE

7 tips for your first WPPI experience!

Granted this post might have been more helpful BEFORE the gigantic WPPI conference which took place last week in Las Vegas, but since I had no perspective then, this post will just have to float around in the blogosphere and maybe it will be helpful for a first time WPPI attendee next year!! 


I am back home and rested after the whirlwind trip to Vegas that Paul and I took which started last Saturday and ended (way too soon) this Tuesday. It was four-ish days filled with excitement, learning, tired feet and networking! 

As a first timer at WPPI, I had only a slight idea of what to expect since I didn't follow too closely to the goings on last year. Now that I have experienced a lot that WPPI had to offer, I felt that my biggest takeaways from the conference might be helpful to someone attending for the first time in future years! Here are my seven tips for making your first WPPI experience better than ever! 

Plan ahead

This should be a given, but it is essential to plan out your days ahead of time. Look at maps of the property ahead of time. Check out which restaurants are within walking distance of the classes. If you are staying at a hotel that is not where the conference is being held, make sure you understand how long it will take you to get there. Know which vendors you want to visit ahead of time and plan a route through the expo. All of the preparation will really take some of the stress off of the already heightened experience of being in a new place for the first time! 

Attend with someone

Although I don't mind going places by myself, attending a conference of this size could be intensely overwhelming for someone on their own. There are over 15,000 attendees and so much learning and information being shared that not having someone to talk to about the experience DURING the experience would be super frustrating in my opinion. I was so incredibly glad that Paul was there with me for multiple reasons. 1) He's just a fun guy to be around 2) We could download after every class to expound on concepts and ideas that we had just heard, or clarify with each other things we might not have understood fully 3) Despite how many people are there, it would be so easy to feel very alone if you don't have a buddy to hang out with in between sessions or at the expo or even at meal time. 

If you have the opportunity to attend with someone who is relatively close, I highly recommend it!! 

Wear comfy shoes

If you have been to Vegas before, this should also be a given. Even if you stay at the MGM (where the conference was held this year) you are going to do some walking. A LOT of walking. Everything is just so big and spread out to handle all of the people. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet and plan shoes accordingly. 

Attend the 16x20 print judging

I can not stress this enough. MAKE time for this. I wouldn't have even known about it had I not been following Susan Striplings series on her prints that have been through the judging process in years past. The judging takes place on Saturday and Sunday and Paul and I had a little bit of time on Saturday after we arrived in town so we found the rooms where the judging was happening and we sat in for about an hour and a half. I probably could have stayed there the entire day, it was that interesting. 

The prints are displayed and the judges instantly assign a score and then the print is assigned an overall score all within a few minutes. Then one judge is asked to share their thoughts. This happens for all the prints that are entered. Just being able to see and hear what the judges say instantly is so powerful. I hope to attend many WPPI's in the future and I can tell you now that I aim to always sit in on at least some of the judging every time I attend! 

Book your room where the conference is held

I am pretty sure the conference takes place at the MGM pretty regularly and next time I will save up to stay there. Even though the MGM is pretty huge, being able to pop back up to your room in between classes etc...would be so incredibly helpful. Its also pretty centrally located with lots of good hotel options close by. It was slightly difficult to make plans to travel to the MGM every morning and get to the classes on time and then by the time we made it back to our hotel at the end of the day we were just beat. I would absolutely recommend staying closer just to get more enjoyment out of your time there. 

Don't be afraid to ask!

You WILL see people you follow online or people you have read and studied under and respect greatly. You will probably go to their classes or see them roaming in the hallways or see them at the expo. Don't be afraid to go up and talk to them. They welcome the opportunity!! I was able to meet and talk too quite a few people who I have been following online for a while and have mad respect for and they were all gracious and willing to chat a bit and take a picture. Take the opportunity to say hi and that you appreciate them and tell them what their work/blog/teaching has meant to you. You would want the same if it were you right? Do it!!

Me and Katelyn James

Me and Katelyn James

Paul and I with Jordan and Amy Demos

Paul and I with Jordan and Amy Demos

Zach and Jody

Zach and Jody

Bring business cards!!!

There are SO MANY giveaways and drawings that take place at the classes and at the expo. Have your business card handy for whenever it is asked for! I actually won a $500 gift card (which didn't have to do with my business cards) but Paul won a $300 DVD course for me by throwing in one of his. Business cards are always good for networking as well so don't leave them at home. Bring a bunch!!