Photography can often feel lonely. Like any individual sport – running, cycling, swimming – your performance is ultimately yours alone. You rely on yourself to train, get out there and do the work. That said, just like running, cycling or swimming, you can choose to make photography a group sport. You can surround yourself with like-minded people who are looking to achieve the same goals, the same skill development, trying and failing and trying again just like you. So how do you find your photography teammates? There are strong online communities like ours here at CreativeLive where you can learn alongside people all over the world. Yet, there is also something powerful about connecting in person. One great way to do that is by attending one of the many photography conferences and trade shows held globally. Here are three ways to connect with your photo tribe based on my experience at the recent PDN PhotoPlus Conference + Expo in New York—one of the biggest photography industry events of the year.
1. Collect Photographer’s Cards, Not Just Products Specs
Over 20,000 photographers came to PhotoPlus to see the new gear and products making the headlines, and to discover some perhaps less-known new gems. Yes it was fun for me to try the latest virtual reality technology from Samsung, shoot with the new full frame Leica SL, play Nikon vs. Canon giant lens chess, and watch drones fly with 4k cameras in indoor nets. Our friends at DPReview have some great coverage of the most talked about new gear if you’re curious. Sure, I collected some promotional cards for products and gear that I might be interested in buying in the future. But gear only gets us all so far.
It’s not easy to talk to strangers, even in a place where you know you have a lot in common with people. So make a project out of it. At PhotoPlus I set an intention to make portraits of the people that I met on the trade show floor as a means to have those personal interactions. The portraits broke the ice, we’d chat as we tried to find solutions to the bad light, and the exercise resulted in a fun ‘faces of CreativeLive’ collage above. I collected people’s cards which I’m much more jazzed about than product specs and promo cards I gathered. Be sure to write notes on the back of cards to remind you what you talked about with each person or any follow up actions you discussed.
As a side bonus, I had the honor of gifting free CL classes. Each and every CL fan whom I spoke with had their own story of how CreativeLive has impacted their life. I was humbled seeing the reactions of people I surprised with gift cards.
2. Seek Out After-Hours Events
If you’ve traveled to a big conference, then it’s likely other people have as well and are looking for something to do in the evenings. Often there are photo walks offered as part of a conference or organized by local photo clubs. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you meet if they know of any photo walks and follow event hashtags to find after-hour events. Keep your eyes and ears open and be ready for spontaneity. Find out if your favorite companies are hosting any public events like we did at PhotoPlus.
Over the years, hundreds of students have come to our Seattle and San Francisco studios to be part of our live studio audience. They have incredible bonding experiences with their fellow students, instructors, and CL staff. Yet we know not everyone has the time or resources to get to us in person. So we flipped that around and are coming to you.
Building upon our Photo Week West Coast Bus Tour where hundreds of you came out to our Sacramento and Portland events, for PhotoPlus we partnered up with Lindsay Adler for a CL community event at her New York studio during PhotoPlus. Our goal was to create an intimate environment for photographers to connect, talk about their latest ideas, challenges, and no longer feel like they are playing an individual sport.
Of course we had to integrate photography into the event as well! The big stack of Instax film quickly turned into a board full of moments from the event.
Lindsay set up a backdrop and her Profoto octabox for a classy photo booth where new friends and old posed for portraits. Thanks to Canon, attendees went home with beautiful prints from Canon’s just released imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 large format inkjet printer. Check out the full photo booth gallery on Lindsay’s site!
3. Connect asap after the conference
So you’ve boarded your flight home from the photo conference with a head full of ideas and a list of photographers and potential collaborators you met. Take action to connect in that first week, even with a simple, “great to meet you” email or Facebook message. The more time that passes after the event, the less motivation you will feel. If you write up a blog post or do social media about the event, tag those people you met. That will give them a great reason to respond back. Search for social media coverage of the event and comment or reply to keep your name out there. With a little bit of planning, you can make the most of what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming and impossible place to connect.
Just like we give shout outs to people on air during our live classes, here are shout outs to some of the wonderful CreativeLive community members I met and photographed at PhotoPlus: Bill Achuff, David Woodall, Susan Hatter-Knapper, Michel Ravanelli, Verdell Lawton, Gino Ruggieri, Leandra Brown, Jeff Jean, Casey Scalf, Joan Winner, Greg Sykes, Miho Grant, Jade Joly, Ming Chan, Karen Akerson, Amy Rader, Karol Duclos, Rahul Rana, Chandani Chandekar, Larissa Beniaminova, Lisette Santiago, Kathryn Tornelli, Irene Bello, Cindy Monyek, Donald Jin, Seshu Badrinath, James Brooks, Heather Raub, Jim Diperna, Gary Young, Lisa Young, Joel Finnigen, Deborah Goldstein, Rodney Bedsole, Lisa Sharken, Eric Rossi, Benedict Cupid, Jose Rosado, Stevie Chris. Great to meet you all!
Be on the look out for more CreativeLive community events. Let us know in the comments if you have a strong CL community where you live and want to nominate your city!