Masses of people hustled and swarmed around me. Old friends reunited and new friends made introductions. I sat in the middle, intentionally alone.
In my past life as an event planner, I went to conferences just like these, but the topics were of little interest to me. At Imaging USA 2014, however, a conference for photographers organized by the Professional Photographers of America, I couldn’t wait to soak in the inspiration.
Jon Allyn’s talk, The Subtle Art of Persuasion was the first talk I attended. Other than the mid-session interlude of Extreme’s “More Than Words,” which I still have stuck in my head days later, his speech was full of new insights on one of my favorite topics of late, neuromarketing.
He spoke of the preferred senses that individuals subconsciously use to make purchasing (or non-purchasing) decisions, and how business people can leverage those senses as powerful sales tools.
Figuring out whether someone is more stimulated by visuals, sounds, textures, smells or tastes can be extrapolated quickly through conversation by carefully listening for phrases they use, such as “I see what you mean”, ” I hear what you’re saying”, and so on.
Jon Allyn suggested we:
Use the words they’re saying to extrapolate the things they like and shift our selling tactics accordingly to best please them.
The Psychology of a Great Portrait Sale, was taught by Bobby Carlsen, a photographer and also man with a doctorate in psychology. As you can imagine, he also had great bits of information to use throughout the entire client relationship, not just the sale, as his speech’s title suggested. I stayed after to speak with Bobby and hope to have him speak on this website at some point in the future.
Bobby told the audience a story about getting lost and asking for directions. When the man dictated the course of streets and turns to Bobby, it triggered his memory about something he had learned in psychology class, but forgotten up until that point. Now, that thing is a critical part of his business and process.
Bobby firmly feels that:
People want to be told what to do and what to expect. Use the words ‘you’re gonna’ over and over whenever you explain how things work in your business. Just like using those words to give turn-markers and driving directions, you want to control where people go as they work with you.
Beth Taubner spoke on Branding 101: How Does Your Business Become a Brand? I honestly believe that much of her talk was difficult for photographers in the audience to relate to. She used a lot of big brand examples, like Volkswagen and Starbucks, and even the photography businesses she mentioned felt like large commercial brands.
However, Beth did offer one piece of advice I felt was strong, and easily applicable and actionable:
Once a day, look at a brand and write down that brand’s attributes. Study this and do it every day. It will make you better at branding your own business.
Kimberly Smith’s talk entitled, Be Creative. Be Inspired. Be You. was adorable. And she was oozing adorable all over the stage. She spoke of what got her into photography in the first place and shared some of her first photographs of her children, while the audience chuckled.
Kimberly’s speech was the first of three I cried at during this event. The monstrous room fell dead silent except for the sniffling and sobbing as she told stories about clients she lost to death, along with her older sister. Her presentation ended with a video montage of photographs or her and her sister. There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire room.
Kimberly Smith’s talk, and the entire first day, ended simply with:
Use your gifts.
Jared Platt’s Post-Production Speed In Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC was hilarious. I didn’t stay for the entire duration, since the talk was mostly geared toward photographers that shoot 1,000 images+ per session (I shoot about 10% of that).
However, Jared Platt said this beautiful quote, which I’ll remember for as long as I do this:
Cull your images through positive selection to reinforce how awesome you are. Never do it by negative elimination because it creates negative thoughts and makes you feel like a loser.
When I left Jared’s presentation, I popped into Gregory Heisler’s The Evocative Portrait. I am grateful that he just happened to be talking in the next room over.
I did not note a particular quote from his presentation. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen long enough to grab my pen. He shared over a dozen strikingly beautiful portraits of famous faces in the 30 minutes I managed to catch, including this one seen on the screen here of Muhammad Ali’s personal trainer.
Jeremy Cowart spoke next on the subject of Stop Saying It’s All Been Done Before. His presentation included a multitude of work from new artists that inspire him, along with some of his own personal projects.
In addition, a small segment addressed why he thinks everyone is a photographer today, as referenced in a blog post he wrote last year. Here it is, if you’d like to read it. I agree with his sentiment about gratification from social media, and, in fact, some Harvard Professors recently studied the affects of social media on the brain, including the brain’s small release of endorphins when likes and positive comments are received by a poster.
This was the second speech that made me cry.
The last story of photographing John Schneider, formerly known as Bo Duke from The Dukes Of Hazard, on the day of John’s father’s death made both Jeremy and the rest of his audience well up in tears.
Before it ended Jeremy Cowart shared this:
Keep challenging your own creativity. It’s the idea, not how it’s shared.
Inspirations: A Life In Photography presented by John Sexton is one of those speeches you walk into not knowing what to expect. I went simply because the talk mentioned he used to be Ansel Adams’ assistant. His presentation turned out to be one of my favorites.
In all of the other sessions, the lights were almost all on. But in John’s the room was completely black. The images on the massive screens seemed to vibrate in a meditative sort of way.
His stories were rich and made you feel as if you were there with him as he assisted Ansel and as, later, he took landscape images of his own. Hearing him visually describe watching the foggy liquid fixer under red lights as a smokey image would emerge on paper sent chills up my spine.
Sometimes you’re forced to breathe in, just by looking.
His love of photography oozed out of every sentence he shared. By the end, I wasn’t the only one in tears just thinking about how cool it is that we get to be photographers for a living.