Atlanta, GA—For three days every year, some 10,000 photographers gather at the Imaging USA photography conference. Held January 22–24, 2023 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, Imaging USA 2023 is a valuable opportunity to connect with fellow photographers from across the country.
The conference, hosted by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), provides multiple networking opportunities to meet new friends and build a professional network. In addition, at the Imaging USA Expo, attendees can chat with 130+ vendors, see new products, as well as build relationships to grow their businesses.
Photographers can also choose from 90+ classes led by more than 80 expert speakers on a range of topics. Even for seasoned Imaging USA attendees, the conference evolves every year to incorporate new sessions.
To get ready for the three-day event, start with the Imaging USA app. The app has information on all the essentials—from programming to searchable classes, speakers and maps. The app also makes it easy to “star” the classes you’re interested in and build a schedule. The schedule will include the location of the class and reference maps.
The conference starts off on a high note at Imaging USA’s Welcome Party on Sunday in the Opryland Delta Ballroom. There’s live music from the Downtown Band, food, a cash bar as well as plenty of photo ops. The event is included for Full Conference pass holders. However, tickets are available for purchase at registration and the door.
Imaging USA Keynote Addresses
Furthermore, Imaging USA kicks off with Simon T. Bailey’s keynote, “Spark the Customer Experience.” Simon will help unleash your inner brilliance to create a loyal customer base.
Then, at the close of the conference, catch Julie Solomon’s keynote, “Get What You Want: How to Go from Unseen to Unstoppable.” Solomon is on a mission to help others discover their true purpose and create a new vision.
Networking Opportunities Abound
One of the best ways to market a business is through word of mouth. By talking with vendors at the expo and with fellow photographers at the Networking Avenue, you are marketing your business each time you introduce yourself.
The Networking Avenue is an event dedicated exclusively to networking. It enables attendees to sip cocktails, mingle with fellow attendees and even create a few portfolio images. There are interactive shooting bays with professionally styled models. The informal event is January 22, from 6:45 p.m.–8 p.m.
Another great opportunity to network is at the Stadium Club, a space dedicated to schools, sports and event photography. It offers specialized services and products specifically for high-volume photography. Located on the expo floor, the Stadium Club is the place to network with SSE photographers, vendors and speakers. What’s more, you can sign up for individual 30-minute mentoring sessions in the Coaches’ Corner.
Of course, during the expo, visitors can check out vendors’ booths and get up-to-date details on their offerings. Introduce yourself to vendors and ask them about their products and services.
Another way to engage is to participate in the post-class Q&A’s with Imaging USA speakers.
Since it’s impossible to pack everything into the three days of Imaging USA, there are several preconference classes, or pre-cons as they’re called. Pre-cons take place January 19–21. They offer a unique opportunity for photographers to receive more personal attention from instructors in smaller class sizes.
What’s more, pre-con classes focus on specialized topics, like Photoshop, Boudoir Photography, Volume Photography, School & Sports Photography. There are also multiday business intensive classes. Topics even include the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) exam prep.
Just some of the pre-cons at Imaging USA are: Selling the Wall Portrait; Painting with Photoshop; Pursue Your Degree through Image Evaluation; Fine Art of Portraiture; and Six Steps to a Six-Figure Business.
In addition, there are full-day pre-cons, half-day pre-cons as well as hands-on pre-con classes, the latter optimized for hands-on learners. These classes allow attendees to practice new techniques with their instructor. Imaging USA offers a discount when you register for two hands-on pre-con classes. Regular pre-cons differ in price from the hands-on classes. Below is a sampling of the offerings.
Full Day Pre-Cons
January 19, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Painting with Photoshop: Sandra Pearce
Pearce has a working knowledge of traditional and computer-based art, as well as experience teaching each. In her experience, photographers are already comfortable with tools used in Photoshop. In this class, she enables photographers to concentrate on painting techniques rather than learning a new program, empowering them to create beautiful images.
January 20, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Mastering High Volume Headshots: Gary Hughes
Headshots are a huge genre in professional photography. However, the real money is in volume. In this new live demo program, attendees learn how to market for, book, organize as well as execute team and event headshots in a way that will create income streams.
The Business of High School Seniors: Jenn Lewis
Learn the ins and outs of high school senior work. This includes the importance of an influencer team, how to work with senior clients, in-person sales as well as the steps between consultation to delivery. Attendees also get valuable tips on how to prepare a client for a successful sale and overcome objections during the sales process.
These classes present an opportunity to soak up information in a learning environment optimized for hands-on learners. Professionally styled models are available to practice photography skills. Moreover, at the end of the session, there’s an open box gear sale where attendees can purchase gear that was gently used during the session at discounted prices.
Here are some of the hands-on pre-cons offered twice a day at Imaging USA 2023 on January 21.
Portraiture Workshop: Endia Beal, Sony Artisan of Imagery
This hands-on workshop teaches photographers how to use portraiture to highlight the story behind the subjects. Beal explores the techniques and challenges in portrait photography. Participants learn how to work with their subjects to create and compose a striking portrait.
The Details of Photographing a Wedding: Jermaine Horton, Sony Artisan of Imagery
Wedding and portrait photographer Jermaine Horton shares his techniques of photographing the details and what’s required to capture the essence of a wedding day. Attendees also learn about posing and lighting.
When Portraiture and Fashion Collide Creativity Workshop: Joe Edelman, Cr.Photog.
Bring your cameras and get ready to shoot with Joe Edelman, an award-winning photographer and photo educator. This workshop includes a live model and makeup artist. It primarily focuses on boosting portrait skills with a heavy dose of creativity. Learn the simplest and most creative way to light a portrait, why posing is highly overrated in portraiture and how to maximize the background selection without breaking the bank.
Keeping Senior Shots Fresh and Sportraits with Peak Action: Patrick Murphy-Racey, Sony Artisan of Imagery
Murphy-Racey uses location strobes to capture action, whether it’s NFL players or AYSO soccer kids. His workshop covers using strobes outside with large modifiers and sports reflectors to allow kids more room to run around than just a standard backdrop.
Deep Dive Pre-Cons
Deep Dive pre-cons are all-day sessions on January 21. They feature multiple speakers giving insights on their selected tracks. This year’s featured topics are Boudoir Photography and School & Sports Photography. Both sessions feature live demos, insights into marketing, as well as insider business tips. Here are a few of the offerings.
Boudoir Deep Dive: Kelli Connor, Andrea Mendoza, Susan Eckert, Kiati Plooksawasdi
This deep-dive pre-con is sponsored by the Boudoir Album. It features four dynamic speakers sharing their expertise on this growing genre. Kelli Connor shows how to increase the average sale and upsell during the ordering appointment. Susan Eckert shares her key to sustainable business through market highs and lows. Kiati Plooksawasdi demos how to wield light to bend and contour the body in his live demonstration. Lastly, Andrea Mendoza shows how to optimize communication with each client, creating safety, trust and an encouraging client relationship.
Branch Out with School & Sports Photography to Grow Your Business: Mitchell Moore, Heather Crowder, Carl Bott
Sponsored by Gotphoto, this session is led by three photographers who provide a view into the world of volume photography. Successful portrait and volume photography veterans Mitchell Moore, Heather Crowder and Carl Bott discuss everything needed to succeed with school and sports photography. Learn how to build profitable price lists, target the right schools or teams and turn “volume” customers into portrait studio clients.
Imaging USA 2023 Highlights: The Expo
One of the most important highlights of Imaging USA is the expo. The variety of products and services on display is vast. Go prepared with a goal that will help you leave with what you came for. Furthermore, the Imaging USA app provides information on all the vendors and lets you “star” the vendors you’re most interested in seeing.
The expo schedule is January 22, 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m.; January 23, 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m.; and January 24, 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. The first day of the expo is the busiest, and it begins to wind down as the expo nears an end on Tuesday. There’s less of a crush on Monday and Tuesday and more time to connect with vendors and brand representatives.
Furthermore, the expo provides the opportunity to interact one-on-one with the vendors, featuring more than 130 of the industry’s brands. Attendees can touch, try and learn about products from cameras to software. In addition, live demos and mini-education sessions are integrated into the expo experience.
The expo is also a prime location for networking. Want to get involved in the International Photographic Competition (IPC)? Stop by the Merit Café to speak with jurors from past competitions.
PPA Lifetime Achievement Exhibit
In addition, PPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual whose life’s work has enriched the photographic industry and the profession. PPA periodically recognizes a photographer for a lifetime of service and innovation to the field of professional photography.
When this award is given, a suitable space is set aside for a display of his/her work. The 2023 award recipient is Eric Meola. He will receive his award at the Award & Degree Ceremony at Imaging USA on January 23. However, attendees can view a special exhibit of his work in the IPC Gallery on the trade show floor.
IPC Photo Exhibit & Merit Café
Attendees can also view images from PPA’s International Photographic Competition at the IPC photo exhibit. More than 3,000 are on display. Then stop by the IPC Merit Café for a series of free mini sessions exploring the world of photographic competition.
Located inside the IPC Exhibit, the Merit Café provides the opportunity to learn from International Photographic Competition (IPC) jurors about how to improve your work. Merit Café sessions are held from Sunday to Tuesday during expo hours.
Wedding Express Talks
All day on the expo floor, attendees can also catch speakers giving 30-minute talks on weddings. Walk away with more insights into this popular niche of photography. Additionally, it’s a great spot to network afterward.
School, sports and events (SSE) photography is a growing niche. With that in mind, the expo features brands that offer specialized services, products and equipment for high-volume photography. There’s even a dedicated space for SSE photographers to gather, speak with vendors and ask questions: the Stadium Club.
This an exclusive space to connect with SSE vendors as well as ask questions to speakers following their classes. The focus is on learning and networking. The Stadium Club is a learning lounge for high-volume specialties.
Moreover, if you’re looking for individualized guidance, sign up for the Coaches’ Corner in the Stadium Club. It gives attendees the chance to receive a free, 30-minute mentor session with one of Imaging USA’s SSE speakers.
Imaging USA 2023 Awards Events
PPA Award & Degree Ceremony
On January 23, PPA recognizes its PPA Degree recipients, Imaging Excellence recipients, as well as PPA award recipients. Each year, the organization celebrates outstanding members of the PPA community with a ceremony dedicated to their accomplishments. These members have made significant contributions to the association or the industry.
Grand Imaging Awards & World Photographic Cup
In addition, PPA annually commemorates the photographic achievements of its members at an awards celebration. It also announces the winner of the Grand Imaging Award. This year, on January 23 at 7 p.m., it will present 13 categories with 10 finalists each. PPA will announce 130 category finalists followed by the overall winner of the Grand Imaging Award. Best images will also receive ample recognition during the awards ceremony.
Furthermore, top photographs will appear in the Imaging Excellence Collection book (formerly known as the “Loan Collection”) published by Marathon Press. This ceremony closes with the announcement of the World Photographic Cup’s Finalists as well as the Best of Nations winners.
Imaging USA 2023 Conference Highlights
Beyond the expo, Imaging USA offers a robust conference program. For three days, photographers can explore sessions on a wide range of topics from industry insiders and thought leaders.
Bridging the Gap Classes & the Gap Lounge
PPA realizes that now, more than ever, there exists a widening gap between photographers’ desires as artists and consumers’ needs as clients. Consequently, PPA’s Bridging the Gap initiative teaches photographers to move forward in business with confidence, courage, support and financial know-how.
Bridging the Gap programs focus on helping photographers stay up on the photographic industry. These classes show how to attract the right photography clients, overcome business fears, conquer sales as well as understand the client’s expectations and needs.
Moreover, following a Bridging the Gap class, attendees can go to the Gap Lounge for a speaker Q&A session. At the lounge, you can get questions answered from Gap speakers.
Below is just a sampling of Bridging the Gap classes.
How to Attract and Convert Qualified Buyers: Amber Vilhauer
Less than 10% of business owners are proud of their website and the results they get. Vilhauer has proven that by thinking through your customer journey first, you can build a great website that attracts qualified buyers primed to buy. She offers a step-by-step guide through the top three conversion factors. In addition, she reveals a marketing strategy to help win the attention war online.
SOAR – LinkedIn for Business: Donna Serdula
Serdula shares her four–point strategy to grow your presence on LinkedIn. In this presentation, learn how to SOAR: Strategize, Optimize, Amplify, Relate.
Success Is a Choice. So, What Will It Be?: David Trust
Professional photography is on the cusp of its next big boom. In this session, PPA CEO David Trust shows how the future is brighter than ever for those who want to prosper. Trust has led PPA to its most successful years in history. In this session, he calls on his expertise in business, leadership, branding as well as marketing strategy to explore the happy truth about photography in America. He also discusses the less happy reasons some photographers will miss out on the opportunity. In this program, he cuts through the confusion by exploring the specific components of success as a photographic entrepreneur.
Closing Party & Follow Up
The last day of Imaging USA 2023, January 24, features a closing party. Again, the event gives photographers the chance to connect with one another in an informal atmosphere. There is food, drinks, dancing as well as unique photo ops.
Maintain Networking Connections
Today, networking is more important now than ever. Chatting with vendors at the expo and other attendees during the Imaging USA conference is the perfect way to kick-start a professional relationship.
Moreover, the shared experience will help you stand out in people’s minds. Don’t forget to visit booths at the Imaging USA expo to find out vendors’ contact information so you can stay in touch after the convention
After the convention, the best way to ensure you are bringing lasting relationships into your professional network is to maintain the connections you made at Imaging USA. Keep in touch with fellow PPA members to exchange business advice, camera tips, etc. And have a great convention!