Strategy Session: Maximizing the WPPI Experience

Strategy Session: Maximizing the WPPI Experience


Theresa Raffetto is the director of Conferences for the Photo+ Group of Emerald Expositions, including the WPPI conference program. I recently had the chance to speak with her about this year’s WPPI experience. She was happy to share some of the highlights that will be available for attendees, as well as advice for first timers.

Raffetto is also an award-winning photographer who has worked on food and product assignments of all scopes and sizes in the advertising and editorial worlds.

Theresa Raffetto

She has produced images that the Associated Press has called “classic in style and light and airy in feel.”

Raffetto’s vision and leadership producing these shoots, along with six years as the national president of American Photographic Artists (APA), have led up to her current position.

JG: Who can we expect to be attending WPPI this year?

TR: While the show is certainly geared toward wedding and portrait photographers, we’re finding that more filmmakers are attending. We’re also seeing more commercial photographers moving into the wedding arena to build new revenue streams. I’m a commercial photographer myself. I’ve found that wedding photography is such a challenging field, primarily because there aren’t many second chances. WPPI attendees are incredibly passionate, and this is a great place to meet everyone from professionals at the top of their game to working photographers striving to improve.

Photography is evolving at such a rapid pace. This show offers a great opportunity for seasoned wedding and portrait photographers as well as photographers and videographers new to the space to meet their peers and learn what’s new and what’s hot.

What should photographers hope to get out of the show?

Being such a community-based show, it’s a great place to make friends who are facing the same challenges. We’re now in our 37th year, and so many people come back every year to see each other and catch up.

It’s also a great place to meet with many of the top manufacturers of cameras, lenses and lighting systems, as well as others, to gain insights into industry trends and to build those relationships as well.  WPPI_2018-logo_orangeAnd, of course, our education program has really grown and become much more diversified, so there is much to learn. If you pay $199 to become a member, you will get more than 50 Platform sessions included in your membership. It’s a tremendous value!

Our conference program is even more varied this year. We’re excited to have quality instructors from all over the world, including London, Asia, Italy, Canada and Greece.

What are some of the key sessions to attend?

With so many new technologies evolving, things can certainly seem intimidating. That’s why we offer many courses that can help photographers understand new products. These include drones and, of course, video production. While there is a lot of online education available, there is nothing like learning in person and having the ability to ask questions and interact with instructors and attendees who share your passion.

Some new tracks are photo booth education—a lot of photographers are integrating them into their business models—boudoir, maternity/newborn, motion/cinemagraphs and sports & action. With everyone integrating video into his or her business, we have a complete filmmaking program. Professional storytellers will teach classes on many different levels, from beginner to advanced.

We also have some fun programs that are new. Our Sunday morning orientation with creative director and author Stefan Mumaw is a must for first-time attendees. It will provide the opportunity to get to know people in a high-energy environment while learning all the need-to-knows about WPPI. On Monday, we have our Rangefinder Rising 30 panel. It features up-and-coming photographers who are pushing the boundaries and creating stunning work.

In addition, Tuesday evening’s keynote is incredibly exciting. We welcome Lisa Vorce, celebrity wedding planner. She has worked with the likes of John Legend and Chrissy Teigen and most recently Kate Upton and Justin Verlander. Lisa will share her insights into the skills and strategies required to get your shot at working with the best planners in the industry. She will also speak to what those planners are looking for from photographers.

Lisa Vorce © Martha Stewart Weddings

Then on Wednesday morning, we’re challenging some photography masters with our new Master Photographer Challenge. They will have 10 minutes to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary by photographing tethered on stage with the same model, equipment, props and location. It will be amazing to see each photographer interpret the same scene to create a unique portrait with no prior preparation. Hosted by wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis, this event is not to be missed!

Moreover, Wednesday night is our Honors of Excellence Awards ceremony. This “Oscar-worthy” evening of entertainment will celebrate the winners from the 16×20 Print, Album & Filmmaking Competition, as well as those who participated in WPPI’s members-only First and Second Half Competitions! It will be a fun night to get dressed up and celebrate our industry.

Prepping for the WPPI Experience

What’s your advice for someone attending for the first time?

There is so much to see and do, so planning your schedule ahead of time is probably the best advice. Choose the classes and conferences that will help you most. And make sure you take time to learn new things. There are so many classes taught at different levels. So there will certainly be plenty that will be relevant for most attendees.

Also, make sure you spend time on the show floor, talking to manufacturers and learning about their products and services. Many will be launching products you won’t want to miss. This is a rare opportunity to meet with them face to face and to hear from the people that understand the potential of their products the best. You’ll also get to touch and feel the products on your shopping list.

On a practical level, wear comfortable shoes. And wear a Fitbit or other device. You will cover those recommended 10,000 steps and more daily. Drink plenty of water. It’s the desert and it is dry! In addition, don’t forget to have fun and mingle. You’re just as likely to learn from a conversation over dinner or drinks as you are from a class.

Best of all, you will leave WPPI feeling inspired and motivated to implement all that you learned during the week into your real-life business plan. You’ll also have grown your network!