Wrap-up Imaging USA 2023: Photographers Connect & Learn to Grow Their Businesses

Wrap-up Imaging USA 2023: Photographers Connect & Learn to Grow Their Businesses


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 was a valuable opportunity to connect with fellow photographers from across the country.

The conference, hosted by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), provided multiple networking opportunities. Additionally, at the Imaging USA Expo, attendees could chat with 130+ vendors, see products and build relationships.

Photographers could also choose from 90+ conference classes led by more than 80 expert speakers on various topics. Even for seasoned attendees, the conference evolves every year to incorporate new sessions.PPA_Logo-Color-Imaging-USA-2023

The event started off on a high note at Imaging USA’s Welcome Party in the Opryland Delta Ballroom. There was live music from the Downtown Band, food, a cash bar and plenty of photo ops.

Further, Imaging USA kicked off with Simon T. Bailey’s keynote, “Spark the Customer Experience.” Bailey focused on unleashing attendees’ inner brilliance to help create a loyal customer base.

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, attendees marketed their businesses when they introduced themselves. The Networking Avenue was dedicated exclusively to networking. It enabled attendees to sip cocktails, mingle with fellow attendees and even create a few portfolio images at interactive shooting bays with professionally styled models.

Another great opportunity to network was at the Stadium Club, a space dedicated to schools, sports and event photography on the trade show floor. The Stadium Club was the place to network with SSE photographers, vendors and speakers.

Preconference Classes

Since it’s impossible to pack everything into three days, there were several preconference classes, or pre-cons as they’re called. Pre-cons offered photographers more personal attention from instructors with smaller class sizes. They focused on specialized topics, like Photoshop, Boudoir Photography, Volume Photography, School & Sports Photography. There were also multiday business intensive classes. Topics even included the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) exam prep.

Hands-on pre-con classes are optimized for hands-on learners.

Just some of the pre-cons at Imaging USA were: 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.

Additionally, there were hands-on pre-con classes that allowed attendees to practice new techniques with their instructor.

Full-Day Pre-Cons

Full-day pre-cons included Painting with Photoshop, led by Sandra Pearce; Mastering High Volume Headshots, with Gary Hughes; and The Business of High School Seniors, with Jenn Lewis.

Hands-On Pre-Cons

These sessions enabled participants to soak up information in a learning environment optimized for hands-on learners. Professionally styled models were available to practice photography skills. Moreover, at the end of a session, there was an open box gear sale where attendees purchased gear that was gently used during the session at discounted prices.

Deep Dive topics were Boudoir Photography and School & Sports Photography.

Some of the hands-on pre-cons were Portraiture Workshop, led by Endia Beal, Sony Artisan of Imagery; The Details of Photographing a Wedding, with Jermaine Horton, Sony Artisan of Imagery; When Portraiture and Fashion Collide Creativity Workshop, with Joe Edelman, Cr.Photog.; and Keeping Senior Shots Fresh and Sportraits with Peak Action, led by Patrick Murphy-Racey, Sony Artisan of Imagery.

Deep Dive Pre-Cons

These all-day sessions featured multiple speakers giving insights on their selected tracks. This year there were two featured topics. Both sessions provided live demos, insights into marketing and insider business tips.

First, Boudoir Photography was sponsored by the Boudoir Album and presented by Kelli Connor, Andrea Mendoza, Susan Eckert and Kiati Plooksawasdi. The other Deep Dive was Branch Out with School & Sports Photography to Grow Your Business. It was presented by Mitchell Moore, Heather Crowder and Carl Bott and sponsored by Gotphoto.

Imaging USA 2023 Expo

The variety of products and services on display at the expo was vast. It provided the opportunity to interact one-on-one with the vendors, featuring more than 130 of the industry’s brands. Attendees could touch, try and learn about products from cameras to software.

The IPC exhibit featured 3,000+ photos.

In addition, live demos and mini-education sessions integrated into the expo experience. Moreover, the expo floor featured several special exhibits and experiences.

PPA Lifetime Achievement Exhibit

PPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual whose life’s work has enriched the photographic industry and the profession. The 2023 award recipient is Eric Meola. He received his award at the Award & Degree Ceremony on January 23. However, attendees could view a special exhibit of his work in the IPC Gallery on the trade show floor.

IPC Photo Exhibit & Merit Café

Attendees could also see more than 3,000 images from PPA’s International Photographic Competition (IPC) at the IPC photo exhibit.

Attendees could learn from IPC jurors at the Merit Café.

Further, the IPC Merit Café offered a series of free mini sessions exploring photographic competition. Located inside the IPC Exhibit, the Merit Café also allowed visitors to learn from IPC jurors about how to improve their work.

Wedding Express Talks

Additionally, all day on the expo floor attendees could catch speakers giving 30-minute talks on weddings. The sessions provided valuable insights into the popular photography niche.

Coaches’ Corner

The expo also featured brands that offer specialized services, products and equipment for high-volume photography. There was a dedicated space for school, sports and event (SSE) photographers to gather, speak with vendors and ask questions—the Stadium Club. Moreover, for individualized guidance, attendees could sign up at the Coaches’ Corner in the Stadium Club to receive a free, 30-minute mentor session with one of Imaging USA’s SSE speakers.

Imaging USA 2023 Awards Events

Imaging USA also sponsored several other awards presentations.

PPA Award & Degree Ceremony

On January 23, PPA recognized its PPA Degree recipients, Imaging Excellence recipients and PPA award recipients. Each year, the organization celebrates outstanding members of the PPA community with a ceremony dedicated to their accomplishments.

Grand Imaging Awards & World Photographic Cup

PPA also annually announces the winner of the Grand Imaging Award. This year, on January 23, it announced 130 category finalists—10 finalists from each of its 13 categories. In addition, the organization revealed the overall winner of the Grand Imaging Award.

© Ben Shirk, M.Photog.M.Artist.Cr., Thief of Innocence

The 2023 Grand Imaging Award went to Ben Shirk, M.Photog.M.Artist.Cr., for his image, Thief of Innocence, in the Illustrative and Commercial category. Shirk’s photograph was selected from more than 5,000 entries by a jury of 76 professional photographers. He was picked as the winner from a pool of 114 category finalist images.

The awards night concluded with a presentation of the images selected for Team USA at the World Photographic Cup, the “Olympics of Photography.” The competition includes 32 countries that will compete later this year in Singapore on March 17, 2023. Ben Shirk was also given the honor of “Best of Nation” for the United States.

Imaging USA 2023 Conference Highlights

Beyond the expo, Imaging USA presented a robust conference program. For three days, photographers explored sessions on a range of topics presented by industry insiders and thought leaders.

Realizing that now, more than ever, there’s a widening gap between photographers’ desires as artists and consumers’ needs as clients, PPA created the Bridging the Gap initiative. These classes teach photographers “to move forward in business with confidence, courage, support and financial know-how.” Bridging the Gap classes focus on helping photographers stay up on the photographic industry. They show how to attract the right photography clients, overcome business fears, conquer sales and understand the client’s expectations and needs.

Bridging the Gap programs help photographers stay up on the industry.

Moreover, following a Bridging the Gap class, attendees could go to the Gap Lounge for a speaker Q&A session.

Bridging the GAP

Two examples of the Bridging the Gap classes were How to Attract and Convert Qualified Buyers, with Amber Vilhauer; and SOAR (Strategize, Optimize, Amplify, Relate) – LinkedIn for Business, with Donna Serdula.

Additionally, Success Is a Choice. So, What Will It Be? was presented by PPA CEO David Trust. Trust has led PPA to its most successful years in history. In this session, he called on his expertise in business, leadership, branding and marketing strategy to explore the happy truth about photography in America. He also discussed the less happy reasons some photographers will miss out on the opportunity.

Closing Up

Finally, at the close of the conference, Julie Solomon presented her 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.

The last day of Imaging USA 2023, January 24, also featured a closing party. Again, the event gave photographers the chance to connect with one another in an informal atmosphere. Food, drinks, dancing and photo ops were all on tap.

Get ready for Imaging USA 2024! It’s scheduled for January 28–30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky.