I’ve always lived by the rule of thumb that you fake it til you make it. I had good reason to apply the adage recently when I signed up to attend the Professional Photography Association’s Imaging USA Conference in the ATL. Basically, this was Photo Con for people who make their living taking pictures. As a photography enthusiast, I became a roach-on-the-wall for three days to see and learn about all things photography. Guess what? This experience was a straight-up blast and nobody cared that I wasn’t a pro!
My dad called me about two weeks before the conference to see what I was doing in the new year. I told him I was going to Imaging USA.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“It’s the biggest photography conference in the country and its going to be right here in Atlanta,” I told him.
“Well, maybe I’ll come up there and go too. You know I was taking pictures long before you were born,” he added.
“Great! Come on. We’ll be posers together and hopefully we’ll learn something too,” I said.
Two weeks later, he arrived and off we went on a Sunday afternoon, into the heart of the city. Now, getting to the Georgia World Congress Center is one thing: parking is another. You have to get creative. Of course, the day we decided to train in, the temps were a steady 38 degrees all afternoon. After freezing for 30 minutes waiting on the westbound train, I decided against doing that again and we paid the $15 to park in the garage and walk in from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
One thing I knew going into the conference: Photographers carry cameras and take pictures. In that department, I was in good company. Everyone around me was just as fanatical about documenting their experience here as I was.
A walk into the giant exhibition hall brought us into a mecca of cameras, lenses and the tech world that supports them. At the Canon booth, there were 20 sales reps standing like soldiers ready to answer every imaginable question. Displayed in glass cases like diamond rings, an in some instances more expensive, were dozens of the newest cameras and lenses and printers and flash devices.
Around the corner, a vendor set up a learning booth complete with a live model and a half dozen cameras to practice shooting. The colors were stunning!
When the model in blue came out, I took a whirl on one of the new Canons.
After a time in the exhibition hall, there were dozens of technique classes and a couple of parties to attend. I learned about OCF’s, LightRoom presets, the 12 elements of a competition image and high speed sync flashes. My head was spinning by the time we attended the closing party on Tuesday at the Georgia Aquarium.
By the time we left out of there, we had actually convinced ourselves that we were photographers. Maybe that was part of the purpose of the conference after all…getting comfortable with who you are and what you like to do by being around 10,000 other people just like you.
A few days later, when my dad was packing up to leave, he said that he had a blast. We met people from California to Illinois, Texas to North Dakota. We talked with wedding photographers and sports photographers and studio photographers of all ages, shapes and sizes. As hobbyists, we were definitely in the minority, but that didn’t seem to stop folks from talking to us and telling us about their businesses and photography philosophies.
In the end, this fake session, this time of putting myself out there as photographer turned out to be an eye opener and a blessing. Seeing through the lens of real photographers for a few days gave me a new perspective about what it means to embrace photography as an expression of one’s artistic talents, a way to meet new and interesting people and a way to connect with my dad in a totally new and exciting way.