Random Observations About My First ImagingUSA Conference

  • I’m in Atlanta for my first ImagingUSA, the national conference of the Professional Photographers of America. The pre-conference activities began last Thursday, January 7, and the main part of the conference started on Sunday. The conference ends tonight, Tuesday, January 12. I don’t know the estimated attendance, but it’s definitely up in the thousands. There are people here from all over the United States, and probably the world. However, over half of the people I’ve met are from Texas, several of them from within 30 miles of my home. I don’t know why that is. I know they sell cameras in other parts of the country, too.

  • The headquarters hotel for the conference is the Omni at CNN Center. CNN Center is really pretty cool. The world headquarters of CNN is in a large atrium complex, with the CNN Building on one side, the Omni Atlanta Hotel on another, and the Turner Building on the third. The center of the atrium is a large food court, like you would find in any large shopping mall. The whole complex is also connected to Philips Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks played the Chicago Bulls the other night. Most of the conference activities are being held at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), which is connected to the hotel by an enclosed walkway. There’s a giant Ferris wheel almost across the street that dominates Centennial Olympic Park, but it’s too darn cold to ride a Ferris wheel!
  • There are several interesting things to do in downtown Atlanta within easy walking distance of the hotel. The College Football Hall of Fame is located between the hotel and the GWCC. The World of Coca Cola is about a block away, and CNN offers a tour of their headquarters as well. But I’ve done all of those things before, and I didn’t have time for any of that, anyway. This has been a real roll-up-the-shirtsleeves working trip for me. I’ve spent a lot of time attending classes and networking with other professional photographers.
  • I’ve also been to a number of other professional conferences for photographers: the Texas School of Professional Photography, The Great Smoky Mountain Photography Summit, and 3 Photoshop Worlds. Which one is my favorite? That’s easy—Photoshop World. The vast majority of conference subjects covered at ImagingUSA relate to traditional “retail” portrait and wedding photography, whereas Photoshop World does a better job of relating to a number of different photography genres and techniques. Also, while ImagingUSA is extremely well run, Photoshop World is the gold standard when it comes to handling crowds, to the excellence of conference speakers, to providing good signage concerning event schedules and locations, to providing educational materials, etc.
  • All of the speakers at ImagingUSA were very good. I attended a day-long pre-con session with Kristi Sutton Elias, who is a rock star when it comes to the kind of edgy fine art portraits that really appeal to me. Kristi has been named California Photographer of the Year for the last several years running, and she has more awards than all my cameras added together have megapixels. Much of what she had to say didn’t apply to my photography, but I picked up so many useful nuggets of information from her that it made the entire conference very worthwhile.
  • I also attended 2 talks by Adobe’s Principal Digital Imaging Evangelist Julieanne Kost. Julieanne is probably my favorite speaker wherever she goes. She’s always fun to listen to, and I always learn a lot from her. I even got to hear her sing about half of “The ABCs of Photoshop” again. I’m still looking for that on Spotify.
  • Joel Grimes was here as a speaker, but I didn’t get a chance to hear him. I’ll listen to him in July at Photoshop World in Las Vegas.
  • I also got to speak very briefly with one of the real superstars of the photo world, RC Concepcion. RC’s teaching has made an incredible difference in my work, and I am very grateful to him and to the entire team at KelbyOne. I’m looking forward to seeing him at Photoshop World.
  • The exhibition hall was very interesting. Canon was here in a big way, as usual. Canon had a very impressive area where they showcased the legacy of Canon lenses (over 110 million sold worldwide!), as well as an educational theater with presenters like Roberto Valenzuela, a huge booth demonstrating Canon photo printers, and a Canon factory rep cleaning and repairing Canon cameras for conference attendees. Fuji, Zeiss, Hasselblad, and hundreds of other vendors were also present. The thing that really surprised me was the complete absence of Nikon at ImagingUSA. I know that Nikon was out in force at CES showing off their new flagship professional camera, the Nikon D5, but Nikon was shockingly absent from the national conference of the Professional Photographers of America. Does this signal a marketing shift by Nikon?
  • Now that I’m 62, I’m starting to get a lot of emails about Medicare Part B, walk-in tubs, “help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up” necklaces, adult diapers, and early-bird specials for seniors at the cafeteria. So when I got to ImagingUSA and saw that there are courses on building a senior portrait business, it took me a while to figure out that they were talking about high school seniors.
  • I’ve met some photographers who specialize in some unusual niches. Probably the most unusual was a photographer from Kansas who photographs seashells. Kansas? Really? I wonder how often she sees seashells by the sea shore. One thing you’ll learn from attending ImagingUSA: different strokes for different folks.
  • But it hasn’t all been conference business. During the time I’ve been here, I’ve also been interviewed about my photography for an upcoming piece on a photography review site, I’ve made arrangements to contribute one of my 48”x54” aluminum prints to be auctioned off at the Heart & Harmony benefit for Healthcare for the Homeless, Houston, and I’ve been in contact with the fellow in New Zealand who maintains my website. Real life goes on. I can sleep when I’m dead.
  • All things considered, ImagingUSA has been a fantastic experience. I’ll definitely be at ImagingUSA 2017 next January in San Antonio. That’s practically in my back yard.
  • So now I’m at the Atlanta airport, waiting to catch my flight back home to Houston. Tomorrow, I’m going to be picking up The Unruly Beasts (Lucy and Cosmo) from the dog boarding facility where they’ve been vacationing with all of their friends for the last few days. We call the place “Doggie Disney,” because our puppies think it really is “the happiest place on earth.”

I’ll post some photos from ImagingUSA later tonight.

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