How to make the most of photography shows and conventions

How to make the most of photography shows and conventions

Photography shows and conventions are a familiar event to many in the industry. You will most likely attend to find new suppliers, explore new products and keep an eye out for special offers. When chatting with our photographer and videographer clients, some say they have only been to one show, haven’t got the time or don’t see the value in attending. Some of our clients like professional wedding photographer Tim Emmerton annually attends shows and this got me thinking.

Many shows run for multiple days. If you are a busy professional, chances are you can only give one day especially if you have plenty of distance to travel. So how do you make the most of that one day and is it worth attending in the first place? Tim and I discuss what to do based on his experience. This discussion may be of interest to all photographers and videographers whether they are seasoned or are just getting into their profession. I also will be showcasing some of Tim’s work throughout this article.

How to decide on which show to attend

There are many photography shows throughout the UK so which one do you attend? Tim says “Don’t automatically decide on visiting the biggest shows just because of their size. The busier the show is, the harder it will be to have a decent conversation with exhibitors. Imagine you want to talk to Nikon about a genuine technical problem. At the bigger shows; you will have to deal with queues and queues of people, many of whom are amateurs or hobbyists and they will mostly want to talk about the latest gear.”

You also have to consider this situation from the exhibitor’s perspective. They are most likely told to distribute their attention as evenly as possible so a conversation with one person does not go on to the point where another potential customer walks off because they cannot speak to anyone. Tim recommends not ruling out the smaller shows such as the SWPP Trade Show, Photovision Roadshow or Digital Splash hosted by Wilkinson Cameras. They can be just a beneficial and not consume as much of your working day. You may also have more valuable conversations with exhibitors.

Face-to-face conversation is sometimes required

Online video sites like YouTube may contain plenty of decent photography and videography product tutorials, however, be careful. Not all of these videos provide correct information or can be very subjective. Many of these YouTube channels are solely interested in increasing subscriber rates and advert revenue. These primary interests may conflict with the objective of providing quality tutorials.

This is one of the biggest advantages of attending a photography show and convention according to Tim. “Sometimes it’s best to speak to the professional service team provided by the manufacturers at their stands. This face-to-face conversation can prove wonders when you are looking to solve a problem or understand additional features.”

Planning ahead and choosing your training

As a professional, Tim prepares a schedule in advance. He firstly includes the free training opportunities that work with his business strategy. Tim says, “If you are going to pay for training, find out the opportunities and weaknesses of your business and align them with training providers at the show. In my experience, I found training that improved my business and marketing skills to be the most beneficial.

One particular seminar this year titled ‘How to future-proof your business’ caught my eye and it’s free. The dialogue around this topic I feel is crucial for my business especially in a time where the competition has become tougher due to an increase in the number of wedding photographers as a result of equipment becoming more affordable and easy to use.”

Attending master classes and seminars

Master classes and seminars are now a staple of many photography shows. It’s a chance for the show’s organisers to showcase their list of influencers and celebrated professionals in an attempt to maximise ticket sales. The size of the seminar schedule at the largest shows can be quite overwhelming. Should you attend as many seminars as possible? Tim responds by saying “If the work of the professional resonates with you, go and attend their class. If you’ve never heard of them or don’t know about their work, will it add value to your business by attending their seminar? Time is of the essence, therefore, don’t waste it by attending if the professional’s work does not fit into your style of photography.”

Show discounts; are they really a bargain?

Tim explains how supplier discounts are not as good as they seem. “Firstly, you can always call a supplier and ask for their discount codes after the event without even attending. Also, most equipment is available online at a competitive price. You could even buy gear from China at a significantly reduced price, however, you may risk the validity of your warranty and availability of support such as faster repairs from the professional service team at the manufacturer.”

If you are looking for a discount, try ringing up the supplier to negotiate. Just like with other industries, there are sales on at different times of the year. Tim has experienced manufacturers offering big discounts on products like wedding album studio samples at quiet times of the year such as February or March.

If you are a professional, you are most likely after high-quality gear that pretty much comes at a set price. Manufacturers are very careful when pricing their high-end products. Remember they exhibit at shows primarily to show off their new equipment and maximise unit sales. Think twice when you peruse discounts at shows, you may wish to avoid them altogether to save time.

Also, we recommend you shop around before purchasing any insurance policies on offer at conventions. It’s always best to check if you can get a better price or more suitable policy. Look at our photographer and videographer key covers.

How many photography shows and conventions should you attend?

Tim describes photography shows and conventions quite aptly as ‘Living versions of classifieds magazines.” Everyone is in one place to speak to, however, you can still ring up suppliers at any time to chat about their equipment and offers. Tim says “In my experience, once you’ve been to several shows, you become very familiar with the kind of suppliers you use. You still need to go back and check what’s changing in your industry. I’d recommend moderation when it comes to attending shows. Once a year may be enough to keep you on your toes, don’t feel like you have to attend them all. They will not necessarily make you a better photographer or service provider unless you take training that strengthens your business.”

Concluding thoughts

After talking to Tim, some major points became clear. Attending photography or videography shows will not necessarily give you a competitive advantage in the industry. Yes, there are more photographers than ever but that doesn’t mean everyone should start attending more shows.

According to Tim, adding value to your business is the primary reason why photographers and videographers should attend shows. They are a great way to keep on top of what’s happening in the industry and many shows usually give free tickets to professionals. No matter how much our efforts are to improve what we do best, sometimes, in order to succeed, you have to go back to the basics. When I asked Tim what advice he would give to becoming a successful photographer, he said: “Take time in crafting your skills, get good at what you do and love your clients absolutely.”

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