How Sony Is Using Experience, Community, and Education to Build a Brand Like no Other: Kando 3.0

How Sony Is Using Experience, Community, and Education to Build a Brand Like no Other: Kando 3.0

I recently outlined seven reasons why I was excited to go to Sony Kando 3.0, but now that I’ve been, there was so much more to it than I initially thought. 

That's the reason for this follow-up article. What I thought going into the event was all accurate; it just turned out to be way more than I expected. There was Sony support on-site, and they took amazing care of all my gear that I dropped off for free, and there were some crazy good giveaways too, from lenses to cameras and even multiple airplane rides to do aerial photography with Chris Burkard. But after experiencing everything Kando had to offer, here is what you should know. 

The Anti-Trade Show 

To be clear: This is not a tradeshow. It’s the anti-trade show. When I first heard about the sponsor area, I assumed it would be similar to WPPI where there are lines of booths filled with people trying to sell you. I expected gear behind glass cases and tables filled with pamphlets and brochures: look, but don't touch. 

What I saw when I first arrived wasn't even close. Instead, the booths were set up in a show-and-tell manner. They encourage you to see, feel, and use everything they have with no pressure to buy. The Epson Printer booth had printers and prints to show. But instead of stopping there, everyone that showed up was encouraged to print their own work right on the spot. Eddie, the Epson rep, was genuinely excited to see people's prints come off the roller. 

The Light and Motion booth had Stalla lights to show along with a small lighting setup plus a model so you could even shoot yourself. They too didn't stop there. Every person had the ability to take the lights and go out shooting. Countless times, I even saw the Light and Motion rep out in the field, but she wasn't talking, pitching, or selling. She was holding lights, changing out modifiers, and simply helping people use the product. That's one thing that separates Kando from every other trade show or conference. Sony doesn't want you cooped up in a building filled with booths and salespeople. They didn't set up a labyrinth of sponsors with no foreseeable way to escape. Instead, they had a small number of sponsors that could help guests express their creativity. They want you to see what they have on site, and if you like anything, they encourage you to actually experience it in a real-world environment. They want to inspire you and then send you out into the wild. 

In fact, there was so much gear on-site that had I not wanted to drop my gear off at Sony Pro Support, I could have shown up without a single piece of gear and been totally fine. Sony alone had 150 of the yet to be released a7R IV cameras (pretty much every unit in existence). From there, they had well over a thousand other bodies and lenses for people to check out and use. Then there was still gear from Light and Motion, Rotolights, Profoto, Manfrotto, B&H, etc. 

To remove all boundaries between you and creating, they had a building filled will models, clothes, and accessories. And these were not work-for-free-or-trade style models. These were models found on ad campaigns and fashion show runways. You could even check out a good-looking puppy for a photo shoot if that's what you wanted. From there, they had multiple sets scattered across the grounds. 

From simple backdrops hung between trees to giant neon signs or big foam blocks, they wanted the space to be conducive to any creative inspiration you may have had no matter where it was leading you, even if that was shooting the famous Loki and Nori on a mirrored stage floor set in front of a sky and cloud backdrop. 

If the surrounding space wasn't what you were looking for, Kando had multiple excursions and adventures you could participate in throughout the day, such as sunrise shoots in a field with horses and cowboys or a sunrise kayaking trip through tree canopies and fog. They even had a hot air balloon that you could not only photograph, but could actually take up for a ride. 

Learning From Pros, and Learning With Pros 

Classes were scheduled every day and even every night so that everyone had a chance to attend them. From run-and-gun filmmaking with Garrette and Amber Baird to night photography with Rachel Jones Ross, there was something for everyone. 

Out of all the classes I took, I had two that stood out as my favorites to attend. The first was learning portrait photography from celebrity photographer Brian Smith. He spent the first half telling stories of past shoots in a way that helped you learn some of his techniques. He then followed it up with hands-on instruction showing light setups, modifiers, and in-the-moment guidance. 

The second class I really enjoyed was getting out of a creative rut by Benjamin Lowy. While I don't feel I'm currently in a creative rut, the techniques, and more importantly, the mindsets he talked about would help anyone take a closer look at how they create. Ben later showed up at dinner with a bag full of smoke bombs for some on-the-spot inspiration at one of the many setups. 

But the education didn't stop at the classroom door. Simply standing in line for lunch, you could find yourself next to music photographer Greg Watermann. It was here I learned how he structures every job he takes and how he feels it's a key ingredient that helped get him where he is today. 

Simply walking around one of the many sets, you could stumble upon Eric Ward and see how he works a scene. Then next thing you know, you're heading out with Pratik Naik and Francisco Hernandez to photograph a model, working off each other's ideas and collaborating on where to go next. 

Being Seen, Heard, and Engaged With by All Levels of People at Sony 

When I first wrote about being heard by the movers and shakers at Sony, I didn't truly know what to expect. I envisioned a big room with the people from Sony on a stage and down below, a crowd of guests passing around a microphone until time ran out. Instead, what I found was a small intimate environment with around 10 people, half Sony engineers and reps with users making up the other half. Every person got a chance to speak about anything they felt needed improvement. You could see the Sony reps listening intently and taking notes as everyone spoke. 

It wasn't until two days after my time with them that I truly understood how much they value these sessions. On the way back from dinner, I ended up sharing a seat next to one of the Sony engineers and was able to chat with him a bit longer. Not only did he remember who I was, but he remembered the things I had talked about. From simple improvements to the way custom buttons work to implementing a feature not currently found on any other camera, he remembered it all. And this right here shows just how much they value the opinions of their users. 


Saving the best for last. The community that filled the space called Kando 3.0 was second to none. Every event I have ever been to, there is always some type of segregation between student and teacher. Teachers are always open and willing, but there is always that invisible line that makes you feel like you are lower on the totem pole. Teachers' lounges or reserved seating. Special name tags or entry badges that say "you are not equal." But at Kando, that feeling just wasn't there. There were more than 100 Sony Artisans and Collective members, and each one had the same credentials as the attendees. During breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everyone shared the same space, and there was no reserved seating. At any given moment, you could find yourself sharing a table with Neil Leifer, grabbing a drink at the bar with Paola Franqui, or even getting a random hug from Prince McClinton. There was no "us" and "them" mentality. 

Having an event like this with such a strong bias towards the community is a catalyst for creative inspiration. I'm not a huge fan of shooting models on sets, but seeing other creatives get excited and motivated, it's hard not to feel the itch to shoot, the itch to create something new and different. 

I'm also not a landscape photographer, but hearing people get amped up after dinner about their sunrise shoot will quickly lead to you getting up at 3 am so you can catch the sunrise at Crater Lake. 

The Kando community gets you comfortable with being uncomfortable — shooting what you don’t normally shoot and learning to apply it to what you do. It grows your network and more importantly, your self-worth. And as my friend Kish once said: “Few photographic companies today understand or accept that the concept of branding has shifted. ‘Brand’ is no longer an external image, but internal behavior. It’s now based on a vision of the future driven by those with beliefs that align.” And in that vein, Kando, for Sony, is an extension of who they are. 

Yesterday, August 19th, was world photography day. To kick off the next phase of BeAlpha and to celebrate Kando and the community, Sony just released this video. I think its a good representation of what I'm trying to say. 

Jason Vinson's picture

Jason Vinson is a wedding and portrait photographer for Vinson Images based out of Bentonville, Arkansas. Ranked one of the Top 100 Wedding photographers in the World, he has a passion for educating and sharing his craft.

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Damn good article and of course props to Sony.

No matter what the trolls write in this thread they can’t deny that this setup was designed not to promote their brand but the community as a whole.

Thank you Eric!

First time I hear about this event. I'll be on the lookout for the next one.

4 days at a location with models, setups, support, free gear, and free classes from pros (you’ve said a million times Sony has no pros; we know already no need to say the same line again)...

At 2199 it’s a damn steal

The only one living in a bubble here is you.

Oh look, latching on to that fact like a stray puppy, I'm touched.

Just chiming in here to say that I've been using Sony gear professionally for 4 years in the field full time and have no complaints.

Connor, really? No complaints? I shoot fulltime with A9 and I can think of ten things that should've been changed shortly after release. e.g. gray af point for starters. Not sure what you were shooting four years ago but the previous gen was pretty awful.

Well, all my complaints have been listened to and changed with the newer models that have released. We have chats with the Sony engineering team and they listen to everything we have to say and they do their best to fix the issues in updates or within the new bodies. But as of right now with the A7RIII/A9 setup I'm using for my work...There's nothing that is a huge pain in the ass that inhibits me from doing my job at any level.

I guess the invisible gray af point was not on your list.

It actually doesn't bother me. I know where my focus point is and I haven't had any issues....and I shoot a lot of sports. Just a quick glance at the comments shows that you're just trolling different threads with negative comments....Maybe try and be positive for a change. You'd be surprised how enjoyable life is when you don't get caught up on every tiny little thing you dislike, ha.

Connor, grow up and stop accusing anyone who is critical of Sony as a troll. Obviously there is an issue with the color of the af point as Sony has fixed it on the a7r4. Stop being a Sony shill. And do tell about your list of complaints that were addressed personally by Sony engineers. I call bs. I pay a lot of money for Sony and while they get a lot of thing right they fumble on the easy stuff such as red af point which every other camera manufacturer provides. Canon 1dx2 also fixed this issue. I rely on my camera to make money and any unaddressed flaw can get in the way of getting a money making shot. I bet you didn’t have a problem with Sony when you couldn’t change menu settings while the camera was buffering. Right?

Nah - i'm quite grown but thank you. The fact that you're going on different threads just throwing in negative opinions that don't help the conversation points doesn't really help anyone. Haven't seen one positive comment from you. I've been in their organization for 3 years now and was at the first two kando's as well as their most recent one. No company is perfect, no product is perfect, everyone knows that. But they are making progress and listening to well versed professionals through hands on discussions. I saw below that you tried to talk with a Sony employee at an event...I'm sure your tone wasn't well received because of well, your tone.

I wanted no blackout, I got that. I wanted more fps on the A7R, I got that. I wanted quicker buffer, got that too. I wanted more lenses within the telephoto prime realm, I got that. Wide prime, got it. Rating in camera, got it. Dual slots, got it. You get the point, maybe.

You seem to be really set on the red af point.....maybe, idk..Learn how to shoot without it? If you're going to be using a camera and there's something you don't like, adapt to not need it. Not that difficult.

Sorry Sony shill. You say there are no problems with Sony cameras since they personally fixed every problem you had. That is laughable. The red point af issue is widely recognized as an issue by many working pros. I am pointing that one issue as you claim Sony cameras have no issues. I would point out more but you are in denial about Sony problems and it would be a waste of time. Lol “learn to shoot without it”/adapt to not need it”? Ok tough guy maybe you can ask Sony to make the Af point invisible in v6 tough guy mode. You really need to stop being a Sony shill. It’s embarrassing. Btw, if you are a working pro who makes a living off the Sony how do you have to as you claim to review every post I have made. Get a life, son.

"No company is perfect, no product is perfect, everyone knows that. But they are making progress and listening to well versed professionals through hands on discussions." You seem pretty ramped up about the 'red point af issue' lol. If your big issue with the cameras as a whole is just an illuminated af point then I'd say Sony is doing quite a great job. Go eat a Snickers.

Sorry Sony Shill you remind me of the people in "Wild Wild Country" who could see no wrong in their great leader until it was too late. BTW, a key feature Sony advertises is their AF. Not being able to see the AF point is an issue for those who are not Sony shills.

I guess as a member of Sony Alpha Collective you have to toe the line in the Sony echo chamber. Explains a lot about your relentless positivity about Sony.

Even though that photo is monochrome, I can see your green eyes

I know right!? Only $2199!! What a freakin bargain!! That price alone would barely cover room and board for 4 days. Let alone everything else! 🙌

Day one is arrival in the afternoon and evening. Day 4 is morning departure. I count 3 nights and 2 field days.

If these are the semantics you want to get caught up in, then you're missing the point.

I'd like to also know why you post 3 times Lights in Motion (once under the name of the product) with 2 links and leave a lot of the sponsors under etc.

I linked to light and motion as a company and then their brand of Stella lights (2 links). I mentioned them 2 times in a paragraph that was specifically referencing them and then in a list of relevant sponsors. I ended the list with etc. because I wasn't going to take the time to find and list every sponsor for the event. So I just listed the ones that where at the top of my mind. But again, if these are the semantics you want to get caught up in, you're missing the point.

That's ok, I'll skip your infomercials for now on. And by the way, it would have been fine with me if you had skipped the links after writing a full paragraph on the Anti trade show. I still find Kando interesting and probably worth it, but the previous intro article, this follow up and the unrelated links on products are not impressing me.

Fstoppers is slowly becoming Fsponsored without the "sponsored" notice.

Wow! I've been shooting sony since the A-230 (my first DSLR after a Fuji Bridge Cam) came out. I found the love for photography again a few months ago. Why the hell have I never heard of this event? I would like to see something similiar in europe too.

I'm in Europe, for just £1500 you can use my camera, lenses and strobes. I'll even come out to hold the lights and diffusers for you. I don't own a dog, but I can damn sure get my hands on one!

Awesome!! What resort will I be staying at? Where can I see the list of 100 plus professional photographers you'll have on site for me to learn from? What cool adventures do you have planned?

Dude, it's only £̶1̶5̶0̶0̶ £1750 (now featuring international race car photographer Benoit Pigeon!)... manage your expectations!

Resort = Tent in my garden with a free outside water tap
Professionals = Me and my mate 'Danno'
Adventures = Trying to not get knicked while taking photos in beauty spots that I've not obtained permission to shoot in.

Can I join and bring in my car racing photography knowledge to your live experience. We'll use your driveway.

You're in!

Agree with what Patrick Weichmann said. Sony is all over the USA Market. I wish there was a Kando Europe to balance thing's
Out. I'm sure the EU market isn't to shabby for sucking up Sony gear. Sure it's expensive to most, but it could be a trip of a lifetime 👌

Zack... There was a surprisingly good turnout from the UK and europe.. it was not just a North American experience...

That's great! I'm mearly suggesting having one in Europe would be more convenient and would be a statement that it's European customer's matter as well. Sometimes I think Sony is more U.S centric because of the abundance of high quality U.S (and Canadian) YouTubers. I always look forward to seeing what's happening at Kando through them, and it's great publicity for them. Maybe one day!

People keep bringing up the price, which has me thinking of what a steal it really is. You hear the question so often of how new photographers can build their portfolio from scratch to start getting paying clients. Imagine being able to build a really solid portfolio with a huge range of models and sets in just three days, with pros coaching you all along the way. Two grand to jump start your photography career, basically. That’s such a killer opportunity to those who need it.

Totally agree. I don't have an actual problem with the price, but more a problem with people who can't see that others may find it expensive and should be allowed to express their opinion.

When you look at people like Getty who charge 400 dollars for a two hour session with him and then look at an opportunity like this, it all makes more sense.

People who think this is expensive are just ignorant to what the cost of seminars/workshops are.

This is easily worth the cost in room/board, location, exposure, networking.

I sure can't be the judge of that since I did not attend either. Infomercials using any topic to smoothly fit in sponsors are not articles but a sad part of today's news.

"Imagine being able to build a really solid portfolio with a huge range of models and sets in just three days, with pros coaching you all along the way."

Is it really "your" work when someone else supplies all the equipment, props, sets, and models and coaches you along the way....

it is when you're simultaneously learning to do it yourself. That's why he called it a jump start and not a handout.

I don’t know if this comment is just an anti-newbie sentiment that many established photographers seem to share or what, but, yeah obviously it’s their work.

Additionally how many people will have the same photos/models/ lighting setups in their portfolio? This approach is similar to guy who cheated during the LA marathon.

Fantastic article!

I wasn't even aware of Kando until I saw and read this article, sorry I missed it!

As some have mentioned, for the admission price, the value is excellent!

It's also vindicating to see so many professionals now using Sony, since many seem to think Sony is not a professional camera, or relegated to the status of "toy".

Sony has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time, and the benefit of this is not only have they developed a vibrant new ecosystem of gear and third-party accessories for their platform, but have spurred the competition to wake up and begin innovating with their products again, and the result is some truly astonishing new gear coming to market. Even laggards Canon and Nikon are finally waking up and starting to innovate again with their mirrorless platforms, but they are very late to the game, so will be interesting to see what they manage to come up with.

Sounds like a great event to promote Sony. And the "community".
I have worked dozens of similar events put on by automotive companies as a photographer. New cars, resort, food, engineers, test drives, celebrities...Depending on the event, it costs the car companies about 3k + or - for each attendee.

The brilliant thing is that Sony got people to pay to play!

(I use Sony 90% of the time)

Yeah, another brilliant move from Sony. I shoot Sony but I really hope Canon and Nikon turn the tide with their next offerings. I was at a Sony event and when I mentioned a couple of issues that could be improved and my comments were not well received as they was not in line with the echo chamber veneration of the Sony mk3 gods. As for paying $2200+ for this event I can only say: No Kando.

Community? I use Sony + other brands, but Kando sounds like an exclusive club for those that get a free ride from Sony, and those that can afford to spend $2200 + travel expenses + several days away from work & family to celebrate Sony. That's not a community I can join.

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