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. 

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Chasing Moonbeams Did you know that it doesn’t get fully dark in the Canadian Rockies in the month of June? The nights are so short that the darkest hours are actually astronomical twilight! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As I pursue my #100NightsUndertheStars project, I’ve really learned to appreciate the soft, subtle colours of twilight, and the pale blue shadows cast by moonbeams. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This photo is definitely a new favourite. I shot it a couple of nights ago under a full moon with @krl_photo Taken on my Sony a7RIII with the Sony 12-24 mm f/4. ... ⠀⠀⠀⠀ My project is supported by @BHPhoto. It is thanks to their support that I have the ability to explore my own creativity and new techniques night shooting. ... ⠀⠀⠀⠀ This iconic lake is one of the locations on my Canadian Rockies Photography Workshop. If you want to learn more about landscape photography, or night photography, check out the link in my bio. ... ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bealpha #alphacollective #teamslik #slikusa ... ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #jaw_dropping_shots #sonyimages #sonyalphasclub #superphoto_longexpo #splendid_earth #creativelive #wonderful_places #landscape_specialist #landscapephotomag #ig_landscape #trapping_tones #ig_masterpiece #ig_podium #splendid_earth #optoutside #ourplanetdaily #banff #morainelake #dreamworldimages #astrophoto #nightsky #nightscaper #starphotography #longexposure #beautifuldestinations

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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. 

Community 

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. 

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66 Comments

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Jason Vinson's picture

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?

Alex Herbert's picture

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.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

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

Zack Webb's picture

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 👌

Patrick Fisher's picture

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

Zack Webb's picture

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!

Ryan Mense's picture

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.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

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.

Eric Salas's picture

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.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

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.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

"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....

Jason Vinson's picture

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

Ryan Mense's picture

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.

Yin Ze's picture

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.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

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.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

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)

Yin Ze's picture

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.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

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.

Jason Vinson's picture

There are plenty of community get-togethers (in the photo world and outside the photo world) that I cannot attend. Just because I can't physically join a community doesn't mean I can't still be involved. The attendees of Kando are just a small flicker in the flame that is #BeAlpha. Kando is just a small representation of what Sony wants their community to look like and what they want it to represent.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Well Sony is a corporation, not a community. The only sense in which I'm in the same community as the likes of David Burnett and Neil Leifer is that I photograph for a living.

Patrick Fisher's picture

It was an amazing experience... The networking and new friends alone, made it worth the trip. We may have been at the same Brian Smith class.. Getting that insight was beyond what I was expecting.

Jason Vinson's picture

yup! I was there but always toward the back. Was an amazing class!

Ben Deckert's picture

I'm a Nikon guy, but this does look like a really great event. I actually thought these Kando events were only for their influencers/brand ambassadors. I didn't know you could buy a ticket and go. Thanks for the write-up.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Professionals do you use Sony, in increasing numbers, get over it.

Jason Vinson's picture

No one dropped off other branded gear. It Sony pro support. Not general camera maintenance. And yes, all the professionals (artisans and collective) shoot Sony full time. I'm not even sure where you get the idea that pros don't use Sony... 🤔

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