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Have Photo Conferences Fully Recovered From COVID?

Have Photo Conferences Fully Recovered From COVID?

It’s no secret that COVID put a bit of a damper on anything in person, especially large group gatherings, like conferences and trade shows. But as time has moved on, has the photo conference world fully recovered?

I was lucky enough to be a speaker and educator at WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) back in 2019, as well as the pre-COVID show they had in 2020. These shows were packed with students, standees, sponsors, and exhibitors. But as lockdowns began, things took a drastic turn. While WPPI still managed to have in-person events, they were smaller all around. With fewer attendees and less support from brands, it was hard to tell if the world-renowned conference was going to survive. Even the big-name brands that have been staples on the floor seemed to be pulling out of the show. 

So, going into WPPI 2023, I was wondering if the show attendance was going to maintain a downward descent. A lot of my friends that I would normally see were not going, and some past brand partners were not going. So, I went into the week-long event with low hopes of a great turnout, that is, until my first day walking into the main conference room hallway. 

Even being there a full day and a half before the tradeshow floor was open, things had a certain buzz about them. The classes that were going on had lines out the door, and on every corner, you turned you were met with another group of people sporting their WPPI attendee badges. For example, Lindsey Adler was teaching a class the day before the tradeshow opened, and so many people came they had to move her to a much larger room! In fact, the line to get in was so large it filled up the entire long hallway two hours before the class even started.

Once the trade show floor opened, it was clear to see that the number of people was not just an illusion. It seemed that most of the big-name brands had returned. You could see large booths from Canon, Nikon, Fuji, B&H, Graphi, and so many more. And these booths were swarmed with attendees from open to close. 

This trend continued through the week as the parties and social events kicked off. The opening party was packed. The Fuji party even had so many people they could only let attendees in as other people left. Then, the WPPI Shootout that was sponsored by Nikon and hosted by Jerry Ghionis had more than 800+ attendees. And the fun wasn't limited to WPPI-organized events. The hotel bar became a hub for all WPPI after-hours hangouts for attendees and vendors alike. 

And it didn't stop there. One of the best parts about WPPI is the educational experience. And this year, they had 111 speakers. They had more than 60 different classes and had more photo walks than any other WPPI prior. In all, the overall attendance was double the year prior. 

This leads me to my question. Has the photo conference fully recovered from COVID? Even though a good amount of people and vendors that I would normally see didn't show up, the overall attendance was up. And the trade show floor was still packed with high-end and big-name vendors. So, while I don't think WPPI has fully recovered, I do think they are on the right trajectory. I think WPPI could eventually be bigger than some of the pre-COVID days. Add to this that WPPI is already planning to have more speakers, more classes, and even more photo walks this coming year, and things are looking good for 2024. 

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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