The Future of In-person Photography Education

The Future of In-person Photography Education

Photography education is a constantly fluctuating space, ever evolving from one approach to the next in an effort to differentiate from the pack. The Photo Creators Conference is the next evolution in the chain. 

Vendor Integration 

Photography education has taken on many forms in the past. There have been university-style classes, in-person workshops, online classes, large conferences, boutique conferences, free YouTube education, and many others. And although all these various offerings are still around in some shape or form, people are always trying to find the next big thing. 

That's where The Photo Creators Conference comes in. And while it has "conference" in the name, I'd liken it to more of a boutique conference and in-person workshop hybrid. You see, conferences are traditionally huge shows centered around a trade show-style floor with branches of classes as an added bonus. With The Photo Creators, the education part comes first (more on that later) and there is no trade show floor. Instead, the vendors are integrated into education. And because education comes first, the only vendors allowed are those that are vital to the topic at hand. 

For example, there may be a class on studio lighting. So, obviously, studio lights are a key part of the topic, so the vendor might be Profoto. For a class on printing your work, you might see vendors like Graphi Studios or Hahnemuhle paper. But these vendors are only there in a sense of supplying gear for everyone to use, because it's not about a sales pitch and instead about letting you try the gear as part of the educational experience. 

What You Want and What You Need 

With this year's Photo Creators conference, there are seven instructors, and each student gets to choose five of the seven to work with. What this means is that you get to have a customized experience and you get to make sure you see who you want to see. But you also have room to add classes that you may not normally have signed up for. So, you may want to sign up to learn headshots from Peter Hurley, but your business may need you to sign up for the speed editing class from Sarah Edmunds and Dario Righetto. Because you have the ability to customize your experience, you can have both options. The idea here is that you don't have to attend a class you absolutely have no need for, while also giving you room to attend a class you need but may not normally choose to attend given more exciting options. 

The Perfect Education For Beginners 

If you're not a beginner, then don't stop reading. Because this conference is not catered to beginners, but I think it's the perfect experience if you happen to be one. Because as a beginner, it's not always apparent what you need to learn. You may know you want to learn how to take better headshots from Peter Hurley, but you may not realize you need to learn about editorial portraits and social campaigns from Laretta Houston. But because of the rotation learning, you'll find yourself in classes you may not have voluntarily signed up for. And as a previous attendee, I can assure you that you will take something away from every single class, even if it doesn't seem of interest on the surface. 

More Than Education 

The reason this isn't labeled as simply a workshop is that there is more to this show than education. Aside from the vendors, there are networking events, after-hours shoots, group dinners, and excursions. You see, the conference is taking place on the Tanque Verde Ranch, a fully functioning Dude Ranch covering tens of thousands of acres. And the conference has the entire ranch rented out. So, if you see anyone that isn't an employee, then they are part of the conference. This also means that you don't have to worry about photo shoots getting in the way of guests. Because the entire ranch is there doing what you are doing. Want to take a horse out for a shoot? You can do that. Want to simply take a relaxing mountain bike ride to relax? You can do that too. The other great thing about everyone being a part of the conference is that anyone you talk to is part of the industry. So, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour are the perfect places to network with not only other students, but with the educators and vendors as well. 

World Class Portfolio Building 

I traditionally hate the term "portfolio building" because of what it traditionally implies. What I normally see is an instructor fully set up an image, and the students either take photos over the instructor's shoulder or each student gets a turn taking a picture of what was set up. To me, this is no different than taking the photo off the instructor's website and putting it on your own. Because while you did click the shutter, you didn't do any of the work. But with Photo Creators, the instructor teaches you, then lets you actually do it. But you do the setup, the directing, and figure out your settings. However, you get to do these things under the guidance of a world-class instructor. Because the idea here isn't to show the process and then let you take the photo. Instead, they want to show you the process and then let you do the process so that once you leave, you can do it for yourself. 

As an added bonus, the talent you get the chance to photograph is of the same caliber as the instructors. Agency models that have worked on high-end campaigns. Talent that photographers only wish to have the chance to work with. Just last year, one of the models, R'Bonney Nola, went on to win Miss Universe. 

How to Attend 

This year's Photo Creators Conference is taking place May 8-12th in Tucson, Arizona. The date is quickly approaching and attendance is limited to the size of the ranch. But at the time of writing this, there were still a few open spots left. So, sign up fast if you want to attend this year, and if you miss your chance, make sure to follow them on Instagram to be notified of 2024 dates. But if you sign up fast, you can enjoy $500 off your ticket with code FSTOPPERS500 (limited to the first 20 people). 

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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Ok, 2k for event, Hotel cost, travel cost, we talking 4k...seems. Maybe more....That is a new camera and lens or other gear....or a nice 7 day cruise with a friend.....Not saying, but but, and but...Wagyu meat sound better to me and I can take it home....A tad pricy folks. But nice work pimping the conference

Cost wise, if you want to learn from just one of these instructors, you would be looking at the same price if not more. Buy a new lens and camera, that won't make you a better photographer in the least. Take a cruise with a friend? Awesome! Enjoy the trip! Take some meat home? Delicious! Just depends on where your priorities are. But as far as education goes, I think this conference is worth it. If you want to learn from just one of the instructors, you'd be saving money. If you prefer to spend your money on other thing like gear, cruises, or meat... then obviously it's not for you :)