I was so excited to be asked by Leslie Kerrigan (founder of Seniorologie) to write a blog post describing my experiences at Conference 12! I have attended the last two years, collecting many memories and inspiration for my business. Owning a portrait business is such an up and down experience, and at times it’s normal to feel a longing to be part of a bigger community that is dedicated and focused on the same things you are. Being part of the Conference 12 family has given me just that! Here are the best parts of being in that family, what I took away from it, and why YOU should experience it for yourself!!!
Travel to amazing places. Coming from a business background where I would travel up to 60% of the month for work, it’s so much fun to take to the road for my business! I have to say it felt so empowering to be traveling far and away for my photography business. And more than that, the locations for Conference 12 are amazing! Last year, it was in the beautiful desert landscape of Arizona, and this year we were on the white beaches of Miami. And I hear (wink, wink) that next year’s conference will be somewhere in the mountains!
Get in a senior photography bubble, and stay there for days. Photography conferences are beneficial, of course. Learning new things about business practices and enriching your technical knowledge is a must to growing a successful business. But at Conference 12, it is solely focused on high school senior portraits. I can’t say enough how fabulous it is to be surrounded by business owners just like you, all with the same struggles, same questions, and same goals. Staying in close proximity at a hotel, sharing meals together, and learning side by side is so much fun. Conference 12 planners do a great job planning each day filled with speakers, shooting, and even some free time to get to know fellow attendees. It’s the best kind of bubble to be in, and it is hard to pop it and go back to reality when it’s over!
Grow your network, and make tons of new friends. Even before the conference starts, you are connected in social media groups and begin communicating with attendees! By the time you arrive at Conference 12, you already feel like you are part of a big family. It’s such fun meeting people face to face that you have met online leading up to the conference. I love having contacts all over the country now, ones that I can call anytime to bounce ideas off of, or get some new ideas from! Last year, I made some new lifelong friends (Carissa, Theresa, Catie, and Lauri) and most of us were able to attend again this year to reconnect! And even after the conference ends, attendees are still staying in touch on Facebook groups. The speakers are readily available to communicate with as well anytime, during the conference and after as well. That is such a benefit!
Enhance your business practices by listening to successful senior photographers speak about very specific topics. The speaker lineups at Conference 12 are always spectacular! This is the one thing that really sold me on going that first year. The prospect of learning from the best in our industry was so exciting! Each of the speakers gives an hour long keynote speech on a variety of topics, such as spokesmodel programs, marketing techniques, image composition, editing, in-person sales, and posing. This year, my absolute favorite take away was from Christina Ramirez’s presentation on what colors your clients wear, and how their skin tone is affected by it. I immediately went online and purchased her color guide (it’s amazing—and I was not told to sell you on this!!) and use it in all my consults with new clients. They are told what colors will look best on them, and now that I share this information with them, it’s amazing how much more beautiful my images are! This is the kind of information I wouldn’t have figured out on my own. It’s so eye opening to hear how others do things, and how you can apply these practices to your business.
Grow your portfolio with fun styled shoots! The speakers are asked to create styled shoots for the attendees in beautiful settings, styled in unique clothes, which give you cool images for your portfolio. I know some attendees have used these images to market themselves for travel sessions. I think I need to do that! In Arizona, we were assigned to specific photographers to shoot with, and this year in Miami all attendees attended every styled shoot. And everyone loved that! I have been told that this will continue for next year’s conference as well. Shooting side by side with other photographers is super fun, and gives you an opportunity to talk shop about technical stuff, like posing, lighting, and post processing. Hearing how others guide a model, use the light, and set their cameras is very eye opening! Here are some of my favorites I captured over the last couple of years.
I hope this gives you a good sense of what Conference 12 is all about, and convinced you that next year is YOUR year to attend! I can’t say enough good things about Leslie and all that she does to make the conference a place where you feel part of a family. Last year’s motto was “Community Over Competition.” This couldn’t be truer! Even here in Dallas, we have an amazing community of senior photographers that does nothing but support one another. I couldn’t be more thankful for this community here, and all over the country now thanks to Conference 12!
Corrie is a photographer in Dallas, Texas. Be sure to follow her below.