4 days. 22 speakers. 61 pages of notes. 5 reasons why the BLINK Conference is the only photography conference I attend.
Since starting on my photography journey seven years ago, I've taken my fair share of photography workshops, attended numerous blogging and photography conferences, and purchased a number of online courses. Each of those activities was meant to help me grow as a photographer and be a better business woman. While I learned a little something from each of them, I found myself growing wary of the photography conferences. Why? Because many of them had the same speakers over and over again...the so called "rock stars" of the photography industry. Some of them were humble and eager to share what they've learned over the years and how they achieved success. Others seemed to revel in their "rock star" status and came off as unapproachable and guarded in the amount of information they shared. Regardless of whether they were in the former or latter camp, I often walked away from the conference or workshop feeling like I received the same information that I got in their book(s) or other course(s) that I purchased. When I attended the first BLINK conference 4 years ago, I knew I had stumbled upon something different. I've since abandoned the other photography conferences and decided that the BLINK Conference is the only one that I will attend. Here's why...
1. A mix of practical tips and inspiration
I don't know about you, but when I go to a conference, I want to walk away with action items. Sure, I want to be inspired (and there were tons of inspirational talks that encouraged us to find our voice and pursue work that we love), but I want to be able to get to work improving my business as soon as I get back to my hotel room or while I am on the plane. At other conferences, I often found that speakers mostly talked about their unique photography journey and how things work in their city without any practical tips that are universal enough for attendees to apply to their own business. That is not so at BLINK. Some of my favorite takeaways from the BLINK Conference were:
- When blogging with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, it is important to think like a client vs. a photographer. We also learned the importance of and the steps to take to get the most out of our posted images by properly completing the title, alt-text, and description portions on our blog platform. (Feuza Reis)
- When mapping out your brand, it is important to determine your Unique Selling Proposition (i.e., what makes you unique from the next person) so that you are at the forefront of clients' minds when they are seeking the service you offer. (BLKPRNT.)
- How to use the sales funnel (moving from awareness to sales optimization) to psychologically motivate higher sales. We learned how to use sneak peeks strategically and how to get higher sales during in-person ordering sessions by "loading the lap." (Amanda Holloway)
- Great businesses tell great stories by helping you live the story through vivid descriptions and also sharing bits of the creation process. (Amy and Jordan Demos)
- When pitching a collaboration to another business, you must have an authentic connection to the business, be specific with your ask and what is in it for them, and be clear on the terms of the collaboration via a written agreement. (Cyndie Spiegel)
2. Diverse speakers and attendees
One of the things that I love most about BLINK is the diversity of both the speakers and attendees. I'm not just talking about diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, and gender, but also with respect to the size of their audience or length of time in the industry. For example, there were speakers with 75k followers on Instagram and those with just 1k. There were attendees who have been in photography for over a decade and those who were just starting out. The beautiful thing is that we were are all embraced and respected equally. We all have something to offer.
3. Sense of community
Imagine walking into a room where you don't know anyone personally, but you recognize them from FB so you call their name and are immediately wrapped in an embrace. That's BLINK. The reason that this is possible is because of the heart of the conference, founder Latasha Haynes of Ike & Tash. She truly believes in each one of us, encourages us, and prays over our lives and businesses. Another reason that this family environment is achieved is because of the boutique nature of the conference (this year there were 100 attendees) and the fact that there is a FB group where attendees have the opportunity to connect all year leading up to the conference. It's a special feeling to know that no matter at which table you sit, you belong. There were a number of times when there was someone standing outside by themselves or sitting by themselves and someone called out, "What are you doing for dinner? Are you heading back to your room? Come join us!" This is so welcoming to introverts like me and others.
4. Access to speakers
Throughout the conference, the speakers stay at the same hotel, sit at the same tables, and walk around during the breaks. Because there is such a laid back and communal vibe, it's easy to grab (well not literally, but you know what I mean) one of the speakers to chat during a break. This year, we also had the opportunity to purchase 1:1 mentorships with some of the speakers to get personalized guidance. I purchased mentorships with Ale Vidal, an amazing director for brand and campaign films who creates the most moving films I have ever seen and CreativeSoul Photography, brilliant photographers who have the awesome ability to capture the natural beauty of children through their unique lifestyle and fashion editorial images.
5. Print Salon/Competition
Finally, attendees had an opportunity to enter their images in a competition to be displayed in the Print Salon. We could share one image per category and dropped off our prints during registration to be hung by the conference staff. The judging was anonymous and blind; those who entered did not write our names on our images and all attendees were given stickers to post on their favorite images in each category. It was helpful to see what types of images have the broadest appeal. I was overjoyed that the image below won for the "Best Lifestyle Image" category.
So, that's it in a nutshell. Yes, there were also styled shoots (some of the images you see here were captured during my styled shoot with Jen Sosa), amazing giveaways (e.g., free seat at next year's BLINK conference, camera bags, gift certificates, Polaroid camera, audio speakers, etc.) and swag (e.g., BLINK t-shirt, magazines, travel mug, etc.), but it was the actual content and vibe that I valued most. I seriously took 61 pages of notes filled with concrete tips, scribbled to dos, and inspirational quotes. I'll end with the quote below from Kirth Bobb who challenged us to be intentional when we create images and to recognize that "there is an art to everything," as his grandmother Magnel Amelia Millington taught him.
"Relish in your growing pains. You won't be happy at the destination if you can't be happy on the journey." (Kirth Bobb)
Registration for BLINK 2017 opens at 12:00pm PST on Tuesday, November 29, 2016. It will be in Seattle next year for its 5th anniversary and is already 1/3 sold out! Follow along on the BLINK Instagram page to see sneak peeks of the speaker lineup. Also, check out this video created by Jackie D. Palmer Films to get a glimpse into the spirit of BLINK and the fun we had.
Not sure if you are ready to sign up and want to hear other perspectives? Check out these posts from this year's attendees:
- BLINK Conference 2016: Don't Waste Your Money (Cierra Hicks of Southern Amore Wedding and Portrait Studio)
- Two Hundred Plus Cool Kids at the BLINK Conference (LaJune King of Photos by LJK)