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February 11th, 2009

Survival Tips for WPPI: a Photographer’s Perspective

Posted by Rachel LaCour Niesen

Rachel LaCour Niesen is an old-hat at WPPI and has taught there with Andrew Niesen and Mark Adams for many years. That might make it sound like she doesn’t understand what a first-time WPPI attendee is going through — on the contrary, Rachel has such a reputation for helping new and experienced photographers alike, we knew she’d be the perfect person to share a few tips about surviving the huge WPPI show in Las Vegas, which starts February 14.

An image by LaCour photography. © LaCour

An image by LaCour photography. © LaCour

1. Start with a Strategy

First-time WPPI attendees are often spotted meandering through the tradeshow with a glazed, “deer in the headlights” look on their faces. Don’t risk being overwhelmed and paralyzed in the tradeshow. Before you leave for Vegas, write up an action plan. Compile a “Must See” list of products and vendors that most interest you. Prioritize visiting those booths first. Then, you can be confident that you’ve visited your top vendors before wandering around the rest of the tradeshow. When you arrive, start by reviewing the WPPI Program Guide and the Tradeshow Map.

2. Take Risks

Human nature is to seek out seminars that affirm our strengths. Rather than hang out in your comfort zone, push yourself by attending classes that challenge your weaknesses. Prioritize attending seminars that push you beyond your comfort zone. Are you intimidated by lighting techniques? Then attend Matthew Jordan Smith’s “Lighting Secrets” seminar on Monday, February 16. Need to boost your confidence in your sales skills? Then attend Corey McNabb’s “Sellification” seminar on Tuesday, February 17.

3. What Happens in Vegas Should NOT Stay in Vegas

Don’t leave your new knowledge behind. One of the biggest mistakes I made after attending my first WPPI was stuffing my notebook into my desk drawer. I never pulled it out again! WPPI is an amazing learning opportunity. Don’t waste it by taking tons of notes that will never be read again. Schedule a “WPPI Recap Retreat” for yourself. Put it on the calendar, block it off so you don’t get interrupted. You will need at least a full day to review your notes and decide how to apply your new knowledge to your business in 2009. You will learn so much at WPPI — soak it up and then implement it!

4. Take Care of Yourself

Aside from the inevitable exhaustion you’ll feel after soaking up new knowledge and meeting new friends, you will face the reality of Vegas culture: frenetic, fun, and often sleepless. Part of the fun is partying, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. I advise bringing the following Vegas survival kit:

• EmergenC packets
• Airborne
• Energy Bars
• Pain relievers
• Comfortable shoes
• Blister pads and Band Aids (for late nights wearing heels!)
• Bottled water
• Tote bag large enough to carry these supplies plus brochures you’ll pick up on the tradeshow floor.
• Notebook and pens

Another great tip is to take a short cab ride off the Vegas Strip to a grocery store. If you do some grocery shopping on your first day in Vegas, you can stock up on breakfast food, bottled water, and snacks. Not only will you save money, you’ll also save time since you won’t have to wait in long breakfast lines before seminars start bright-and-early at 8 am. Those extra 15 minutes of sleep are precious!

5. Reach Out & Follow Up

Of course, there are constant chances to party in Vegas. But WPPI can also be a perfect opportunity to network in a more meaningful way. Reach out to a few photographers you admire and see if they want to grab a coffee or a meal with you. Your initiative and interest can be inspiring. Plus, everyone appreciates an invitation to get away from the hectic tradeshow floor!

As you solidify existing relationships and make new connections, be sure to collect business cards. When you get home, enter everyone into your database or address book. Take some extra time to make notes about what you enjoyed about your conversations with particular photographers. Then, be sure to follow up with them in more depth. Don’t lose touch or wait until next year’s WPPI to reconnect. Schedule times to follow up consistently throughout the year. With a little discipline and planning, your network will grow deeper rather than simply larger.


  1. February 11th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Survival Tips for WPPI: a Photographer’s Perspective » Joel Llacar Photography

    […] post courtesy of  Rachel LaCour Niesen at the LiveBooks Blog. I am reposting this awesome Article.  Very helpful especially if you are first timer in WPPI. […]

  2. February 12th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Steven Kent Large

    Hello Rachel:
    Great work and I especially like the Migrant Workers book. I grew up and in Monterey,California and was there when all the Cesare Chavez movenment was happening in 1968-70. I became a photographer in 1972 and worked with the Monterery County Office of Education on the NYC project…so got to do the chromes ? Oh yes I did…of the work study program including the migrant farm workers in the lettuce fields…so it was a trip down memory lane for me. Hope to get back into shooting but with this Brave New World…photography has evolved into digital imaging and like many have shared with me…everyone is a “Photographer” now. I even did some shots of Ansel in Monterey..long gone now…in a flood. Back-ups?? Not this Gypsy soul. C’est la vie…
    Steven Kent Large
    Near Savannah, Georgia

  3. February 21st, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Cathy and David

    Great advice! I wish I’d read this before we went, but I’ll definitely implement it next year! :)

  4. February 25th, 2009 at 1:47 am


    You are BRILLIANT.

    I think we need to write a followup… how to survive POST-WPPI.

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