Once every year in February, photographers from across the globe descend upon Las Vegas for one of the biggest wedding, event and portrait photography conferences in the country—WPPI —or Wedding & Portrait Photography International. But not many people know about the driving force behind the conference itself—The Director of WPPI, Arlene Evans. Arlene was able to set aside some time in her busy schedule to chat with us about the past, present and future of this incredible event!
WPPI is one of the best investments a photographer can make concerning the future of their photography business. It lasts five days and attracts thousands of both aspiring and professional photographers from around the world. While attending the conference, photographers create lasting relationships and expand their networks while learning from some of the top leading industry professionals.
We wanted to find out what’s new, exciting and different this year at WPPI! So who better to talk to about this incredible photography conference than Arlene Evans. Read on to see why she’s your go-to source for the inside scoop for WPPI 2020!
In this article: 7 reasons why Arlene Evans says you won’t want to miss this year’s WPPI — The #1 conference in the country for serious wedding & portrait photographers.
- Learn from new speakers and up and coming photographers and panelists you may have never heard of (yet) but won’t want to miss.
- Attend the one-day Baby Summit with a focus on maternity and newborn photography.
- Inspire your creativity with long-standing photography pros like Roberto Valenzuela, Lindsay Adler, Chris Knight and Cheryl Walsh — all excited to share their wisdom and techniques.
- Share and review your portfolio with expert photography instructors who will be providing free critiques on the tradeshow floor to anyone with a full conference badge.
- Accelerate your business growth with the Rise & Shine summit—specifically aimed at new and emerging wedding photographers.
- Connect to your photography community by creating new relationships and catching up with familiar faces.
- Find inspiration around every corner, including print photo competition judging at Mandalay Bay (No tram ride required this year!).
The Beginning of Arlene’s Journey at WPPI
Arlene Evans, who’s not a photographer herself but certainly an industry expert, was hired as Director of WPPI back in 2004. At the time, the company was looking for someone who could provide an outsider’s perspective into the photography industry.
Back then, WPPI was privately owned with only twenty-two employees. They had two magazines operating at the time: Rangefinder Magazine and the now discontinued After Capture. They had a membership program with print and album competitions for a couple thousand people and everything was going great.
But in 2010, it all changed for Arlene when WPPI’s founder, Steve Sheanin decided to sell the company to The Nielsen Company, who’s photo group already operated PhotoPlus Expo. “That was a real shock because Nielsen had 14,000 employees,” Arlene says. “They absorbed the twenty-two of us and it was really difficult to get things done.”
In order to get back into a smaller company environment, Arlene left WPPI and took a position with a startup called Creative Live in Seattle. She was with Creative Live for six years before leaving the company.
Fortunately, WPPI’s new owners at Emerald Expositions caught wind of this and decided they needed to bring her back on the team. “I just had an informal meeting with them,” Arlene says. “I didn’t realize they were looking to hire me.”
And like that, Arlene was asked to reinstate her position as Director of WPPI.
When she was first brought back in, WPPI’s conference was only seven weeks away. “I really didn’t have a lot to do with that one,” Arlene told us. Now, having been back with WPPI exactly one year to date, she’s taken full control of the reigns. “This show coming up at the end of February is the first one I’ve planned one hundred percent,” she says. “It’s been a challenge, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Facing the Challenges Head-On
Overall, photography trade show and conference numbers have been on a decline in recent years—WPPI included. So Arlene has been working hard to bring those numbers back up. “We have 154 classes and fifty-four of them come with your registration,” she says. “That’s a lot of classes for just one fee.”
But that’s not all conference-goers get with a WPPI badge. Arlene has put in serious time organizing special events like print & filmmaking competitions, an awards ceremony, conference panels, evening events and after-hours parties at some of the best nightclubs in Las Vegas. “It is a good value,” says Arlene. “Numbers are good so far, so I’m pleased about that.”
Excitement Surrounding WPPI 2020
This year’s WPPI isn’t holding anything back. Arlene has put together a streamlined conference for both aspiring and professional photographers alike.
“The print and album competition judging had always been at Excalibur and now it will be at Mandalay Bay,” Arlene told us. “That’s exciting because people won’t have to take the tram to get there. So they can go take a class and then they can come back and watch the judging.”
Speaking of classes, Arlene has lined up almost 40 new instructors! “You want to have a variety of photographers,” says Arlene. “You don’t want patrons to come to the show and see the same instructors every time.”
And there are a few different class categories being represented this year as well. Classes on documentary family photography will be available. There will also be a baby summit, which will include maternity and newborn classes.
But what might be most exciting for new and emerging wedding photographers is the Rise & Shine summit. “It’s for wedding photographers who’ve been in business for under five years,” says Arlene. “Classes for them on business and developing their brand and marketing.” After the class ends, there will be two hours of mentoring sessions where the participants can bring in their portfolios and marketing materials to be reviewed. “We’re also doing portfolio reviews on the show floor for free to anyone who has a full conference pass.”
WPPI 2020 Speakers
When asked about speakers she’s most excited to have at WPPI, Arlene says, “I’m always excited to have new speakers coming on board and we do have a few that are well known who’ve never spoken at WPPI.”
Arlene’s referring to speakers like Meg Loeks, a Michigan-based family photographer who will be speaking for the first time.
She also says she’s excited about the Film & Video Making classes they’ll be offering. “We have some amazing speakers for those, like Amber and Garrett Baird as well as some new instructors like Larry Becker, Rod Harlan and Jonathan Snyder.”
There are plenty of other speakers returning that conference-goers will be pleased to have back. Photographers like Roberto Valenzuela, Lindsay Adler, Chris Knight and Cheryl Walsh. “Everybody’s bringing an expertise that they’ve been working on or in for years,” says Arlene. “And I couldn’t be happier that they’ve all agreed to come to WPPI and teach.”
Finding Community & Success at WPPI
WPPI started in 1981—there’s a lot of history there. Many photographers have seen success from the relationships and opportunities forged at the conference. “For new photographers in business under five years, it’s a great place to come and network,” says Arlene.
But for aspiring and seasoned wedding & portrait photographers alike, WPPI is a lot like summer camp. You never know when you’ll run into a familiar face.
“Eighty percent of photographers work solo… So it’s hard for them to be involved in their community,” Arlene says. “WPPI is a great way for photographers to meet with creatives like them who speak the same language.”
If you’re a wedding, event or portrait photographer who has not yet registered for your WPPI badge, head over to their website to see what this conference could have in store for you! But hurry up, because advance pricing ends February 22nd!
And a big thanks to Arlene Evans for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us! We can’t wait to see what she has planned for the future of WPPI!