On August 31, 2010 I set out from LA to Las Vegas to attend my very first Photoshop World Conference. This is something that I have wanted to do but was leery of dropping close to $500 for the conference and then any additional monies for airfare, lodging and food. But, thanks to my persistence and my avid following of Photoshop User TV I was able to snag a FREE pass to Photoshop World in Las Vegas. The next thing was to book my airfare and lodging. I was able to book my airfare (round trip) and a three night stay at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino for a whopping $334.00! If you aren't using Expedia to book a lot of your trips then you are really missing out. And, yes, this was the cost for airfare and hotel.
So I went to Vegas with an open mind and a lot of excitement because I had been wanting to attend this convention/conference for about a year and a half. Since the admission was free and if I was disappointed then I would only be out the airfare, hotel and food. Now, before I go any further I need to explain that the only other convention I have attended is NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) which is also held in Vegas and has over 125,000 attendees. However, this is the second largest convention in the US falling behind CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in terms of total people. So my experience with conventions is on a large scale... a REALLY large scale.
That said, I have compiled my list of my 10 takeaways from PSW in Las Vegas 2010. Please keep in mind that I am viewing this from a photography perspective and NOT from that of a novice photoshop user, web developer or graphic designer. I am sure their takeaways will greatly differ from mine.
1. I know a lot more about Photoshop that I thought I did
- Yes, I learned a new thing or two but because I have used Photoshop for nearly 10 years now, subscribed to Photoshop User TV for over fiver years and use Photoshop nearly everyday of my life there really wasn't anything I didn't already know. If someone is new to Photoshop then this would be a tremendous resource - possibly a bit overwhelming.
2. If you are looking for one on one time this is not the place -
If your favorite photographers are Scott Kelby, Moose Peterson, Joe McNally, etc. and really want to talk with them or pick their brains then this is not the place for that. You, just like everyone else, wants a piece of their time and they are constantly being pulled in all directions. If you just want to shake their hands and say thanks then this is the ideal location for that.
3. Zack Arias is one cool dude -
Here is Scott Kelby taking with just one of many looking for his time.
In a world where a lot of photographers have TREMENDOUS egos, Zack Arias is someone who is humble, down to earth and genuine. Heck, even his assistant Dan is a cool too. Nothing else needs to be said here,
4. The Expo floor is really, really small -
Zach Arias is just a good guy
This is one of those situations where I am used to NAB and getting blisters on my feet from ALL the walking. Here, I was able to traverse the entire expo floor in 20 minutes. I actually found myself getting really bored over the three day period. I was able to meet some people from B&H, Wacom and Elinchrom and talk with them about specific products but that was on day one. I got bored and tired of seeing the same thing over and over and over again. I needed something else to keep me interested.
5. The course selection is thorough but short -
Dave Cross battling Corey Barker at Photoshop Wars on the Expo Floor.
There were a lot of "Tracks" at this year's conference ranging from Lightroom to Creative Suite to Photography to Design. And, at this conference they introduced a new Social Media/Business Track. I checked out a couple of the Social Media/Business classes and found them to be interesting. I thought the Blogging class offered a tremendous amount of insight since it featured Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Richard Harrington and some guy I didn't know. But, the Blogging course was the ONLY one I found helpful because I think they are too short. How much can you really dive into a topic in an hour. There was a lot of elementary information but that's something they had to do to cover all basis. I would have loved to have seen an "Advanced" track on ALL subjects including photography.
6. ONE is the loneliest number... -
Here is Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Richard Harrington talking about blogging.
I went to this conference by myself in the hopes to learn and network. I think networking is somewhat hard here too. Sure, I met some people from across the country and am interacting with them on Twitter/Facebook. But, if you know me at all, you know I am an extremely social person. I found it easy to casually talk with people but hard to really connect. Now they do offer a special get together called "Dinner with a Stranger" but I spoke with someone who attended and he told me that only 7 seven people attended the dinner. Furthermore, they offer the dinner when the big party is taking place (I paid $59 to attend the party) so I felt like I had to choose one or the other. I, obviously, chose the party and got to talk with Matt Kloskowski for a bit but I also met some great people from Wacom - but that was the party. I really did try to meet people and had tons of casual conversations but found it difficult to interact while trying to learn during the classes as everyone is scurrying to get to their next class.
7. There are some GREAT instructors and then there are some, well, not so great! -
Yes, I said it. Some of the instructors were great to learn from and extremely personable. People like Larry Becker (one of the nicest people I have ever met), RC Concepcion, Jim DiVitale, Matt Kloskowski and (my favorite) John Paul Caponigro. They all took time to answer everyone's question (not just mine and many times I didn't have a question). I sat back and observed how they interacted with people. I walked around listening to them talk to people while noticing their interaction. If they acted uninterested, put off, terse or disingenuous then they INSTANTLY went into my "AVOID" list.
Unfortunately there were several instructors who fall into that category. Yes, I know they are popular and get the same question over and over. I know they have to get to their next session but some of these people asking the questions will NEVER get that opportunity again and would just like one iota of their time. On a positive note, I overheard RC Concepcion say that he had about 14 different things on his mind right now to properly answer this man's question but then he gave the inquisitive man his email address and said please email me your question so I can properly answer it. WOW! That blew me away and while I have never met or spoken with RC I have a new found respect for him because of the way he treated that person. I wish more instructors were like RC!
8. JAY MAISEL, JAY MAISEL, JAY MAISEL! -
RC working with a model at the Elinchrom booth.
Considered to be the father of color photography, the nearly 80-year old photographer shared his passion, information, expertise and insight for 2 hours. You better believe I was there! Seeing and TALKING (he doesn't fall into the D'BAG category at all by the way) with him was worth the airfare and lodging. I had the chance to ask him about his influences and he was very forthcoming and engaging. Imaging that, a legend in the field taking the time to talk with a lowly, newbie - me. Thanks Jay.
9. If you ever go to Photoshop World then PLEASE go to Midnight Madness -
This was by far the most fun and interesting time I had. They only provide 200 tickets and people (including myself) had to wait in line to get these. They start passing out tickets at 7:30am and the line starts forming around 5:30am. I was there at 5:50am and was #7 in line. While at Midnight Madness I had a lot of fun watching people participate in "game shows" to win prizes. These prizes are incredible and if you are one of the lucky ones chosen then you have a chance to win some really great stuff. They even served us pizza. The festivities started at 10:00pm and went for almost three hours. The only disappointing part was the fact that they didn't even check to see whether or not you had a pass to get in. That means I just could have crashed the party without anyone even knowing. If I go again I may rethink the whole getting up at 5:30am thing and just crashing the party!10.
10. The BEST takeaway from the entire conference is the workbook -
Let's face it, we all cannot attend each and every session so the organizers pass out this MASSIVE 800+ page book with most of the class notes from the different sessions. Now some instructors like Jay Maisel, Zack Arias and Vincent Versace didn't provide class notes and that is really disappointing but almost all of the other instructors did. So, now I can go back and review anything I forgot or read material from other classes I thought my be interesting but couldn't attend due to conflicting course time. To show how massive this book is just look at the picture below and compare it to a regular can of soda. It's a lot of great information.
So the big question is, "will I attend again?" and I have to say that I will probably not attend. My reasoning for this is pretty logical I think especially when you look at the cost involved. If I were to attend again it would cost me around $400 to buy a pass. Then I would have to get a flight from LA to Orlando and hotel. Right now that package is going for $600. Now, I have to factor in food so throw in another $200 or so for food and anything else I may buy at the conference. The grand total is $1200.00 for something I found to be OK at best.
This is the MASSIVE workbook you leave with from PSW. Who needs trees...
I would rather do this method to learn more - I can and still continue to watch Photoshop User TV to get my latest information, updates and tutorials on Photoshop if I need them. That service is FREE. I can subscribe to Kelby Training for $179.00/year and then I can join PPA, APA or a local chapter of PPLAC to network locally and learn more about photography. My complete cost there (if I include the Kelby Training is around $500. As you can see I can do more to advance my career as a photographer on a local level, network with my community and learn on a daily basis than I can by going to Photoshop World. I am sure others had a different, albeit better experience and will attend again. I DO think it is a great resource for people just starting out but I am ready to take my skills and career to the next level. I can't say I would NEVER attend again. If they introduced an "Advanced" Track with real, in-depth, one-on-one learning then THAT would be beneficial to my career and possibly worth the cost.
I know this was long and thorough but I wanted to provide my honest take on what I experienced at my first Photoshop World. Until next time...
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