So if you have been trying to reach but have been unsuccessful this past week, it's because I was in Vegas. No, I didn't go to try and win big or get in a bunch of trouble (and hope it stays in Vegas). I went to WPPI 2009! Wedding and Portrait Photographers International has a yearly convention and trade show with the best in the industry meeting up to discuss every aspect of the business so we can all improve our own work for our clients. This was my first year going, and I'm definitely going again next year (it's in March for anyone who wants to sneak into my luggage). It's so beneficial to see how other photographers work so you can learn little tricks and techniques that you can adapt from to better your own work! Not one photographer in the world is perfect, and even with an industry as old as photography itself, there's ALWAYS more to learn (I try to learn something new every day). Especially now with digital photography, you not only have the technical aspect of lighting and composition, but also have an unbelievable amount of things to learn once you have downloaded those digital negatives into your computer. There's dozens upon dozens of software packages and plugins to choose from when editing your photos, and there a lot of overlap in what they can do. Some programs may do only one thing you might actually use on a regular basis, but to get that one plugin, you might have to buy a whole package of plugins costing over $500+ (this is a plugin for a $500-$1000 application by the way!) I wish clients could both see the level of work that goes into creating a single completed image...but on the other hand, making it all seem so easy is part of the job I guess. Anyway, this is Part 1 of 4 of my extended post on WPPI 09 (I'm breaking them up into smaller chunks so people might actually read them and get what they want instead of having to weed through it all...I tend to ramble! See?)
Part 1: Into to WPPI (what it is, who was there, why it exists, and what I got out of it)
Part 2: The Highlights and Shadows (awesome cool products and services as well as some things that in my opinion should just go away...)
Part 3: Night photoshoot with Bob Davis and friends (gotta take pictures!)
Part 4: First time in Vegas when I brought my SLR...gotta do the tourist thing!
Anyway onto finish Part 1! So what did I specifically get out of WPPI? In a word ALBUMS! I primarily went to WPPI to look into working with some new vendors for both albums and other cool ways of getting my photos into my clients hands. I had prior to last week offered albums but wasn't thrilled with the vendors I was using. I hadn't gotten a chance to actually get my hands on a huge variety of company's products, so I went with the companies I had experience with and were what I deemed reliable enough for my clients. The problem with this is, although the company's I had been offering products from were good books and durable, they didn't have that je ne sais quoi that I was looking for, that sort of pop! that I wanted to offer my clients. This week changed all that and I'll be ordering all new sample albums in the next few weeks as I get some new designs together! I'm extremely excited to tell you about the vendor's I'll landed on!
I'd looked at Asuka online before but hadn't actually seen one in person until this past week. I won't use them as a primary wedding album vendor (they are more of a "coffee table book" company), but what I AM going to use them for is engagement session books for couples to use as their "sign-in" book for their weddings. They even have a template just for that! I spent about 45 minutes checking out their products and talking to both their employees as well as Laura about her experience with them before I made up my mind to pick them for this. Their print quality is excellent as is their build quality and durability. This is all great, but what made me absolutely jump on board is this special type of paper that they had in a large number of their samples that was a silky matte finish. It felt soft like silk, but still felt amazingly strong! I can't wait to get my images in one of these to show off to my clients. What's new and cool about Asuka this year is that they're launching a brand new web application that will enable much easier album design uploads. This launches March 3rd, and as soon as I get a chance to play around with it and order my sample, I'll post a little review of their new process.
Thumbdrive/Harddrive Engraving inside DVD-sized Leather Cases
There was a vendor Moshe found the last day that I ran over to go talk to when he told me about them, that sent a lightning bolt to my head and we both got excited about it. Right now I give clients a DVD with a printed cover (no not the nasty sticky labels, I print the label directly on specially made disks) in a DVD case...nothing too exciting, everyone has a DVD drive in their computer, so DVD it is. What really hit me though when looking at this vendor though, is "Everyone has a USB port too!" This company does custom engraving of USB flash drives and they will be partnering with a vendor soon to get a custom made, leather bound DVD sized case for these flash drives and hard drives! Flash drives can't get scratched up (or at least it doesn't matter if they do), and are significantly more portable if a client wants to carry their photos around with them. With many HDTV's included USB ports and also with several laptops now shipping without DVD drives, like the Macbook Air and the Mini 1000, it doesn't limit my clients on where they can display their images! They should have these new cases available sometime toward the middle of the year, and I can't wait (if you steal this idea...just credit give Moshe and I credit for it okay? Just kidding!)! Until then I'm going to have to stick the old school DVD thing...
Kiss Wedding Books
I was thoroughly impressed with Kiss Wedding Books, from cover to cover they are a fantastic product. Beautiful rich leather on the outside, thick colorful pages on the inside. What also was rather unique about them was how flat their pages lay even when brand new. Many album vendors I checked out last week had great print quality, great materials selection, but their pages just wouldn't stay flat, which drove me nuts (and I know would bug my clients after a while too). Some companies products showed signs of wear and tear even after just three days especially regarding color fading or flaking off in the gutter, but not Kiss (and they only brought 8-9 samples while most vendors had 20-30+ to share the abuse)! Three days may seem like a short amount of time but remember there were 10000 photographers handling these in that short period of time, that's a lot of wear and tear! What I like about Kiss though is their clean looks and impeccable quality. Keep It Simple Stupid is their mantra. They offer three sizes in 7 colors. Their pages are thick and strong, and of all the samples I looked at they didn't show any signs of warping in the center. This was a problem I saw that plagued a number of other vendors. Also, for most digital printed books (books without traditional mattes) I really don't like a black or white strip at the center of pages, because it makes panoramic images look bad with a big 'ol black line in the middle of your image. If you like designs that only have an image span one page, its fine, but if you want to spread a great family portrait across a two page spread, its great to have a seamless print which is exactly what Kiss delivers. Just as with Asuka, I'm going to be ordering some new samples from Kiss as soon as I get a design ready...now to pick a color for my sample...red, blue, green, white, black?
PictoBook is my new premium album vendor. I wanted to go with a vendor that had what I liked about Kiss, clean seamless pages, excellent print quality, pages that lay flat and a reputation of fantastic customer service. What I wanted to be different for my premium album offerings though was choice. Kiss offers amazing quality at an excellent price point, but didn't offer a huge variety in materials and sizes. Hadar recommended I check out the PictoBook book, and this recommendation was backed up later by some other photographers I know who have used them in the past and loved them. They offer a huge range of sizes, form factors, as well as a wide range of materials, from carbon fiber to wood! They even have a "Precious Metals" series that can cost well over $10000+! (diamond encrusted monograms on a plate of platinum wrapped in real ostrich leather is what you get for that price range). PictoBook also owns another company called Bijou (pronounced "By You") which produces smaller albums with the same level of quality and a large number of options as their parent company. What sets PictoBook apart from other album makers out there is the presentation. I was extremely impressed with the build quality of their books but what amazed me was that every book ships with a beautiful polished wooden presentation box, which really blew me away. These boxes can have monograms printed onto the top of the box truly making your album an extremely personal and special heirloom for your new family. I spent well over an hour at this booth the first day, went back the second day to reexamine them for about 45 minutes just to make sure I wasn't exaggerating what I liked about them in my head. The coolest part is that they're local (they're based in southern Maryland) so if there's a last minute order, I can save time and go pick it up without having to wait for FedEx or UPS! I'll be working on a design for my samples this upcoming week so I can get these ASAP, I'll just need to decide what materials to use... leather, carbon fiber, wood, metal, or glass?
Part 2 will discuss some really cool products that I got a chance to check out while I was there and also some stuff that should have just stayed at home...