I’ve walked down the long…. VERY long halls of WPPI as a newbie… as a fan girl… and as a speaker. Every year is different in its’ own way. This year was my second year speaking and walking down the halls felt familiar. I wasn’t quite as nervous, I wasn’t a newbie and I think I’ve graduated from my fangirl phase. Michael, Buddy, Jill and I have had a saying the past 5 years during WPPI where we would yell out “YAHTZEE” whenever we saw a “big name” photog in the hall. I mean obviously we wouldn’t scream it… but we would say it under our breath to each other whenever we passed someone we followed. Such nerds. We STILL do that to this year but this year I didn’t have anyone to say it back to me and that was honestly the only disappointing part of our trip.

Besides missing our best travel pals, we had an amazing week. I entered WPPI this year with no expectations. I just wanted to speak and impact people through my platform talk and that was all I was focused on.

Year after year I have walked the halls of this massive conference and I have felt SO small….. so inferior…. almost out of place. Even last year as a speaker I felt like this just wasn’t my scene. Maybe it’s Vegas…. maybe it’s the THOUSANDS of photographers passing me in the halls….maybe it’s the smokey casinos that make me lose my voice…. or maybe it was just the nerves. WPPI is a fun conference but I think everyone… except the big time speakers… feel a little weird at times. It’s almost like I needed to be validated… maybe I just needed to be told “hey! You’re good! You’re a LEGIT photographer and you belong here.” I’m not sure what was missing. I think I have convinced myself over the years that there is this ultimate “level” to break through in this industry. I see the Jasmine’s, the Jerry Ghionis’s, the Susan Striplings and I think “Now THEY are at that level” and I just know that I’ll never get there. But this year I had a BREAK THROUGH!!!

a Serious break through!!!

This year Michael and I checked into our hotel and then walked over to the conference center with Matt and Carissa to look at our rooms for our Platform talks and that’s when I saw it. The registration booth….. WPPI’s MAIN REGISTRATION BOOTH! The booth that almost every photographer has to stop by…. the booth that I have viewed as my ULTIMATE BILLBOARD GOAL….. this booth had not ONE… but TWO of my images….. printed LIFE SIZE!!!!!!

My initial reaction was covering my mouth and muffling “Oh my gosh.”. My second reaction was “I need a selfie with these things!!!!!” and my third reaction is what will really shock you……

My Third reaction was “Oh my gosh… I photoshopped Sarah’s hand in this image. OH NO…. oh my!” I LITERALLY remember thinking “I mean, no one can tell, it’s not like this will be blown up LIFE SIZE!!!”. Well sure enough, it’s the one image that WPPI, the largest photography conference in the country, decided to blown up life size.  What the heck?! Just my luck right?!!! You can visibly see where the cuff links on her cardigan don’t match up exactly. Oh my gosh… how embarrassing!

As hilarious and embarrassing as this was…. this initiated my break through. My “ah-ha” moment consisted of 5 different parts:

  1. Never say never. The one image you say “this will never get blown up” may just be on display for an entire conference one day.
  2. If you’re going to save a shot and photoshop one piece of the image because the rest of the image is too good to toss, take your TIME. gah.
  3. Having an image LIFE SIZE on the registration booth at WPPI is fun!
  4. Having an image LIFE SIZE on the registration booth at WPPI with a photoshop issue is also humbling.
  5. There IS NO ULTIMATE, UNREACHABLE LEVEL. That is something that I have perceived to be true but it’s false. If a 27 year old with ZERO formal training, who started her business in her DORM ROOM and who is STILL figuring stuff out can have a LIFE SIZE, messed up portrait on display at WPPI, there is hope for ANYONE!

Ya know what the crazy thing is. I think some people think I’m at “that level”. I think some photographers think that we’ve “made it”. This is my BREAKTHROUGH from WPPI 2015…. “Making it” looks different for everyone. I have decided that my “making it” has nothing to do with a poster at the registration table that is now in the dumpster behind a hotel in Vegas. I’ve decided that “Making it” for me looks like impacting people’s lives. Whether they are photographers we have coached or couples we have captured… I want them to see that we love them, that we care about them and that our purpose is rooted in something much deeper than digital photos…. it’s rooted in Jesus. Take it or leave it … it’s the truth for me. Ultimately, the way I serve and love people is what drives the success of my business. Large, life sized posters are fun and exciting but they are temporary. LITERALLY. My posters are in the TRASH right now. People over pictures… always. :)

So how was my WPPI experience this year? AWESOME and eye opening!! I hope everyone struggling with worth, value and reaching their “next level” will re-evaluate after reading this. And if you know of someone who is struggling in this area, share it!!! Enjoy some of our WPPI highlights in images! Huge thanks to Justin, Matt and Anna for my speaking pics!

 There it is! One of my favorite couples of all time and one of my favorite engagement shots of all time! …. with two cufflinks! :) I love it!

 Not only did they use two shots at Registration, Buddy and Jill were ALL OVER the place!! This was THEIR YEAR and they weren’t even there to see it! ha! Also, it was so fun to see our new site by Jen Olmstead all over the Showit Booth!! 

The amazing Mary Marantz introduced me at my talk and I was honored…. and turning red the whole time because of the sweet things she said. So thankful for her! 

 Scary big room for me! 

xoxo, Katelyn
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