I am an education addict.  I absolutely believe that investing in quality education is one of the biggest differences between photography businesses that become profitable and successful and businesses that continue struggling to make a profit.  It can be difficult to decide which of the thousands of educational opportunities to invest in, as it seems there is always a new workshop or conference that is promising to change your business overnight.  I’m happy to help you make that decision just a little bit easier by highlighting some of the most beneficial workshops and conferences that I have had the pleasure of attending.

WPPI and PPA Annual Conference and Expo:

Whether you are about to start your pet photography business or if you have been a professional photographer for years, I believe that either PPA or WPPI is a yearly must that should be worked into your budget.  Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) hosts a national conference and tradeshow each February/March in Las Vegas.  Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is held every January at varying locations throughout the United States.

These conferences each attract about 10,000 photographers and host numerous 90 minute lecture style platform classes in which you can learn from some of the best in the industry.  The classes are generally full of great information that you can take back and apply to your business.  The downside of these classes is that you are in a room with thousands of other photographers so there is no opportunity to interact with the speaker.  The biggest reason that I feel one of these two conferences should be on your yearly travel plan is because of the tradeshow.  It is a perfect place to see all of the samples that the different labs offer, find new and exciting products to share with your clients, learn firsthand how different software can help with your editing, sales, or workflow, network with other photographers and vendors, the list goes on and on.

In addition, both of these conference offer the opportunity to participate in smaller workshop opportunities in the days preceding the conference for an additional fee.  The PPA Business Basics class is a MUST for any new business.  It will walk you through pricing, marketing, and all of the business details that are necessary for success.



I attended my first AfterDark (AD) in February of 2012.  WOW!  This is the most incredible platform for learning that I have ever seen.  It combines the benefits of lots of class choices with the benefits of small group learning.  I had heard about AD a few years ago when they held it in Las Vegas around the same time as WPPI.  I was under the (incorrect) impression that the experience was all about studio lighting…I was wrong.

After Dark gathers approximately 30 mentors from many different niches and they each teach 3-4 different “mini-workshops” during the 3 day event.  About half of the classes focus on marketing or business topics so they are lecture style and the other half is focused on photography or processing.  Here’s the thing that makes these workshops worth EVERY PENNY.  There are about 6 different sessions throughout the day, at each session you have the choice of at least 10-13 different classes to attend, and at each class it is your mentor and ONLY 10-20 photographers!!!  You get to work with and interact with the mentors and they are all unbelievably open, friendly and engaged.

While there aren’t any pet photography mentors….yet, almost every niche of the photography world is represented.  When I was there we had sessions covering: babies, children, seniors, wedding, engagement, fashion, fine-art, underwater, video light, studio light, natural light.  Whatever you wanted to learn there was an opportunity to learn it!  Do you want help finding your style?  Yep.  Do you want to shoot babies inside in natural light?  Yep.  Do you have no clue what you are doing with studio lights and want to play?  (that was me…yep.)  Do you want to learn how to create a studio lighting look with ONE on camera speed light?  (YES!  I did and it only required a 5 cent piece of foam and a hair band. – seriously life changing)   I WILL be attending one of these every year.  It is nothing short of incredible.

In-Person Workshops:

There is really just something about the small group settings and being able to work so closely with a mentor on your photography skills and business.  There are oodles of photography workshops out there, so I recommend that you really decide what your business needs to focus on right now and make sure that the workshop that you are considering addresses that.  Hair of the Dog Retreats are natural light pet photography workshops that not only focus on photography and post-processing but have a heavy emphasis on marketing, workflow, and sales.


Creative LIVE:

Creative LIVE is based in Seattle and they invite industry leaders to teach workshops in their studio that are broadcast live over the internet.  The classes are free to watch when they are running live, but can also be purchased and downloaded to watch over and over or at your leisure.  The classes that I have purchased in the past have been incredibly beneficial and you can’t beat the price!

I’m jumping up and down in my seat just a little bit right now because I am actually going to be flying to Seattle in two weeks to join Tamara Lackey in the studio for her three day comprehensive sales workshop.  Tamara is an incredible children’s portrait artist and also a fabulous business woman and I know I am going to learn an amazing amount with regards to my sales process, from first client contact to product delivery.

I wanted to share this with you because there is another incredible opportunity that I hope some of you take advantage of.  Creative LIVE is holding their first pet photography workshop taught by Vicki Taufer.  I had the pleasure of meeting Vicki at the After Dark that I attended and she may be one of the nicest photographers in the industry.  She is also an incredible artist and I love her pet photography work.  Creative LIVE is currently taking submissions for people to be in the studio audience!  Being in the audience is almost like being in a private workshop, as they choose 6 photographers to sit in and participate in the course.  You can find more information on the course and submission process here, so I encourage you to make a quick video (you can even use your iphone) and submit it by July 11th!


Last word:

The best education in the world is only as good as your ability to implement it.  Now I’m not saying that you aren’t capable of implementing it.  I’m simply saying that you need to make time in your schedule to implement the things that you learn into your business.  Write down actual step-by-step goals.  Periodically revisit the notes from past experiences and see what great ideas you have forgotten about.  You must make the time to make the changes if you want to see improvements in your business.


What are some other educational experiences that you believe are worth every penny?