Florida Photography Convention (FOCUS 2015) Recap

Posted: September 1, 2015 in Photography Education, Studio Happenings
Tags: , ,

I just returned from a great three days of education and networking at the Florida Professional Photographers’ annual convention (FOCUS 2015) in Orlando. Lack of sleep and an overabundance of photo-stimulation are commonplace at this convention (my 22nd straight convention with the FPP).

THE SPEAKERS
One word – Incredible.
This lineup consisted of honest to goodness, hard working, fully invested in their PHOTOGRAPHY business photographers, who are making their living one click at a time. There were no egomaniacs, no dream-sellers, no shortcut peddlers, just real photographers who are walking the walk and have the goods to prove it. I love that. I respect that. I want MORE of that.

THE ATTENDEES
It’s always a pleasure to see my old friends from across the state, and some from outside of Florida, who attend FOCUS year after year. And I LOVE meeting NEW faces and this year was no exception. There were plenty of new members in attendance, and I enjoyed personally greeting as many as I could. They are the future of the industry, and the future of the FPP. I hope to get to know them better, and to see them at future FPP events.

THE VENUE
One of the new twists this year, was that we moved from the Rosen Plaza to The Florida Hotel. The staff and accommodations were great. The setup, layout, and format of this convention was much smaller than we were used to, but so efficiently run by our fantastic Board of Directors, it was like selling the over-sized school bus we’d been living in, and climbing into a fresh clean sports car. Ahhhh… that new car smell (not to mention the gas mileage we’re gonna get outta this place – AMIRITE?).

THE COMPETITION
This year, I didn’t enter anything for the state competition although I probably should have! The percentage of merited images was up over last year, but the images were certainly worthy of it, too. An incredible display of beautiful lighting, composition, and creativity, particularly in the digital manipulation categories, was just incredible. Congratulations to all those who took home honors, and for those who didn’t… or were lazy like me, there’s always next year!

THE VENDORS
While the Trade Show was smaller than in years past, it had some terrific setups. Trade Show vendors and sponsors have been inundated with convention opportunities in recent years and their resources have been stretched to the limit. It’s not cheap to come to Florida and setup for two days to make connections, and we certainly appreciate those who did this year, and encourage our members to support them when it comes time to make buying decisions.

THE STRUGGLE
Florida, being the sunshine state and convention mecca that it is, has left the FPP in the unique position of having to fight for attention, participation, and membership with no less than three to five other photography related conventions in Florida every year, something that was not an issue 10 years ago, and completely unheard of before the digital revolution. Given that unfortunate variable, I think it is commendable and a tribute to the dedication and hard work of our FPP Board of Directors that, while having experienced a decrease in size and income over the last few years, the board has taken some rather bold steps to rebrand and reinvent its business model and maintain its relevance to professional photographers who seek quality education.

Bigger is not always better. Sometimes, less really IS more. It’s no secret that the economic climate since 2007, coupled with an enormous increase in competition did not bode well for the photo industry (not just the FPP, but all state organizations). Anyone who’s been in business more than ten years can attest to that. Add to that, that nearly every consumer today now has a smart phone with “good enough” camera capabilities, and you have yourself a perfect storm. Supply and demand for professional photography services has been topsy-turvy for nearly a decade, and the education provided by state associations like ours has been drowned out by the noise being peddled as education on the Internet (disclaimer: there are some very good and very valuable learning resources available online for photographers, but you have to wade through a river of ridiculousness to find it).

I love the FPP, and I love the people who not only belong to it, but work to improve it (and that includes practically everyone). This year’s run in the new digs was a success, but was also a test run around the track. Opportunities were found to improve, and with the membership’s help, suggestions, and involvement, I think it’s a guaranteed bet that next year will be even better.

I look forward to FOCUS 2016.

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