I’ve always been an advocate for learning and education. Ever since I started my business, I’ve kind of lived with the mantra of “why buy fancy gear if I don’t know how to use it?”. That’s served me pretty well. I’ve taken multiple online courses and workshops that have taught me all I know, from posing to lighting to editing. Learning from some of the top people in the industry and getting to share in the things that took them years to discover, that’s been such an honor. Now that I’m a few years in, the education looks a little different than it did when I first started. But it’s still so valuable. That’s why I took almost a week earlier this month and attended two events in Phoenix, Arizona! First, a 1:1 workshop with a husband & wife brand photography team! Then on to the United Conference that Showit (my website company!) puts on every year! I may have experienced a bit of information overload, but y’all! It was one of my favorite weeks of all of 2019! And that’s saying something!
I’ve take the last two weeks to process everything I gleaned from those six days in Phoenix. That’s why this blog post is coming at ya a little later than normal! I wanted to sit on some of the concepts and memories before I launched them out into the world for y’all to share in! A little selfish? Maybe. But good for my heart? Most definitely! Anyhow! Let’s dive in!
The entire trip didn’t start out on the best note. I left Ohio on Halloween. And if you local, you know that we experienced a temperature drop and some snow flurries that day! Well! I was scheduled to fly out at 9am that morning with my first stop being Chicago. The problem was, Chicago got a lot more than flurries on the ground! There were over 500 flight delays or cancellations that day! Craziness! Thankfully, I got the text that my flight was cancelled before I had left for the airport! After hopping on a plane at 5:30pm that night, I finally arrived in Phoenix at 11pm their time! *just 2am our time, no big deal!* The best thing was though, I made it! And got to eat some killer tacos in the Chicago airport during my layover! If you’re ever in the Chicago (Midway) airport, don’t shy away from their tacos! I was a bit nervous to try fish ones in an airport, but they were SO GOOD!
I guess I should also mention that I had my first rental car experience after that crazy travel day! I was a little nervous for that. Just because I was traveling solo and had to find shuttles and hotels and all that alone! I’m thankful for super helpful airport people though! And travel blogs that informed me of how to waive the young drivers fee! *pro tip* If you’re under 25 and want to rent a car, get yourself a AAA membership and book your rental through Hertz! I got a discount + didn’t have to pay that pesky fee!
Now! Onto the next day! The 1:1 workshop I attended was at the cutest co-working + business hub outside of Phoenix! Erica and Jon did such a great job choosing somewhere with killer coffee and an atmosphere that sparked so much creativity! The entire day was that way though! Just one great thing after another! I loved being able to dive into the world of brand photography and hearing all the wisdom Erica and Jon have gleaned from their time in the industry! They pivoted their business about a year ago from weddings full time to branding! They opened my eyes to so many new avenues and gave so much encouragement for my dreams! I think that was my biggest and favorite takeaway! Second to that though had to be the styling and lighting help that they gave! Jon walked me through a studio lighting set up! Which BLEW MY MIND! Y’all! The way I use flash at receptions totally works! But my understanding of flash had to be totally flipped on it’s head when Jon was explaining studio stuff! It was a good challenge though! And Erica is a styling wizard! Like! Such skills! And just getting to watch her plus style with her direction was so much fun! You’ll see some of those images below
Saturday, I got to hang out with a friend I’ve counseled camp with for a few years! He’s attending GCU in Phoenix and he and his girlfriend were the best company on Saturday! I didn’t have to go exploring by myself! Such a blessing! We visited Papago park and did some hiking! Then we went to the coolest little stop in Tempe called Snakes and Lattes! They’ve got coffee, of course! Plus food and a selection of over three hundred boardgames! I love playing boardgames and one of my favorites is Clue! They had suggestions for new games to play based on some of the more well known ones and we played the one they suggested for Clue! It was called Cryptid. Bryan kind of smoked Tori and I on the first two games, but we caught on soon after that! Sunday. Everyone began arriving for the start of the United conference! Which meant my roommies were officially there! The funny thing is, none of us really knew each other in person. I had met briefly at an event last summer and Kati and I think we may have met in passing at last year’s United, but neither of us really remember! I pulled together all of us through my social media scouring (stalking) skills and made a group text! The rest is history! It didn’t take too long for us all to become fast friends and naturally, thing we did as friends (& photographers) was to walk around the resort taking photos of each other! ha ha!
The welcome dinner was that night and it can be super intimidating to join a crowd of 400+ photographers all in one spot! But I was so thankful to find so friends to reconnect with! And to discover that a few of my roommies like people watching as much as I do 😉
Monday began the first round of keynotes and breakouts! It didn’t take long for my notebook to begin filling up! Between the great speakers and breakout sessions, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to do anything but process the information loading into your brain! I totally loved every minute, though! My friend, Tovala and I did kind of sneak away during the last set of breakouts to catch a breather and to swap some photos before the 80’s themed dinner that night!
Kind of felt more like a 90’s baby in an 80’s world with the outfit I was wearing, but hey! I just kept believing that I was channeling my inner DJ Tanner!
So thankful for these friends! They everything so much more fun! Tuesday was packed full of more breakout sessions and more keynotes! And I was a little partial to the speakers from that day! Mainly, Katelyn James! Anytime I get to hear her on stage or at a workshop, she never fails to speak right to my heart and encourage! Not to mention bring a loving kick in the pants! After the keynotes, we escaped back to our room to begin prepping for the Gala that night! After we finished our makeup, we snuck outside during golden hour to snag just a few more headshots of one another! These ended up being some of my favorites from the trip!
The last day is always bittersweet! So many goodbye hugs and photos with friends! My time at United this year was just the best and I felt like I gained so many friendships that will continue into the future! The community Showit has been able to build is like none other and you can’t help but feel loved as soon as you walk in the door! It’s something that none of us really wanted to part with! But! I’m already so pumped to be back next year, I bought my ticket before I had even been home for 24hrs!
Taking this photo was pretty much like the biggest family formal ever! ha ha! Over 400+ people in one room all United through Showit! Such an amazing four days and such an incredible community! So thankful to be part of it!