Dylan and I just got back from a weekend spent at a photography conference. We purposefully selected a conference that was small in size, but confident with purpose. If the conference was too big, we’d disappear into the background. If the conference didn’t have a very specific purpose, we’d get too many mixed messages and nobody wants that. So, we chose Blink. Or, more accurately, Blink was presented to us.
Since we are a husband and wife wedding photography team in Austin, TX, we, naturally, follow other husband and wife wedding photography teams around the United States. We want to learn from them, be encouraged by them, and know that what we do IS possible AND important. So, we follow them. We have four that we really admire and look up to. One of those couples spoke at the Blink Conference last year. After looking into the conference, I realized that two of the other couples would be speaking and teaching at the conference this year. That hooked us! HALF of the husband and wife teams that we admire and look up to were going to be at this conference, so we HAD TO BE THERE to sit at their feet and soak up their wisdom! The fact that the conference was hosted at Lone Star Court in Austin, TX (just minutes from us) sealed the deal!
Blink focuses on bringing a diverse group of speakers for attendees to learn from. I love that they included some of the big names in the photography industry and some of the up-and-coming. They brought in film photographers and digital photographers; wedding, senior, fashion, and family photographers; photographers from different backgrounds; photographers from all parts of the US AND Canada. We loved that not only were we going to learn from our favorites, but we were also going to be presented with new ideas and learn new techniques that we’d never heard of before and see things from a new perspective because every photographer sees things differently.
(The Photo below is of the BEAUTIFUL Tash of Ike and Tash Photography, who is the creator and curator of the conference, the mastermind behind Blink, and the heartbeat and voice of the conference AND Field of Ace and Whim, a wedding photography team out of Arizona, AND the host of ShowIt Live, our website building platform.)
On Saturday, we were each able to choose a speaker to do a breakout session with. I picked Reginald Campbell. While I did want to keep it within my genre of wedding photography, I wanted someone who would knock me off my feet and get me to see things differently. Reginald shoots film, prefers to shoot in black and white, likes soft images, and doesn’t pose his couples. On top of that…? He made us turn off the back of our cameras during his shoot. WHAT?!?! We couldn’t see what we were shooting, we had to feel it. Since Reginald shoots film, I figured he would be more intentional with what he spends his film on. And he was. It was a blessing to witness and sparked a creativity in my work. Here’s a peek at the shoot I did with him and a little behind the scenes of Reg explaining what he wanted from the couple and setting the scene.
Dylan chose to shoot with Amanda Diaz. We decided to be in different groups to learn different things and so we wouldn’t be each other’s crutch. I’m super introverted and tend to let Dylan lead in group settings. Dylan has never posed our couples, as he prefers to shoot things and people as they are, without any alterations or directions from him. By separating, I would have to be my own person and he would have to pose and direct a model. He did. Not only did Amanda give him pointers for shooting, she praised his shots on the back of his camera. Up to this point, Dylan has only ever learned from trial and error, from what I’ve taught him, or from what he has researched online. To have a star photographer who ROCKS at high fashion images encourage him and instruct him over his shoulder as he shoots is invaluable! It wasn’t just Amanda who helped Dylan.
Below is a photo of Sasha Halloway holding a reflector for Dylan’s shot AS she coaches him and emboldens him. She was the very first person to greet us at the conference, to include us in her conversation, the one we stayed up to midnight with talking about life and business and hopes, and the one who reminded us to be real to ourselves and not give a S*!$ (her words) about what anyone else thinks, as long as we’re “slayin’ it” for our clients and “being a beast” about connecting with them. Her heart and authenticity is everything.
Below is Justin Marantz, who is half of one of the husband and wife photography teams that motivated us to sign up for the conference. He and his wife have won countless awards and are world-class educators. He took the time to chat with Dylan and me about funny incidents all wedding photographers deal with, but never reveal to our clients, about camera equipment, the ever-evolving learning process of working with your spouse, their upcoming 2016 passion projects, and lighting techniques. He and Dylan chatted about watches they wear, what lenses they want to buy next, and their favorite shoes! Then, I learned about off camera lighting from him! WHOAH! Have I been using off camera lighting for a while now? Yes. Were there a few “ah-hah” moments? Absolutely! His wife, Mary, reminded me that brides love introverted photographers, because introverts are inherently great listeners and to use that as an advantage. She spoke to us about remembering WHY we shoot weddings and the importance that images of loved ones hold, that photos bring back memories of time and loved ones past. Some of the scars she holds on to, that shaped her to see the world as she does are hauntingly similar to mine and she encouraged me to share those scars. She reminded us that we are enough – we don’t need more to be accepted and are loved just as we are. Her two lessons had most of the room in tears. One of my favorite parts of THE ENTIRE conference was witnessing her and Katelyn James interact with their husbands AND witnessing them each pray on behalf of the other before their lessons. Katelyn was recovering from pneumonia, but still made it a point to show up and love on attendees and the other speakers. The fact that she and Mary prayed for each other and with each other quietly in the corner is everything. They gave the glory to GOD and made sure to thank HIM for blessing them. They poured out their hearts, shared their successes and failures, and encouraged each and every attendee.
The over-arching theme of the whole conference was community and that came in FULL-force throughout the whole weekend. Dylan and I went to a BBQ dance party, stayed up late drinking wine around a campfire with new photographer friends and industry leaders, ate ravioli as we discussed life in the photography industry with other entrepreneurs, dreamed of a bigger, brighter future over thai food, discussed our fears and life-changing moments through tears at a s’mores party as we laughed at how poorly wedding photographers dance (but we sure do try!), we went on burrito runs with people who share our woes AND hopes. We shared and we learned and we laughed and we leaned in. And others did the same for us.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, these photography greats and small business owning peers awarded Dylan The Best of Blink 2015 Speaker’s Choice Award. No names were on the prints, so no one knew who submitted what, but these photographers and new-found friends saw in Dylan’s work what I see every time we shoot together. They picked his image over ALL the others as the best of the best. The industry LEADERS looked at all the photos and hand-picked my husband’s shot. They picked his shot! The man who said “I don’t know what I’m doing” because he feels a shot and waits for it; The man who thought everyone would be frustrated with him for not having ever used Photoshop; The man who has never posed our couples and was nervous about having to reveal that; The man who I couldn’t do this business without; The man who pushes me to do better and encourages me; The man who gave up his weekend off to learn how to better pursue a dream that we can chase together; The man who bought me my first DSLR because he saw photography as a passion of mine; The man who asks me to see things differently; The man who chooses to hold my hand every day and picks us every time.
His photo was chosen and I could NOT be happier for him. Thank you for everyone who spoke into his creativity and confidence at the conference. Thank you to all the speakers who shared their stories and took time out of their busy fall schedules to help shape and mold us. Thank you to Ike and Tash for being purposeful with their conference and sticking to it. Thank you, of course, to all our clients who see our vision and help us chase it. We love each and every one of you for all you have given us. Truly.
For the curious minds, this is Dylan’s winning photo from Megan and Brian’s Wedding at Vista West Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas.
Words could never do this conference justice, but that was my absolute best attempt. If you are a photographer or a creative who needs a new perspective or wants to be challenged, you should go to this one. Blink brings a diverse group of photographers together to encourage one another and push each other outside of their individual comfort zones. You will learn. You will cry. And you will leave with an emboldened vision of a better version of you.