I’ve been slacking on getting this post written. Not because I’m being lazy, but because so much happened that I’m just not even sure where to begin with it. So I’m going to do my best and just jump in.
A couple of weeks ago, Reid and I attended WPPI (which stands for Wedding & Portrait Photographers International). It’s an annual convention for…well…wedding and portrait photographers! Except we didn’t participate in WPPI at all (save for walking through the humongous trade show one morning). At the same time that WPPI was going on, our website company, Showit, was putting on their own three-day event, titled Showit United, which included workshops by some of the top wedding photographers and business owners in the industry (hello Jasmine Star, Zach & Jody Gray, Promise Tangeman, Jeff Jochum).
I wasn’t sure that I would be able to attend when it was first announced, but then I started to realize I absolutely couldn’t miss it. So I made an executive decision that I had to go. Then as I started talking more and more about it, Reid decided he absolutely couldn’t miss it either. So we made it happen 🙂
Showit is more than a company. It’s a mindset. It’s a community. It’s a life-changer. They provide software that enables you to create a website that’s uniquely you and allows you to turn any of your wild ideas into reality on the web. I’m trying not to sound like an infomercial, but it has seriously changed our lives/business. Yes, our website has been integral in building our business, but the thing that has propelled us forward even more is the community of people that comes along with being a Showit member.
When we first started our photography business, I felt pretty darn alone. I mean, there are a bajillion other photographers in and around Bozeman, but I didn’t feel like we were a community. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to if I needed to ask a question, get advice, or even have a shoulder (other than Reid’s) to cry on. People were doing their own thing and taking care of their own business, which is totally understandable. But I was practically starving for more than that. It wasn’t as if anyone was unwelcoming (not at all, in fact – we’ve met some amazingly wonderful photographers here we absolutely love), it was just that I wanted to feel connected and be a part of something bigger than myself. As a creative, I love being around other creatives. They drive me. They inspire me. They let me bounce ideas around. That’s what I wanted. And that’s exactly what I got when I found Showit. Their goal is literally to be “Unique, United, and Free.” Unique in your brand. United as an industry. And free to be yourself.
OK, so back to Showit United. If I thought getting to be a part of the community of Showit (the group is actually called the ‘Showiteers’…isn’t that awesome? :)) was life-changing, then going to Showit United was universe-expanding. Reid and I learned more than we realized was possible to learn in 3 days. It was truly golden wisdom. The people we met were simply fantastic, real and lovely. I would have to say that among all the amazing people we met, Andrew Barlow would be one who made the most impact on us. Andrew works for Showit. Or to be more precise, he’s actually Showit’s “Chief Evangelist” (as listed on his FB page). He makes things happen and brings people together. He’s awesome. One of my favorite memories from the trip took place late on Tuesday night after photographing a Showiteer couple who had just had an impromptu, Vegas-style wedding (photos coming soon, I promise!). We found Andrew hanging out with some other Showit people in a bar in the middle of the MGM Grand casino and then proceeded to spend the next 2 hours talking with him about Jesus. In the middle of a casino. In Las Vegas. I felt like any second the slots and blackjack tables around us might burst into flames. We were talking about deep stuff. He’s doing incredible things, and we’re so blessed to count him as a good friend now.
And there are, of course, a boatload of other people who we were blessed to meet and spend time with, including the amazing hug-your-face-off Cassie Jones, the dedicated and brilliant Kevin Sturm (the mastermind behind Showit United), the gracious and gifted Karen & Isaac Stott (thank you again for letting us crash your room that night! It was so fun!), the hilariously fun Jeremiah & Rachel, the charming Southern lady Kristin Layne Peddicord, the inspirational and talented Julie Story, the totally irreverent Donnell Probst, and the sweet Elizabeth Muscara (now Haase) and her new husband Andy (they’re the ones who got married!), and of course, Jackie Gannon, who is one of my biggest inspirations and whom I credit with inspiring me to really jump in and be involved in the Showiteer group.
We learned priceless information in order to succeed as photographers, as a business, and as a couple. We learned so much it’s simply impossible to write about it all here. Which just means that if you are a photographer and haven’t been to Vegas yet for WPPI (or better yet, United!), then you’re just going to have to experience it for yourself next year. Do it. You won’t be sorry.
Cassie Jones, Julie Story and Andrew Barlow. Love these people. Photo by Vanessa Embling.
We went to a “Prohibition Rebellion” party where we got to dress like ’20s flappers and gangsters 🙂 It was so fun!
I met JASMINE STAR!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!!
Jamilah, Jillian, Jasmine!!!, me, and Vanessa 🙂
Our impromptu wedding party: Reid, me, Jeremiah Spray, Sarah Bardo, Elizabeth & Andy Haase, Donnell Probst, and Jennifer Bischof taken by Rachel Catlett.
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Samantha, you are too awesome for words! Nice write up and my head is spinning again as I think about all the fantastic people Diane and I got to meet while there…great post….
ps…and tell Reid thanks again for being such a nice gentleman when I was trying to find a place to sit…great guy!
I miss you.
Next year, I’m totally doing the Showit thing and not the WPPI conference…don’t get me wrong, so great, but I feel like I missed out on so much not going to all the classes! Not just the classes, but making those relationships like your talking about…awesome post!
It was wonderful to meet you too Samantha! Thanks for all the kind words. Can’t wait to see you and Reid again!