Photoshop World... Tales From a First-Timer

Photoshop World... Oh where to begin. It was everything and nothing I thought it would be. But that's vague isn't it? So let me blanket that statement by saying it was amazing. And honestly, this post probably should've been broken down into a couple smaller entries throughout the nearly week-long conference, but there simply wasn't time. PSW is just so huge! There's much to take in and I wanted to make the most of it, so blogging was last on my mind.

Entrance to the Photoshop World 2015 convention center. - Charity Ondriezek

Now that the conference is over, I'll at least try to cover the most memorable stuff, and make this an interesting read without turning it into a James Michener saga. ;) First the high points.

1) I met Joe McNally!

Call me starstruck. I won't deny it. Joe is the one person I'd most hoped to meet while in Vegas. His work speaks for itself, but totally aside from his talent and/or achievements, he has always seemed to me a very humble and gracious person. Considering his celebrity status in the photographic industry, I think those are rare qualities and I have tremendous respect for people who exhibit them in spite of their fame.

Anyway it was the last day of the conference and I was standing in line for my morning shot in the arm (i.e. Starbucks). Next thing I know Joe is in line right behind me. A few minutes later some schmuck ahead of me tried to make a big show of buying him a coffee (making sure everyone heard it) and Joe politely declined... thee times. After witnessing that (and not wanting to make a fool of myself), I frantically tried to decide whether or not to say anything. Then I thought "Screw it." Extending my hand I turned to him and stammered something about just wanting to say hello and being able to brag later to my husband that I'd finally met the Joe McNally

** Cringing now at my own clichéd approach. **

He was very cool though. He asked where I was from and we struck up a short conversation about Cheyenne Frontier Days, which he covered on assignment once. For him this whole exchange was probably part of just another day, but it was a moment I'll always remember... however cornball I may have come across.

2) The Art of Photography

If I could only offer one tip to anyone who is planning to attend Photoshop World for the first time, it would be go to the special events! Run, don't walk. Get a good seat and sit back to enjoy the show. I was on a tight budget, so I did not attend the After-Hours party, nor did I have the steam for Midnight Madness... but I DID go to the Art of Photography presentation and it was incredible.

To see the work of an entire panel of pros, hear their stories and get a sense of the blood, sweat and tears they so obviously put into their craft... it was incredibly moving.

It was also like a breath of fresh air. I walked away with a sense of being part of something bigger, and not so isolated as an artist. Photography can sometimes be a lonely pursuit - filled with a range of emotions from angst to exhilaration. I never realized professionals still dealt with these things as I do. It makes sense of course. We're all human. But that was a profound realization.

I got some great ideas from the presentation as well... things I'd never even considered trying or adding to my own work. So I'm definitely jazzed about that.

The Expo: I thought this guy had great style, so I tried to be sneaky and get a candid shot while his attention was focused elsewhere. Then he spotted me and I got a Grin instead.

The Expo: I thought this guy had great style, so I tried to be sneaky and get a candid shot while his attention was focused elsewhere. Then he spotted me and I got a Grin instead.

Lessons Learned

Now for the things I learned. Actually, it's more like a few random thoughts about the overall experience.

Pack light

By the end of each day, I was worn out from carrying stuff around. It's amazing the things you end up collecting, especially if you go to the expo. The first day I was juggling the giant PSW workbook, an Adobe 25th anniversary commemorative T-shirt, my purse, a water bottle, a couple free posters I picked up, and my hoodie (the classrooms were FREEZING). If I'd had my laptop and/or camera with me (even consolidated into my Lowepro), I would've been an insufferable b**ch by the end of the day! The extra weight wasn't worth it.

Take notes

There's a ton of information to digest at Photoshop World. You will never remember it all without some reference points. The workbook, nice as it is, just didn't cut it. I didn't even bother carrying it after the first day in fact. Instead I recommend taking an iPad or a small notebook to at least get the "Aha!" moments down. 

A really bad bathroom selfie. I still don't know what prompted me to snap this (or share it) Because I generally think they're lame... but oh what the hell. :)

A really bad bathroom selfie. I still don't know what prompted me to snap this (or share it) Because I generally think they're lame... but oh what the hell. :)

Don't bring your camera (to class)

Sounds contradictory, right? I mean, it's Photoshop World! But sitting in a dim conference room all day, there's not much to shoot. With the other stuff I was towing around, I opted to leave my camera behind. By the third day though, I was panicky that I hadn't photographed anything (not counting a few quick snaps with my phone).

I recommend taking your camera on little excursions either during the long lunch break or after each day's sessions have ended. I spent a couple hours walking around and shooting on the last day, but I wish now I'd done more. It's a trek to and from the rooms (Mandalay Bay is enormous), but the alternative is schlepping gear throughout the day, when it's really not necessary.

Sleep when you're dead

Next time, I will absolutely be taking part in more of the social gatherings at PSW. I'm sure that's a big part of what brings people back year after year. Tired as I was, I'm sorry I missed out. My mom loves to say "You can sleep when you're dead." I'm with her on that, so I should've powered through.

That about sums it up! I learned a lot, ideas are flowing and I'm still a little overwhelmed by it all... but my heart is full. To be in such a large space with so many creative minds is something I'll never forget, and I'm tremendously grateful I finally got the chance to go.