Getting Uncomfortable With Jasmine Star
by Jasmine Star
August 01, 2011 —
I called my sister and cried into my flip phone (cut me some slack, it was 2006!). I was sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room at dusk as the city lights sparkled against a purple and orange sky. “The pizza guy practically knows me by name,” I moaned into the receiver after recounting how many meals I’d eaten by myself. It was the first time I had attended WPPI and I was overcome with emotion. Loneliness, isolation and feelings of inadequacy filled my mind as I roamed the tradeshow floor that day. I felt like everyone knew everyone else and acted like it was a high school homecoming game, complete with high-pitched shrieks and hair flipping.
After seeing throngs of photographers walk around with top-of-the-line cameras flung around their necks, I hid my Canon 20D in my purse. I felt like I was a nanosecond from a photographer patting my head and pointing me to the nearest exit. I ate in the food court alone, roamed the hallways alone and sat alone in classes. By the third day, I wanted to go home.
Allow me to back up for a second. A few weeks before going to WPPI, a good friend told me to “Get uncomfortable.” By doing so, life would flip and turn in new ways, forcing me to rethink and change my life, resulting in a positive outcome. After all, he reminded me, if you’re comfortable, life isn’t as rewarding. Equipped with a new outlook, I agreed to go to WPPI as a way to jump-start my burgeoning career. However, having pizza delivered to my hotel room for the third time in three days wasn’t the jump-start I envisioned.
In February 2011, I was honored to take the stage at WPPI and give a presentation entitled, “Untold Stories.” I described my growth as a photographer and my career and—of course—recounted my first experience at the conference. In the last five years, my life flipped and turned in new ways…primarily because I was perpetually uncomfortable. I took my friend’s advice and held onto the belief that big changes yield big results.
I left my first WPPI having made introductions with people who would later become dear friends and industry peers. I’ve gone back to the conference every year because it’s become a defining marker in my growth as a businessperson. I am still dreadfully nervous to walk the hallways alone or call for pizza delivery while in Las Vegas, but every year it gets a lot easier.
I might be in the minority, but if you’ve gone to WPPI and shared a similar experience, or are hoping to go to WPPI and suspect our experiences will be similar, here are a few tips to ensure you Get Comfortable…flipping and turning along the way.
1. Manage your expectations. If you think you’re going to be invited to every mixer/party/dance-a-thon, please note you’ll be disappointed. If you’re a social butterfly, plan the events you’ll attend in advance to ensure you’re not alone at the end of the night wondering if you suffer from social leprosy.
2. Make friends in advance. I know this sounds basic, but it’s worth its weight in gold. Get involved with online photo communities and connect (on the Web or in person) before a large-scale event. Conferences are less intimidating when you see a familiar face…and have someone to sit next to in the food court.
3. Attend smaller, local industry events to get an idea of what national conferences are like. Not only will this help put things in perspective, it’ll create ways for you to meet new people and make friends. Then when you see them on the tradeshow floor in Las Vegas you can shriek and flip your hair.
The good news is WPPI is hitting eight cities this summer as part of the Road Trip. These one-day conferences are great opportunities to Get Uncomfortable and make friends. I’m honored to be speaking in Los Angeles as part of the tour in September, so if you’re in the area I’d love to meet you. Heck, if you’re eating alone, wave me over and we’ll be sure to keep you far away from pizza delivery boys!
Jasmine Star is an international wedding photographer based in California. She likes to run on the beach, write on her blog, and eat too much chocolate. Jasmine stays away from coffee for fear of stunting her growth and recently realized she can’t spell rhthym…rhythum…rhythm on the first try… Exactly
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