May 01, 2011 — Anyone who attended the 31st annual WPPI Convention will attest that the accompanying trade show was a vital component of the week-long conference—which had a record number of attendees. It reflected the continued growth in the market for wedding and portrait photographers, not only in the U.S., but elsewhere. A large number of photographers from 44 countries made the trek to Las Vegas to learn more about their craft.
With over 320 exhibitors, there were plenty of new products and services on display at the trade show. Of course, many products had already been announced, but this was the first opportunity for photographers to actually see and touch new products. For the second year in a row, Canon elected to premiere its newest wide-format imagePROGRAF printers at WPPI.
On the camera side there were no new unveilings, but FujiFilm’s FinePix X100 continues to create a buzz among those looking for a more “traditional” compact camera. This booth drew the attention of many photographers who had not yet seen it in the flesh. At the other end of the spectrum, Sony showed off a see-through, non-working prototype of the upcoming mirrorless DSLR replacement for the A700. It is likely to appear on the market this summer and should be of more interest to pro photographers than the A55 that, according to Sony officials, is selling far better than expected.
Film is not entirely dead either, as Kodak unveiled its latest Portra 160 film. Company officials said anecdotal evidence continues to show more and more young photographers experimenting with film for the first time. Some of them even are finding it as a way to differentiate themselves from mainstream photographers. While nobody is suggesting it will make a comeback, it certainly appears there will always be a niche market for film.
As always, there were plenty of photo labs promoting their services but one in particular caught the eye of attendees. Yes, Costco had a large display showing off prints that can be processed at Costco 1-Hour Photo labs. Apparently it was the first time Costco has ever had a display at a photographic trade show. Although they might not like to admit it, many pro photographers have been attracted to the print products offered by the giant company for a number of years.
Wedding videographers have to be perturbed by the increased interest in shooting HD video among still photographers. Several companies, such as iDC Photo Video, were displaying setups with rigs for turning DSLR cameras into full-bore, cinema style cameras. Ruige, a newcomer to the U.S. market, displayed an external monitor that can also convert video on the fly. It matches up well with the line of HDSLR accessories sold by Cinevate.
For those who don’t want to learn a video-editing program such as Final Cut Pro, a new Photoshop plug-in, PhVusion Effects, promises to make the process easy, as it allows you to edit video within Photoshop. A husband and wife team of wedding photographers developed PhVusion—Vanessa Joy is a still photographer, while her husband, Rob Adams, is a cinematographer. They’ve made it easier for photographers to fuse stills and videos seamlessly together using the PhVusion Effects plug-in. A script then renders the video clips and stills to create a slideshow or fusion album.
Aside from new cameras and lenses, wedding photographers have to become more and more savvy at marketing products other than just prints and albums to their clients. For many though, the effort involved in creating products, such as mugs and mouse mats is often not worth the added income. Consumers, however, are asking for these trinkets and a growing number of photographers are giving clients a copy of all the photographs so their customers can create their own products.
A new service launched at WPPI offers a solution to this dilemma as it can help a photographer generate residual income after the initial sale without any effort. PinholePro.com offers numerous different printed products including calendars, cards, notepaper, etc. A photographer provides a link to the Web site with a unique code that unlocks online access to higher quality professional products, so a customer can design products and upload their own images. They pay for the products and have orders shipped directly to themselves. Pinhole then issues a 10 percent royalty payment to the photographer for orders from customers that used their unique code.
Lighting equipment manufacturers always have a large presence at WPPI, along with album and book producers, of course. This year Photogenic unveiled its first new flash unit in a number of years. It is the PL625DR, a less expensive 250 watt-second model in the PowerLight range that includes a built-in optical photo slave cell and an optional PocketWizard receiver.
Quantum unveiled its Qflash Trio Basic—a version of the tough on-camera flash that does not cost a lot more than dedicated flash units from camera manufacturers.
Graslon is a new company that showed off yet another entry in the growing genre of large diffuser units for on-camera flash. There are two sizes available of the soft light dome. Each contains an internal reflection system that disperses the light before it is further diffused by a plastic dome cover.
Although ExpoImaging was not officially displaying it publicly, some photographers and buyers were shown prototypes of the newest Rogue Grid—a system that gives three different grid patterns for directing light from a small flash unit.
On the continuous-lighting side of the aisle, Westcott showed off its Spiderlite TD6 lighting unit that has six 50-watt daylight fluorescent lights that put out the equivalent of 1200 watts.
It’s always fun to seek out new products from small companies at trade shows. It’s where new companies, often started by a single person seek to show off their products without the benefit of a large ad campaign. Two such companies were found at International Supplies’ booth.
LensSkins (right) was attracting a surprising amount of looks with its variety of printed vinyl skins that are placed on a lens to draw attention. Women photographers, who now make up the majority of attendees at WPPI, seemed to be particularly attracted to the idea as they saw it as a way to stand out in a crowd and be remembered for having unique looking lenses. It is also possible to upload a logo or your own artwork to LensSkins.com and have personalized skins created.
DeluxGear has developed a couple of innovative accessories, and its latest addition is PinPoint, which is a small box that mounts under a camera or lens and projects a green laser beam to assist autofocusing in low-light or low-contrast situations. In use, you push a button to project the laser beam just long enough for the camera to focus, so it is not on continuously. The inventor says the laser is at such a low power level that it is not harmful to anyone who might look at it.
Judging by comments we heard on the crowded trade show floor, the photographers, members of the media, company executives and buyers who attended—what has now become the largest trade show for professional photographers in the U.S.—found much to interest them.
If you want to catch up on the latest trends in all aspects of camera gear and marketing tools, you can choose the annual PhotoPlus Expo in New York that runs from Oct 27–29, 2011, or if you don’t want to travel to New York in the Fall, you can hop on a plane or drive to Las Vegas for the 2012 WPPI Convention and Trade Show that will run from Feb. 16–23, 2012.
John Rettie is a photojournalist who has been covering digital photography since its earliest days. He resides in Santa Barbara, CA and readers are welcome to contact him directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.