Weird title for a blog post by a photographer right? I will explain a little more about the title further down in this post, but before I do, let me tell you how much this past week has impacted me. I was asked to speak at a photography conference in Orlando called Kreativ Summit. I was looking forward to it since teaching is a passion of mine, but after speaking at WPPI last year which is one of the bigger photo conferences in the country, I did not go into this week expecting to be blown away, though I was looking forward to the opportunity. I was getting to share the teaching platform with some photographers who’s work I find inspiring, such as Fer Juaristi and Joseph West, as well as some photographers whom I recently came across through the conferences Speaker Roster who’s work I enjoyed such as Tonie Christine, but I still walked into the week expecting it to be like every other opportunity I have had thus far.
Day one: Expectations shattered immediately. Fer opened up the week with his wit, creativity, and most of all his honesty. He explained how even with his insane 123k instagram followers, there are still times where he has to sit back and reassess what he is doing and that though he loves being creative, some times his client doesn’t get it. However, he motivated the crowd that even if it is only one killer creative shot per event, make sure you snag that shot. After Fer, who everyone loved spoke, I had to follow his presentation which was no easy task, especially since his slideshow was a work of art! I did not know what to expect when taking the stage, but I was honored to have a class full of hungry photographers who want to grow their business into a successful brand, and were willing to hear what I had to say. One thing I learned through this speaking opportunity was that in my willingness to share both my success’s and failures, people truly desired to follow along with the journey. Too many times we feel like we have to share our mountain top experiences while covering up our valleys, yet I realized this weekend, it’s the valley stories and the perseverance through them that give others the desire to push through and aim for higher themselves. Second thing I learned from my session and connecting with those in my session, is that it is not about gaining fans or followers, its about gaining friends. I am beyond thankful for each person who pulled me aside, followed me on the gram, etc… but I am more excited to continue to build with them as time goes! We ended the night over a meal, which is my favorite thing to do when building relationships. I got to hear peoples stories and hearts and I truly started to see that this conference truly had a passion for one of my most sacred values, community. We shared stories of business, family, eating habits and faith. I felt an instant deep connection with Devin and Tonie and knew that this was not a coincidence.
Day two: I woke up pumped! Rushed over to the hotel where Devin, Brandon and I had the beautiful opportunity to pray over Tonie’s keynote presentation. She takes the stage and blew everyone way. As a speaker myself, it felt weird allowing my fingers to type as many notes as they did, but what she was saying was pure MONEY. I realized that just because things have been good, does not mean there is no room for improvement. Plans can and should always be modified if there is a better way, and she had quite a few better ways. Even things we had talked about doing for years and never made moves on. As the day continued, speakers and relationships continued to impress. However, lunch was a personal highlight. Not so much the food, though it was good, but the conversations were priceless. I sat next to Melissa Lynn Hunt and Shaun Austin Gordin, a women with a heart of gold and a man with wells of wisdom. I then attended Christina Karst’s breakout session and gained so much respect for her. Standing in front of a class full of photographers, she admitted that though she loves this career, it does not make her top 3 goals of what she wants to do in the future. She explained how she has a huge love for South Africa and how they recently purchased some land there to one day build on and relocate. It truly made me stop to think, what’s next? What I am putting in place for the next chapter of my life? What should I be putting my hands to? The night ended with the ShowIt after party- Old school arcades and 80’s and 90’s hip-hop- Winning!
Day three: I was able to attend Melissa’s breakout session and it truly touched my heart. Hearing how she uses photography as more than just an income but as a way to impact the lives of teenage girls in North Carolina, truly challenged me to seek the Lord on how I can use photography to impact lives outside of the weddings that our team shoots, though we love being able to do that. So many ideas instantly popped up in my mind and heart and I can not wait to pray and fast over them. I was also able to partner with Runway Events and Calvet Coutoure on a styled shoot where I was able to instruct about 17 photographers on how to really connect with your client even when on a time crunch.
Then the day/conference started to come to a close and Two Mann came up to do the final keynote presentation. I was tired and ready to head home to see my family. Fighting to stay present, they fully caught my attention when they reminded us to start seeing photography through the eyes of a child. They challenged us to not always be looking for answers but to be looking for new questions. They showed us how care-free and adventurous their children are and reminded us of how we once were that way too. They told us to imagine how beautiful photography could be if we pursued it with that kind of care free passion. They challenged us to start playing with our cameras again. This hit hard. I was reminded of a letter my sons daycare sent us last week about how they love how he will just break out into song and dance at any given moment. My two year old son will strum his guitar and play his piano, not caring that the notes are wrong because he is too busy getting lost in the moment. For the last year I have been challenging our own team to get back to the heart of why we do this and to have fun, yet the everyday of running a business has kept me from that. Until now. It is time to play and play hard!
There are things you enjoy doing. There are things you love doing. Then there are things that you do that make you feel the most alive, make you feel like you are truly walking in your calling. For me, Phil, that is teaching and I can not wait to continue to walk in that call. I am thankful that the Lord allows me/our team to do this. I am thankful to my wife Christa and my son Jonah for their support. I am thankful for Tyler and Devin at Kreativ Summit for the opportunity. I am also thankful for those of you who give an ear to listen and an open heart and mind to receive what I have to share. Let’s pick up our camera’s, paintbrushes, dance shoes, guitars, pens, etc… and let’s do so with the heart of a child. Let us create art that moves people, bring us and others joy, and impacts lives!
Behind the scenes photos by: Brandon