Your Community Will Keep You Afloat: My WPPI Experience


In order to tell you about WPPI, I have to start at the end.

Thursday morning. I’m in Jaleel King and Mike Allebach’s platform class. I arrived late, and so I’m sitting on the floor near the back. Six days in Vegas had put me through the wringer and I was running on three hours of sleep. But I wasn’t going to miss this class for anything. I stayed until Thursday just for this class.

At the very end of the class, a video played. The video contained voice messages left on Mike’s phone about community. And the messages undid me. I cried. Full on, tears down my cheeks, hands to my face so I wouldn’t make too much noise crying.  Because community is what this is all about. Community is why when I became a photographer, I stayed a photographer. Community is why, even though I don’t shoot anymore, I still work with photographers. Because this is my tribe.

For those of you who aren’t photographers, we’ll rewind a bit. WPPI is the annual conference and tradeshow for Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. Once a year, thousands of photographers descend on Las Vegas for a week of learning and networking. It’s exciting, it’s flashy, it’s sometimes a little bit insane (You often hear “Well, now I know I’m in Vegas…”), but it’s always a memorable experience, one I’ve gone back for four years in a row now.

For me, this year’s WPPI was filled with kismet. I made connections that I needed to make. I met people and had conversations that filled my heart. Hope abounds when everything is falling into place, and everything, completely, fell into place. I would meet someone who needed to hear from me, or someone whose message I needed to hear. I’d find a quiet corner and thirty minutes to catch up with an old friend and really dig in about what’s been going on for us. It was a week filled with moments where I needed to pinch myself a few times to make sure it was all real, filled with squeeze you so hard you can’t breathe hugs and filled with the kind of laughter your sides hurt afterwards. I didn’t buy anything from the tradeshow floor. I didn’t pack my schedule full of classes. I just sought – and found – constant connections with this community I love so much.  There are a hundred stories I could tell you, but this is all you need to know. Seek and you will find. Open your heart and let people in. Hold them close.

Last month at Inspire, it became clear that more than a few of us are really struggling. To keep our heads above water. To book clients. To make ends meet. When you’re working your calling, the hustle is exhausting. It never stops.  Failure hits you right in the heart – because this work is your heart, made tangible. And when you’re too tired to tread water, who will keep you afloat? I promise you – your community will.

Click here to see Messages Left on My Phone About Community by Mike Allebach





Stephanie Ostermann

I’m the sort of girl who you meet for coffee and end up pouring your entire heart out to. The friend you come to when you need someone to call it straight. No bullshit. No extras. Just truth.

I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.

When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.

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