March 1, 2014

united 2014 conference recap : santa barbara fess parker

Despite the fact that we’ve all dispersed from Santa Barbara back to our homes, the online United party is still rolling with story after story (some funny, some inspiring, some absolutely moving) and photos and memories and online hugs. It sounds very dramatic to say that this year’s United conference changed my life, but truly, it did.

I was describing it in pieces to one of my sisters and I told her, “It was equal parts business savvy, technique & approach, community, and encouragement. To have people tell you that you’re worth it, that what you do is important, that you are valuable…to have people understand how lonely it can be working on a computer by yourself…to have people get just as excited as you about the golden hour and the ISO settings and bokeh…to have people share their knowledge and you share yours back… There’s no way to describe how uplifting and excited it has made me feel to be both a small business owner and an artist.”

I walked into the Fess Parker feeling overwhelmed, nervous, and suddenly so alone. Does everyone here know each other??? And yet, by forcing myself out of my introverted comfort zone (hello, hotel-room-where-no-one-can-find-me) and into this community of other photographers, I learned more about myself than I could’ve imagined and I made so many, many instantly deep friendships. (Also, surprisingly, everyone else was feeling the same shy introversion as me…well, maybe not Andrew Barlow.)

I’ll be posting more about my trip as a whole, but I really just want to tack down some thoughts specific to the conference. This is one conference that is worth every bit of the investment and I will be putting it on repeat for years to come.

Things I Learned at United 2014:

  • In an ocean of photographers, I am important and what I do is important. My images mean something.
  • Relationships are what drives this industry. Cultivating relationships not just with my couples, but with other photographers is every bit as important as taking great images.
  • Blogging needs to become a higher priority in my business.
  • With just words and tone of voice, I have the power to calm a stressful situation. (Mary Marantz literally slowed my heart rate with that example!)
  • Forehead to forehead is so romantic.
  • It’s important to schedule time off. Whether it’s an hour at the gym or a day away from the computer, my body and my brain need to separate from being business-focused at every point during my waking hours. It’s exhausting. My body and my soul work better refreshed.

  • White girls can rap. Hey-o, Abby!
  • 5 Minute Fuel was an emotional roller coaster, but ended with the most epic man dance party/lip sync ever.
  • Even though I had great intentions of working out, next time, don’t bother packing the tennis shoes. Use the space for high heels instead.
  • Being part of a community has priceless value.
  • Friendships are not determined by the amount of time you have known each other. Some friendships are just instantly meant to be lifelong.

  • Facebook, however annoying it can be on a personal level, still has a vast amount of business marketing tools.
  • Legacy is not how much money you leave behind or all the good things are you have done in your life. I want my legacy to be about who I am as a person. I want to be kind, generous, gracious, loving, caring, and compassionate. That’s what I want people to remember about me. I want my life to speak louder than my work.
  • Late night dance parties are a killer calf workout.

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