Next week I am heading out for my fifth Photoshop World Conference. When I first attended Photoshop World (PSW) I didn’t know anyone at all. I didn’t know hardly any of the instructors either. I really wanted to find some people that were creative, photographically minded and willing to share what they knew. In my research I came across PSW, and it looked like it would be a lot of fun that that I might get to learn a thing or two. All I knew was that it was in Vegas and they packed the schedule.

Something people are surprised to learn about me is that I am sort of shy around new people. I am not one to just approach people and introduce myself; but as I got to Las Vegas for the first conference, I promised myself that I would meet lots of people, try everything that Scott’s team offered and keep an open mind.

That first year, I did a pre-con with Ben Wilmore. I did Dinner with a Stranger. I did Midnight Madness. I did the expo and expo floor training (I also bought the Nik software suite on the expo floor). I attended a session in each time slot. I got to see Jay Maisel. I learned about Lightroom from Scott. I learned about following your passion from Moose. I learned that I don’t know anything about light after seeing McNally. I got to met the team from Adobe. I got to see RC teach about Photoshop. I got to learn who some guy named Vanelli was and why he shouldn’t have your cell phone number. I got to met a lot of great people who have since become friends. It was a crazy 3 and half days.

Two of the biggest things that happened that first year is that I mustard up the courage to introduce myself to John Paul Caponigro and thank him for all his help over the years. Of course, he didn’t know me from Adam since we hadn’t met. All of his help had been from his website and photographs over the years. He was so open and gracious and interested in listening to me talk. It was amazing. I have since taken several more workshops from him and consider him to be a great mentor and a friend. The second was to talk to Moose Peterson. I had followed Moose’s website from the time he switched from film to digital. He really helped me understand how to start my own integration of digital into my workflow. Moose was also so supportive and genuinely interested in what I had to talk about that I have continued that relationship with Moose since that day as well. He and Sharon have been so great to me over the years much like with JP, and I don’t know how to thank them for being nice to someone who was pretty nervous on that first trip down to the conference.

Because of that first year, I took a workshop from Moose and got a chance to met RC Concepcion. RC has been so great on photowalks, hangouts and a good friend. His photos that are in my office and remind me of the great times we have had over the years. He energy is infectious and he has always gone out of his way to say hi and keep me connected to the conference and other attendees. RC has introduced me to so many people that I can’t name them all. And in those connections from prior years, days or hours we keep talking, laughing and sharing.

So as this time of year approaches, I am often asked why keep coming back. I tell them that one of the biggest things about PSW is that it is not about cameras, technology and the latest versions of software. It is about people. I mean sure that is what we talk about and sit through classes about, but really it is about people sharing and getting to know each other. What I learned that first year was those people who are at the top of there game as instructors, photographers, attendees, vendors are all wanting to share and give of themselves to anyone who will stop and ask. From the top down Scott has worked with his team to make an action packed conference that is about people. So in a nut shell that is why I go to PSW, it is the peeps. They are awesome.  I have so many friends that I have met over the year that I can’t imagine finding them without PSW. So if you are PSW this year and it is your first time, find me or anyone and say hi and ask them to introduce you around.  You will be surprised by how excited everyone will be to get a chance to meet you.

Oh and there is another reason I go every year. On the second night of the conference there is the Art of Photography. (They call it he art of digital photography, but the digital seems unnecessary to me.) This is a session where some of the biggest names in photography show and tell about their work. At times you can hear a pin drop at the amazing work and other times you laugh and other times you cry. In the end you leave inspired at what is in front of you and the power of you and your camera. And for me in the end, the work as an artist is about people, community and the power of telling a story with a camera. And that is really why PSW works for me.

PS NAPP organization runs the conference. So the people giving you a badge, directions, working information booths all work for the Kelby organization. These people are so amazing that I am sure without them and their hard work none of this would be possible. THANK YOU to all of them.