Why I Loved Attending The Photo Cookout 2019

Black woman yellow skirt dancing

Last week I attended The 2nd Annual Photo Cookout, the ONLY photography conference with an all-Black speaker lineup. This year’s conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

African wedding bride and groom
African bride natural hair

All-Black Speaker Lineup

When I attended last year’s conference, I went in feeling confident that my dollars were going to support an important cause. I wanted to help be the catalyst for a much-needed change in the photography industry…to send the message that racial diversity is important to me and my business despite the lack of Black representation on most photography conference and ambassador lineups.

African bride dancing
African wedding bride and groom

The Family Vibe

What I didn’t expect was how deeply this conference would end up changing me. After checking in at the hotel under the event name “Colvin Family Reunion” (named for The Cookout’s Founder, Dr. Tomayia Colvin), I truly did start to feel like I was a part of the family in every respect. So this year I came fully prepared for all the hugs, warmth, and excitement that can only happen at a real Family Cookout. And my friends, this community of photographers did NOT disappoint!

African wedding bride smiling
African bride braids

Quality Education and Top-Notch Sponsors

On a business and technical level, the educational value was also extremely on point. Even though I’m not a wedding photographer, I especially love to learn from wedding professionals because (in my experience), they tend to take the business end much more seriously than a lot of family portrait photographers. Some of my favorite classes included topics like “Capturing Cultural Weddings”, “Nailing Branding Portraits”, “Connecting with your Clients”, “Kick Ass Album Sales”, and I was even invited to speak on a panel about the importance of Self Care and Mental Health for photographers and other creative professionals (yes, I know I’m not Black…that’s just Tomayia Colvin’s community spirit coming through). Not only did I get to learn from some of the best photographers in the industry, but I also had some amazing networking opportunities! Shout out to my favorite photo lab, Millers Professional Imaging, for not only featuring my work in their gorgeous product displays, but also for treating me and several other brand ambassadors out to dinner one night! And I can’t wait to share more details about some of the other brand collaborations I’ve got up my sleeve in the next few months, as a result of this conference! 😉

Now you know I’m a natural light photographer, through and through. But this year I was really eager to try my hand at using continuous lights, which were very generously provided on site for us to use by Light and Motion. All of my indoor shots featured here were shot with these lights and they were AMAZING! Super easy to use, even for a lighting newbie like me.

Woman smiling yellow skirt dreadlocks
Black woman yellow skirt dreadlocks

Real talk: I honestly hopped on the plane to New Orleans before the conference and told my friend that maybe I didn’t need to go to the same conference again next year. Maybe it was time to branch out again and try other conferences. I told her NOT to let me buy my ticket right away so I could have time to really think about my goals for next year before jumping in feet first again. The Cookout is the first conference I’ve attended twice in a row, and what can I say? I like to shop around.

Black woman yellow skirt dancing
Black woman yellow skirt laughing

That Second Line, tho

Yeah, that resolution lasted all of 3 days before I finally caved and bought my ticket for The Photo Cookout 2020 (LOL!). This community has officially become a family to me, and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see them for the world. Trust me when I say I have not experienced the same level of warmth and mutual support at any other photography conference out there. Plus, this year Photographer’s Edit allowed us to have a true New Orleans experience by sponsoring a Second Line Parade…so you KNOW next year’s sponsors are going to have to step up their game even more in Chatanooga! 😉

Black woman yellow skirt dreadlocks

Will I see you at next year’s Cookout? Click the link to grab your ticket before it sells out!

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