Arriving at the Bahia Resort in San Diego for Hybrid Co I knew what I was getting in to. I had watched friends attend Hybrid the past two years and heard stories (good with a few suggestions that I think were addressed this year) and decided to see for myself. Now, you can read my Hybrid Collective Review.
If you have been a photographer for any amount of time, you have started to consider what conference or workshop to attend. Right? Building your own small business takes so much time and energy, and when you find people who can relate you feel like you have come home.
Before committing to go, thoughts like this might circle in your head : But why? Is it worth it? What will I walk away with? I think I can answer all of those questions, and not because this is sponsored in any way! I just think you will love it.
Early March, when I was still buried in snow in Lake Placid, New York I took plane across the country to sunny San Diego. I don’t know about you, but I love a chance to enjoy the slow season and travel. That’s your first reason to go. Arriving at the Hybrid Co I already knew some people I would see. I became friends with Christina Zen on Instagram over the past years so we roomed together, and there were a few of my workshop attendees, IG friends who I could meet in real life, and of course those people you admire and have already learned a lot from.
The next three days were filled with laughter, taking pictures, meeting people, trying new things and more.
I honestly can’t think of a gathering that is better suited for photographers shooting wedding, portrait, brand and commercial work. Don’t get hung up on being a digital or film shooter! Bigger conferences bring in such a large group of people you get lost and can’t connect. Hybrid is smaller (a few hundred vs thousand) and amazing for networking and connecting. I love to build relationships and try to do so through social media, but in person is even better! When was the last time you and your photographer friends planned a trip to spend time together?
Yes! I think it would be impossible not to, so here is a short list of what I learned:
The great thing about Hybrid Co is you can customize your experience. If you need to learn a new skill, you can. Sandra Coan taught me how to shoot with strobes on film as you can see from the image below. We photographed Caroline Tran and her boys.
With so many talented teachers, stylists and creatives contributing you can work with people for a fraction of what they would charge at their own events. I think that is a huge advantage.
As is with many things in life, it is what you make of it. I found them worthwhile because I feel I will always learn something.
You should know that there can be 20-30 (? I don’t know the limit) people in each shoot so don’t expect it to be perfect. Some are sold out while others are smaller. If you have never photographed in a group it may be overwhelming. Usually the leader of the shoot organizes everyone and shows you what they do. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, in real time and learn how they work. You can get the same shot – but even better you can create your own images by directing when it’s your turn (this happens at some not others) and shooting from different angles.
What experience do you want? If you shoot all the time you will be busier and have less down time for connecting. At the same time the conference is set up to experience both classroom teaching and hands on learning. Choosing one a day is perfectly reasonable. I did two my first day, and one the other two days.
The other thing to consider is, while you can shoot many beautiful things, it is not always easy to incorporate into your portfolio. If you need elevated wedding content you can definitely walk away with some, but I would use it more as a tool to learn how to create on your own, or take the shooting style someone uses and try it out for yourself. The goal as a photographer is not to look like everyone else, but to develop a distinct voice that allows our work to stand on it’s own.
Nothing will replace you finding your own style and using your voice to speak about your work. The good news is so many people are gathered together to help you do this.
It’s hard to pick one. However, if you have not yet discovered that everything everyone else you admire has achieved is achievable for you too, then this is a good place to start. I hope that you have attended an amazing workshop or conference where someone is real with you. Maybe they shared how hard it has been, what struggles they faced and how they kept going.
That’s what we all need, not more pretty images. We need more real people.
The keynote speakers delivered on this. I heard from Elizabeth Messina, Daniel Kim, Carrie Moe, Erich + Amy McVey, D’Arcy Benincosa and Corbin Gurkin and the thread that was the same : honesty. From achievements that ended up not feeling like achievements because they weren’t putting any time into their personal life… to starting their business while on food stamps and building it to what they have today… to losing loved ones and finding meaning in work and life… it was all there.
Alongside all of those big names were people sitting all around me with amazing stories. Most people can’t go that deep if they aren’t in person.
Vendor perks were not on my radar when I signed up. Most of the film labs attended and made it easy to take back film for processing. Richard Photo Lab did overnight scanning, which was amazing especially for anyone starting out in film. (I don’t imagine this will be possible in Charleston 2021 but you never know)
I was able to see the products from Red Tree Albums (who I work with) in person + the sample they had made from my work! Chatting with the Kodak crew I made a friend from Rochester where I used to live. At Fuji, I tested out a GFX for a shoot. I haven’t switched to mirrorless yet but this was perfect for trying it out.
If you want to be present at your wedding, have fun with your guests + look back on images that tell your story you are in the right place. ask how you can get a complimentary hour of coverage.