So much stuff to see

By Gord Carter, Photographer

The Photography Show attracts over 30,000 visitors to its annual 4 day event.

I once called up a former colleague, a photographer who had been retired for a few years. I asked him how he was getting on. He said, “Pretty good and still learning photography.” You might think that he had learned it all, but no, his wise words keep me seeking photographic knowledge.

Photography is all about recognizing and capturing the subtleties of light. Some people have a built-in ability to do that. Most of us need a little help. Or a lot. The Photography Show, the United Kingdom’s largest photographic industry exhibition, is held each year in Birmingham and is an event that provides lots of this help.

England’s National Exhibition Centre, a 186,000 square metre facility in Birmingham. Home to the Photography Show.

Reading about new products on a website just doesn’t provide the same perspective as picking up a piece of gear. How does a camera feel in your hands? Does that flash place the type of light you want, where you want? Will that tripod stay standing?  Booths at trade shows can usually answer those questions but without the pressure to buy on the spot. Actually, at this particular show you can buy some products on the spot and get the opportunity to compare many more items.

Photography is all about light and there was a plethora of companies showing lighting equipment. Even if you’re not in the market for new lights, most of these companies have guest photographers and lighting experts demonstrating techniques and tips right at their booths. Recently, the trend has been toward LEDs and there were many manufacturers at the show to choose from and a number of demonstration sets. At one booth, large units were set up to illuminate a small stick insect that people were invited to shoot for their own take‑home example.  See below:

Demonstration set using modern LED studio lights. Lightweight, colour adjustable and cool to the touch: a whole new world.

And the model from the set, a Macleay’s spectre stick insect. Nice legs—all six!

Most, if not all of the main camera and lens manufacturers have representation at this show—plus a few not so well known ones. Some even sell film and instant print models for the old school market for which there still is much interest. Having rivals at the same show keeps exhibitors on their toes, ensuring we consumers always have a good variety of products to choose from.

Richard West of Datacolor shows the crowd a colour control patch, used as a reliable sample of colour to test monitors and printers.

The Photography Show also runs many seminars presented both by exhibitors and guest speakers. Companies are always trying to demonstrate their products and in so doing they often show techniques that you can use with your own gear. Other talks are given by photographers and technical experts with nothing to sell but lots of experience to pass on. There were even video seminars as more and more still photographers are incorporating moving images into their repertoire. I made sure to attend at least one seminar on demystifying colour calibration: the eternal challenge of making sure the colour of your final output matches both what you photographed and what’s on your monitor. It was presented by a company that makes a small gadget that reads your monitor colours and adjusts them so they match the original item. Attending these talks in person allows you not only to ask questions on the spot but also to benefit from others’ questions.

Some of the best attended talks dealt with software. There are a few companies that sell standalone packages but many provide their offering as plug-ins for that software giant that has become a verb: Adobe Photoshop. This year, Scott Kelby, one of the world’s foremost Photoshop gurus, made an appearance.

Over 200 brands of every imaginable sort of camera gear, photographic service and accessory were showcased here.

Some may feel overwhelmed absorbing all of this information concentrated in just a couple of days, but it certainly saves time. I would encourage everyone to keep themselves professionally up to date by attending similar events in their fields. Tradeshows provide a wealth of information and ideas that keeps us interested and passionate in what we do.