The Photography Show is the biggest show in the UK aimed at amateurs, professionals and trade alike.   It’s a great place to go to try out gear, get a few bargains from the many exhibitors, and most importantly for me at least to meet people in real-life!  I know so many people these days through social media only that it is a great opportunity to actually shake hands and talk face-to-face.  You might feel a little silly wearing your badge, but sometimes putting faces to profile pictures isn’t always the easiest task, especially in a large crowd, and particularly for the people like me who have a severe mental block when it comes to remembering names!

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It’s a great way of getting to know the people behind the companies, large and small, and a few years ago was the way I managed to get my face recognised and my name out there much more with Fujifilm UK.  It’s amazing in just a short time how many people I’ve come to know in the industry and I feel it is very important to have those personal interactions rather than just e-mail or Facebook conversations.  You can learn far more about a person by standing next to them chatting, and for me that makes the effort worthwhile.  When someone has met you they are far more likely to remember you.  I’m amazed at how many nice people there are within the trade side of the photography industry, just how much goodwill there is out there and I’m very grateful to all the people and companies who have supported me both for my photography and my business.

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The first trade show I went to I was totally unprepared, had no business cards and no plan other than to go and see Fujifilm and then wonder aimlessly!  This time I had a plan of who I wanted to see (along with the all-important reminder of their names!) and a pocket full of business cards, of which I gave the last one away just before leaving the show!  If your aim is to do business then one tip I would give it to always get a business card from the person you’re talking to, and if needs be, carry a pen and write some notes on their business card after you’ve walked away to remind you of what you talked about.  In my experience people get given so many cards that they find it near impossible to keep in touch with everyone, so a few days after the show when they have had time to deal with the back-log from being away, drop them an e-mail to remind them of what you talked about if you want them to take any action.

Having something like a SmugMug account I found hugely helpful too because the iPhone App allows you to show off your portfolio without having to carry even more stuff around with you.  I do love paper prints, but there is something very convenient about pulling your phone out of your pocket and showing off a pre-downloaded gallery of images, and I used it several times whilst talking to various manufacturers and it is again another way of getting them to remember you.  Suddenly they go from thinking you’re just another chancer trying your luck to taking you seriously as a photographer.  One conversation I recall in particular went from “who the hell are you” to “let’s talk about getting you some loan kit” in a matter of seconds!  Another person I spoke to suddenly remembered who I was as soon as I showed him my first image because we’d had a couple of pre-show e-mails in advance of meeting.  Alistair and the team at SmugMug are great, and you can see my portfolio is now run entirely on the SmugMug platform, which is way faster to load and considerably easier to update than the WordPress portfolio I used to run.

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The Photography Show was incredibly busy on the Monday and sometimes you had to fight you way through the crowds, which was very nice to see.  It made it hard to speak to some of the people I wanted to speak to, but I did get to see everyone I had planned to by the end of the second day I was there.  Tuesday was calmer, which I think was a welcome relief for some of the exhibitors and staff!  It’s a busy time and pretty much non-stop for most of them, unable to even take a break for coffee.IMG_1205

Exhibitors range from the small booths run by independent companies selling everything from frames to hand made bags, to the big camera companies with their large floor areas covered in cameras for you to try out.

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Demonstrations on the stands were popular, some attracting big crowds like the one here at Enlight Photo with James Madeline, of which I sell some of their products through the PhotoMadd Shop.

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The Fujifilm stand gets bigger every year and this year was no exception with them showing off a beautiful Triumph motorbike and various models to shoot as you test the cameras, along with the usual bunch of cheerful and very knowledgable staff to help out.

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Fujifilm was offering a free mini-service and their Signature camera skin upgrades on the stand whilst you wait.  The Fujifilm stand also had a wide range of images shot by various Fujifilm X-Photographers, including some blown up to 3 metres wide, just going to show you don’t need a 36 or 50Mpx sensor to produce stunning huge prints.

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Leica made a welcome return to the UK show this year after an absence and I had a play with their products.  I can’t deny that they are extremely well made and beautiful to use. The touch screen on the new T model is one of the best ways to interact with a camera that I’ve come across, and that’s from someone who hates touch screens on cameras!  The new X-type camera (replacement for the X2) is also very appealing, and despite the high price you can see where the money is spent.  Leica also had a stunning range of images on display, which were impressive to spend time looking at, although it wasn’t quite the Leica Gallery at Photokina!  I had a good chat with them and hopefully will be able to try them out soon for review.

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About the only dSLR that holds any interest for me, the Nikon D750 was nice to have a go with, and certainly impresses.  It is a shame that the WiFi functions are really quite limited to basically a live-view, shutter release and image transfer.  This sort of thing has so much potential, even with the X-T1, it is a pity that manufactures aren’t making more of it.  I’d love WiFi tethering capability.  I know people go on about transfer speeds, but unless your camera has USB3, WiFi can now transfer at least as fast as USB2.  It is funny to see people complaining about the AF speed of mirrorless cameras compared to dSLR, but if you switch even the new D750 to live view and ask it to focus, it is still way behind even my ageing X-Pro1!  I know that shooting a dSLR in live view may seem odd, but I’ve got so used to shooting a camera that way now that it feels odd to shoot through an OVF these days where there is no feedback!  dSLR has it’s place, and paired with the amazing new lenses coming from Sigma they can still be an incredible tool.  I’d be tempted to buy one simply to be able to use the Sigma 35 and 50 Art lenses along with some of their longer new Sports lenses for wildlife, which is definitely something I miss doing.

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I was very proud to have one of my images shot with the Sigma dp1 on display on the Sigma UK stand, having been selected as one of only three images they had printed up to show off!  I’m lucky enough and very grateful to have had the chance to use their cameras and look forward to getting my hands on the dp Quattro range again and seeing what I can do with them in the future, especially the new dp3 90mm equivalent version.  They are an unusual camera and hard to place, but when you get everything together the image quality coming out of them is truly stunning.  I will be doing a write up about the cameras as soon as I have time.

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There are always people talking down shows like this, saying it wasn’t as good as last year, there weren’t enough free biscuits or whatever, but we should support them.  Manufacturers spend considerable amounts of money turning up to show us their products, admittedly with the hope of selling to us through their retailers, but with no guarantee and almost always at a short-term loss.  It is a fantastic opportunity to try out a huge variety of different equipment, especially in these days of so many high-street camera shops closing down.

If you’ve never been before then I’d definitely recommend you go for at least one day and take a wander, but leave your rucksacks at home if you possibly can as they are only going to weigh you down, annoy everyone you bash into, and there is plenty of kit for you to try out without you having to bring you own!

Thank you for those who I’ve never met in person before who came up and said hello, it was great to see you all in real-life – see you next year!

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