Lightroom Tips

Photoshop World Insiders Guide

Hey folks, I’ve got a cool Lightroom video tutorial coming later this morning so make sure you check back. However, I’m teaching Lightroom at Photoshop World next week and I had an idea for those of you attending (NOTE: if you’re not attending just skip this post and wait for the video later today). See, I just finished writing a Photoshop World insiders guide and thought I’d share it here for those of you heading to the conference. Again, make sure you check back later this morning for the Lightroom video. Thanks!

Matt’s Photoshop World Insider’s Guide

Photoshop World is here and it got me thinking about some one attending the conference for the first time. It’s overwhelming. Trust me, I’ve been there as an attendee. Before I ever started working for NAPP, I was a NAPP member and I remember going to Photoshop World for the first time when they didn’t have half of the classes and instructors they do now – and it was intimidating then. So here’s my guide from an insider’s perspective to help you get the most out of the conference.

What to bring with you?
I hear this question a lot. “Should I bring my laptop?”. I say bring it. I didn’t own a laptop when I first went and I wish I did. That said, leave it in the room during the day. Your classes will keep you plenty busy and it’ll just be one more thing to lug around. See, the sessions aren’t hands-on or meant for you to follow along. If you try, you’ll probably wind up getting frustrated so don’t bother. But you’ll inevitably want to experiment with the new stuff you learned that day so you’ll be happy you have it later.

How about cameras? It depends. Do you have specific plans to go out and shoot? If so, then bring it but pack light. Try to bring your most versatile lens and that’s it. A lot of times a simple point and shoot will do just fine if you just want to capture some memories from the conference. If you do bring the camera then you’ll have to decide whether to leave it in the room or take it with you. I can’t decide that one for you. Personally, I leave mine in the room a lot but I also cringe when I do. Hey… it is Vegas after all.

A lot of folks ask if they should bring other Photoshop books to the show. You won’t really need ’em. The only exception is if you have a book that you’d really really like to get signed by one of the instructors there. In that case, they’re all very approachable and most consider it an honor when anyone asks them to sign a copy of a book (I know I do).

Finally, bring a sweatshirt. Although it’s hot outside, it’s FREAKIN cold inside.

Matt’s Insider Hint: You may want to think about bringing an extra bag. You’ll inevitably pick up some small (and sometimes large) goodies along the way. If you have an extra bag packed, then you can always throw your new stuff in there for traveling back home so your original bags aren’t bulging at the seems.

Pre-con Day
If you’re attending a pre-con keep this in mind. If you sit down and the class is nothing like what you had expected (maybe it’s too advanced) then get up, go outside and look in on one of the other pre-cons. You paid your money and we don’t want you feeling like your stuck in one class that isn’t what you thought it would be. Here’s the catch. We can’t guarantee that you’ll find a seat in that other pre-con. The class may have been sold out (which is maybe why you weren’t able to register for it in the first place). But it’s worth a try right?

Oh yeah, one more thing. This only goes for the classroom pre-cons that don’t involve anything hands-on. Those are a bit different due to costs, seating, instructor-to-student ratio, etc… Take a look at the pre-con page and you’ll see what I mean by the classroom workshops.

Matt’s Insider Hint: Make sure you download Dave Cross’s Photoshop World planner. Figure out a plan of attack. You can always change it later but getting a head start is always a good idea.

Picking up your conference materials (checking in)

1) If you’re taking a pre-con: If you already registered then you should have gotten a packet in the mail. Bring everything in that packet (mainly the letter with the badge attached to it). If you’re taking a pre-con you’ll be able to pick up all show materials at badge holder check-in (workbook, pro-pass stuff, etc…) that day.

2) For most people you’ll be doing this the next day (keynote day). Here’s my insider advice. If you see a line, that doesn’t mean you have to get in it : )
If you get there at the crack of dawn on keynote day (you wouldn’t believe how many show up at 5:30 am), you’ll be trying to pick up your show materials along with 3000 of your best friends. Instead, sleep in that day. Grab a coffee first if you need it. There’s no reason to get there early. Arrive about 30-45 minutes or so before the keynote to get a good spot in line (the doors open about 15 minutes before the keynote). Forget about picking up your stuff for now. Go in. Enjoy the keynote. Then, on the way out, stop by and pick up your show materials at “Badge Holder Check-In” (not registration) when the crowd has emptied. Heck, you can pick up your stuff anytime on the first day so don’t feel the need to grab it right away.

Either way, if you see people walking around with stuff you don’t have, don’t sweat it. As an insider, I can tell you we bring plenty of show materials so regardless of when you pick them up, you WILL get yours if you’ve registered for the conference.

Matt’s Insider Hint: Don’t leave your badge/letter at home. If you’ve already registered for the conference (which should be most of you who are going) you received a letter with a badge attached in the mail. Bring it and go straight to the Badge Holder Check-In area.

Picking Which Classes to go to
This is probably one of the most important topics. My suggestion is really simple: try going to classes that you don’t already know much about. For example, one time I sat in on a camera raw session and watched some one approach the instructor before class. They told them how much they loved his teaching and that they’d read every camera raw book under the sun already. I saw this person later in the conference and just kind of casually said, “Hey, I saw you in the camera raw class. What did you think?”. They said the instructor was excellent but they already knew most of the stuff. The moral of this story is that you should really try to expand (not reaffirm) your knowledge at Photoshop World. If you’re torn between two sessions to go to, then go to the one that you know less about. If you’re a fairly seasoned photographer who’s been trying to make their own brochure, then skip the lighting class and sit in on Terry White’s InDesign class. Nothing can replace learning from some one in a live setting, and learning something new that way can really help it sink in.

Matt’s Insider Hint: On the first day, find a few minutes and sit down with the workbook. Look through the classes you were planning on going to and check out the notes. Sometimes, it’ll reaffirm your choice to go to a class and sometimes you’ll see another class that may be more your style. For the most part, the workbook should be exactly what is taught in class so it’s a good indicator of whether you’ll like the class or not.

The Workbook
Another question I hear a lot is whether or not to carry around the workbook. This is a tough call. It’s a big workbook and it’s heavy (900 pages heavy). It’s got ALL of the notes for ALL of the sessions in it. Well, just about all. Sometimes instructors don’t hand their stuff in on time (their fault, not ours) but don’t get me started : )
If you’re somewhat experienced, I’d recommend leaving it in the room and just carrying around a small notepad. If you think you can sit and absorb then that’s the best way to go. Also, you’ll receive a 10-12 page show guide listing all of the classes and their locations so that will help get you around. If, on the other hand, you typically take lots of notes and those notes really need to be on the same pages as the session you’re taking then consider bringing the workbook. I know, it’s heavy – but you’ll live.

One more thing. Instructors will often have extra downloads that they mention in the class. Don’t worry about writing down the link, it’s really simple. Just go to after the show and you’ll see a conference downloads area there.

Matt’s Insider Hint: Before you frantically start scribbling down settings or a cool tip, take a quick look through the workbook to make sure it’s not already there. I see this happen all the time and I have to remind people the settings are right there in the workbook.

Where to sit in a class
First off, try to get there early. It’s not always possible, I know. But some classes do get crowded and the best seats go quickly. Next, I’m going to shatter a big myth here. You don’t need to sit in the middle of the room in front of the instructor. I know, it’s hard. A lot of you like to stare at me (I’m totally just kidding here!) : )
Seriously, many of the rooms have several screens across the front of the room. The middle gets crowded quickly. As along as you’re OK with not looking directly at the instructor sit in one of the end sections in front of one of the other screens. Chances are you’ll get a better seat plus it’ll set you up for my tip below.

Also, if you sit down in a class and realize this just ain’t for you then get up and leave. Of course, be polite about it and try not to make too big of a commotion but, by all means, go find another class. There’s always more then one going on and you’re free to move in and out of any track you like.

Matt’s Insider Hint: If you can swing it, sit near the end of a row. This will give you a good exit strategy if you need it. Plus, it’ll also help you be one of the first out so you can get to that next class quickly.

Asking Questions
You’ll probably have a question or two (or twenty) to ask the instructors. Please hold off from asking right in the middle of a session. It throws them off and it also throws everyone else in the class who was listening to them off. Instead, wait until after the session is over and go up and ask. If there’s a long line you can either wait (you’ll often learn stuff from hearing them answer other questions) or catch them later. See, the instructors are there because of you. We totally dig it when people come up during the show and ask questions. We’re geeks. We don’t get out in front of 3000 people that often so it really is great when we see the enthusiasm, and can help make your conference that much better by helping you out with a specific problem.

Matt’s Insider Hint: The Tech Expo is where a lot of the instructors hang out. If you weren’t able to get your question answered in class, chances are you can track them down there (they’ll probably be teaching there at some point) and get your question answered then.

The Tech Expo
Look at the list of exhibitors on the expo floor. Many of them bring products with them. Go look now and if you’ve been thinking about buying something wait until next week before pulling the trigger. They usually have discounts.
NOTE: Adobe typically doesn’t sell software at the conference so don’t expect to buy Photoshop or Lightroom there.

Matt’s Insider Hint: If you’ve got a friend in the area, they can attend the Expo for free but they’ve got to go to and sign up for a free pass. If not, they’re going to have to pay that day. So spread the word and save a few bucks.

Networking & Socializing (thanks Lisa)
This is a huge benefit of being at conferences nowadays. Getting out there and meeting people to form relationships is more important than ever because we’re all spread so far away from each other these days.

Rule #1: Bring business cards. Sounds like a no brainer right? You wouldn’t believe how many folks I run into that don’t. Buy ’em from Staples (the perforated kind) and print out simple cards if you have to, but bring something with your name and email on it.

Rule #2: Talk to people. You’ve got a lot in common with the people at Photoshop World so strike up a conversation. Make plans to meet for lunch or dinner. You’ll either a) realize this could be a potential business or personal relationship you want to keep after or, b) you’ll realize you don’t want to keep up with this person. Worse case scenario, you’ll never see this person again after a couple days so who cares. You’ve got nothing to lose though.

Midnight Maddness
Getting tickets for Midnight Madness is pretty straightforward. They’ll announce throughout the conference when the tickets will be available (usually earlier in the morning before classes start). If you get there early for a ticket your chances increase dramatically of getting one (there’s only 250 of them). However, there is obviously a trade off since getting there early means sleeping less. Keep one thing in mind. You’ll hear several times that you won’t learn anything (or at least anything good) at Midnight Madness. Please don’t kid yourself into thinking that we’re exaggerating. We’re not. You really won’t learn anything Photoshop related.

Matt’s Insider Hint: If you go to Midnight Maddness and like to volunteer for things you may actually have to do something on the computer. If you do, and your tip is really lame please don’t blame it on the Mac or PC that you’re using and say you use the other one at work. It just doesn’t fly : )

Well folks, I hope you enjoyed my little insider guide to Photoshop World. Be safe and have fun.

– Matt Kloskowski