So, you’ve booked your travel to Vegas for WPPI 2023–which takes place from March 5 to 9 at the Mirage—and you’re really psyched to hear from both veteran and new speakers alike during a powerful lineup of educational seminars, photo walks, RF Lounge Talks, and more. But you’re also probably wondering, “Where should I stay? Should I make dinner reservations in advance? Should I try to catch a show? Are there art exhibitions I should see, or off-site locations to take some killer images for my portfolio?” To help make your experience the best one possible, we’ve asked 11 WPPI educators for their recommendations, and included some ourselves, on how to best navigate WPPI 2023! Below, is an insider’s guide on how to navigate WPPI 2023 (and Vegas!)—where to stay and everything you should see, do, consume, and get inspired by.
Navigate WPPI 2023 With These Handy Tips:
Navigate WPPI 2023: Where to Stay
The Mirage (now owned by Hard Rock International) is the host hotel for WPPI 2023 and it’s where the educators, vendors and WPPI team will be housed. It’s also where the conference and trade show take place, so you never have to leave the building if you don’t want to!
“You have to stay at the Mirage,” says Elena S Blair, a WPPI 2023 speaker and the host of the weekly WPPI Deals & Giveaways on YouTube. “It’s a constant party, networking and stellar education all under one roof. And you want to have quick access to all the things happening from 8 a.m. to the wee hours of the morning.”
And if that’s not enough incentive to stay at the Mirage, there’s also a special discounted rate of $149/night available for WPPI attendees (that rate is available until Feb.13. Reserve your room here). The hotel has a gorgeous pool and accompanying area (billed as “one of the favorite backyards on the strip”) that is scheduled to open March 2 (weather permitting) with daybeds and cabanas. There is also an on-site spa offering a 20% discount on its services to all WPPI attendees who mention they are with WPPI and show their badge. And don’t forget about the many fabulous restaurants and lounges inside the hotel, including Otoro (Japanese), Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak, Diablo’s Cantina (Mexican), Rhumbar Tropical Ultra Lounge, and much more. (Even better, WPPI attendees will receive a 10% discount at the following Mirage restaurants provided they show their lanyards: Diablos, California Pizza Kitchen, Costa, Otoro, Rhumbar, Snacks All-Day Eatery, and Parlor Cocktail Lounge.)
Where to Eat
Of course if you want to get out of the hotel for at least one night’s dinner, Las Vegas has the highest density of restaurants per residents as compared to the United States in general. In total, there are over 4,300 dining establishments in the city.
Some of the latest restaurants to open on the strip include Balla Italian Soul, a restaurant by James Beard award-winning chef Shawn McClain, and the Proper Eats Food Hall, which features eclectic vendors from all over the world and is located at the Aria Resort & Casino.
New speaker Jessica Hill says that when she comes to Vegas, she is always sure to book reservations at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Las Vegas, Morimoto in the MGM Grand and Momofuku at the Cosmopolitan. Amber Baird, a veteran speaker, is a huge fan of barbecue, and thus loves to visit Rick’s Rollin Smoke Barbecue with Garrett, her husband and business partner.
And finally Will Cadena, who travels to Vegas for work roughly 8 times a year loves Sushi Samba and Buddy V’s Ristorante, both at the Venetian Resort, as well as Weera Thai. For sweets, he always goes to the Donut Bar.
Fellow veteran Roberto Valenzuela notes that every time he visits Vegas, he makes a pilgrimage to Bazaar Meat by José Andres at the Sahara Las Vegas. “Literally everything there is to die for!” he says. Rick Ferro, who has been attending WPPI for 29 years, and considers the convention to be a kind of family, always makes room for Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Snow Crab.
Shows to Catch
There are so many amazing shows in Las Vegas that it can be overwhelming to choose which one to attend. Some musical artists currently on residency in the city include Santana, Luke Bryan, Usher, Adele, Katy Perry and Miranda Lambert. Cadena recently went to go see the Bruno Mars show at the Park MGM, and notes that it was amazing.
Baird usually tries to book a night at Absinthe, a combination of circus, variety and burlesque at Caesars Palace. Jesse Rinka, who is a huge hockey fan, plans on catching the Vegas Golden Knights, a professional ice hockey team, when they play on March 5.
Sanjay Jogia notes that classic shows such as Cirque du Soleil and David Copperfield are always entertaining. Hill and speaker Jacklyn Greenberg concur. “The [Cirque du Soleil] performers are exquisite and absolute masters at their crafts,” says Greenberg.
If he gets the chance, Valenzuela would love to check out The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil, which friends have raved about—and it’s in the Mirage (also in the hotel is the magic show “Shin Lin Limitless.”)
Exhibitions to Visit
There are dozens of wonderful museums, galleries and exhibition spaces in Las Vegas. Photography enthusiasts will especially love “Rarely Seen,” an immersive photo exhibition featuring 50 images created by National Geographic photographers at the Horseshoe Las Vegas and the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which will “In Bloom,” a exhibition of blossom-inspired works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, during WPPI. Valenzuela would also recommend you check out Basner Fine Art, a contemporary photography gallery and Lik Fine Art, which specializes in monumental landscape photography.
Hill raves about Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains, an installation of 30-foot high locally sourced boulders painted in bright colors and installed in the desert just south of the city. Baird plans on checking out Omega Mart, a permanent immersive installation by Meow Wolf in Area 15, the city’s arts and entertainment district.
Best Off-Site Photography Locations
Vegas, with its contrast between visually stuffed light displays and empty desert, is a photographer’s dream. “Plan your shoot and get creative with the styling, this place calls for some serious creativity!” recommends Valenzuela.
Both Hill and Rinka recommend the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which features towering red sandstone peaks and waterfalls, for an off-site shoot during your down time (if you have any). Greenberg and Ferro both love the Valley of Fire, a 46,000-acre State Park with petrified trees and petroglyphs by indigenous tribes.
New speaker Phylicia Willis loves to shoot at any fitness gyms she comes across on the strip. “They’re aesthetically pleasing!” she says. Baird and her husband travel to Fremont Street, an entertainment and gaming district, to capture people in their environments, their favorite subject. Jogia, if he has the time, would love to visit one of the surrounding “ghost towns,” which are abandoned towns built in the 19th century by gold and silver miners.
What to Pack
Of course, you want to bring the usual things, like comfortable clothes, good walking shoes and your gear bags for impromptu photo shoots. On that note, Cadena recommends dress shirts by Lululemon, which are pricey but don’t wrinkle in transit.
Hill is careful to also pack a few sweaters—she notes that the casinos can be quite chilly—as well as a water bottle with a built in filter to save money on bottled water. Jogia, who can’t live without caffeine, brings a Conqueco portable coffee maker, which he bought on Amazon and can charge in his room.
Due to dry conditions in the desert, Greenberg packs a humidifier for her hotel room, Willis brings packets of Liquid-iv to stay hydrated and Baird makes sure she’s stocked up on Chapstick. Baird also packs a lot of Band-Aids. “There’s a lot of walking and I like to stay a step ahead of blisters,” she says.
Valenzuela always packs running shoes (which is also a great way to navigate WPPI 2023—wearing comfortable shoes!). “If you drive out of the city and go to the nearby state parks, the scenery is unbeatable and perfect for a long run!” he says.
[Read: Roberto Valenzuela’s Biggest Business Breakthroughs]
Navigate WPPI 2023 Classes: Key Takeaways and WPPI Speaker Recommendations
Hill, who is teaching “Easy Breezy Posing” on March 9 from 1:00 p.m. – 3 p.m., can’t wait to check out the presentations by Jesse and Moira La Plante, Derrel Ho-Shing and Greenberg.
Jacklyn Greenberg, who is teaching “Unlock Emotions and Lock the Sale” on March 6 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., notes that she hopes to help attendees overcome any fears they have about making a sale. “Once we overcome our fears and unlock their emotions we will find that we are capable of sales beyond our wildest imaginations!” She plans on also attending the presentations by Kanayo Adibe, Cat Ford-Coates, Jonathan Thorpe, Hill, Caroline Tran, and Esteban Gil.
Phylicia Willis is teaching “Making Ordinary Locations Extraordinary,” a photo walk on March 8 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., and hopes to show participants that you can make any location beautiful. She plans on attending “Filming Wedding Stories that Make Money” by Benjamin Davis.
Baird and her husband are teaching “Elevate Your Wedding Film the Eyenamic Way” on March 8 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., is eyeing classes that will take her business to the next level.
Valenzuela, who is teaching “Impactful Lighting Without Breaking the Bank” on March 7 from 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., notes that his class is the most practical one he’s ever taught. “It’s meant for people to see what amazing possibilities and clever use of locations to create spectacular lighting on your portraits with minimal and affordable lighting gear,” he says. He can’t wait to check out presentations by Ben Willmore, Jason Vinson and Lana Polic. (He notes that he hopes Polic will help him to improve his Photoshop skills.)
Rinka, who will take photographers on “The Importance of Posing & Directing Your Couples,” a photo walk on March 6 from 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., will focus on communication with couples. She can’t wait to check out the classes by Esteban Gil, Andre Brown, Vanessa Joy, Seth Miranda, Cadena and Valenzuela.
Ferro, who will be judging many of the competitions as well as hosting “Working with Constant Light or LED Light” on March 9 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., will check out the presentation by Lindsay Adler.
Cadena, who is teaching “Mastering Your Flash…Start Here” on March 6 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., will show attendees how to make artificial light look like natural light.
And finally Jogia, who will be teaching “Expert Secrets: Define the Light: Refine the Pose,” on March 7 from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., can’t wait to catch up the posing class by Linda Rukavina. “It’s her first time presenting and she’s super excited,” he says.
View the full Class Schedule by speaker and title here.