I’ve never visited a Photography trade show before, in previous years there has been one at the NEC called Focus on Imaging but that was replaced this year with The Photography Show, and I decided to head along and see what was happening. A four-day event in two halls of the NEC vying with such other conferences as the Santander Convention and most prestigious of all The Concrete Show, the Photography Show promised stands and stages and all sorts to see and do.
Armed with our tickets a couple of friends and myself caught the train from Milton Keynes to the NEC in Birmingham. Not as straight-forward as it sounds that, the moral of the story is to double-check which train you are getting on just in case you end up at the wrong end of the country – but hey we made it, and had a scenic tour of the platforms at Rugby station as well while we waited for the correct train to catch up with us. Whoops.
The Show was certainly large, halls 11 and 12 at the NEC are a fair old size and were fully utilised. All the major manufacturers were there with Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Olympus having some of the biggest stands. Lots of stands had displays with demonstration areas and Nikon in particular had it’s Nikon School doing demos and talks from various Nikon users – Joe McNally spoke on the Nikon Stage, as well as doing a 90min show on the Super Stage which was very interesting as he described some of his work for National Geographic and other magazines over the years. The Super Stage talks were additional charges, but for a tenner it was pretty good value – if somewhat cramped seating!
There were many good deals to be had, but my aim on the Sunday was to look around and absorb as much of the talks and demos as I could. This proved to be a problem because the show was probably a little too crowded to be honest. Manfrotto had a stage with demos on lighting and reflectors amongst other things, and the two that we saw were very interesting. The problem with it was that you were standing in the walkway and it got crowded very quickly. Taking a shot of the model was tricky for example, and it wasn’t helped that just behind us the Hasselblad stand were doing equally good demonstrations so bottle-necks quickly formed. Similarly the Live Stage and Catwalk had interesting features and talks too, but again while I wanted to try and take shots of the Karate demonstration the crowd was 4 or 5 deep so hearing what was happening was tricky enough, let alone photographing it.
The one area you could photograph in relative space and peace was the garden section, a small corner with live plants to practice macro photography, an interesting idea which worked well. I’ve seen some great shots of the photographers at work there, crouched down with lenses close to the flowers.
And what were the show offers like? There were so many stands selling everything from printers to camera straps, and everything in between. My target for the show was NOT to look at the lenses. I don’t need a new lens, they are expensive. But oh so shiny. So yes I did look – although not at the price tag! Having checked out the offers – and comparing them with the internet back home – I drove back on the Monday armed with a shopping list and acquired myself some new studio lights, which will make the studio far more versatile and a couple of other small bits and pieces. I personally think I was very restrained…
So was the show worth the visit? Definitely. It was the first year, it was very well attended – ridiculously so on Monday it was so crowded and hopefully next year they’ll make some more space to allow better interaction with the live demonstrations – that was probably the only downer on the show this year. The 2015 dates are already announced, keep the 21st-24th March free…and the wallet loaded!