About Amy Bao Photography

Hello hello! My name is Amy and I am a Bay Area wedding photographer.

I specialize in capturing timeless images that perfectly balance photojournalism with fine art, classical with contemporary, and are full of energy and emotion. I want your most beautiful memories to look as stylish to you as they will to your grandchildren, because your wedding day, well, that is the stuff legacies are made of.

Contact me directly by emailing amy@amybaophoto.com . I would love to hear from you!

Archive: February, 2012

WPPI 2012 – Review

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

For anyone who is serious about pursuing photography as a career, attending at least one WPPI convention is a must.  Held annually at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it is the biggest gathering of wedding and portrait photographers in the world, and of course, comes complete with an all star line-up of celebrity photographers.

While it’s fun and educational, it can also be quite overwhelming. Here are some of my takeaways for those planning to attend in the future (especially for those looking to not blow a lot of money):


Register early, there’s an early bird special.  Register with other photographers as each registration comes with a full access guest pass (2 for 1 basically), and each guest pass after that is only $150.  Or you can always sell your guest pass to offset your cost.

If you’re in driving distance to Las Vegas, drive.  It’s great to have a car while you’re there.  This allows you to stay a bit further away from MGM, where the hotels are more reasonably priced, but still be able to get to the Convention Center easily.  The Riviera, Circus Circus, the Stratosphere, and Rio all have nice rooms, are a bit further up the Strip and are a fraction of the cost of MGM ($30-50s v. $150-200s).  I haven’t done the math, but perhaps renting a car while there is worth it too.  Aside from MGM, the Excalibur and Luxor are also in walking distance.  Room with friends and/or other photogs if possible.

Las Vegas is in the desert so it’s fairly hot in the middle of the day but very cold in the mornings and evenings, so dress accordingly.  I was freezing the first two days and eventually dug out my pashmina scarf from the bottom of my suitcase and kept it with me.  Wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be walking a bit.

Keep a supply of snacks on you during the day to keep your energy up.  MGM’s food court, restaurants, and buffet is a bit of a hike from the main Convention area (and pricey unless you’re eating fast food).  WPPI does provide dinner (at least every night I was there).


Full registration comes with access to all the Platform Classes, these are held in very big rooms with hundreds of people.  Master Classes, PLUS Classes, and WPPI U are all additional, but done in much smaller classroom settings.  I only attended Platform classes so I’ll just speak to those.

There are huge differences in quality between the various Platform Classes so definitely spend some time doing your research on the speakers.  Some speakers just end up giving a sales pitch, luckily I was able to avoid those.  SLR Lounge did a great review of the speakers from WPPI 2010 that I found to be very helpful.  You’re allowed to pre-board for five classes which guarantees you a spot, and I ended up switching all five of my classes a week before the event after a bit of research, and I was pretty happy with the classes I attended.

Sue Bryce did an amazing talk on her marketing strategy and how she built up her business in the first year, and delved into very specific business tactics she implemented to create the best possible experience for her clients.  She was the only speaker I saw who received a standing ovation at the end, and it was well deserved.  She’s also hilarious.

Suzette Allen did a very helpful demonstration of Photoshop tricks.  All her tutorials can be found here.

Dane Sanders and Colleen Wainwright both talked about competing in today’s economy and the use of various social media platforms.  While the information wasn’t entirely novel to me because I’ve been following the writings of Seth Godin for years, and his philosophy was central to both their presentations, the classes themselves were still well worth the time.  (Seriously though, read Seth’s works.)

I also really enjoyed presentations by Jerry Ghionis, Jasmine Star, Joe Buissink, and Jason Groupp (basically if their name starts with “J”, you’re good).

The amount of information thrown out is immense and you quickly realize that every photographer has his or her own philosophy towards their art and business, and often contradict each other.  For most people there, the goal is to just walk out of each class with 1-2 actionable takeaways.

Trade Show:

The trade show can be extremely overwhelming, and most photographers advise going in with a very specific shopping list and sticking to it.  I didn’t really need to buy anything specific so wasn’t swept up by the shopping frenzy, instead I used it as a way to get a thorough overview of the products and services available to me.  There are some good deals to be found at the trade show, so if you are on the market for certain items, this could be a good place to get them, but do your research.

In addition, many photographers and speakers do mini presentations on the trade show floor.  Since I missed some classes due to a conflict in schedule with other classes I wanted to attend, I was able to catch a few condensed versions at the trade show.

Jesh de Rox actually skipped presenting a class altogether this year and just did small demonstrations at the trade show, and he was amazing!  He demonstrated a technique he developed over the last few years called ‘Beloved’, where he gave people prompts that encouraged them to access their real emotions in front of the camera.  He took volunteers from the audience and had them laughing and crying in the middle of a Las Vegas trade show floor, it was incredible.

Overall, WPPI was a great experience and I came away with many ideas that I want to put into action.

“There are no such thing as perfect pictures, only perfect moments” – Joe Buissink

Back in Vegas – One Year Later

Monday, February 27th, 2012

It’s mildly ironic that I can view the changes in my life this past year through the lens of Las Vegas.  I have a hard time thinking of a more superficial city than this place, but as I drove through the glitzy Las Vegas strip, I found myself feeling deeply reflective.

One year ago, I flew to Las Vegas from New York City to visit a client site on behalf of Morgan Stanley.  The client was showing potential investors from China some renewable energy assets and I was sent to babysit and translate.  I stayed at the Four Seasons near Mandalay, had a $100 daily meal budget, and was driving a nearly brand new rental car.  Not a five star getaway by any means, but it was very comfortable.

Fast forward to a year later, I spent my first two nights in Vegas in a hostel (yep, I shared a dorm room with strangers).  Being way more budget conscious, since I was spending out of pocket, I tried to book hotel rooms last minute when prices usually drop without realizing that it was President’s Day weekend and there weren’t cheap rooms available (Joyce and Sonam, if you two ever read this, you guys have clearly rubbed off on me).  Despite having spent many nights in hostels while traveling through third world countries, this was my first time staying in a US hostel and it was nothing to write home about, came complete with funny smells and a lumpy mattress.

I was also trying not to spend too much on food, so I actually packed a cooler with nutri-grain bars, apples, and those little $1 buns with sweet fillings from the Asian grocery store.  I must admit, I missed my corporate AmEx when I walked by Joel Robuchon in MGM, where I had dinner a year ago.

As for the car, it actually was falling apart.  I drove my parents’ 12-year old Toyota Corolla that has perhaps lived through one too many Michigan winters filled with salted roads.  About 4 miles south of Las Vegas, the rusty metal band holding up the muffler finally gave out and the muffler started to drag on the ground.  For someone who hasn’t driven that much nor knows much about cars, let’s just say the loud sound of metal from one’s car scraping on the highway is somewhat heart attack inducing.  I was fairly certain it was setting off sparks and my car was going to blow up any minute.

Suffice it to say, my trip to Las Vegas last week was much more of an ordeal than the trip a year prior, but here’s the flip side.  I was there for the annual WPPI Convention, the biggest event for wedding and portrait photographers.  I went to hear amazing photographers (whose blogs I’ve been stalking) talk about their experiences and share their wisdom.  It was exciting, educational, fun, and most importantly, it was for me.  It was one more step in my journey, following my dreams and passion back into the art world.  I walked away feeling so motivated to do what I’ve set out to do, and compare this to a year ago, well, it was day and night.  I was happy to be in Vegas a year ago because it allowed me to leave the office, but the thought of going back had kept me in a constant state of dread and misery, and now I don’t really know what those words feel like anymore.

It really is amazing how much can happen in a year.  At the risk of sounding like a train wreck of cliches, being true to myself and following my dreams was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I don’t know what the future holds, the economy still kinda stinks, the competition is fierce, and I’m still adjusting to a new city, but I find that the uncertainty doesn’t scare me (much).  I’m doing something that makes me happy, so I have faith that things will work out at the end.


Oh!  And I found complete strangers who helped me fix my car!

I called for a car towing service who told me it was okay to drive but go slow, so I managed to get it off the highway and into a parking lot.  There, I found a security guard who just happened to have wires and a plier to help me tie the muffler up so it was off the ground.  Later, a guy at the hostel offered to find me a proper thingamajig from the hardware store to bolt the muffler back into its place and fixed everything up.  I love nice people!


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