SXSW 2018 | Commercial, Event, & Music Photography by Jordan Hefler

SXSW 2018 | Commercial, Event, & Music Photography | Jordan Hefler

Ok ok ok I have a bad track record for getting my life together after a major event to blog my photos. It's been a month since SXSW and I'm finally getting them up! Let's be clear though- this was by far the most intense photographic assignment I've ever had and I'm honestly still recovering! Don't get me wrong, I had a blast. But this was another level of photography, for real. Let's break down what even happened since I've been getting a lot of questions about SXSW in general!

What is SXSW?

The best way I can explain this is that SXSW is the biggest organized event I have ever been to. It's an international conference, business networking event, educational event, trade show, job fair, film festival, art expo, marketing launch pad, business incubator, music festival... all in all it's a place to be seen for almost every industry. I was hired to be part of the Client Events Team, meaning my job along with 4 other photographers was to cover all of the "client events" AKA many many many sponsor events and marketing activations over the course of 9 days in Austin, TX. Our goals were to capture the overall experience and the branding efforts at SXSW client events. These events are no joke either- so much money is put into SXSW and you can really tell with how epic these client parties were. We're talking all the heavy hitters, like Budweiser, Pandora, Mercedes, Twitter, Diet Coke, Capital One, Viceland, LITERALLY ANY BRAND you can think of had some sort of marketing activation there. A lot of these events had overlap with concerts which was awesome, because I got to photograph a lot of music while I was at it. My favorite things to photograph are branded lifestyle situations and concerts, so SXSW WAS SO PERFECT FOR ME!

These were long days that we were shooting. Generally we'd get out there around 10AM and not be done shooting some nights until 2AM. We'd turn in our best shots every night so some nights I wasn't in bed until like 5AM or so. I shot over 13,000 images (yes I counted because I was curious) and walked at least 10 miles a day with all my camera gear on me according to my FitBit. Any other festival I had photographed up until this point was 3 days long, MAX, and this was over a week long so I was physically and mentally exhausted. For someone with back problems, this was insane but SO SO rewarding because I got to meet so many great people and attend so many incredible events!

Shout out to my friend David Brenden Hall for hiring me and letting me stay on his futon all week (we met at Voodoo Fest, man oh man I love when networking turns into job opportunities and real friendships.) He also threw a few extra assignments my way while I was in town so I got to photograph the Austin Music Awards, cover an event for the Bluegrass Situation (note this event was not an official SXSW event and is no way affiliated with SXSW) and do some beauty shots for MGM Resorts. OH YEAH and I got to photograph a second line by iconic New Orleans band Preservation Hall for KREWE while they were in town (thanks Ashley Monaghan for hooking me up with that one!)

Meet the Client Events Team! Geoff Duncan, Waytao Shing, David Brenden Hall, Letitia Smith, and me! Amazing team of photogs to work with all week! Thanks  David  for the photo.

Meet the Client Events Team! Geoff Duncan, Waytao Shing, David Brenden Hall, Letitia Smith, and me! Amazing team of photogs to work with all week! Thanks David for the photo.

Probably delirious, probably at midnight. Thanks again  David  for the team photos!

Probably delirious, probably at midnight. Thanks again David for the team photos!

While I was at SXSW all day every day, I tried to shoot as much as I could that wasn't also required of me... because why not? I'm already there and with my camera you know?

Brace yourselves because I tried really hard to narrow down the photos for this blog post but it's still just a small fraction of everything! There are a lot, but hey do what you want.

All images © Jordan Hefler, please reach out about usage for any of them.

SXSW 2018 | Commercial, Event, & Music Photography | Jordan Hefler

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field by Jordan Hefler

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler

So it's no secret that I am a very social person... I LIVE for networking events, conferences, ice breakers, meet-ups, etc. (I'm a sorority girl, DUH!) Especially since I am a creative that works from home- I totally crave the comradery that used to be taken for granted when I was in school. 

Something I've been really passionate about and look forward to every year is attending conferences that not only help me grow as a person and a creative, but also as a business owner. I have been rewarded tenfold from every conference I have attended, whether it was going to a local Student Council summer camp in high school, a national sorority convention in college, or traveling to New York with some friends to attend one of the biggest creative conferences, Create Cultivate.

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler

Recently I was asked to teach part of my Mastering iPhoneography workshop in person at a Baton Rouge design conference called Crop, and it made me realize how much I really do just love the atmosphere at creative conferences. I mean, have you seen my video about the story behind "Do What You Want?" I talk about how going to a creative conference in New Orleans called Venture Pop helped me formulate that tag line...which is basically now a sub brand of my business.

I can't say enough how important it is to try and find events within your career scope (or maybe even out of it!) Below are my top 5 reasons why you need to pull the trigger, buy that ticket, and show up!

I AM SICK BUT I AM HERE! #VenturePop2017 @venturepopconf

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5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler
5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler


So the most obvious reason to attend a conference is to network. People use this term loosely all of the time, but I seriously mean it... you hardcore network at conferences even if you aren't aware that you're doing it. When I was at SXSW (I was photographing more than I was really attending) every time I sat down to check my phone or grab some food I struck up a conversation with someone new. I met people from all over the world! At conferences such as Crop and Venture Pop, I have made countless connections which turned into business endeavors and later on, friendships. When I went to the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week alone, I sat next to this woman who talked to me for literally 2 minutes. We exchanged cards and a few months later I got a referral from her for a huge commercial photography assignment at a music festival.

This is probably the easiest way to make friends and connections in your field, especially if you show up to the conference alone. You'll get so many business cards from people and you should hand yours out as well! You never know what could come from it but you gotta go to make it happen in the first place!

Photo by  Trevor Mark

Photo by Trevor Mark

pow pow meeting internet friends IRL @nolanknight_ 😛 #SXSW

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Since I attend mostly creative conferences, this is a given. Regardless of your field, there's something you can takeaway from meeting other people who are working in a similar fashion as you. Fun tip- attend something that's a little out of your comfort zone if you want to gain even more inspiration! An example of this for me is Crop, the annual design conference in Baton Rouge. Graphic design makes up about 10% of my business but these people at Crop are LEGIT ARTISTS. I get so inspired every time just from being around people who are so passionate and talented...and then I'm just the token photographer who's there in the corner soaking everything up from the presentations. It opens up my mind when the conference is over and has me looking at my work from a different perspective, which can be refreshing.

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler


This is a big one. If you work for a company or in a corporate setting, see what types of conferences your work is willing to send you to! My boyfriend works in marketing and he's actually about to go to Las Vegas for a conference on behalf of his work next week. Um, COOL!? Conferences are legitimate business excuses to travel and if you can swing it to be part of your paid days that you would have been in the office, that's even better. For me, this is a bit daunting because I work for myself and end up having to foot the bill, but last year two friends and I went to New York for a conference and made a whole trip out of it. It was 100% worth it and I am always trying to see where I can go next! Definitely put some money aside because conferences are investments for not only your own personal growth, but the growth of your business.


This kind of goes hand in hand with inspiration, but unlike inspiration this is applicable to the real world in an immediate way. People who speak at conferences are presenting for a reason- it's because they know what they're talking about and they are there to teach you something new. Take notes! I've learned so many tips and tricks from watching the presentations and just having casual conversations with people sitting around me. This can be so valuable for your business, especially if you work alone.

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler


This one is a bit more relevant for those of you who are there to promote your own business, but nonetheless going to a conference in your field gives you a built in audience of people who *should* be interested in what you have to offer. Find out if you can contribute to putting your marketing materials in the "swag bags" given to everyone at the conference, or bring your own cards, stickers, or other materials to hand out to people throughout your time there. If you're in a position to, BECOME A SPONSOR OF THE EVENT. Boom, instant advertising for an already tailored audience! When I was asked to do my workshop in person, I was so excited because I immediately realized I would 1. be helping a ton of people at once by teaching what I knew, and 2. if nothing else get my name out there to people who may be interested in my work.

I hate using the word "exposure" but going to a conference is one of the most classic examples of this because it truly is a great way to get yourself out there and let your face/business/knowledge be seen and heard! I always like to post something with my face in it about being at the conference if I can, because then people who are searching that event's hashtag will know who I am and hopefully that leads to in person conversations. This strategy has really helped me connect with others online who are also at the conference! To take it even further, from a branding aspect I like to wear bright colors in some way so that people associate what they see on my Instagram with what I look like in person. When I was in New York this one girl actually came up to me and said she had seen my posts with the conference hashtag and figured that must be me because of the colorful shoes I was wearing!

What conferences have you attended that made a difference in your life or business? I'd love to hear, and you already know I'm always on the lookout for something new to attend!

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference in your Field | Jordan Hefler