Sue Bryce Education and The Portrait Masters have joined Rangefinder + WPPI and PHOTOPLUS as part of Emerald’s Photo Group, it was announced today. The acquisition adds two successful online education platforms and an intimate annual conference and tradeshow to Emerald’s photography brands.
Photographer and educator Sue Bryce co-founded Sue Bryce Education (SBE) in 2015 with a goal of drawing on her own experiences to teach and encourage others to create successful portrait photography businesses. Bryce and her partners Aaron Andersen, Craig Swanson and George Varanakis, built the e-learning platform into a source of information, creative inspiration, mentorship and community for its members.
Bryce, who grew up in New Zealand, built successful portrait photography businesses there and in Australia before moving to the U.S., where she has become a photo industry leader and mentor to thousands of other photographers. “I became an educator because I truly loved the business model I created, the journey to being self-employed, the personal growth and the transformation this brought to my life—and I needed to share that,” Bryce said recently of her decision to create SBE.
She and her partners went on to launch The Portrait Masters (TPM), which includes an online education platform and annual conference featuring some of the most sought-after photographers and educators in the world, including Matthew Jordan Smith, Lara Jade, Felix Kunze, Michele Celentano, Pratik Naik and Kara Marie.
Bryce, Varanakis Reconnect with their WPPI Roots
The move to join forces with Rangefinder + WPPI as part of Emerald’s Photo Group represents something of a homecoming for Bryce. She first attended WPPI as a student in 2010, traveling from her then-home in Sydney, Australia, to learn and take part in the conference, which is held annually in Las Vegas. She delivered a keynote address at WPPI and hosted the WPPI U stage in 2011, and emerged as a powerful, inspiring educator in part through her appearances at the event.
It was Arlene Evans, Content Director of Emerald’s Photo Group, who first invited Bryce to speak at WPPI. “I first learned about Sue from a photographer in Australia who had attended WPPI,” Evans recalls. “She forwarded the beautiful images that Sue had taken of her, and felt that it was important for the WPPI audience to learn more about her. Of course, the rest is history.”
Bryce also met and connected with two of her future business partners, George Varanakis and Craig Swanson, at WPPI, where Varanakis was a longtime Show Director and Group Publisher for Rangefinder. Evans, Swanson, Varanakis and Andersen later worked together at CreativeLive, the online education business Swanson co-founded, and where Bryce also taught popular classes.
All of these connections give a reunion feel to the joining together of these companies with Rangefinder + WPPI and Emerald’s Photo Group. Bryce, Varanakis and their partners are excited to continue growing their businesses in collaboration with Emerald and the team behind its photography brands. “We are going to learn a lot from each other, and the opportunity to grow SBE/TPM and our conference is really exciting!” Varanakis tells Rangefinder. “It’s been an incredible journey to get here, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with everyone at Emerald. Plus, I get to work with Arlene Evans again, and that always brings a smile to my face!”
When The Portrait Masters Conference launched in 2017 in Indian Wells, California, it was the first official gathering of the community of photographers who had grown their creative skills and business acumen with the help of SBE and TPM. The event sold out in less than 24 hours. The lineup of speakers included Peter Hurley, Lindsay Adler, Susan Stripling, Kelly Brown, Michele Celentano and many others, with Bryce hosting and inspiring attendees to succeed both personally and professionally.
Since then, The Portrait Masters Conference has grown and evolved, and continues to sell out in a matter of hours each year. Most recently, The Portrait Masters Live online conference, created when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 in-person event, attracted thousands of photographers from all over the world.
In what can be a lonely and isolating profession, the sense of community around SBE and TPM, Bryce’s mentorship, and the support and encouragement the photographers offer one another as they grow, stands out.
“John F. Kennedy and his speechwriter Ted Sorenson popularized the saying, ‘A rising tide lifts all ships.’ My goal was to create a community that operates more like a network,” Bryce says. “We are ‘solo-preneurs,’ and we come together online to grow and learn, we are all on different levels of craft mastery and business building, and we bring experience from 23 countries. It is in this community that you can soar. We have a team of mentors that started with me in 2012 as students. They have built successful businesses and run and grown those businesses, and they provide one-on-one support, accountability and their personal knowledge and experience to others. One of the greatest gifts as an aspiring photographer that dreams of being professional is to be in a group of like-minded people working toward a common goal: Build a folio you love, and create a business you dream of.”
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