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October 23, 2020

Planning to host my first photographer’s retreat was such a mix of emotions, but mostly excitement! I’ve dreamed of hosting a retreat for a while now and was waiting for perfect timing. This year, perfect timing looks like social distancing and fall weather.

I went ahead and booked a gorgeous Guntersville Lake Airbnb that I’ve had my eye on for some time. The crisp lines of the house and the beautiful fall trees, plus the water and dock made it ideal for a photographer’s retreat.

Guntersville Lake, Alabama
Airbnb rental
September 2020

Y’all know I love my town, Hartselle, so planning a timeline and finding vendors to be a part of this retreat was easy. The Something Blue Shoppe provided both of the bride’s beautiful wedding dresses (one traditional, and one boho modern). Something Vintage full-service styling and rentals did an amazing job styling our two different wedding looks. I gave the owner, Angie, my vision and she completely perfected it with her creative eye.

The delicious cake you see was catered by Sugar Mamas. Boutique clothing was provided by Sassy Owl Boutique in Decatur (one of my favorite retail therapy spots!). Hair and makeup was provided by the talented Kristin Weatherman, MUA and Olivia Sparks, MUA.

Note: Photos are hyperlinked to credit photographers. If there isn't a link, it's my shot!

I decided on a 4-day, 3-night all-inclusive stay (girls only) with the option of coming just during the day to participate in the styled shoots (which was open to everyone). To keep safe, we all had our own beds and space for our belongings. The first night, when everyone arrived, there was so much excitement stirring, so we did introductions and had dinner. I knew it would be important for everyone to feel well-rested for our long day of shooting, so we went to bed early.

Boundaries are important when you’re focusing on your craft, and all attendees were respectful of the lights out at 10 p.m. rule. Another helpful rule that kept us focused and our minds clear was putting our belongings away in our own space after free time. This set such a good, calm tone for the rest of the retreat.

Boho Modern Styled Shoot

The next morning, we welcomed in our bride and groom models. They’ve been married a while but had a courthouse wedding when they were young. This was the perfect opportunity for them to experience all the feels of a first look.

I shoot a lot of barn weddings and church weddings, so this boho modern styled shoot was perfect for having something different on my feed and to show my depth with different wedding styles.

I set a specific timeline for the styled shoots and made sure that every photographer was getting an equal amount of time and a chance to direct the models. This group of photographers was truly the kindest! Everyone respected each other’s time and space, and that made it so fun.

Originally we only had planned for the bride to wear one dress, but when she tried on this classic dress, it looked like it was made for her. We ended up spending a couple more hours just taking bridal photos. Isn’t she stunning?!

After a long day of photographing the beautiful couple, those of us who were staying the night retired to the cabin. We ate dinner and then had a special Zoom call with Ariel, a photographer and marketing genius in Illinois. I’ve always admired her marketing and social media tips, so it was a joy to share her knowledge with my attendees!

One thing that I made sure was clear from the beginning of the retreat was that if you want to learn, come here learn, but if you need rest, take rest! That’s what a retreat is all about—getting done whatever you need to do (including catching up on inquiries and editing!).

Boutique Clothing Shoot

The next day, we had two portrait sessions with two models. This gave us a chance to practice our e-commerce photography: we styled graphic tees and jewelry for flat lays. The models changed outfits twice and we all took a ton of photos inside and outside the house. 

Later on, hair and makeup returned for headshots. This session, by far, felt the most empowering. We all took turns photographing each other, and I made sure to photograph each of my attendees. I encouraged everyone to wear what they feel most comfortable in and maybe even consider wearing their brand colors.

It was so powerful hearing compliments and encouragement from the other side of the lens—something none of us are used to! During this session, many of my attendees took the time to personally connect and take time to get to know each other.


Overall, I feel so blessed to have been able to bring together photographers who are passionate about their craft and serious about sharpening their skills. There’s nothing that makes me happier than building others up. Special thanks to all the photographers who made my first hosted retreat such a success!

Carla from Judith Photography

Ally from Simply Southern Photography

Jessica from Salt + Grace Photography.

Daniel from Argyle & Lace Photography

Lyn from Lyn Laswell Photography

Emily from Emily Clemons Photography

Bobbie-Anne (right) and her assistant (left) from Bridal Babes Photography

Hosting My First Photographer's Retreat: The Details