As you may or may not have seen on our social media, we hosted our first workshop at the end of July! As wedding photographers, it’s been something that Aaron and I have wanted to do for a long time and we are so grateful that we had the chance to host this kind of event. But to be frank, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; we encountered so many obstacles along the way. There were many times we almost threw our hands up in the air, admitted defeat, and cancelled the whole thing. Instead, we took a step back and decided to change our mindset.
As I mentioned before, Aaron and I have always thought it would be so awesome to host a workshop to provide a creative space open to collaboration and growth. That being said, I think our personal expectations for this event contributed to many of the obstacles we faced along the way. To us, this event had such a clear vision and it was extremely challenging learning to allow for the ebb and flow of life to mold this event into what it became. I think it’s a problem that afflicts many creative minds; having such a clear vision for something for it to fall short of your personal expectations.
If you’re reading this, perhaps you are thinking of hosting an event similar to ours. We wanted to write this post to share the things we learned that we wish we had known before hosting a workshop. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like we’re experts when it comes to workshops and hosting creative events! We’re wedding photographers, not event planners! But we do want to take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and hopefully help someone in the meantime.
1. Setting An Intention: Workshops vs. Styled Shoots For Wedding Photographers
When Aaron and I first set out to plan this event, we knew we wanted it to be a space for learning. Both of us are so grateful for the opportunities we have had to learn from other photographers and professionals in the wedding industry. A workshop seemed like the perfect chance to have a more structured environment to share the knowledge that we’ve picked up over the years.
We wanted attendees of our workshop to walk away with a new breadth of knowledge and feel like they made a good investment in themselves. We also wanted to host this workshop somewhere where attendees could think to themselves, “I’m so glad I got to shoot there.” That’s when we settled on using Grandpa’s Poolhouse in Stanchfield, MN as our location.
Grandpa’s Poolhouse is a beautiful 1980’s home that is frozen in time. From the furniture to the decorations, the house feels like it is stuck in the 70’s or 80’s. Beyond this being a super awesome ode to an era long gone, it also serves as a perfect place for a funky, fun photoshoot. But this part of our intention for the workshop more closely aligns with the definition of a styled shoot.
Styled shoots, as similar as they are to workshops, are a bit different than workshops. Styled shoots are more so an opportunity for vendors to showcase their services and photographers to add to your portfolio with a particular location/environment. Styled shoots are great opportunities for vendors and photographers to expand their portfolio for their business with unique shots that highlight their individuality as creatives. That being said, styled shoots have less of an intention to educate as workshops.
When we began marketing for our event, we referred to it as a workshop. In retrospect, we should’ve marketed it as both a workshop AND a styled shoot. That way, we could have better represented the purpose of our event as both a chance to learn AND shoot at a really awesome location. We learned that it’s so important to set your intention for an event like this, especially when it comes to marketing for an event like this. Otherwise, your intention may become lost in translation and potential attendees may be dissuaded out of confusion.
2. Planning Ahead: It’s All In The Details…
Okay, now, I know what you might be thinking: “This one’s a no-brainer, right?” I totally get it. But there are no words that can stress just how important it is to plan ahead.
When we mention planning ahead, we don’t just mean the location or the models or the props. We mean EVERYTHING: vendors, wardrobe, marketing strategy, etc.! For a more specific example, the date and time were a detail that we partially overlooked. If you are marketing your event towards wedding photographers (like we were), it’s crucial to factor in how the date and time will work for potential attendees.
We scheduled our event to take place on Sunday in July. As professionals in the wedding industry, you know that wedding season lasts from late spring to early fall. It was very stressful for us to host this kind of event during our busy wedding season. But sometimes, timing isn’t in your favor. That being said, get a lot of your planning done ahead of time so you don’t feel that anxiety from having to scramble at the last minute.
Another example comes from the timing of your marketing/advertising. We started marketing for this event two months before our event date. This was not the smartest move on our part, especially since we were hosting this event during a time when our targeted attendees (wedding photographers) were booked and busy. Allow time for potential attendees to make room for this event in their schedule. In our experience, we had many individuals who wanted to attend our workshop but were unable to because they were traveling for a wedding or busy with some other prior commitment.
3. Following A Schedule: Keeping Things As Organized As Possible
Now, there are a lot of people involved when it comes to hosting a workshop or styled shoot. Between the models, hair artist, make up artist, collaborators, and attendees, there was a moment during our workshop where it felt like I was being swallowed by people. Following a schedule can help make some of the chaos make sense. Sometimes, that means having more than one schedule. As wedding photographers, we’ve had a lot of practice when it comes to working with many schedules at once.
For example, we had a clear schedule when it came to getting ready. This schedule included hair and makeup and the models. Then, we had another schedule that included the rotations of attending photographers and couples so that attendees weren’t stuck photographing the same couple for the entire workshop. These schedules help ease that chaotic feeling of running around wondering where everyone is.
One big lesson that we learned from our experience was making time in our schedules for mingling. It doesn’t have to be all business all the time. Events like this are meant to be a place for networking and building friendships. Make sure to leave some time to allow for everyone to get to know each other. It’s much easier to work with someone you’re acquainted with compared to a stranger. On the other hand, these can be just be rest times for everyone involved.
Our final piece of advice regarding schedules is that it’s okay if the schedule isn’t strictly followed. Go with what feels right and if that means shifting things around the schedule, so be it! Schedules are meant to relieve stress, not cause it.
4. Roll With The Punches: Embracing Mistakes and Changes
I think the most important lesson we walked away from this workshop was the power of a change in mindset. We had poured so much energy into planning this event and spent a pretty penny to make it match our vision. After rolling out our advertising and marketing, we had some loose inquires from potential attendees but no one had booked. It was an extremely disheartening feeling to pour so much work into something and wonder if any one was going to be able to see what we worked so hard to build. It was then we decided to change our mindset.
I remember sitting in our living room after days of brooding and looking at Aaron and finally saying, “We just need to learn from this.” We are firm believers that everything happens for a reason. There was a reason we were hosting this workshop and we knew we had to see it through to the end. Even if not a single person booked, we were still going to go through with it and shoot some amazing content with the models.
It wasn’t until we changed our mindset about the workshop that we started booking attendees. It was almost like a slap across the face from the universe. Looking back, we could have done a lot of things differently when it came to marketing and planning. But instead of sitting there and eating away at ourselves for not doing better, we decided to play with the hand that we were dealt.
5. Have Fun With It: You’re Making Memories
Bringing us to the final lesson we learned from hosting this workshop is a reminder to have fun! As exhausted as we were coming home after the workshop, a lot of the exhaustion was from laughing so hard. From the beginning, our entire group just clicked! It honestly felt like a big group of friends just hanging out!
It’s kind of like a bride on her wedding day. You have sit back and think about how you want to be remembered on your wedding day. Do you want to be remembered at a bridezilla who was so focused on following their schedule that they forgot to have fun? Or do you want to be remembered as the awesome bride who actually had fun at her wedding and was a joy to be around? The same goes for being a host to a workshop. Do you want to be remembered as the uptight host who couldn’t deviate from the plan? Or do you want to be remembered as the host who went with the flow, had fun, and created an environment that people want to participate in again?
Sometimes, you have to remind yourself that you are making memories and only YOU can decide how you will remember those memories. We could sit here and ramble on and on about the mistakes we made in hosting this event but we don’t want that to consume our memory of this special day. Instead, we will remember this day as full of laughs and lessons.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading! Make sure to check us out on all the socials linked at the bottom of this page! If you want to read more about us, check out our recent blog post: Keen is the Name, Authenticity is the Game: Meet Your Favorite MN Wedding Photographers!
Make sure to leave a comment of what you thought about the blog and any questions you may have about hosting a workshop!
We want to give a huge shout out to everyone who made this day so special to us! A special shout out to our amazing assistant, Joe, who helped us put this whole thing together! These memories are forever and we cannot thank you enough for being there to make them with us!