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The Rad Photographers Retreat 2018

 
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My second year attending the rad retreat

After attending the 2017 Rad Retreat, I COULD NOT WAIT to go back in 2018, and I couldn't have been happier I did! First, let's talk details... 

WHAT IS THE RAD PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, puts together a retreat (now 3 years running) that includes opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (which this year we used for some fun bathtub boudoir photos!), a personal chef cooking us A-M-A-Z-I-N-G meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus a comfort package giveaway, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

So how was attending the rad retreat for the second year in a row? 

Before I dive in, if you'd like to check out my post on last year's retreat, here it is! 

Okay, so last year when I attended the retreat for the first time, I was in a place of deep, DEEP stress and a crippling lack of self-care. I was working myself to death (nearly literally), wasn't appropriately balancing my time with family, and was honestly pretty freaking depressed (can't imagine why). I really credit last year's retreat with helping to snap me out of that pattern of behavior, and for being the first step towards taking better care of myself emotionally, scheduling in valuable rest time, and for making it abundantly clear how much I need a community of creative women in my life. Nothing wrong with dudes, I'm pretty fond of them in fact, but I firmly believe that no one lifts women up like other women or makes you feel sane and supported like other women. 

I was in a much different (better!) place for this year's retreat, and it worked out well that there were so many lady photographers there who are also moms, and many who also have full-time jobs, because it really felt great to be with a group of people who just GET IT. Like really get it. They get the struggle to balance conflicting priorities. They get the desire to continue to show commitment to your full-time job (if you have one) and the desire to continue to be World's Best Mom (even though none of us really can be). And it was also lovely to get the perspective of so many photographers who are doing photography full-time, and to have that reminder that every full-time job, whether you work for yourself or someone else, comes with unique challenges and opportunities, and that even being a full-time photographer does not suddenly make working for a living this magical, easy thing to do. (Capitalism, man... The struggle is real.)

It was also really awesome to see the contrast between last year and this year. For one, I was in a much different mental space between the two years, but for two, the group dynamics were different, in ways that just made me so appreciative of both groups of ladies! The first year, I felt like the group opened up to each other pretty much immediately. We cracked jokes, we laughed until we cried, we legit actually cried (whew, some of those 'face your fears' Q&A sessions are TOUGH you guys, but in the best of ways) and we played Cards Against Humanity until midnight on our last night. Now, this year, it took the group a little longer to open up, we were all feeling pretty shy to begin with, but as we got to know each other, there were so many opportunities for truly deep connection, reflection, and conversation. The group dynamic was a little quieter this year, but I felt like we really connected, and the trust and camaraderie that was established over just a few days was so amazing! Our last day there, after we finished headshots, we even ended up doing boudoir bathtub photo shoots for each other (because when there is a bathtub that amazing, you MUST find a good photo op - oh, and I'll be posting most of those photos in a separate blog post, since I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites!) 

The most amazing thing about both years is the open sharing of ideas, techniques, and best practices between everyone, and how that helps each attendee learn, grow, and evolve in their business, and with their passion for photography (which you really see come to life during the styled shoot, which I will post in more detail in a separate blog entry!). That and all of the time for self-care, reflection, and joy that is hard to come by back in the 'real world'. 

I am so thankful to have been able to attend this awesome retreat two years running, and am really looking forward to returning next year!  

WHAT freaking awesome PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN making THE RAD RETREAT 2018 so MAGICal? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being 3 years running! She did such an amazing job on this! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

  • Laura from Laura Zastrow Photography discussed the client experience, as well as finding the light in any situation and off-camera flash techniques 
  • Ren from Studio 29 Photography discussed Instagram strategy and getting published 
  • Angela Scheffer-Mondloch from Saffron Avenue Design discussed brand style, defining your brand style, and how to keep your style on-brand to attract your ideal clients 
  • Ashley from Midwestern Bride discussed planning styled shoots, and what collaborating vendors look for when working with a photographer on a styled shoot, as well as how to approach vendors to collaborate

Breakfast & Lunch: 

Dinners: 

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

AND IT WOULDN'T BE A BLOG POST WITHOUT SHARING SOME PICS... 

So here you are; Enjoy! And if you're a lady photographer, definitely go to this retreat next year!  

--Sam 

 

Playing with Good Light

 
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Gorgeous light and good company at the UW Arboretum

Caitlin is the first Instagram friend that I met in real life (Instagram friends are a thing, did you know that?!) She's a wonderful photographer, a small business owner, and most importantly, a super neat human. We had fun taking advantage of the lovely weather at the UW Arboretum this weekend for photos, and Caitlin made a great model (even if we did quite a number of awkward laughs, because it's hard for photographers to get used to being on the other side of a camera). Enjoy the photos, and if you live in Madison, get yourself out to the Arboretum this fall! 

--Sam  

 

How to Connect with Other Creatives

 
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Where to get started

When you're a creative and a small business owner, or looking to move into one or more of those categories, it can feel a little isolating. Doubly so if you're in a season of your entrepreneurial journey where you're struggling or unsure of the next stage in your business. 

Reaching out to other creative entrepreneurs can help you to feel less alone, and like there are folks out there who understand the unique struggles you're going through, and who can celebrate successes with you! 

Here are a few ideas on how to get started: 

The Rising Tide Society

The Rising Tide Society provides affordable small business education opportunities, support for small business owners, and a sense of community the size of an ocean! The mantra of The Rising Tide Society is #CommunityOverCompetition based on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. If that weren't enough, their organization facilitates hundreds of Tuesdays Together meetings across the country, which is a chance for you to meet up with local entrepreneurs, talk shop, network, and most importantly, be around other folks who really get what you're going through. Check out both The Rising Tide Society and your local Tuesdays Together meeting, and start connecting with a supportive community of creatives! 

Workshops and Retreats

Having only been to one, I certainly can't speak to all workshops and retreats out there (and I'm willing to bet they're not all as amazing as the one I went to), but I can say that the experience was such an amazing way for me to connect with a group of like-minded badass ladies, and I think making a commitment to dedicating time to your craft, and to connection, can do wonders for your business (and mental) outlook! 

Co-Working Spaces and DIY Clubs

While this might be harder to come by in rural areas, most mid to large sized cities have co-working spaces where you can rent a desk or office space, even as a solo entrepreneur or at-home worker, and get some valuable human interaction time with similarly situated individuals! Or there are also places that are geared towards the maker-scene. In Madison, we've got Sector 67 and the Bodgery as two amazing places for makers looking to connect, and have access to awesome tools and work spaces! 

Online Communities 

Online communities are an amazingly effective and easy way to seek connection with other creative folks, but become crucial for those in more rural areas, or for those that are just dipping their toe in, and aren't quite sure about in-person meet ups. Though to that I say "Come on in! The water is fine!" Still, online communities, including Facebook groups, etc., allow you to connect easily, and on the go, in whatever way you feel most comfortable, with as little or as much commitment as you are able to do, which is nice for those that might make a habit of telling themselves they don't have the time. 

 

In summary, connecting with other humans is important. And if you're a creative person, and/or a small business owner, it's going to be doubly important for you to connect with folks who really get what you're going through, and the unique challenges that come along with owning a small business or working in a creative field. Do yourself a favor and get out there, even if it's a little out of your comfort zone. I promise it will help you feel more connected not only to a community, but to yourself and your craft. And that's worth leaving the house for! 

 

The Rad Photographers Retreat 2017

 

3 Days of Community, Connection, and Creativity

Where can I even begin to describe such a wonderful and inspiring experience? Well, first, just the facts, ma'am... 

What is the Rad photographers Retreat? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, put together a retreat that included opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (to get ready for some amazing headshot shenanigans), a personal chef cooking us amazing meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus some giveaways, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

What did I really get out of it? 

You know, to be honest, it can be really easy to get stuck in the day to day. Stuck in the feeling of 'not good enough' and the over-glorification of busy-ness and hustle. I think as women in particular (and especially Moms), it can be really easy to put literally everyone else's needs ahead of ours, to minimize our own need for quiet, reflection, sanity, understanding, community, empathy, etc., and to work harder on building everyone else around us up than we work on building ourselves up. It can be easy to see nothing but our own flaws, to see only where we're falling down, only where we've failed or only what we have not yet achieved. And so to go from that all too common mindset, to a setting where women are there, creating and building community and connection, building each other up, finding common ground and inspiring one another, and actively encouraging things like rest, reflection, balance, self-care, is a breath of fresh air. 

If we're getting real here (and why not, right?) I'm in a tough place currently, stress-wise. Working too much, not appropriately balancing time with my family, and basically not scheduling in any personal reflection/self-care time. Let me just set the record straight for anyone who isn't already aware... It is not possible to do all the things perfectly. Maybe 70% if you're really really lucky and really really good. If you're like most of us then you've got 50% max of the shit you do that you're going to be really good at, and the rest of it you'll fumble through like everyone else. So, when I feel down on myself for not being the World's Best Mom, Best Wife, Best Small Business Owner, Best Photographer, Best Operations Supervisor of a Benefits Administration Company, Best at Exercise, Best at Eating Healthy, Best at Work-Life Balance, I try to remind myself that humans seriously weren't meant to do this much stuff. And I'm doing amazingly well by the standards to which we're evolved to cope with. 

Why do I bring this up? To reiterate a few things...

  1. How hard it was for me to take time off and make my own growth and learning and unplugging a priority 
  2. How easy it is to get down on myself for not basically being a perfect human (an oxymoron if one ever existed)
  3. How much I realize I'm not alone in those #1 and #2

So when I arrive at the retreat, nervous, stressed, feeling guilty, and like I shouldn't be there because I'm not good enough, and the first thing that happens is that I run into other, nervous retreat-goer arriving at the same time (love you, Kellie!) , and we're both handed glasses of sparkling wine and presents as we walk in the door, and told that no, we can't help with anything, and no, we don't need to offer our assistance, and go sit down for goodness sake and open your presents and drink this wine, it's like something clicked, and clicked hard. I spend my entire life taking care of other people (admittedly, sometimes not well) and putting others needs before my own. To be forced, even for 3 days, to put my own needs first, and indeed, to be encouraged to do so, was a novel experience. A very much needed experience that I wish more women had. 

I needed someone to pamper me for a bit, because lord knows it's the one thing I don't make time for. I needed a group of women to lift me up, and allow me to lift them up, and to smile and encourage and cheer each other on. I needed that because no one lifts women up like other women. No one makes women feel sane and supported and heard like other women. We're really freaking good at that (with everyone but ourselves). I desperately needed this, in a way I didn't even know, as is evidenced by what a hard time I'm having adjusting to 'real life' again, now that I'm home. 

I am so thankful for the experience I had, and for Christine and her team of talented friends, who put together this magical retreat, that gave me permission to slow down, breathe, reflect, grow, and connect. If you're on the fence about something like this next year, get off the fence and RUN to the nearest sign-up sheet because it is life-changing. I cannot wait to dive in next year, and I hope to see some of the friends I made this year come back again as well! 

What amazing people were involved in the rad retreat magic? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being! She is a golden goddess, and I appreciate her so much! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

Documenters: 

Breakfast & Lunch: 

Dinners: 

  • Personal Chef Services by Eric Vestegaard (we're trying to talk him into setting up an Instagram account, so hopefully more details to come!) 
  • Farewell Dinner Styling by Elevate Events
  • Adult Beverages Sponsored by Essential Edit

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

And it wouldn't be a blog post without sharing some pics... 

So here you are, and here I am, daydreaming about next year's retreat! Hope to see you there! 

--Sam