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You’re planning to host a retreat, but the thought of marketing or promoting your retreat is a little daunting.

Or, maybe you’ve hosted a retreat in the past and felt completely overwhelmed at the idea of sharing content during the retreat or trying to capture the experience.

You constantly debated whether to capture the moment, or be in the moment. And you found retreat attendees going through the same thing.

Maybe afterwards, you found yourself wishing you had a way to show others what it was like. Maybe the attendees were wishing they had more photos to relive the memories and experiences.

Maybe you’re even planning a second, third, or tenth retreat, and find yourself thinking, “If only I had photos from previous retreats to put on my website and sales page.”

Photos are an incredible way to market ANYthing, and that goes for retreats too.

When marketing or promoting a retreat, photos and/or video content go a long way in helping clients understand the transformation and experience they’ll have.

As a retreat host, you have a zillion details running through your mind.

    • Where to host the retreat
    • How long it should be
    • How many tickets you want/need to sell
    • Food
    • Perks/Bonuses
    • Activities/itinerary
    • Transportation
    • Accommodation
    • Down time
    • How to ensure an amazing, transformational experience for attendees
    • How to market your retreat, actually sell tickets, and create a waitlist for the next one

This last point is what I want to focus on right now.

In a very initial survey (<100 responses), 67% of respondents who have been to a retreat before said that the photos and videos on the sales page helped them understand what they would be getting and experiencing at the retreat.

For everyone planning a retreat – or thinking about hosting one – 77% of total respondents on my initial survey said they’re planning to attend a retreat in the future. And 70% of total respondents would be more likely to attend a retreat if they would receive professional photos afterwards (candids and/or mini sessions).

“But wait, I’ve never hosted a retreat, so I don’t have any photos to use!”

If you’re hosting your first retreat…

Don’t worry. You don’t have to have photos from a retreat to market your very first retreat effectively with photos.

You can easily highlight your brand, your services, experiences of past/current clients, and YOU, with personal brand photos.

Why should I pay for a retreat photographer?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Can’t I just do a trade with the photographer? I know TONS of photographers who would love to attend a retreat for free in exchange for photos.”

This type of exchange does have its place, especially if a photographer is looking to build their portfolio in this area (though please at least try to cover their travel expenses).

And I’m sure you do know tons of photographers who are willing to shoot your retreat for “free”. You can absolutely do a trade like this; however, here a few reasons why paying for a photographer is better:

    • Experience
    • Portfolio
    • You know exactly what you’re going to get
    • It’s a value exchange – you get what you pay for
    • There are certain guarantees that come with paying (i.e. gallery turnaround time)
    • Clear expectations

From experience, a LOT of time and energy goes into documenting a retreat.

It’s not just taking and editing photos/video.

    • It’s knowing when and how to take the photos you want/need
    • It’s hours of culling and editing
    • It’s knowing how to tell the story
    • It’s not a standard 8-hour day of work/shooting, it’s working straight from arrival to departure, and then some
    • Photographers have bills to pay, too. A paid photographer can focus on the work they’re doing for you (instead of having to divide their time/attention between various sources of income).

Now for me, I love this stuff. Being a photographer is my thing. It’s something I can do for hours and not feel exhausted from (until after, and then I really need to recover 🤣).

And in truth, while the value of the retreat ticket might equal the cost of photography services, it’s not a straightforward value exchange. A photographer doesn’t receive the full value of that ticket.

A photographer cannot fully participate in the retreat. A photographer cannot surrender to the experience the same way a paying attendee can.

A photographer is working. A photographer is “on” the entire time to make sure they don’t miss anything.

So, do you want your photographer at the retreat to participate and immerse themselves in the experience? Or do you want them there to document the event?

Paying your photographer creates clear expectations and boundaries, and ultimately ensures they can provide you with the best service.

When I’m paid as a retreat photographer, I know exactly what my role is, and I love being able to fully immerse myself in that and commit to doing a job I love, and deliver a service I’m proud of.

Plan ahead to incorporate retreat photography

I actually had a retreat host (“Retreat Host A”) reach out to me while I was still at another retreat. She had seen some of the photos that were being posted each day (same-day highlights!) and asked if I could make it to her retreat…happening in exactly one week.

It seemed interesting, honestly, but I wasn’t available. I referred her to another photographer I thought might be available, and here’s what happened:

    • I saw two or three selfies and phone captures from the retreat and nothing else.
    • I was actually curious what her retreat would be like, and I’m still left wondering.
    • I never saw any re-shared content from attendees – everyone was immersed in the retreat and no one had any photos to share.
    • Apart from images of the location (which was beautiful), if I were interested in attending as a participant, I’d have no idea what the retreat really included, what it would feel like to work with this retreat host, and no sense of excitement about the next retreat.

This retreat host missed out on a marketing opportunity because she thought about photography super last minute. She didn’t plan ahead for it (and actually had no budget for it, so finding a last-minute photographer was even more of a challenge for her).

Imagine bringing this incredible, transformative experience to life, having the best time, creating a safe and magical space for attendees, then arriving home and wishing you had beautiful photos and video documenting it all.

But you didn’t plan ahead and only thought about photography last minute, so “Oh well, I guess it’s not happening.”

Here’s a quote from the initial survey I conducted: “I wish I had [received photos after the retreat]. It would have been useful for social content, my own website, and undoubtedly more.”

I really, really don’t want that for you. That’s why planning ahead is the best thing you can do for showcasing and marketing your retreat. 

Now, contrast the above example with “Retreat Host B” – this host knew before tickets were even sold that she wanted a photographer there.

    • We spoke multiple times before the retreat about the itinerary and special moments that needed to be captured.
    • I delivered a selection of same-day highlights that she shared across her socials that gained attention, were re-shared by each retreat participant (oh hey, organic reach boost!), and are STILL shared to this day with #tbt.
    • Attendees also use images from their mini sessions on their websites and in their own promotional posts – a HUGE value add.

Whether or not Retreat Host B plans to host another retreat (and she will), think of all the people who now know about her just from these photo shares. Think of all the people that come to her profile wanting to work with her or have a similar retreat experience. When participants share a photo from your retreat, that’s another vote of confidence for you and your work – it’s more social proof, on TOP of the testimonials, and it’s social proof that doesn’t die down just because your retreat ended.

End result: Retreat Host B already has a waitlist for her next retreat.

How to pay for a retreat photographer

BEFORE you set the price for your retreat tickets:

    • Research photographers who provide retreat services and find out their pricing and availability.
    • Work with your photographer to ensure there’s room in the itinerary for everything you need/want (testimonial videos, mini sessions, etc.).
    • Build the cost of photography into the ticket price.

Here’s an example of how easy it is to plan for the cost of a retreat photographer.

Let’s say a photographer quotes you $3,000 for a weekend retreat (plus food and accommodation, which is built into the retreat). 

Maybe before you thought of a photographer, you were planning to price each retreat ticket at $2200 and sell six tickets.

So, let’s take that $3,000 and divide it by the six tickets you’re selling. Building photography into the cost of each ticket means each ticket is only $500 more. So now each retreat ticket costs $2700, and includes food, accommodation, all the amazing things you have planned, and everyone will have photos from the event without having to take themselves out of the experience to capture them.

What to look for when hiring a retreat photographer

    • Do they have a portfolio and does their style match what you’re looking for?
    • Do they have experience with retreats, or at least events/workshops?
    • What’s included in their packages
    • What’s the turnaround time for highlights, the full gallery, video, etc.?
      • (I provide same-day delivery of select highlights for each retreat day + 2 week turnaround for the full gallery of images. The highlight reel takes 4+ weeks.)
    • What are the terms and conditions? Cancellation policy?
    • What do you have to provide as the retreat host? (Typically meals and accommodation are included due to the nature of retreats.)
    • Have a call or meeting with the photographer(s) you’re interested in working with – do you connect and have rapport? Does it feel like a good fit?

How is hiring a retreat photographer helpful?

    • Captures all the beautiful details you carefully curated
    • Captures all the emotion and connection
    • Documents the transformation attendees experience
    • Provides you with professional marketing visuals for your next retreat
    • Can provide feedback from an observer’s perspective 
    • Allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience as host and guide knowing that everything is being captured – including all the boomerangs and social media highlights.
    • Helps you build and maintain excitement and interest in your retreat for your audience that’s watching from afar (Holla at the hype! AKA social media highlights!).
    • It’s a major value-add for participants: They have photos of their experience and transformation, and are transported back to this experience whenever they see these photos. For entrepreneurs especially, knowing they’ll have fresh photos to use is a huge bonus for their own content strategies.
    • Mini sessions with each retreat participant, so they have fresh photos to go along with their magical, transformative experience

During the retreat

Things we should absolutely make sure we capture and document:

    • Details
    • Location
    • Space
    • Things that speak to the sensory experience – food, scenery, textures, etc.
    • Fun, exciting, emotional, real interactions between everyone, along with your connection with attendees
    • Activities/elements of itinerary 
    • You as a guide, leader, coach, etc.

Same-day delivery of a small selection of photos to share with your audience immediately and keep excitement and interest high (AKA pre-sell your next retreat!).

Post-retreat: What to do with your new content

Immediately after the retreat, you’ll likely have some highlights provided by the photographer. For example, in addition to same-day highlights during the retreat, I provide additional highlights within 48 hours after the retreat.

This means you can keep up the excitement you built during the retreat – after you give yourself a chance to relax a bit, of course!

With these highlights, you can share a recap of the retreat with your audience, and a “sneak peek” into the retreat experience. The highlights I share with you will always include a variety of moments and experiences, so you have plenty to choose from.

I know how important it is to use this time wisely, especially since your audience is already tuned in, with their interest piqued from what they’ve already seen.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what to post:

    • Photos of you in your element, creating transformative experiences for attendees
    • Photos of attendees connecting and creating lasting relationships
    • Emotion (laughter, tears, moments of reflection, etc.)
    • Fun and excitement, laughter, hugging, cheers moments

…and where:

    • Highlight reel (IGTV, IG stories, IG feed, Facebook group)
    • Share with your email list
    • Let attendees know they can share photos too, and make sure they use any special hashtags you have for the retreat and tag you (and the photographer!)
    • Share testimonial videos via IGTV, YouTube, Facebook, etc.
    • Share photos with excerpts from testimonial videos
    • Use any of this content in Facebook/IG ads when advertising your next retreat

Even if you never host another retreat…

Having photos and video of your retreat is still incredibly valuable, even if you decide not to host another one.

For one, showcasing that you hosted a retreat speaks to your authority and the trust your audience places in you. Members of your audience trust and believe in you so much that they bought a ticket and booked a flight to be with you in person. That’s really powerful.

The testimonials and photos of you interacting with your clients/members of your audience shows others that you’re the real deal.

Video testimonials are so powerful, too. It’s not just words on a page, it’s a real person showing up to speak your praises.

Retreat photos will come in handy for any type of event or workshop you might decide to host in the future, as well.

My retreat packages

I’ve mentioned a few different services that can be part of a retreat package:

    • General photography of the retreat (events/activities, connections, transformations, candids, details) 
    • Social media coverage
    • Lifestyle brand mini sessions for host(s) and attendees
    • Filming on-location testimonial videos with attendees
    • Videography + highlight reel

From my experience with retreats, a highlight reel is perfect for being able to visually summarize and reflect on the retreat – and it will also be super helpful for showing future retreat attendees what they could experience (AKA more marketing material).

Along with videography, I also have an option for on-site recording of video testimonials from retreat participants.

Both of these video elements are things I’ve found are needed and wanted by retreat hosts, which is why I’ve made it a priority to ensure I can offer these services for retreat hosts and organizers.

Depending on the length of the retreat and how full the itinerary is, some of these things might not be practical. For example, the time needed for all the mini sessions could amount to a couple of hours at the minimum (depending on the number of attendees), and filming testimonials also requires blocks of time where each attendee and myself can both leave the event without missing anything.