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Dream Bigger Retreat Recap // Creative Mastermind on the Oregon Coast

March 25, 2019

Filed in: Personal

Ohhh, friends, I am so SO excited to share this post today recapping the Dream Bigger Creative Mastermind Retreat.  If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you probably know all about this creative mastermind retreat for Oregon wedding photographers that I hosted in Lincoln City a few weeks back!  This was a seriously needed soul-searching kind of retreat, filled with creative shoots, teaching talks from some of my favorite Oregon photographers, and just an all around fun time to bond with other creatives in a similar season of life!

creative retreat mastermind in lincoln city, oregon for wedding photographers

This idea didn’t come about quickly.  My kids are 6 and 2, and for years I’ve been saying to myself that I’d gift myself an overnight stay alone in a hotel room sometime to regroup.  You know, binge all those CreativeLive videos I never get around to watching, do the focused dreaming type of planning that keeps my business growing, and eat meals slowly like a normal person instead of like a parent!  I knew my business needed that focused attention.  I knew that my creativity needed that refresh.  And I knew I needed that time to clear my head!

wedding photography retreat oregon

Thanks to Wishflower Photo for this image!

So after years and years of saying I was going to do that and never following through, I reached out to my favorite peers in this business: the Professional Women Photographers of Yamhill County.  These sweet friends lift me up when I need it and I always come away from our meetings feeling refreshed and inspired.  I asked them if they wanted in on this big idea–a retreat.  And you know what?  I wasn’t the only one craving a retreat!  So many of these lovely women are mamas too, running their businesses and homes full time.  We had about 7 ladies interested in the retreat idea, and when Alison at Murray Photography offered use of her family’s beach house, it allllll came together!  We booked a date a few months out and began planning!

Our Goals

It was really important to me that this weekend was a productive one for all of us.  I mean, I can sneak out of the house for a pedicure or mimosa or whatever anytime.  This was an opportunity for me to get that clear headed, laser focus on my business.  I’ve been in business for 8 years, and for most of that, I’ve been balancing being a mom with being a business owner.  Sometimes, the big goals get a little muddy and lost in the day to day hustle.

My goals for the weekend were simple: to give us all the space and support to think big picture: where our businesses are going and what tangible things we can do to get there.  I also wanted to flex my creative muscles and shoot without a specific client in mind or an end result.  Because practice makes perfect, right?  I wanted to learn and teach all weekend long.  Last, because I really do treasure the ladies of the Professional Women Photographers of Yamhill County, I wanted to make time to connect with each of them throughout the weekend.  That’s a BIG list of goals!

Dream Bigger Retreat - Creative mastermind retreat for wedding photographers in Oregon

The gift I gave each attendee!

Sidenote–if you’re reading this and thinking yes, I need that retreat too!  There’s a three-part series coming up on this blog on what steps you can take to plan your own mastermind retreat.  But first, I wanted to share what our weekend looked like!

Friday: Dinner and Catching Up

I left town on Friday afternoon and drove out to the coast along some of my favorite farmland.  I hit a heavy rainstorm just after McMinnville, but after that, we were blessed with blue sky and sunshine the ENTIRE weekend.  Clearly a sign that this was meant to be!  We all arrived at the beach house around dinnertime and immediately hit up Mo’s for the fish and chips!  Afterwards, we headed back to the house, where we sat around the kitchen table and shared what was happening in each of our businesses and lives.

oregon coast creative mastermind retreat

Saturday: Morning Styled Session

In the morning, we had a family session scheduled with these sweet friends.  It was a fun challenge for all of us to shoot in a new location.  I know after working in the Willamette Valley for the last 5 years, I’ve definitely gotten comfortable shooting at the same locations, so it was a nice reminder to challenge myself by seeking out new locations!  You can see my full blog post of this family photo session here!

Wedding photographer in Hillsboro, Oregon

dream bigger retreat behind the scenes

Saturday: Afternoon Business Deep Dives

We did an easy brunch (with mimosas!) at the house after the shoot and did more deep diving into our businesses as we chatted.  I loved brainstorming with everyone about each of our businesses, and I’m really excited about the direction these women are headed!  A lot of times it can be so easy to look at photographers shooting similar subjects locally to you and feel that they are “competition” — and we spent some time on this idea!  I mean, most of us are photographing families in some way shape or form (newborn, maternity, families, children) as well as weddings and commercial work.  But every single one of us has a specific strength and undeniable style within that realm that really makes them perfect for a particular type of client!

For example, my work is pretty bright and sunny and I’m not going to lie…I’m unrelentingly upbeat and optimistic at weddings and family sessions!  I just really believe in fun colors (pink, obvs), fun parties, and exclamation points!  And that’s really different from someone who might be looking for a dark and moody image from a photographer who is going to be quietly shooting on film at a wedding.  Anyway, that is a WHOLE OTHER blog post, but our time on Saturday afternoon just really encouraged me in that even in a tiny little town like Newberg, there really is a perfect fit for each potential photography client, and so there’s not really a need to feel competitive!  I’m more excited than ever for all of these women to grow their businesses!

Saturday: Flat Lay Photography

After our chat, Rachael from Wishflower Photography led a teaching talk on flat lay photography and it was incredible!  She’s doing an amazing job with product photography and we all had so much to learn from her!  We had boxes of items to be photographed as well as styling tools and boards, and everyone took time for some hands-on practice.  I worked on my invitation suite styling for weddings, and others photographed jewelry from our very own Elena Watanabe, kombucha from BWild Kombucha, or wine from Lange Estate.

flat lay photography teaching at oregon wedding photography conference

Thank you to Nanci Staley for this image!


invitation suite by wanderlove design - portland wedding photographer

Invitation Suite by Wanderlove Design

wedding photographer education in oregon at the dream bigger creative retreat

Saturday: Afternoon Styled Shoot

In the afternoon, we caught up with another beautiful family for a session in the dunes!  We really focused here on stepping outside of our comfort zones and shooting differently than we might usually.  It was such a fun session!  I loved seeing how each photographer, given the same scenario and client, was photographing differently!

Portland family photographer

oregon coast dream bigger retreat

Saturday: Headshots

Afterwards, we got a little dressed up and did a headshot swap by the dock at the beach.  Because why not?  Thank you Sarah Morace Photography for this shot!

samantha shannon photography in portland, oregon

I tried to grab a few behind the scenes shots here as well–I’m pretty sure our mob of photographers gave the people eating at Mo’s right next to us a fun dinner show!

Saturday: Dinner and Enneagram Type Discussion

After another fabulous dinner at Mo’s, we gathered back at the beach house and edited images on our laptops.  We chatted about our Enneagram test results.  I’m HOOKED on that, friends!  I’m a Type 1, which apparently is basically the Leslie Knope of the Enneagram.  We’re super organized planners who love to make the world a better place.  Nobody in the room was surprised at this, since they were literally all holding the timeline I’d made for the retreat 😉

Sunday: Desire Map Goal Planning

Sunday was the last day of the retreat, and we kicked it off with brunch.  I gave a talk on Goal Setting using Desire Mapping.  I’m completely in love with this as a way of setting goals that feel right!  It’s based on a book written by Danielle LaPorte, and if you want to wake up each day and work at ways to feel the way you actually want to feel, not just chip away at a randomly chosen income number–this is the book for you!  Thanks to Wishflower Photography for capturing these shots of me teaching!

Creative retreat in Oregon for wedding photographers

samantha shannon

We headed home after lunch.  It was such a jam packed weekend!  I left with stronger friendships with these industry peers, a ton of new knowledge, and some serious goals for the next stage of Samantha Shannon Photography!  And really the best bonus, I came home feeling refreshed and whole and ready to be “mom” again!  Like seriously, I think this is the most relaxed I’ve looked in oh, six years!

samantha shannon oregon wedding photographer

Photo by Sarah Morace Photography

Have you ever done a creative conference or retreat?  What did you love about it?  Are you thinking of planning one?  What’s holding you back?  I’d love to hear from you as I develop my 3-part How To Plan a Creative Retreat series!  And check back here in a few weeks for part 1!


Special thanks to the ladies who made this retreat PERFECT!

Alison at Murray Photography

Elena Watanabe at Poppy + Lu

Laura at Laura Diebel Photography

Nanci at Nanci Imagery

Rachael at Wishflower Photography

Sarah at Sarah Morace Photography


And the vendors who supported us!

Brighter Beauty Design

BWild Kombucha

Lange Estate Winery

Letterology PDX

Wanderlove Design


comments +

  1. Ashley K says:

    Oh my gosh! Amazing! I’ve been dying to go to one of these creative retreats/conferences!! Having a little toddler is holding me back lol!

    • Samantha Shannon says:

      Right? I felt the same way! Keep an eye out for my series on how to create your own creative retreat and maybe you can make one happen locally to you! I seriously feel like I’m so much better prepared to tackle toddler mom life now that I took a little time to refresh!

  2. Alissa says:

    Looks like so much fun!

  3. It’s so amazing when great things come out of little ideas like that! What a fun retreat and just what you all needed!!

  4. April says:

    Retreats are a wonderful way to re-invigorate the soul! This sounds like it was a great time for creatives.

    • Samantha Shannon says:

      It was absolutely invigorating! I left feeling so much more inspired and motivated! I totally recommend going to one if you can!

  5. Mandy Provan says:

    What an amazing getaway to refresh and revive your creativity – this is fabulous and I lOVE all the behind the scenes images – looks like you ladies had the most amazing time!

  6. Jordyn says:

    Looks like an amazing weekend! I love seeing photographers come together to inspire and work with one another! So glad you ladies had the opportunity to do this, looks like you all had an amazing time. Its always nice to take time to refresh and remember why you do what you do ❤

  7. […] was busy with weddings, engagements, a styled shoot, and the retreat in the spring, so there weren’t too many spring family sessions to show.  But you can see […]

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