7 Ways To Prepare for a Workshop or Retreat

In these final days leading up to the 10-day photography retreat I am producing with Douglas Beasley in Guatemala, September 13-22, 2019 I have been thinking about all the things that make for a rich and fullfilling workshop experience.

I’ve learned that setting aside time to focus on my creativity during a retreat or workshop is one of the best gifts I can offer myself, so I always want to make the most of it. One way of ensuring that this happens is to prepare for that time in an intentional way.

Read on for a short list of the steps I take to prepare myself for a week of in-depth creativity!

Shopping List and Light | house of the saint | Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Guatemala | October 2014

Shopping List and Light | house of the saint | Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Guatemala | October 2014


  1. SET INTENTION the most fulfilling workshops or retreats I have experienced have been when I create a “container” of space around the time by limiting distractions, and allowing myself to focus entirely on exploring one technique or idea.

  2. TOOLS familarize myself with any new lens, or tool before I leave for the trip, so I don’t have to spend precious time learning a new gadget.

  3. READ and RESEARCH someone else’s work (images, paintings, writing) that was created in the place where I’m going. This can create a nice reference point for my work, and can give me something to respond to at the begining of the retreat.

  4. THE NEW I love being open to new and spontaneous experiences because they always take my creativity in an unexpected direction.

  5. WORK IN A SERIES extended time on a workshop or retreat lends itself well to working on a series of images or ideas.

  6. COLLABORATE one of the best parts about being on a retreat is meeting like-minded people, and allowing their vision to inspire you. Try collaborating with a new peer or your instructor on an idea or image.

  7. TAKE NOTES a big part of my own creative process is nurtured by taking “color note” images for my sketchbook, along with keeping a journal. These notes can be helpful for generating new ideas later on, after I’ve returned home.


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I hope you’ve enjoyed this small list of ideas which have helped me to make the most out of my workshop weeks. I will be sharing more next week about my travels to Antigua Guatemala, and the always stunning Lake Atitlan.

If you have things you like to do prior to attending a retreat, I would love to hear about what has helped you. Please drop a comment below!

In the meantime, you can join me on Instagram at at @openairplaces or we can be Friends on Facebook where I will be sharing more of what is inspiring me this week.