The CoLab Workshop: May 21-22

For as long as I’ve known Emily, of Emily Takes Photos (now the APW Advertising Manger), she’s had a dream of putting together a workshop to teach the business side of running a photography studio (something she’s brillant at). And then, over the last few months, I found out that Maddie (now APW Associate Editor) had a a dream of putting together a workshop to teach branding (something she’s brillant at). So, because there is nothing I love more than a business set-up, I did a huge amount of nudging, to try to get them to do a workshop together. And after a ton of planning, now they are! Emily and Maddie brought on Jonas Seaman (who’s doing some of the most innovate wedding photography around, you can read my raves of his work here) and put together The CoLab Workshop, taking place in Sunol CA on May 21-22. If you’re building a wedding related small business (it doesn’t have to be photography) I think this is a must attend event. Plus? I’m keynoting! I’ll be giving my Very Strong Opinions about building a creative business, maintaining your personal creativity, and not acting like a douche (just because the wedding world tells you that you should). I’m going to let Maddie tell you more, and I’m so excited to meet some of you there.

One of the things that always surprises people when I tell them, is that the APW sponsors are actually (many of us) friends in real life. Because of the way that APW advertising is set up, we have the opportunity to act as a support system for one another. We offer technical advice, help each other through tough spots, and celebrate each other’s successes. And what this experience has taught me is that being a wedding professional is so much more rewarding when you are part of a larger community that all shares the same values.

Why should anyone care about this? Well, because the wedding industry is crazy. If couples think that the WIC puts pressure on them to act a certain way or to produce a certain kind of wedding, just imagine the kind of pressure that’s put on wedding professionals to turn out a certain kind of work. The result of this kind of pressure is that you end up with wedding vendors who do crazy things during your wedding for no other reason than they are “supposed to.” (Like forcing you to spend three hours of your five hour reception doing posed formals. NO. THANKS.)

Which can make starting out in the wedding industry seem impossibly hard. So a few APW sponsors got together in the spirit of sharing, and decided to create a workshop that’s all about building a business authentically. And that’s how CoLab was born.

It’s called CoLab for two reasons. Firstly, we think collaboration is one of the best things you can do for your business. The idea that success happens in a vacuum is absurd, but it’s one that permeates the industry. We think that sharing knowledge is a win-win for everyone. We can learn so much more from working together than we can alone.

The other reason it’s called CoLab is because we like to think of our workshop as more of a learning lab than a traditional workshop. We’re not trying to make everyone the same. The best way to achieve this is through hands-on experimentation.

Hence, CoLab.

What we’re really hoping to do is to nurture up and coming business owners (the future sponsors of APW perhaps?) and nudge them away from (terrible) wedding industry ‘best practices,’ and towards authenticity. Our hope that if we can continue the APW ripple effect, then maybe we can slowly begin to change the experience couples are having with their wedding elves everywhere. You know, so that instead of treating you like a walking barbie doll, photographers treat you like an actual human being. Or instead of capturing a posed version of a shot on The Kn*t’s “must-have” list, maybe we just don’t take that picture (because it has nothing to do with you). Whatever it is, we’re just trying to help people get real and then find success doing it.

I know that there are a zillion photography workshops out there, and people are probably going to ask themselves, “why this one?” And the answer is that we don’t want you to walk away feeling like you have to change yourself to get better. Because there are three of us running this workshop, nobody is going to leave worried that they have to shoot like Jonas to be successful, or to brand their business like Maddie, or crack the business whip like Emily. We all have such different approaches that are unique to us, and we want to help creative professionals bring that out in themselves. Also, in this workshop, we cover everything. Because we don’t think that getting better is all about photos. Or marketing. Or SEO. It’s all of that combined, so we feel like your investment is better spent if you can get better across the board, rather than in one specific area.

The details: The workshop takes place on Monday and Tuesday, May 21st and 22nd. Food will be provided. Our workshop will include a combination of conversation-based learning as well as hands-on shooting. And not to mention our special guest speaker, Meg! Registration is $750, but since we’re really hoping to source most of the attendees from the APW pool, we’re offering a $100 discount to anyone who registers from APW. Just enter the promo code: APWPlusCoLab2012.

Oh, and also filed under: totally cool, is that we are partnering with other creative types to give away some neat freebies and discounts at the workshop, and already we have two APW reader businesses on board (Rory Gordon Photo and ATP Liz’s PinkSlip Industries). (And we’re working on getting more, so stay tuned!)

Lastly, if nobody is sold yet, we’d like to let you know that this workshop will be taking place on a PONY FARM. So, yeah. Try and resist us now.

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  • Yay! I love this. And I am so excited to hear about the successes that come from it :-)

  • WOW! This sounds amazing! You three are such a big inspiration for me.

  • Katie

    ARGH!! Why are you in CA?? Bring this to the East Coast too please! :)

    • If there’s enough interest, I don’t see why we couldn’t do an East Coast version!!

      • Maddie

        I was hoping Emily would say that. :)

        • Raven

          Or a southern version? Love for you to come to Texas!

  • I saw Emily’s post about this last week, and I’ve been debating going ever since. I’m in NYC, though, so a thorough examination of my budget and its wiggle room is in order before making a decision, Does anyone have suggestions on accommodations near the pony farm (!!!!!!) where CoLab is happening?

    • Maddie

      Hi Sarah! We are about 5-10 minutes from Fremont, which has a ton of different options for affordable hotels (sub $100 range). We totally want to make this a reasonable trip for folks, so we’ve added a “room share” and “carpool” option on our registration form. If we end up with enough out-of-town guests, we’ll do what we can to help people to stay together and save on costs.

      • Thanks, Maddie!!!!! That was a really quick reply!

        • Maddie

          No problem! :)

          Also, if you do decide you want to join, it’s wayyyy closer to fly into San Jose, and often even cheaper!

          • Got super excited about this and checked my calendar to find an already-scheduled photo shoot the night of Sunday 05/20. Darn!

            If there ends up being an East Coast CoLab, I’m 120% on board!

            Thanks for the help! Hopefully it’s helpful for other people who want to go in May!

  • This sounds amazing and like a nice break from the crazy industry. I don’t think budget will allow it right now but will there be anything posted from it for those of us that are flat broke?

    • Jennifer Lyn

      I agree with this question. Flat broke newlywed. I would LOVE to go but I need a little more plan time and I’m in the ATL area. Meh! Can ya’ll do like a video conference seminar or something? ;) Or another Amtrak tour?!

      • A video conference seminar would be awesome. Great idea.

  • This is so awesome. I’m not a photographer, but if I could afford it, I would come just for the PONY FARM.

  • I wants!! But. I can’t take off of work and fly across the country for it. Are they thinking of maybe doing some podcast-type deals? To sell recordings of individual sessions? I would pay for that.

  • Three cheers! Can’t wait.

  • I am SO thrilled! I’m in school right now to beef up my technique as I slowly build a wedding/family portrait business on the side. I’ve been waiting for the right retreat/course/get-together to spend my hard earned money on, and I’m so pumped that it will be an APW creation.

    I’ll be driving up from LA, if anyone wants a ride! The only thing I require for car-entry is a badass mixed CD.

    • Maddie

      Yay! We’re thrilled to have you.

      And I just did the drive from LA to Sunol and was surprised at how not bad at all it was! 5 is kind of lovely (or I’m just an East Coast native who doesn’t know any better).

      • I’m an East Coast native too- and while long drives back home aren’t too bad, I’m usually too busy having my mind blown by the beautiful CA surroundings to notice time passing when I drive out here. SO looking forward to it!

  • Blanca

    Guys, your workshop is a great idea and I am sure you all are going to spend a lovely couple of days and I would absolutely love to be there but… I don’t live in the USA. Is there any chance you would offer online courses like that??? Please???? Please??

  • rosierobot

    Gosh this is such a GREAT idea. I hope that it is wildly successful and just the first of many because I am nearby but happen to be busy those days. . . but I am ALL OVER the next one. There is definitely a community need for wonderful freaking things like this.

  • extragrunty

    Aw, man…. I’ll be in Ohio that week pulling together my own wedding. And to think that it’s not too far from where I now live in Santa Cruz… Bummer. Wish I could be there. But, I will be drinking lots of good Ohio wine and visiting family. I’ll just have to go to the next workshop.

  • Liz

    I am so excited about this workshop, I’m going to tell everyone I know that even sorta likes cameras, so it’s a big ol’ success and it will be repeated when I have $$. #brokeassnewlywed

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  • Jessica Schilling

    This sounds amazing. I’m not sure if I can make it work with my schedule right now, but I hope it’s successful enough that there are East coast, online, annual versions of it happening nonstop in the future so that I’ll get to take part somehow!

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