Christine Dammann Shares her Experience

I declined my first opportunity to attend a Blair + Thurston Retreat when a friend told me about it. I didn't have any idea what it would be like, so I passed. My friend attended and gave a glowing review. When the next retreat was announced I asked her if it was worth the cost and she said it was worth much MORE. I signed up immediately and I am so glad I did. The retreat exceeded any expectations I had. Elena and Bre were kinder, more helpful, and more encouraging than I could have imagined. The other women at my retreat have become friends I will keep in touch with for years to come. My business and my photography has been forever changed for the better. My favorite parts of the retreat were the photoshoots we had, and the guest speaker, Sandra Coan. The portfolio review was something I dreaded and feared but really helped me grow in a way I could not have done without going through it.

Taking a risk and attending this retreat was one of the best business decisions I've ever made. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

If you are on the fence I urge you to invest in yourself and your business. It will be worth it!!

Angela Doran Shares her Experience in Austin

Bre & Elena,
Where do I begin?! This weekend was amazing for me. I came in with loose expectations and you guys blew those right out of the water. YOU TWO ARE MAGIC TOGETHER. You were real and honest and I feel like neither of you held back and that itself was so refreshing. But really, I feel like you guys unlocked something inside of me that needed to be free. Free to be exactly who I am in my art and not worry about the rest. The retreat is hands down the best investment into my business and MYSELF that I have made thus far. My mind is swirling with ideas and changes and I am making a promise to myself and to you guys to follow through. 

I will forevermore be a fan, and a friend.
(and yes, I teared up writing this. lol)

Here are some of Angela's beautiful photos that she took at the two shoots during the Blair + Thurston Austin Retreat. See more of her work on her website and Instagram page.

Emily Cannata Shares her Experience as an Attendee

Retreat. Soul Search.

"Earlier this month, I was blessed to attend the highly coveted Blair + Thurston Retreat  that was being held on Bainbridge Island (swoon!).  To say I was craving this retreat is an understatement.  I needed it – I felt it in my heart, soul, and bones that THIS was what I needed.  A few days on an island with like minded women, who had the same passion for photography as I do, was such a treat.  Our industry (like all industries, truthfully) is filled with those that pull you down, rip you apart and make you want to turn the camera off.  That has the making for a great retreat, right?!

I knew this would be different.  It was from the very first ‘touch’ of contact in the planning process.  This was geared to be a retreat for photographers.  A place to feed the soul.

Bre and Elena are what the industry standards should strive to become.  Their passion is not solely for the act of taking a picture.  It’s for the process, the actual technicality of a great capture but more so about the process of voice.  Vision.  Truth.  And this process includes reaching out to other photographers and holding them close, opening up to them, pushing them in a way that is truthful but so so so good for the artistic soul.

This is their craft.  Their calling.

They are an open book.  That favorite novel that feels like home in your hands.

Once the excitement settled in – a gorgeous hundred year home with a multi-million dollar view, a personal chef that I wanted to bring home, yoga outside in the fresh Pacific Northwestern air, and two sessions that would renew my artistic soul – the reality set in.

I am spending days with strangers.

Six other women are embarking on the same journey.  How real do we have to get?  How real are we going to get?  How much of myself do I show?  How much will they share?   I am truly an extroverted introvert (it’s a real thing y’all).  How is this going to work?

I came away with a renewed passion for my work but I am happy to say, six new members of my village.  Yes, we span time zones and there is literally an ocean between us (Aloha Ann!) but we have a connection.  We walked in as strangers with the common thread of a likeminded photography approach.  We left as friends – we bonded, laughed (oh, so much laughter), we shared stories of motherhood.  Life.  Fears.  Dreams.  Goals.

There was zero judgement.

So to those who are thinking, is this right of me?  Will I grow?  Can I do this?  The answer is YES!  Loud and clear – YES!  Do it for yourself, your work, your soul.  Do it to be surrounded by people who WANT you to grow and strive for the next thing.  Allow yourself to be a bit uncomfortable – that is the only way you can grow.

My comfort is photography that centers around family & children.  That’s what I know, I am a resident in this season of life.  The couples session we had planned  – something I looked forward to doing – also got me feeling insecure.  The voice of self doubt was there.  Whispering to me “this isn’t you.”  As we waited for the ferry to arrive, the voice got a bit louder and more firm.  It shook me.  I refused to give in, I was there to grow.

Be pushed.  On a ferry.  In the Sound.  Okay.

It’s good to be moved, pushed, encouraged, and thrown into the uncomfortable.  It works."

Bainbridge Island, Summarized by Attendee Tasha Boin

"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong." -Ella Fitzgerald

As a mom, I've realized how important is to take care of ourselves-so we can be the best versions of ourselves for our families. The Blair and Thurston Photography retreat that I booked back in February helped me with that and so much was women supporting other women, uplifting one another, empowering one another and creating a community of love and compassion. 

Photography has always been in my life, but it wasn't until I had my oldest, that my spark reignited. I found myself wanting to capture every moment, which led me to wanting to become a better photographer. I found, which led to me Elena and Bre. I ended up taking Elena's workshop- Going Beyond the Pose, and I feel like that is where I had many turning points as a photographer and person even! I had more confidence and I credit a lot of that to Elena, who effortlessly brought that out in her students. It was that extra boost of confidence that led me to apply and get into CMpro, which was a dream/goal of mine for YEARS! 

As soon as I saw that Elena and Bre were putting on a retreat together, I just knew I had to go! I had read the stellar reviews from the previous retreat attendees and knew that it was just what I needed! The excitement definitely outweighed the nerves, but as soon as I got off the plane in Seattle, I started freaking out a little bit! I realized how far out of my comfort zone I was putting myself! I never really processed that I was about to meet 7 strangers in a city that I had only been to a handful of times! It definitely helped that I felt like I already knew Elena from her workshop and had admired both her and Bre's work for years. They were so successful, yet they also had that rare ability to make themselves feel attainable and relatable- like an old friend! 

FAST FORWARD...once I finally met all of the amazing women and we took the beautiful Seattle Ferry over to Bainbridge Island, we settled in for the evening and just kicked back, drank some wine and beer and got to know one another! It honestly felt like I was meeting up with a bunch of my best friends. it was so unbelievable how each and every woman was so down to earth and kind. Although we came from all over the country and had a diverse array of photographic backgrounds, we all had a few major things in common that instantly bonded us...we were all obssessed with everything photography, we were women and mothers. OH, and we all enjoyed having a good time, which was awesome!! :) I couldn't have hand picked better strangers to be "stuck" on an island with! 

Bre and Elena are amazing business women and photographers, yet very fun and easy going-they are honest and open about everything they do and why they do it! Although they definitely didn't ever try to tell us how to take pictures or run our businesses, it was pretty impossible to not walk away being completely inspired by them! Thank you Elena+Bre for being open books, letting us grill you with whatever random questions that we had about anything and were both so giving of yourselves with our time together and I will forever appreciate that! 

If you ever have the opportunity to do something for yourself that you are passionate about, DO IT! It is so good for your soul to seek out others who you can truly share your passions and goals with that aren't your immediate friends and family members...go out of your comfort zone, live a little! 

It also didn't hurt that we had a private yoga session, an amazing chef, 2 incredible photo shoots and personal portfolio reviews! Here are a few moments from my trip! 

The Words Of Alice Che | Malibu Photography Retreat

We are excited to share another attendees story.  Alice Che, of Alice Che Photography has graciously shared her experience and her images.  If you have not checked out her work, you can see it HERE.  She is a genius with self portraiture and very talented with couples.  I will let her take it away.  Enjoy! 


wo weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be a part of the very first Blair + Thurston Retreat. I have admired Bre and Elena for years now, but in the last year or so, I have grown to know them personally and am blessed to call them friends. When they announced that they were going to start holding in-person retreat style workshops, I knew immediately that I wanted to go. Despite knowing this, I almost talked myself out of it. I told myself I was barely in business and I also have very little interest in photographing families, which is one of Bre and Elena’s specialties. I also knew that I was already strong in the technicals and I wasn’t sure what I was hoping to take away from the experience. I was afraid that I wouldn’t learn anything and I would be wasting my money. I was wrong. 

The retreat was worth every single penny and more. I went into it thinking that at the very least, I would have an amazing time hanging out with Bre and Elena and the other girls. Instead, it was the beginning of friendships that will last a lifetime. I’m already trying to figure out how I am going to see these incredible women next!


Bre and Elena planned out every detail to make sure that the entire experience felt like a three day, luxurious vacation with your favorite girl friends. We had a private chef who prepared some of the best food I have ever had (uhm, deep fried lobster tails anyone?!) and we even got to have a yoga session with the sound of the waves crashing on the sand and the smell of bacon wafting out of the kitchen. Okay, so the bacon part was kind of torture… but it certainly made me motivated to make it through yoga, haha! The location was insanely gorgeous. We were literally right on the beach, making it easy to take breaks for quick walks between learning. This is the deck outside the room I shared with another attendee. 


But as amazing as all of those things were, they just helped create the setting. The best part of the retreat was hanging out with 9 incredibly talented women who are all at different places in their photography journey… and bonding with them over our shared passion for beautiful, emotional photographs. 

I was immediately impressed with how well Bre and Elena played off of each other. They pretty much have the exact same approach to photography: they are drawn to beautiful light, but more importantly, it is all about the connection and the moment. I loved seeing how they were able to stick to their own distinctive styles despite having such a similar underlying goal. They didn’t teach us to be them. They taught us how to find ourselves and keep pushing to be /our/ best, not someone else’s best.

If you follow my work, you know that I am NOT a family photographer. And yet, I was able to find my own style during the family session that we all photographed together. And I have Bre and Elena to thank for that. That’s why I want to share these photos with you instead of the ones from the couple session we did the next day that was much more in my wheelhouse. 

I walked out of the retreat feeling rejuvenated and inspired. I was reminded again to stick to my own path and not try to force myself into someone else’s mold. And, of course, the retreat reaffirmed how amazing the photography community is and brought me some incredible friendships. If you are thinking about attending the next Blair + Thurston Retreat, don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it!

The Words Of A Malibu Attendee | Photography Retreat

We could go on and on about how wonderful we think the retreat was but you don't want to hear that from us.  We are so excited to have each individual attendee share their experience with you in their own words and with their own images.  We took care to make a loving and encouraging environment for each woman to grow.  Our job isn't to make our attendees be like us, not at all, but instead to be and find their best selves.  We also wanted to make sure it felt like the vacation we knew each and every attendee deserved.  

Allow me to introduce Kallie Pitcock.  Kallie is a photographer based out of Washington, DC.  You can find her website HERE.  


Now, I will let her words and beautiful photographs take over.  

The Blair & Thurston Retreat exceeded my expectations.  I am a person who craves community.  I want to be known and know others to feel encouraged and supported.  That happened in Malibu. 

I am in the early stages of photography.  I started my business a little over a year ago.  I was nervous I’d be lost in the talented group that would gather.  There is always a sense of vulnerability of sharing who you are with new people.   Photography is personal for me.

The technical skills and use of photography were varied among the women who attended.  That didn’t slow anyone down.  The creative energy swept through the house like a strong wind.  Elena and Bre were the first to open up and share personal stories of triumph and failure.  Taking the lead in what would be a life-changing weekend.

We all bonded in our love of emotive images.  In spite of our varied subjects we all want photos that evoke and touch the deepest parts of our soul.  Creating and finding those moments drove the weekend.  Love of light and utilizing its power was center to instruction. Editing with your own style was encouraged.  

Our portfolios were reviewed individually in front of the group.  We moved from one comfortable spot to the next for discussion, instruction, and questions.  The luxury of the experience elevated the weekend from work to vacation.  We ate slowly and shared our stories over dinner.  We had two styled shoots: One with a family and the other with a couple.  Both sessions Elena and Bre led by example then pushed each of us out of our comfort zone and encouraged us where we needed it. 

Through laughter and tears I shared my fears and dreams.  My creative soul was nourished and my thirst for knowledge was filled.  I walk away with friends.  I look forward to attending a Blair & Thurston Retreat again.