Blair + Thurston Group Shootout From Sonoma Retreat | Bre Thurston Photography


Blair + Thurston Group Shootout From Sonoma Retreat | Bre Thurston Photography

Earlier this year I had the honor of hosting two more Blair & Thurston retreats with Elena Blair. We have been putting on intimate, luxury photography retreats since 2016 and when we announced that one would be taking place in the Napa/Sonoma region it immediately sold out. After some discussion we decided to go ahead and open up a second retreat in the same location to take place two weeks later and that ALSO sold out! Unreal. We are so thankful that we get to do this and call it work.

Our retreats took place at an amazing 6 acre working farm in the heart of downtown Sonoma. We welcomed 14 women at each one, pampered them with the luxury accommodations, a private chef, yoga, an on-site wine tasting, and wonderful guest speakers.

We also love to get out and do a shoot and that's where the Nicholson family comes into play. Elizabeth is actually a good friend of mine and her daughter Abigail goes to preschool with my daughter Sloane. Can you believe that prior to this they have never had family photos done? They were so natural and wonderful in front of the camera despite the stress of getting a flat tire en-route to the retreat.

Our retreat attendees LOVED getting to photograph this family and Elena and I had a wonderful time posing, shooting, and sharing what we know.

Our next photography retreat takes place this September in Portland, Maine and we will be making our 2019 location announcements soon. If you're a photographer, make sure to sign up for our mailing list to find out first!

- Bre, from


Sponsor Spotlight | The Image Salon

Elena and I are not photographers because we enjoy being in front of a computer. Neither of us have ever had a passion for editing and found it to be one of the less enjoyable aspects of running our businesses. When you own a business time is money, and how you spend that time plays into your success in a big way. I have personally tried a handful of different editing companies from large established ones to individuals, and yet each time it just didn't feel right.

One day I was cruising Facebook and saw a post by one of my favorite photography icons, Chrisman Studios. They were posting about their preferred editing company, The Image Salon, owned by the power duo Davina and Daniel. I was intrigued and knew that if the Chrismans trusted them I likely could too. My first order came back and I was hooked. The simplicity and ease of which I could cull, upload, and receive my images back was a giant weight off of my shoulders and freed up massive amounts of time, allowing me to focus on the parts of my business that I enjoyed.

I immediately raved about The Image Salon to Elena and she quickly joined and was hooked as well. Elena is primarily a family photographer and it's rare in that industry to outsource your editing but her reasons were exactly the same as mine - she wanted that time back to focus on something else. The expense of outsourcing is small when you think about the hours you'd personally spend doing something you don't enjoy.

We are so honored to have one of our favorite companies as a sponsor of our 2018 retreats. We got to meet Daniel last month at WPPI and hit it off immediately. We can't wait to share how we outsource with all of our attendees and in essence give them permission to say, "I will dictate where and how I spend my time."

If you have ever considered outsourcing your editing we encourage you to start with The Image Salon. We are also happy to answer any questions you might have about our own workflow and how we utilize this service.

Sponsor Spotlight | Honeybook

Identifying your own weakness as a business owner is incredibly important to your future success. For me that was organization. I can hustle like no other, I love working hard, my clients love me, but behind the scenes I was kind of a mess mostly relying on a single calendar, my email inbox, and my memory to keep track of everything. Last year I decided to make a change knowing that the busier I get the more risk I will encounter because of my lack of organization, and 2018 was shaping up to be my busiest year ever.

Enter Honeybook.



Honeybook is a top to bottom CRM (customer relationship management) platform. Because I am not naturally organized setting this up could have easily felt annoyingly tedious but Honeybook was completely simple and seamless. I was up and running immediately and once I got started I've never looked back. They took my contracts and integrated them for me, I didn't have to do a thing. Everything is super user-friendly and not once have I gotten lost on the site not knowing how to do something.

I want to make it easy to do business with me and yet prior to Honeybook I was sending my clients PDFs, making them print their contracts, physically sign them, and scan them back to me. Then, I would send them a separate invoice to pay their retainers. I don't think I directly lost any customers because of this but I was certainly not making it easy on them. Now I simply go in, add my client, and create a single proposal that contains the descriptions of services, contract, and invoice. Easy! I also love that I am notified when my client views their proposal, no more wondering if it went into a spam folder.

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 8.51.07 AM.png
Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 8.52.18 AM.png

Finally I have a place where everything is organized- my work calendar, schedule of payments, client names and contact info, signed contracts, and invoicing. I used to joke with my husband that if I died it would be a full time job for him to figure out who my clients were and how to contact them (too dark? lol). There are so many other features of Honeybook that I haven't yet explored but I wanted to share how I personally use it.

Honeybook has revolutionized the way I do business, plus they are good people to support and do business with.  We are so proud and honored that they have decided to sponsor our retreats this year.

If you are interested in trying Honeybook we have an amazing 50% off code for you!


Sponsor Spotlight | Millers Professional Imaging

Millers Professional Imaging was one of our first sponsors when we embarked on this journey. Both Elena and I are regular customers of theirs - Elena utilizing their Signature Books for each and every one of her portrait clients, and Bre exclusively using the Signature Albums for her wedding clients. Through the years they have proven to be consistent, offer top quality products, and are dedicated to amazing customer service. 

We highly recommend Millers Professional Imaging to all of our retreat attendees because it's a company that we are proud to support and endorse. Having them as a sponsor for the third year of our retreats is a huge honor and we can't wait to show off some of what they do in Napa and in Maine! 

Pictured below:
Left: 9x12 Signature Book, linen cover in "sand", and copper foil stamping
Top right: 12x9 Signature Book spread
Bottom right: 12x9 Signature Album spread


Is the Blair + Thurston Retreat right for me?

We actually get this question a lot, so you're not alone.

The beauty of an intimate retreat experience like ours is that we have the time and ability to tailor your educational experience. We get to know each and every one of you, starting the day you sign up. We don't call it stalking, We look at your websites if you have one, and if you don't we review your work at the time that we call for images for your portfolio review. We even try to learn a bit about who you are, where you're from, and your family. This allows us to jump right in at the beginning of our two days together.

We've had attendees who are just starting to play around in manual mode and we've had attendees who have had work featured in an Apple marketing campaign. We have attendees who only want to shoot their kids and attendees who desperately want to leave their day job and go into business full time. We have Nikon, Canon, Photoshop, Lightroom, wedding photographers, newborn photographers, boudoir photographers, and so on. We've had attendees with 6 kids and attendees with no kids.

What we have in common and what we learn goes beyond individual skill level or genre. We work on what your next steps are, how to achieve your immediate goals, and address your unique questions. Prior to the retreat we ask in a survey what you hope to take away. We understand that it's a board and likely difficult question to answer, but it gives us yet another peek inside your brain so that we know how to tailor your experience.

Also, by having two of us we are able to answer questions at ANY time. There is not a moment throughout the entire retreat where you shouldn't feel comfortable piping up. That's why we are here and that's why we keep our retreats so intimate. Furthermore, you will find that your fellow retreat attendees have a lot to offer. Because we are all so different we each have something to contribute. It always amazes us the value that you guys have and how you are able to help your fellow attendee.

There is no such thing as, "I'm not ready" or "I'm not good enough yet" - we know you're ready, and we know you're good enough :)

Next Retreat Location Announced on May 24th

What Photography Experience is right for YOU?

Hi Friend,

We know that you literally have an endless list of options when it comes to in-person photography learning experiences. It can be very overwhelming. So much so that you may simply decide that in-person isn't the right choice for you. We get it. 

With the announcement of a BIG photography conference yesterday, Clickaway, one in which Bre and I both have spoke at three years in a row, we are getting tons of messages asking us about our retreat and how the experiences compare. So we wanted to clear a few things up, just to help you decide what type of experience is right for you. 

We have so much respect for Click & Company and Clickaway. If we didn't, we wouldn't have taught three years in a row. However, Bre and I both decided that next year, we want to focus our attention and energy on on our personal in person retreat so we will not be teaching at Clickaway 2018. Thank you to those of you who have reached out and asked us why. We so appreciate it! 

A large photography conference like Clickaway or WPPI is very fun! There are thousands of attendees and because they are so huge you get to see a variety of talks and participate in many learning experiences. Think of it as a sampling of each instructor. You will be in large conference rooms for the talks, usually with about 200 attendees and larger groups for the smaller sessions, usually around 30-50 attendees. You get to meet a lot of other photographers from all over the world. There are big parties and mixers which are super fun if that is your thing. While you see a lot of different things, it's rare that you will actually get to connect to your instructors or get any type of individual attention. Meals are had on your own or in a large hall with other attendees grabbing lunch quickly. Usually, these types of learning experiences are more fun if you go with a few friends. 

A small retreat or in person workshop is pretty much the opposite of a conference. Their are usually less than 20 attendees (around 10 for our retreats,) and you get complete individualized attention. You get to ask as many questions as you want and really get to know your instructors on a personal level. You eat your meals together and really form a community with your peers as the environment is more intimate. You only get to work with one or two instructors as it is not a conference and meant to be a specific learning experience. 

When we hatched the idea for our retreat we wanted something that was different. It really is ACTUALLY a retreat. We bring in a private chef, you stay at a luxury home, we do private yoga together, all while perfecting your craft and building your community. We do shoots together where you actually get to get in there and photograph the models all while asking Bre and I your questions. We do a portfolio review for each attendee and discuss individual goals and strategies for success, weather that be for business or personal. We sit around a fire and drink wine and talk about life and passions. It really is magical. Some have even said life changing. 

Read individual reviews now if you are interested. 

At each of our past retreats we have had attendees with a variety of experience levels and specialties. For example, at our last retreat we had girls who are already CMpro along with an attendee who just learned how to use manual mode a few months ago. We had a girl who mostly shoots personal work as well as professional photographers who have full time businesses.

But in an environment like ours, it doesn't matter because we are able to touch on each attendees goals and needs. All while drinking wine, relaxing, and really growing as a group of women. :) 

Because some of our people have asked us about dates and price, saying that they need to choose between Clickaway and a Blair & Thurston Retreat, we wanted to share our date and pricing with you for 2018. But the location is top secret. We are actually traveling to the location in a few weeks to reveal the location LIVE. We also don't think you have to choose one over the other. We have had many attendees who have done both. 

Hint... sunshine and wine. ;) 

April 19th -21st, 2018

Early bird pricing is $2000.
Price includes all lodging, food, private yoga, and of course, an elevated educational experience. 

Registration will be live May 24th when we announce the location!! 

We hope that cleared some things up and we hope to see some of you at our next retreat!! 

Elena & Bre