January 2019: Attending The Real Workshop

Aly and the dogs are the best friends I could have asked for.

Aly and the dogs are the best friends I could have asked for.

If we think back to the most difficult things we have ever done, or tough times we have lived through, there will often be other people present in our memories: family, spouses, co-workers, teachers, or any other person you’ve shared a relationship with. Often, we call these people friends. These are the people who make us laugh, smile, and sometimes cry. Our friends will stand with us through both the good and the bad, they will have the courage to tell us yes and the discipline to tell us no, and, someday, they may even have to tell us goodbye. Making new friends can be extremely satisfying or, for some, extremely terrifying. I fall somewhere close to the extremely satisfying end of the spectrum, but I definitely have my days where I’d rather be left alone.

For me, friends are the ones I’d trudge through snow and mud with for hours on end, just to cram ourselves in a tiny tent and barely stay warm enough to fall asleep. They’re the ones I’d spend sleepless nights with driving way out of town just to look at the stars; the ones I’d let lead me off the beaten path just because it feels right. Finding these people in our lives is one of the most important things we could ever do. Luckily for me, I’m off to a great start.


It’s not often that you get the chance to learn from artists whose work you admire, let alone work alongside them and observe the way that they shoot. When Aly and I found out that The Real Workshop was having an excursion in Salt Lake City, led by Emily Hatch and Haley Nord, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass us by. Beautiful gowns from Boda Bridal, florals from Foxglove, an amazing natural light studio, and talks on business strategies from Emily and Haley set the stage for our first day of the workshop. The second day followed with a sunrise shoot on the Bonneville Salt Flats, lunch at Red Rock (one of our favorites!) and a sunset shoot on Antelope Island with a gown from Lily Bride Designs and florals from Beehive Floral Co.

The gowns from  Boda Bridal  and florals from  Foxglove  were gorgeous.

The gowns from Boda Bridal and florals from Foxglove were gorgeous.

On the first day, Aly and I drove up to Ogden and started our day at The 5th Floor, a gorgeous natural light studio with panoramic mountain views. Since neither of us had been to a workshop before, we weren’t sure what to expect. I was a bit intimidated at the idea of doing a shoot with other photographers (especially because I was using one of Aly’s old beater cameras that turns itself off every 20 minutes….) but the friendly and inviting atmosphere eased my fears. Haley started things off and led us down the rabbit hole of marketing and SEO strategy… it was more of a push, really, but she made sure we stuck the landing. After Haley’s class, Emily took us straight into talks on confidence and how to balance the elements of art and business in photography.

 All morning we were flooded with valuable information and as the photoshoot got closer, my nerves disappeared and the excitement grew.

Looking back, we honestly could not have asked for a better way to spend our afternoon. For the first shoot we had two amazing couples, Kaila and Jay and Winter and Derrick, who were a blast to work with! The studio space had dramatic lighting which pushed our comfort zones and forced us to look for more creative angles and compositions.

The indoor setting pushed Aly to capture this creative shot.

The indoor setting pushed Aly to capture this creative shot.

The Real Workshop only uses real couples (surprise!) which meant that we didn’t have to do much to make them feel comfortable in front of the lens. When things started getting a bit stale, Emily and Haley gave us advice on posing and directing. This shoot lasted from noon until the light left the studio and we were rushing to get our last shots.

After the shoot, we discussed difficult lighting situations and client-photographer relations. I began packing my gear away once the conversations came to an end, but ideas on creative shots and different ways to work with lighting continued to fill my head. Aly had lots of new and exciting ideas as well, and on the way home we talked about everything from website design, to client engagement, to new locations. We couldn’t decide where to start!

Everyone has different interpretations of the term, ‘bright and early’… For Aly and I, any time before about 8:30 am justifies the use of the phrase, so when our alarm went off at 5:45 am on the second day of the workshop, we were less than thrilled. Our obligatory coffee stop put us 20 minutes behind, which made us pretty nervous because the location of the first shoot was still an hour and a half away. With a lot of luck and a bit of speeding, we managed to catch up with our group out on the Salt Flats just as the sun finally peaked over the ridge of the Northern Wasatch.

Christie and Brandon enjoy the brisk morning air… sort of.

Christie and Brandon enjoy the brisk morning air… sort of.

Our couple for the morning, Christie and Brandon, laughed through their entire shoot and kept good spirits despite the fact that it was literally 10 degrees out (not to mention windy AF). Emily walked us through how she typically runs her engagement shoots, gave us tips on keeping the couple involved and even some pointers on how to keep the artistic juices flowing while still delivering what the client is looking for. The best part is that we got to shoot alongside her and were able to put her advice to use immediately. We also got some really great feedback from the other photographers. We stopped the shoot just short of us all getting frostbite, congratulated the happy couple and drove back to SLC for lunch.

At lunch we all thawed out and got to know each other more. Most of the other photographers came from out of state, so we all had a lot of fun stories to share. On the way to our last shoot at Antelope Island, Aly and I talked about what we learned during the first two shoots and how we were going to try to approach the sunset shoot differently. Haley greeted us with big smiles at the entrance to Antelope Island and led us on to the location for our final shoot. I was hopeful that the strong winds would push out the hazy (aka smoggy) morning air, but instead we got more cloudy skies and hypothermia-inducing winds. Haley reminded us that lighting situations are not always going to work in our favor, and that we must be able to adapt and capture the moments our clients want us to deliver in any situation. She shared her methods for posing couples and gave us some direction on how to break the ice with clients and keep them feeling relaxed. Since Aly has followed her on Instagram for a few years, she was SO happy to see Haley in her element.

The beautiful dress and florals for this shoot were provided by  Lily Bride Designs  and  Beehive Floral Co.

The beautiful dress and florals for this shoot were provided by Lily Bride Designs and Beehive Floral Co.

Jessi and Ethan, our models, were shivering the whole time but still in good spirits. After Haley shot for a few minutes, she stepped aside and gave us the chance to put all of our new knowledge to the test. Her feedback was incredible- she encouraged each of us to get creative, look for angles that were different, and to capture a consistent mood throughout the shoot. Our shoot went on until Jessi and Ethan were chilled to the bone (they were such troopers). We said our goodbyes and exchanged contact info with Emily, Haley, and all of our new friends in the parking lot before heading home. On our drive, Aly and I processed the insane amount of information we had received during our two days at The Real Workshop’s excursion. The biggest thing we came away with? The weekend left us wanting more and we’re already planning our trip to a week-long workshop.