Question about finding a professional photographer to teach at a reteat.


TPF Noob!
Jan 18, 2012
Reaction score

This is my first post and I'm not a photographer, but I'm in the very (very) early stages of organizing a retreat and was wondering if I could ask something about finding a photographer to teach there. For example, 5 or 6 days with 4 hours work time in morning and 4 hours in the evening. This wouldn't be lecture time, but field work, discussion, critique, etc. (ie. slightly less prep time...I think). Nonetheless, the photag would still be developing assignments, talking points, and such for each day, so there would be some prep time. All travel, accomodation and meals would be paid.

What information would you need in order to provide a realist price quote for something like this? As for pay, would you expect your day rate for each day? More? Less?

Any thoughts greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for your help!
You are talking about a full week of hard work plus additional time to prepare.
This clearly depends on the level of instructor but certainly upwards of $6000 plus all expenses.

I can't imagine how a non photographer could actually find and pick someone who has something to say and the ability to teach it - particularly for an entire week.
You are talking about a full week of hard work plus additional time to prepare.
This clearly depends on the level of instructor but certainly upwards of $6000 plus all expenses.

I can't imagine how a non photographer could actually find and pick someone who has something to say and the ability to teach it - particularly for an entire week.

Well, for about 5 years, I planned entire Knitting Conventions, scouting and selecting locations and then hiring the teachers, many of them international knitting instructors. Had to pick a wide variety of topics--different knitting techniques, yarn-making, felting, etc. All but one of the conventions I planned was a sell-out and they were all very well received, according to the evaluations.

I had not then, nor have I since, been able to knit a single stitch. Not even interested in learning how. :lol:
So, it CAN be done. But it will take LOTS of time, planning, researching, getting solid recommendations and then choosing someone who comes extremely well-qualified and recommended by other professionals.

I have NO idea what you'll end up needing to pay them, but it sure won't be cheap!

If it were me...I'd START by simply googling "photography retreat" and other similar terms. Who are other people using? Can you find some people who attended that retreat and get their opinions on the instructor.

Since it sounds like you've never done this before, and you don't really know photography, you want someone who is not only a skilled photographer, but someone who has done these retreat-type "classes" before.
When you have 20 or 30 instructors, some number can be ok or dull and the experience still be good.
Where there is one instructor and that's all the 'students' will ever see, the choice is critical.

There are important things beyond the instructor.

How many students? Once past the basics, a lot of work needs the occasional individual touch.
How homogeneous are the skills and experience amongst the students?
If they have some experience, is their interest also homogeneous?
(e.g. I can't imagine teaching a class in landscape)
Will they all have similar camera equipment? Teaching a class where some people are total newbies and some have experience and sophisticated DSLRs is a total disaster.
Welcome to the forum.

I agree with what's been said already. Things like this are probably rather difficult to plan & pull off when it's the photographer/teacher who is organizing it. For someone else to be doing it, just adds another level of complexity...but I'm sure it could be done.

I'd start by concentrating on two things. The scope of the class/instruction. Will this be for novice photographers or will this be for advanced photographers? Also, the choice of photographer/teacher will likely be very important....especially if you're hoping to attract advanced photographers who are willing to pay a pretty penny.
I'd suggest looking for someone who already teaches photography or gives seminars etc. So unless you have something specific that you want them to teach, you would basically be asking them to do what they are already doing...but just in your 'retreat' location.
...but certainly upwards of $6000 plus all expenses...
Unless it is someone who already has lessons already done, I think it would be somewhat north of that. I would expect something in the order of $5000 for the 'on-scene' time alone, never mind the preparation, HOWEVER it would also depend on the nature of the camp. I (and I'm sure many others) would charge significantly less if the retreat were benefitting a charitable group or something similar.
Also, the weight of the photographer's name/reputation will likely influence what the price will be. If you want Annie Leibovitz, it's going to cost you a fortune. But if you just want an unknown photographer/instructor, it's obviously going to cost you less.

I would also think that the nature/location of the retreat may help (or maybe hurt) the price. For example, if it's somewhere in the tropics and you're paying travel & an all-inclusive type accommodation (maybe for them and their spouse), then you might not have to pay too much for a 'fee'.
Thank you for your help, everyone! I'm taking notes.

Oh, I didn't expect it to be cheap at all. Thank you for that list of considerations. I have considered those things, but of course, anyone I approach about teaching would need to know these things, too.

Oh, I have been researching. And researching and researching. I've done retreats before, but those were focused on a different subject. They definitely are a tremenous amount of work. And congratulations on your success with the knitting conventions.

Big Mike,
Yes, I definitely would want someone experienced in teaching. "you would basically be asking them to do what they are already doing...but just in your 'retreat' location." -- Yes, that's it. And about the photographer's reputation, I understand what you mean. (Although I suspect Ms. Leibovitz is booked up for a while. :) )

Thanks again to everyone for your help and ideas! I appreciate them.
At the place I worked (as staff, not as a teacher), they were charging between $1,200 and $2,500 per person for an ordinary week long workshop, and workshops in more exotic "retreat" locations where they had to provide room, upward to $4,000, if not $6,000 per person with a usual cap of maybe 10-15 students and a minimum of 3-5.

I am pretty sure that the instructors were paid a commission, plus expenses and a base. If i were doing this I'd set work out the pay rate to, 100% for the first three students as the base rate, plus 20% and a minimum number of students based on whatever your overhead would be.

So if you charge $2,000 per student, base rate would be $6,000 plus 20%.
There are so many different possible scenarios involved here that it is absolutely impossible to answer.

Who is the photog? Depending on what you want to be taught you could get away with a fairly unknown artist who is cheap because he needs the money or you can get a big name which will cost you a bunch but will bring in much more if you market it right...

Who are you yourself? Can you get away with offering a very high priced "retreat" or do you need to stay within certain limits?

Your best way to proceed is to call a couple photogs you like, to see what they would charge for what you want. Then re-adjust what you want and what you can afford accordingly.

I personally charge my day rate + 50% + expenses.
Thanks for your comments, Unpopular and c.cloudwalker

That pricing makes sense. Because I've been seeing photography retreats that cost maybe $200/day/person (not counting room and board) and wondering how these are at all profitable for the instructor. Unless, of course, they pack in so many people that no one really gets one-on-one time with the instructor. As others have mentioned, though, it depends a lot of the reputation of the instructor. And I wasn't aware of the commission. Thank you for mentioning that!

I know there are a lot of variables involved. I'll need to work those all out, of course. I'm mostly trying to get an idea of what a photographer I might approach about this would need to know before they could consider doing it or give a cost estimate. That is, the things I'd need to tell them when I do call. Of course, any pricing info. is also helpful, just to get some ideas.

Thanks again!
I'll do it for $10k

Or if it's a swimsuit model shoot on a island in the tropics, I'll do it for free!
See who is teaching at other workshops, and call their agent. I am sure that they'd be more than happy to give you a quote.
It depends on the NAME you are pulling in too. If you are pulling in a semi-known to well known name to teach you can expect it to be upwards of $10K plus travel and materials.
If you are pulling in someone who is maybe professor level but not a known name? Maybe 4K to 6K plus travel and materials. Don't forget to include model fees in there too.

I would need to know what exactly the retreat is aimed at teaching-are you talking basic DSLR work, advanced, professional, lighting and posing... What do you want this retreat to teach? How many attendees? Will I need assistants to help with this being a largely attended event or is it a lot more that I could work one on one? What is being provided in the form of the conference room and what do I need to make arrangements for? What sponsors will be promoting? Will grunt work be provided or do I need to arrange for that?
When is a huge deal to most photographers. If it's in prime season for us then it's going to be prime pricing. If it is January thru April it's not so much prime.
I'd need a detailed design of what the promoters are wanting in order to give any type of quote.
I'm mostly trying to get an idea of what a photographer I might approach about this would need to know before they could consider doing it or give a cost estimate.

That, I can help you with. Some of it has already been covered by MLeek.

Who you are. What your outfit is. A small presentation of both would be good. Add things like if you are a non-profit. Some people will like that as it could be a write-off if they were to not actually charge you...

What do you want taught and at what level or levels?

Number of attendees.

The location (fixed location or is there traveling involved.) What gear is available for the presentations and the classes (computers, projectors, blackboards, strobes and studio space, etc, etc...) If it is a portrait workshop, are you arranging for the models, how many and what kind.

Are you providing gophers for the grunt work?

Any sponsors, mention them. Not everyone will work with just any sponsors. Don't let them get a surprise they may not like.

What kind of accomodations are being provided if any. Meals, same thing.

And yes, when. Most photogs are booked quite a bit in advance so don't contact them about doing a workshop next week. Personally you would need to get in touch 6 to 8 months ahead of time. And unlke MLeek, I don't have any down time. That depends on what kind of photography one does.

As MLeek said, give as much detail as possible. However, I would not do this over the phone. Calling for a first contact is fine but keep it short and sweet. Basically just find out if they would be interested and offer to send more info through the mail. Then send as much detail as possible in a nice package that might include brochures about you and your outfit, your area, etc..

When you have your stuff together, you are welcome to PM me with it if you'd like me to review it for you.

Most reactions