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Behind the Scenes at Bloom Photography Retreat

Ever wondered what it is like to participate in a Photography Workshop? Or are you curious about being the model family for a session at one of these workshops? Continue reading and I'll walk you through my experience at this intimate retreat hosted by Bloom Photography Retreats in Waco, Texas.

First, some lingo. I have used several photography terms that you may or may not be familiar with, especially if you are not a photographer.

Model Call - This is when a photographer puts out a request for specific people for a photo session at a specific location with a specific look. A Model Call session differs from a regular one in a few ways. First, it is usually (but not always) "free" for the people participating as the models. In exchange for permission to use the photos for advertising purposes, the models receive a certain number of images at no cost. Secondly, a regular session is all about the client. The images taken at a session are for them. But in a model call, the images are for the photographer which means the photographer has final say in a lot things about the shoot. Which brings to be to Number Three. A model call session has very specific intentions behind the shoot. This can be the number of people modeling - a family of four, a couple, an individual; a location -somewhere new, a lake or the beach, downtown; or a certain vibe or look - models must wear certain clothes, like moody or brightly edited images, be comfortable with PDA, be very active. At the end of the day, a model call is a way for a photographer to capture specific images that they want for their portfolio.

Check out this blog post for an example of a model call session I did with a couple.

Styled Session - A Styled Session is a term used to describe a photography session where the photographer controls a lot of the look and feel. Whether the photographer chooses the wardrobes, props, or backdrop, they are responsible creating an aesthetic rather than the client or model. Many times photographers will team up with vendors (florists, designers, event planners, bakeries) to create a theme and showcase multiple businesses' talents.

Workshop - These are hands-on learning opportunities for photographers led by photographers. It can be for a couple of hours or a full day of education. There is usually a combination of listening to speakers in a classroom setting, watching a photographer's work flow at a session or editing a session, and being able to pick up your camera and shoot alongside other professionals. It's a great way to get immediate feedback and bounce ideas off of your peers.

Retreat - Basically an overnight or multi-day workshop with the same group of people.

Shootout - This is separate from a workshop. This is a styled session organized by a handful of people and open up to other photographers who "pay to play". A workshop or retreat can offer several Shootouts where participants sign up, pay, and attend for an hour or two. These typically have actual models rather than individuals who answer a model call. The purpose is to build one's portfolio with beautifully curated content.

Being a Participant at a Workshop Session

The sessions hosted by Bloom Retreats was closer to a Styled Session than a shoot out. We did not have to pay an additional fee to participate and the "models" for our session was a family who responded to a Model Call. We were also learning from the lead photographer as we took our own photos. I call it a "styled session" because Emily Anne Photography helped the family choose their outfits, including providing the dress for Mom, and chose the location.

Before the session began, Emily reviewed her session flow with us so we knew what to expect and what she tells her families before she ever picks up her capture to take that first photo. As the lead, Emily directed the family in poses and prompts while the rest of us took photos of the moments she helped create. This way the family (and most importantly, the young kids) would not be overwhelmed with directions coming from multiple people at once. Since Emily promised a full gallery to this family in exchange for being the model family, it was important for her to get the shots required first. Once she got her shot, she'd move out of the way and allow the rest of the photographers to move in and around the family.

There are pros and cons to participating in a workshop session.


  • Stress free - when you aren't the lead, you have a lot less to worry about leading up to and during a session. All you have to do is show up and shoot.

  • Less Pressure - any images you take are for YOU. If you share with the models, those images are just icing on the cake because they will already be receiving a gallery from the lead photographer. This means...

  • Time to experiment - you can try new angles or settings without any fear of failure or disappointment. If something doesn't work, its fine. But if it does? You just learned a new trick you can use with your own sessions

  • Q&A in real time - with so many photographers around, if you're having an issue with your gear or settings, you can ask someone next to you for assistance

  • Fun - being able to do something you love surrounded by other people who also love it is just a fun experience


  • Less control - if you have a preferred style (whether it be in clothing or locations) you may not get the content you need for your portfolio if elements don't quite align

  • Too many photogs in the field - It can be tricky to get the shot you want when there are several other people standing in the same spot trying to get the exact same angle. You need to be prepared to ask people to move out of the way once they are done or to maneuver your way up front. Otherwise, you will miss a lot or have random limbs and lenses in your photo

Even if you can't get the photo of your dreams because people were in the way or things moved too quickly, being present is enough. There were many times when I just stood back, listened, and watched, letting my camera rest by my side for a while.

Being the Model Family

Answering a model call for a workshop may not be for everybody. Let's be real. Being in front of ONE camera can be intimidating, so having several people taking your photo at once may not be everyone's cup of tea. And that's okay. But if you choose the right workshop for you, it can be a great experience. Find one hosted by a photographer whose work you love. If you like their personality, that is even better. It'll help you feel more comfortable on the day if you get along with at least one photographer. But the host is likely going to accept others into the workshop who they want to spend time with, too.

Benefits to answering a Model Call:

  • Having professional family photos taken is an investment. If you volunteer to "model", you can receive beautiful family photos for free in exchange for a model release or for a discounted price. It's one way to make professional photos more affordable.

  • You will likely receive A LOT of images from various angles and edited in various ways. Everyone who shows up to a workshop will have a different style of shooting and editing to begin with. Then on the day they will all be seeing different views of the same interactions.

  • More photographers = more moments captured. Sometimes your child makes a goofy face, touches your cheek, gives you a kiss, or does something precious but the moment is fleeting and your photographer may miss it if they are capturing another moment, changing settings, or talking to you. With several people there to capture the scene, chances are someone took a photo of your child's sweet moment.

Next time you see a photographer put out a Model Call, I encourage you to throw your name in the hat! Whether its for a workshop or a solo photographer, you will have a unique experience and walk away with photos you can treasure forever.

Location: Waco, Texas

Host: @Bloomphotographyretreats

Lead at Session: @emilyannephotography

Assist at Session:

Photos by Oh, Tannenbaum Photography


Are you ready to book your next family photo session? Visit my services page here.

If you're interested in being a Model Call family for Oh, Tannenbaum Photography the next time I want to try out a new location, theme, or idea, let me know by emailing me at to get on my list of interested persons.


Laura Tannenbaum is a San Antonio family and portrait photographer. She loves capturing real life, loving moments between loved ones and showcasing personalities.

To learn more about Laura visit her About Page.

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