What I Learned at Rooted Utah

How did Rooted Utah go?!

Today I’m going to talk through how Rooted Utah went, our rooted workshop that was this July in Utah. It was super interesting because it was the same places we went in the winter when we hosted our content day in January, except it was literally the opposite weather-wise. Instead of snowing and 14 degrees, it was in the hundreds, so it was very different. We had our same wonderful coordinator, and this time it was actually in full-blown rooted style. That’s the difference between what I hosted with the content day instead of the workshop. I’m going to talk through how it went and how I think Rooted is going to look in the future.

We’ve had a really big rebrand with the Photography Business podcast and I’m also a mom of two. I’m playing with a lot of different ideas as far as what is the future of Rooted. This workshop probably had some of my favorite shoots that I’ve ever done with a Rooted. Most of that is because of Megan from Curated Mess Co. who was our coordinator. I gave her full design reign and she really delivered. It was just so cool to watch her in her element.

Everything went according to plan

Everything went according to plan, which is always something you pray over whenever you’re hosting an event. I know I do. One thing that I did different with this workshop is I actually started it in the morning. I had everybody checking in at 8 or 9:00 AM. We did things differently with this workshop because the tickets were set up differently. We actually had a ticket option where people don’t have to stay in the workshop house and it was more budget friendly. And then we had one where they could stay in the house and they get to check in the night before, but the workshop doesn’t start until that next morning! So they kind of get a free night’s stay that way. Having the house booked the day before just allowed for a lot more flexibility.

It was great because the morning was already ready, the food was in the fridge, the gifts were set out the night before, and everything was ready to go. It was a huge relief to me because early check-in and getting into the house and unloading everything can be stressful on top of everything else.

Another thing that really helped with the stress level was Megan taking the reins for the shoots. She handled all the dress rentals, plates, table setups, and flowers. I’ve had to juggle all that stuff on my own in past workshops. Even though having her around costs extra bucks, it was totally worth it. I could focus way better on connecting with the attendees and diving into my lectures and all the good stuff. The only thing I had to deal with for the shoots was finding models, which, if you’ve heard me rant about it on my workshops, is a huge headache. All the girls showed up, we whipped up a big breakfast with pancakes – then we jumped into our go-to fishbowl game, which is an absolute riot. The bonus round is hilarious! If you’re not familiar, it’s like an over-the-top version of charades, and our bonus round is always a hilarious mess. So it’s a great icebreaker to get to know the girls

From there we got into lectures!

I did my long lecture and my lecture at these workshops focuses on everything from workflows to finances and everything in between. It’s just simply not even enough time. I started early with my lecture. I knew it was going to go long and I went for almost three hours. When we were driving to our first shoot that night (which is in the Salt Flats), I remember some of the girls in my car were like, Dani, we’re so overwhelmed. There’s so much knowledge that you shared with us. Where do we start? And my best advice was – if you ever go to a workshop and you feel like you’re learning so much, create a to-do list just in your notebook to do when you get home. Think about your top priority first, “what is the hot thing that needs to be dealt with right now?”

And then just work your way down the list. That’s what I did at my first workshop because I felt the same way as an attendee. I learned so much valuable information, but I was overwhelmed. After creating the to-do list, I was able to reference that months after the workshop because some of that stuff included rebranding my website and working on copy and finding a content strategy. And all of that took time to develop. Suggesting the to-do list to the rooted gals seemed to lighten a little bit of the load on all of them, which is always my goal. I don’t want anyone leaving Rooted feeling completely overwhelmed.

Fast forward to the Salt Flats!

Alright, let’s fast-forward to our salt flat shoot – all systems go. Smooth sailing, no bumps in the road, just one hiccup: the crazy heat. Can you believe we needed an AC break this time? I mean, back in January, we were all about heaters and keeping warm – talk about opposites, right? I had the foresight to grab those giant Crystal Geyser gallon waters from Costco, and let me tell you, we downed all of them. Hydration is a must, and I’m relieved I had the idea to stock up. Big shoutout to Lindsay – she rocked our Rooted Hawaii workshop and came back for this one, totally nailing the food. Her charcuterie board was next-level, and the meals were top-tier – basically personal chef level. So, Lindsay, if you’re tuning in, we love you! Now, me being a bit of a workshop mom, I thought, let’s load up on Liquid IV for everyone, “’cause this heat ain’t no joke.” Hosting a workshop means thinking about every little detail. I’ve got 17 folks under my wing, making sure no one faints on me, the models stay cool, and there’s no medical issues. Trust me, when you’re in a scorching 100-degree desert, it’s all about keeping the hydration train rolling. And that’s exactly what we did – the shoot was a blast.

Let’s dive into the magic of the Blue Hour at the salt flat – seriously, it was picture-perfect. Clear skies, no clouds in sight, which is like hitting the jackpot, especially during that special Blue Hour window. Keep your eyes peeled because I’ll be dropping some of that stunning work soon. It felt amazing to be back in the creative groove, snapping away. If you asked me whether I’d rather be sweltering or freezing, it’s a no-brainer – I’ll take the heat any day. I’ve got this wonky circulation thing, so in freezing temps, my hands and feet go MIA, and that’s just a no-go for me. Sweating beats numb limbs, hands down.

So, this time around, I was all about the shoot, fully immersed and loving every minute of it. I got to roll with the gals, assisting them in their shots. Oh, and we had a reels challenge going on too. I snagged a fractals kit and a star filter for the lens, to entice the gang into creating a reel that truly captured the Rooted vibe. Yep, that was the prize, and I grabbed two sets – one for me to play around with (couldn’t resist) and one for the challenge. Funny thing, though? We never actually got around to using them.

The shoot itself went really well. The sun sets around 9:30, so we didn’t leave the salt flats until around 10, and we got back pretty late, close to midnight or maybe 12:30. We were prepared though – we had the girls bring packed dinners, like sandwiches, for the shoot. And we also had these pre-cooked pasta meals that we made before we left. So when we got back to the house, everyone just had to microwave a bowl and they were good to go. It was a much quicker option than waiting for an oven.

After we ate, we got to bed around 1:00 AM. We had to wake up at four, so not much sleep. We managed to sneak in a nap later on – definitely sleep-deprived, but it was worth it to make the most of our time and the shoots we had planned.

Heading to the Mountains!

So, we were up at the crack of dawn, heading to the mountains. Here’s where the model saga unfolds. I reached out to quite a few folks for Rooted’s modeling gig. I had two couples locked in with contracts for the sunrise shoot on July 12th. Quick tip: when dealing with models for a free shoot, get it in writing with a contract. Ours says if you cancel within 72 hours, there’s a $500 fee – a nudge to stick to the plan. And if they do cancel, they’re responsible for finding a backup, so I’m not scrambling last minute. Now, there was this one couple I had my eye on who charged by the hour.

Then there’s this other couple who said yes and signed the contract, but they hadn’t set a rate. Business-wise, I went with them, since they weren’t charging. I’d cover their gas. But, the morning of, the plot twists: one contracted couple shows up, ready to roll. Another, not contracted, arrives too – I hadn’t confirmed them because they were iffy. I figured, hey, if they make it, no harm. So, with two model couples, we were good. I had three dresses planned, and we were set to start. But hold up – where’s the couple that actually signed a contract? Now, it’s potential for three couples. Long story short, we started around 6:30.

As we shoot, Macy comes over with more info – another model arrived! Down the hill from the parking lot! So in a nutshell, we could’ve had four couples if the other contracted one showed. Total whirlwind, and let me tell you, models are my arch-nemesis. Seriously, if I could plan workshops minus the model hustle, I’d host way more. Crazy morning, but on the bright side, the dress sizes matched, and we pulled it off. Thank the stars. It might have been a whirlwind, but the content we got? Pure gold.

The drive back and Macy’s lecture

We hit the road back to the house, taking in the stunning Alpine Loop drive in Utah – a little taste of the beauty here. We get back, start breakfast and it’s Macy’s turn for a talk. Let me tell you, her lecture is a tearjerker. We watched her wedding video, and folks, if you haven’t seen Macy Francis’s wedding video, do yourself a favor and watch it – right now. It’s on her website’s about page. Seriously, it’s award-winning and it’s like divine magic. So, there we are, a room full of emotional, sleep-deprived souls, all in tears after that video.

After the heartfelt talk, Macy and I needed a breather – nap time was calling. We squeezed in about 20 minutes of shut-eye. I’m thankful I carved out some free time in the schedule.

Shooting at The Sand Dunes!

Finally, it was sand dunes shoot time. Off to the dunes, with a surprise addition – horses! Yep, our first animals at Rooted, all thanks to Megan’s genius idea. It went well, despite the scorching heat. Hydration was a must. Now, working with animals added a whole new dimension. Keeping the models safe, posing them with the horse just right – it was a learning curve, and not just for me, but for everyone. The growth and lessons were real, especially in working with and posing animals. But honestly, it was a blast, probably one of the coolest shoots we’ve done because of the animal element.

We got pretty sweaty – but the content we got was gold! Everyone was pumped and having a blast, even in our sleep-deprived state. Back at the house, we had a late dinner, followed by worship and prayer time for those who joined in – always a soul-soothing experience. Next morning, it was time for goodbyes.

Lessons I learned at Rooted Utah Round 2

Let’s talk lessons learned.

Firstly, leading a group means looking out for everyone, especially when you’re responsible for meals. If someone has an allergy or needs gluten-free options, it’s on you.

Always factor this in. It pains me to hear horror stories about workshops where the food falls short – just chips and an Uncrustable sandwich, seriously? It’s disheartening when the ticket promises food and lodging, but participants are left fending for themselves. If you’re considering hosting a workshop, here’s the deal: you’re responsible for these folks. If food is part of the package, deliver. It matters – energy, nutrition. I’ve realized this through Rooted’s journey. While I’ve managed with Costco meals, having someone assist with cooking is a game-changer. You can’t do it all alone, trust me.

Having Lindsay on board to handle food while I teach and manage other aspects was a blessing. If you’re serious about a seamless workshop, assistance is a must – yes, it costs, but it’s worth it. Budget for it. Lesson one: food matters, so make sure it’s substantial, energizing, and enjoyable. Think tasteful, not gourmet. Chips won’t cut it. Oh, and having an assistant? Priceless.

Now, lesson two: model contracts. Have them in place and be prepared to enforce them if things go awry – like a no-show model. It’s a workshop essential.

Third lesson: always have a backup plan. Take our Sunrise Mountain shoot, for example. I had a Plan B in my back pocket since part of the road was closed during my scout. Preparedness is key. Know the route, opening times, and gate situations. You don’t want to lead and then hit a roadblock. Accessibility matters – everyone’s cars, parking, no marathon hikes. Remember, you’re responsible for the group, so pick spots that suit all. It’s a valuable takeaway.

And the last thing I learned is starting in the morning and booking the Airbnb the day before is probably the way to go. It just allows for so much more less headache. Getting everything in is not as stressful and you can have the evening before to hang out with the instructors and not have that pressure the day of workshop start!

The Future of Rooted

Let’s chat about Rooted’s future. I wish I had all the answers, but right now, it’s a prayerful process. I’m eyeing Spring for the next event, considering my business and my role as a mom of two! Balancing Rooted planning – models, vendors, assistance, and more – alongside my photography endeavors is a lot. I’m leaning towards one workshop a year. While I talked about a possible fall one, it’s likely going to be next year.

New faces and instructors are on the horizon and I’m so excited about it! Alumni are always welcome back, getting to learn from fresh voices. The future of Rooted workshops are still in process but I’ll update when there’s more clarity! Prayers and wisdom are appreciated – it’s a business too, and the effort put in should be financially worthwhile.

That’s the gist of Rooted’s future and how the Utah event went. Meeting new people and having fresh faces join the Rooted community was so fantastic! Stay tuned for updates on the next workshop. I’ll share more soon!

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