Closing the Gap – A Photography Retreat

The Gap

Finding our style. Developing our unique vision. Emerging from the sea of mediocrity.

These are all things that we, as artists, feel like we are required to achieve in order to realize our true self.

And yet, no matter how hard we try, most of the times those lofty goals elude us.

When this happens, we feel that our muse has abandoned us and we fall into a rut. We can't find the motivation to pick up the camera. Our work seems banal and bereft of originality, style or vision.

As Ira Glass once said:

"But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you."

A Path Of Transformation

Rome wasn't built in a day. Similarly, bridging the gap between where you are now and the artist you know you can be does not happen in a day. Rather, it is the culmination of a path that can transform you from someone who is frustrated and unsatisfied with their photography into a realized person.

There is a number of stepping stones along this path. Let's examine some of them.

The Myth Of Talent

You take the first step along your artist's path when you realize you have talent.

We all have some talent, every single one of us, and the issue here is that many have not yet found out what their talent is and how to use it. In reality, hidden talent will emerge when we get down to work, take action, commit, learn, train, and put hours into it.

For the most part, even the greatest artists weren't born with something that common mortals lack. Ascribing our lack of success to not having the required talent is a tale we tell ourselves in the way of justification. Steven Pressfield would say that it's the Resistance speaking. Sometimes it's a lie that others tell us.

In order to be successful, you need to show up and that is scary. Once you’re out there, others will judge you and people don’t like to be judged. It’s easier to convince ourselves we don’t have enough talent, rather than show up. So we stay in your own little walled garden, we play the victim, and complain bitterly about fate. But we never think it's our fault. It’s "because we don’t have talent."

Believing you are a talented person is fundamental. It only becomes easy when you meet people who have been through the same struggle and have emerged from it by not listening to those who tell us we will never amount to much.

Practicing Deliberately

Realizing we all have talent is the first step.

Recognizing the existence of the gap is next,  but that's not enough to overcome it.

In his show, Ira Glass goes on to say that the way to close the gap is to make a lot of work, and he's right. As others would say, you got to practice, practice, practice.

Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before you can be really proficient at any specialized skill.

Practice alone, however, can be detrimental if all you do is repeating the same mistakes. According to some studies, four essential requirements must be fulfilled for practice to be effective. Simple repetition of tasks just won't do. They are:

  1. You must be motivated to attend to the task and exert effort to improve your performance.
  2. The design of the task should take into account your pre-existing knowledge so that the task can be correctly understood after a brief period of instruction.
  3. You should receive immediate informative feedback and knowledge of results of your performance.
  4. You should repeatedly perform the same or similar tasks.

This all sounds very obvious, but like with physical exercise, it's easy to go all-in at the start, but to lose motivation after a while, especially when you practice on your own, without the encouragement of and even the competition with your peers.

Getting The Right Feedback

A mistake that many aspiring photographers do, as soon as they think they have created something worthy of being shown, is putting it out there (which these days largely means on social media).

What happens next is that they either get meaningless likes, mindless praise ("Nice capture!" anyone?) or worse, scathing criticism.

Despite what many believe, none of this feedback is useful in any way. The right feedback is fundamental to our growth as artists, but comments from random strangers on the Internet? Not so much.

We believe in asking feedback from peers and mentors, but it must come from the heart and happen within a safe space.

Steven Pressfield again says it so eloquently:

“If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement. Watch yourself. Of all the manifestations of Resistance, most only harm ourselves. Criticism and cruelty harm others as well.”

What if?

What if you could get help in finding the right motivation, helped by experts who can design tasks that are right for you, and that would give immediate informative feedback?

Keep reading if you want to know more.

Fabrizia's Story

About four years ago I set up my photography business in Austria: new country, new language I didn’t speak much (still don’t), very different culture. After Milan and the fashion world, I was determined to do something completely different and photograph “real people” instead. 

I was a foreigner, didn’t have a studio (didn’t want one!), and Innsbruck was full of photographers offering CDs at 50€ a session. I was determined to be different, to offer high quality photography, to set the standard higher… 6 months later my marriage collapsed, and I found myself with a fledgling business, a broken family, and big financial commitments I couldn’t keep.

It was my darkest hour, of course, but also the start of the most exciting time in my life. I had to get down to brass tacks, take care of my health, get my business up and running quickly, and develop ways to work smarter and more efficiently. I had to overcome my insecurities and fears, get out of my comfort zone, take risks to go after what I really wanted.

Fast forward to this year, which I spent travelling for the most part (I’ve been home 6 weeks so far!). The techniques to get stuff done and create the life I wanted have been honed and refined, so I started teaching them to my coaching clients. Guess what? They work!

So yes, there’s stuff about photography, and stuff about Life – not just as a photographer but for everything else as well. We work better, we live better. We aim high. We reach our goals. We create the life we desire, we go after what we love. And get it.


In the end, why do we take photographs?

If you've been reading this far, it's obvious that you aspire to something more than vacation snapshots. You think that photography can be a means to express yourself creatively and artistically.

We believe that, in order to be a fulfilled artist, you need to grow as a person, learn to focus, adopt an abundance mindset, and be successful in what you do. Can you tell that we don't subscribe to the myth of the starving and suffering artist?

And yet most people have no idea how to make that happen. We long for fulfilment, abundance, excitement… we long for Life with a capital L, and possibly a capital I, F and E as well (dare we dream that much?)

The good news? We all have superpowers. We may have forgotten them or never discovered them, and we may have buried them or been surrounded by Kryptonite and temporarily lost them.

We may not think we have them, but we do. And we can find them, unlock them, and learn how to use them.

This is your journey of discovery.

We will help you find your superpowers, and to warp speed your life in the direction it’s meant to go. To unlock, unblock and release the deep flow you’re meant to live in. To realise the abundance that is available to you in every area of your life. And to finally start LIVING large and strong and beautiful.

If you sense that life can be more than what you have right now, this journey is for you. If you long for health, strength, courage and wealth. If you’re tired of the same old same old, and you’re ready to break out of it. If you want more joy, more money, more love, more of anything you truly desire.

It’s a practice but we learnt to turn it into a game (if it’s not fun we don’t do it), and if you start on even a few of them your life will never be the same again.

Ready to start? Here’s to infinity and beyond 🙂

Join Us In Tuscany!

We have designed a special and unique retreat to help you close this gap and reconnect with your muse through the guidance of professional photographers and with the support of your peers.

Finding your vision, reconnecting with your inner artist, and developing your superpowers would be reasons enough to attend our retreat, but there's no better place and time to do it than an idyllic countryside setting in the heart of Tuscany in the spring.

We will host you in a beautiful Tuscan villa, amid vineyards and rows of cypress trees. There, insulated from the maddening crowd and the lure of social media, you will be able to recharge your batteries and refocus, while you live and work together in a community of fellow photographers.

We have planned two separate retreats this year:

  • The "Full Monty", lasting 8 days, from Saturday to Saturday.
  • A weekend-long one, starting on Friday afternoon and ending on Sunday evening, for those who cannot take a whole week off work.

This journey is not only for photographers and we welcome everyone to follow us along this route. If you have a partner, spouse, or friend who is into photography, come with them and join us when we discuss how to develop our superpowers.

A Typical Day

We get up in the morning at a leisurely hour and are greeted by a substantial continental breakfast, with coffee, tea, cappuccino, cornetti, fresh fruit juices, and other Italian specialties.

We then have a morning session where we talk about superpowers. Every day we introduce a set of practices and life hacks that will help you develop a specific ability. These include things like boosting your body, mastering your mind, achieving wealth, managing time, and more.

We then have some private time that could be dedicated to relaxation, meditation, exercise or maybe a yoga lesson. This is followed by a light lunch.

The afternoon will consist of a mix of classroom time and time spent outdoors, camera in hand. We will take inspiration from what we discussed earlier in order to practice. We might do a walk in the countryside or visit a nearby medieval village and your mentors will be there to help you with any questions you might have.

On some days, we might do a portrait session instead. The objective there is to empower you to connect with your subject on an emotional level and put them and yourself at ease, in front of and behind the camera.

We then return to our villa for some more relaxation and to take a shower. Then we review the day's work, receive assignments, and prepare our objectives for tomorrow. We think it's important to close each day with a list of things to accomplish on the next day.

At dinner we will savor some of the best Italian cuisine, all prepared on the premises with fresh produce from the local markets, and taste some great local wines.

After dinner, we might have more conversation about photography, but without any pressure to take part in it. We could do portfolio reviews or look at photo books together to gather some inspiration. It's OK if after a long day, someone prefers to retire to their own room, watch TV or read a book.

This program is purely indicative and might change depending on your feedback or on the weather conditions.

More Than A Workshop

When we say this is not a workshop, we mean that there won't be lessons about exposure, focus or the most basic points of technique. We are always on hand to help you with any technical questions you might have, but that is not going to be the focus of our conversations.

You will learn to take photographs and judge them based on their effectiveness in conveying emotions and on their eloquence in telling stories. We will help you create a coherent body of work composed of a coherent series of images.

This doesn't mean there won't be work to do. Remember what we said above about deliberate practice? It is necessary to exert effort to improve your performance and this is what we expect from you. This is why this retreat is not open to anyone, but we select applicants based on their current body of work and their stated commitment to making an effort to get better.

When we are out shooting we will discuss things like aperture and shutter speed only as tools that we need to master in order to convey a feeling or to impart a certain mood to our photos.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of talk about composition, choice of subject, learning to recognize the best light and use it to your advantage.

Our sessions will be a mix of landscape outings, when we go out and discover the amazing Tuscan landscape, and indoors and outdoors portrait shootings.

Celebrating The Joy Of Living

Italy is rightly famous not only for its rich history, the ancient monuments, and the art that is everywhere abundant, but nowhere more than in Tuscany. It is also a sought-after destination for the quality and the amazing regional variety of food and wine.

A retreat in the heart of Tuscany would not be complete if it didn't allow you to experience some of its best cuisine and of its prized wines.

Thanks to our resident chef, every day you will be served local recipes prepared with fresh, natural products and cooked to perfection in our kitchen. We will of course cater to the needs of vegetarians and people with food intolerances,

It is said that Italians love life and they certainly demonstrate this at the table. Come savor the Dolce Vita with us!

We will host you in a villa is in the vicinity of the medieval city of Pienza, in the heart of the Val d'Orcia region. Our group will have exclusive use of the property (Full Monty program only).

The location is about 120km from Florence and 190km from Rome. If you come from outside Italy, you will probably fly or take a train to one of those two cities. We can arrange transportation, for a fee, to and from the airports and the railway stations of Florence and Rome.

Your Significant Other Is Not A Photographer?

No problem, we've got you covered!

If you would like to attend the retreat together with a spouse, companion, partner or simply a friend who is not into photography, they can join you for a significantly reduced price.

They will be able to use all the facilities of the villa and enjoy all the meals and some social activities, like the wine tastings.

They won't be able to attend the discussions and sessions that are purely about photography (we reckon they wouldn't want anyway) but they are free to attend all the sessions of the Superpowers series and learn a new outlook on life and prosperity that applies to everyone.

When we organize an excursion to photograph a nearby village, they can join the rest of the group, if they want, for a small transportation fee.

We can also organize excursions on request, specifically for non-photographers, for a fee.

In any case, we give priority to photographers, so this option is only available upon request and for a limited number of participants. Indicate that you are traveling with a companion when filling out the inquiry form below and we'll let you know about availability.

But Wait, There's More

The truth is, we are not so naïve to think that a week is enough to steer your photography and your life in entirely new directions.

Yes, the time we'll spend together might as well be fundamental for your future development, but let's not fool ourselves. Without a follow-up plan, it would be like so many diets that you follow for a while, only to return to bad eating habits as soon as nobody's watching you.

We sincerely want to help you grow, not just offer you a nice luxury vacation for a significant amount of money.

This is why our program includes personalized assignments and a series of one-on-one, remote video sessions to be held at regular intervals, after the retreat has ended. This is only available for participants in the Full Monty program.

During those sessions, you will review your assignments together with one of your instructors, discuss any successes or setbacks that you might have had, and set goals for the upcoming weeks.

The Full Monty

Where: Near Siena, Tuscany, Italy

When: June 24 - July 2, 2023

Duration: 8 days / 7 nights

Skill levels: intermediate to advanced, amateur and professional.

Group size: 6 min, 10 max

Price: €4,900

Non-photographer partner price: €2,900

Weekend Program

Where: Near Siena, Tuscany, Italy

When: May 19-21, 2023

Duration: 3 days / 2 nights

Skill levels: intermediate to advanced, amateur and professional.

Group size: 6 min, 10 max

Price: €1,450

Non-photographer partner price: €750

Your Mentors

Fabrizia Costa

Fabrizia Costa

My passion for photography started many years ago: as a fashion and beauty editor for some of the top magazines in Milan,  I worked with some of the best photographers in the world, creating beautiful images and shooting my own reportages when travelling.

Today I don't work with supermodels, yet I find amazing beauty and  light in everyone I meet.  I  love to tell stories through images, to capture a part of your life and give it back to you, a treasure that will be part of your family for generations.

And then I discovered a passion for teaching, so I coach photographers, hold workshops and classes, and the interaction with professionals really inspires me to give my best to my clients.

More about Fabrizia...

Ugo Cei

Ugo Cei

If you were to ask me what do I do, I would say that I am an educator who helps photography enthusiasts sharpen their skills, so that they can take amazing pictures.

I am a professional travel and landscape photographer from Italy with a multi-year experience in leading photo tours and workshops. I love to travel and show the beauty of the world and its inhabitants to everybody. This is really an amazing planet we live on and every place and every culture possesses beauty that deserves to be shown.

More about Ugo...

Country road with cypress trees in Tuscany

People Talk About Us

I was inspired, encouraged, and challenged to take my business to the next level. I would HIGHLY recommend this workshop to any artist, no matter your speciality, or years of experience – you will not be disappointed!

Shannon Craven Bright ... San Antonio, Texas

I have done 3 photo tours with 3 different guides and locations, this has been the best of the three. Ugo was definitely the best of the three guides. His attention to detail with setting the scene and location with models, suggestions on camera settings were helpful for me, a novice with portrait photography. I would definitely recommend any tour with Ugo, he is an excellent photographer willing to share his knowledge, experience and secrets of special places he knows to make the entire photography experience a lifetime memory.

Diana Hatfield ... Denver, CO

Although I'm not a photographer, as a makeup artist, I still gained so much from this workshop! Fabrizia broke things down in a way that didn't make me feel overwhelmed. I feel I have the tools to really get organized and I am more empowered today because of this.

Dora Vera ... San Antonio, Texas

After two photo tours with Ugo in Italy, I cannot recommend the experience highly enough – the local knowledge of Italy, partnered with photographic expertise and guidance made for an extremely rewarding photo tour! Ugo guides and mentors you according to your skills, regardless of whether you are a beginner or experienced enthusiast. I have come away with greater understanding of the craft and confidence to build my skill set. I am inspired to continue my learning journey to create beautiful images. Thank you Ugo!!!

Kerri Clark ... Canberra, Australia

Fabrizia has changed my life and business. I didn’t know where I was a year ago, the only thing I knew was that I love photography. I had bad prices and a bad system. She extremely patiently explained to me each step to take to be successful and happy and I cannot imagine now how I could I do it any different before. Her knowledge and experience is beyond any book and course and I love that I can talk to her about anything and she switches straight away into my shoes, giving great advice. I got so much more confident with my photography business and personal life thanks to her!

B. Alich

If you are planning to travel and love photography at any level Ugo can plan a personal tour to fit in with your itinerary! He has a wealth of knowledge to share with you on any subject of photography. Apart from photography (my passion) Ugo provides a total travel experience looking at Italy through the eyes of a local. A life changing trip leaving me totally hooked to book another! Thank you Ugo and yes I will be returning my dilemma is choosing a destination.

Sharon Jackson ... Gold Coast, Australia

Dates and Prices

The Full Monty

The retreat takes place from June 24 to Jul 1, 2023.

The price for attendance is €4,900 (all taxes included).

The price for a non-photographer spouse, partner or friend, sharing a room with a photographer is €2,900 (all taxes included).

Weekend Program

The retreat takes place from May 19 to May 21, 2023.

The price for attendance is €1,450 (all taxes included).

The price for a non-photographer spouse, partner or friend, sharing a room with a photographer is €750 (all taxes included).

What Is Included In The Full Monty Program

  • 8 days / 7 nights accommodation, double room sharing.
  • Daily group and one-on-one photography mentoring sessions (only for photographers).
  • Fabrizia's exclusive series of Superpowers lessons.
  • Portfolio reviews and critique (only for photographers).
  • Three meals daily, including water and a glass of wine per person.
  • Excursions to the countryside and the nearby cities, like Pienza and Montalcino (only for photographers).
  • A wine tasting session
  • After the retreat: A set of two 30 minute long, remote video sessions with one of your instructors.

What Is Included In The Weekend Program

  • 3 days / 2 nights accommodation, double room sharing.
  • Daily group and one-on-one photography mentoring sessions (only for photographers).
  • Portfolio reviews and critique (only for photographers).
  • Three meals daily, including water and a glass of wine per person.
  • Excursions to the countryside and the nearby cities, like Pienza and Montalcino (only for photographers).

What Is Not Included

  • Transportation from your place of residence to the villa and vice-versa.
  • Tips.
  • Extra drinks, beyond wine consumed during meals.
  • Travel insurance, though we strongly recommend you stipulate a suitable one before leaving that would cover you against any accidents or cancellations.

What Will You Do NOW?

You're at the point of decision. You can either continue down the path of least resistance, the path you have already been traveling, or you can choose the road less traveled. The path of least resistance will probably result in you getting the same outcomes you’ve always received. But if you want something different to happen, if you want to change the direction of your photography, you’re going to have to do something different. Make a new choice, close the gap and pursue your new artistic self.

How To Apply

Submit your application using the form below. We will be in touch shortly.

Retreat Submission