composition & creativity
with sarah wilkerson
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Composition and Creativity is geared towards intermediate to advanced photographers. This unique course covers compositional principles, viewing psychology, and artistic considerations relevant to photographers as they conceptualize, frame subjects and scenes, process their work, and develop a personal artistry. This course focuses on improving image composition, strengthening visual interest and artistic intent, and refining your photographic vision for maximum impact on the viewer. The instructor will remain available to you for all five weeks and will hold a screencast based “office hour” for live Q&A, demonstrations, and discussions during break week.
4 weeks + 1 break week
daily shooting required
6-8 hours of work per week
this course has prerequisites
All participants must have a mastery of technical basics (exposure, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc) and proficiency with their preferred processing software (Lightroom and/or Photoshop recommended). Participants need not shoot in manual regularly but must be comfortable doing so. We will not be covering or critiquing technical basics in this course.
Sarah Wilkerson is the CEO of Clickin Moms and a photographer since 2006. Her approach to photography is guided by literary Romanticism and cinematography, and she gravitates towards light-driven storytelling, rich color, and the dreaminess of tilt shift work. A former attorney and graduate of Duke University, Sarah is a married to a skydiving Army JAG and has four children.
The following photographers also participate in discussions and provide assignment critiques as teaching assistants: Megan Cieloha, Lisa Tichane, Emma Wood, Kristy Dooley, Kristen Dokoza, Kristen Ryan and/or Celeste Pavlik
A number of course alumni are invited to engage in discussion, share insight with students, and provide feedback and encouragement throughout the course.
• 4 Weekly Printable Lesson Downloads with Assignments (outlined below)
• Instructor-Led Online Q&A for Each Lesson
• Personal Critiques of Weekly Assignments by Instructor & TAs
• 90 Minute Live Office Hours and Workflow Walkthrough (plus Recording)
• Tonal Pattern Action Set for Photoshop
• Processing for Composition: Lightroom and Photoshop Tutorial Videos
• High-Speed Processing Plan Demonstration Videos
• Introductory and Wrap-Up PDFs with Introspective Bonus Exercises
Study Along students will have access to all materials and will be able to view all content and conversation in the main workshop forum and receive access to their own private subforum for peer study groups and image shares. Study along students will not be able to ask the instructor questions or request instructor feedback on their assignments.
Welcome & Preassignment
Reading: Elementary vs. Advanced Critique; Levels in Photography
Preassignment (optional): Words Exercise; Technical and Aesthetic Levels analysis
Lesson One: Basic Compositional Considerations
Reading: Artistic responsibility; Eight basic factors; Framing and Blocking; How to plan a shot; Documentary authenticity; Is processing “cheating”?; Defining Distractions
Assignment: The 25% Rule
Lesson Two: Beyond the Rule of Thirds
Reading: Rule of Thirds, Golden Mean, Golden Triangles, Golden Spiral
Assignment: Golden Compositions (Two Parts)
Live Office Hours
Discussion (optional): Self Doubt and Self Analysis
Lesson Three: Photography’s Essential Conflict
Light in Composition; Looking for Light; Value Patterns; Viewing Psychology; Form; Exposure and processing for dramatic light
Assignment: Dramatic Light
Lesson Four: Balance and Visual Interest
Reading: Compositional Balance; Asymmetrical Balance; Visual weight; High Attractants; Framing; Achieving Balance; Processing for Balance
Assignment: Processing for Balance
Closing Thoughts and Final Exercises (optional)
The CMU workshop is a 100% online classroom experience. Once you sign up, you have access to a course forum that is open 24 hours a day so that you can learn and join discussions on your own schedule.
Each week students receive a set of course materials– these materials generally include a PDF and/or videos. Throughout the week, instructors and TAs are present in the forum every day to answer questions and offer encouragement. Students receive an assignment each week that pertains to the topics covered in the course materials and class discussion throughout the week.
Full Participation students engage in an interactive online classroom experience that includes instructor-led group discussions and detailed, personalized guidance for the duration of the workshop. Full participation students post their assignments in the forum and receive instructor and TA critiques each week. They also have lifetime access to a Workshop Alumni forum for continued peer discussion after the course concludes.
Study Along students have access to all materials and are able to view all content and conversation in the main workshop forum. They also receive access to their own private Study Along subforum for peer study groups and image shares. Study along students will not be able to ask the instructor questions or request instructor feedback on their assignments, but they can follow along with instructor critiques of the Full Participation assignments.
Whether you are a Full Participation student or a Study Along student, the course materials are yours to keep.