The Documentary Approach

with Lauren Mitchell, Felicia Chang, Heather Whitten, Jessica Thomason


$300 Full Participation | $150 Study Along

They say truth is stranger than fiction. We believe it’s more beautiful too. Take a step back from the perfectly orchestrated set-ups and learn to appreciate and document the world just as it is.

This unique, intense four instructor-led workshop will cover the principles and compositional techniques of capturing your every day with a photojournalistic approach. Learn how to utilize available light no matter the time of day or where you are. With challenges and exercises that dive deep into fears and address mental blocks head-on, you’ll come out with a greater understanding of what truly motivates you to capture your life in a photograph.


All students will need a wide angle, prime lens (35mm or wider is highly recommended) — or if using a zoom lens, keep focal length on a fixed setting — on any camera body that can be controlled manually. Students should be familiar with basic principles of composition and have a well developed understanding of natural light. Students should be comfortable shooting in manual.

what you’ll get

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1 PDF per week authored by each of the 4 instructors

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Full participation students engage in instructor-led discussion and Q&A for daily interaction and support. Study along students have full viewing access.

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Full Participation students receive extensive personal critiques of weekly assignment submissions.

Study Along Students have full viewing access.


Documentary/Photojournalism discussion topics in the forum to engage thoughtful conversation

Live instructor assignment critique each week (recorded and available to stream or download)

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Comprehensive demonstrative videos regarding topics like shooting, culling and editing.

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Live instructor assignment critique each week (recorded and available to stream or download)


Welcome and Pre-Assignment


What to expect

Lesson One



What is documentary photography? (discussion of the spectrum of portrait/lifestyle/documentary)

Ethics and rules of documentary photography

History of documentary photography

Discussion of approach vs aesthetic

Intro to the trifecta of light/composition/moment

Making the most of challenging light


Submit two images for CC – 1) an image taken in light that was challenging for you and 2) an image where light creates a strong narrative

Lesson Two



Framing, layering, leading lines, visual weight, micro-composing – using these compositional techniques to tell a story in documentary photography, discussing the inherent objective of telling a story through compositional elements


Shoot to show compositional elements. Submit for CC.

Lesson Three


HOW TO NOT GIVE A F&*k (aka Finding the best moments)

“rules” and how to break them, the emotional ‘whys’, intuition, voice, identifying and confronting fear and vulnerability

emotional ‘whys’

intuition, voice, identifying and confronting fear and vulnerability


Shoot one image of something that scares you. Think about shooting for you as the audience and no one else.

Lesson Four



creating a series of images that work together

single image narrative vs a photo essay

shooting your ‘Day in the Life’

discussion on how to include yourself in your DITL

culling/post-processing/presenting your DITL across platforms


Submit a 5-10 image short essay or a culled personal DITL (80 images or less) for CC.


as seen on instagram


"I created some of my favorite images in this class, and not so much because I was focusing on technical things, but focusing on what truly made my heart happy. "

read more reviews >

about your instructors

The Documentary Approach is taught by a team of four photographers: Jessica Thomason, Heather Whitten, Lauren Mitchell, Felicia Chang. We come from a variety of documentary photography perspectives: personal/family, client, and environmental/street.
You can view their portfolios here:,,,

how it works


download weekly lessons

Each week, students receive a set of course materials, which generally include a PDF and instructional videos. All course materials are yours to download and keep.

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chat online

Your workshop registration includes access to a private online forum for sharing and discussion. The classroom forum is open 24 hours a day so that you can learn and join discussions on your own schedule.

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study & ask questions

Study on your own time, and check in on the classroom forum for interactive learning. The instructor is present in the forum every day to answer questions and offer encouragement.

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complete weekly assignments

Students receive an assignment to complete each week that pertains to the topics covered in the course materials and builds upon 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 critique 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.


  • I took the Study Along course and it was great!. I have always loved documentary style photography but have tended to shoot more lifestyle/portraiture. This class inspired me to step back and get more of the story, and it has completely changed my approach to shooting. The instructors are all amazing photographers and incredibly inspiring teachers as well. If you are looking to shake up your ideas about what makes a beautiful photo and challenge yourself to shoot the good, bad, and ugly, then this class is for you!

  • This class will take your photography to the next level, and the level after that! You will learn to make meaningful images that hold steadfast to the truth of the moment. These are the images you (or your clients) will treasure. These are the kinds of images you pack when your house is on fire. (So to speak, because you have cloud storage, right?) And getting feedback from FOUR different instructors every week is the icing on the cake.

  • Totally agreeing with what my co classmates Mary and Leanne wrote: absolute game changer for me as well. I am seeing the world through a different light and I am loving it (most of the time :) The passion each instructor is putting in their subjects is remarkable, including the valuable information you will get out of it as a student.

    Jessica, Lauren, Felicia and Heather are great examples of following your heart with photography instead of the crowd and the often times more important LIKES you will get in today’s world.

    Every time I go out to shoot right now, I am much more aware of embracing whatever light is out there, compositional elements and the true moments playing out in front of me. Like Mary stated as well: there is still a lot to learn, but shooting the documentary way renewed my passion for photography in a total unexpected way! I can’t wait to get back to West-Africa
    – where I live and work most of the year – and bring into practice all we’ve learned :)

  • Leanne Hymes says:

    This course was an absolute game changer for me. To start, there are 4 instructors who each bring their own strengths to the course and it is designed brilliantly to highlight them. They are incredibly generous with their time, offering office hours for discussions and are extremely response on the forum. One of the best parts is that you get critique from 4 people on each of your assignments which is absolutely invaluable! Another piece of the course which I greatly appreciated is how immersive it is. In addition to the written materials each week, there are videos, recommended readings, podcasts, etc. The pictures I produced in this course are ones that I will hold dear 20 or 30 years from now and I can’t stress that enough!

  • Honestly, I don’t think I can put into words how much this course has changed my view both through the lens and life itself. But I will try.

    I’ve been shooting since 2008. At one point I was a Pro member here at Clickinmoms, mostly doing portraits, fine art and lifestyle photography. Trying to do it as a business, and juggling life, by 2014ish -I got burnt out. I lost all inspiration. Picking up my ‘big’ camera became a more of a chore, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who went through that. A lot of it was that my kiddos got older (and harder to photograph in that ‘clean, carefree’ way). I wanted to take storytelling images, but thought that the only way that would work would be to have the perfect light, right environment, etc. therefore if that wasn’t working in my favor, forget it.

    I started studying documentary photography. Watched some videos, tutorials, etc. For some reason I wasn’t quite ‘getting it’ – the documentary way. So I decided to take this course – looked like something I could use, plus I LOVE Jessica, Lauren, Felicia and Heather’s work! Mind you – at the beginning, it still took a lot to get me to pick up my ‘big’ camera.

    There’s a lot of information! (maybe just for me) but it took a bit for me to absorb. But it was so interesting listening to all the critiques, watching all my classmates document their lives (and of their friends) and in such an interesting way. I learned so many techniques that really changed the way I shoot from the camera and how to view the world through the frame. How to work around the clutter, the bad lighting, catch those ‘moments’ that are worth catching in a way that is still artistic, evoking emotion and sometimes just plain quirky – Just interesting for the viewer. I still have a long way to go, but I felt that I had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment during this course and it’s getting easier for me to get those shots that I wasn’t quite able to before.

    Long story – shortened – I now can’t seem to put down my ‘big’ camera! Shooting not only my family, but friends and clients in this new way (new to me at least). This course was a game changer for me and I can’t relay how grateful I am for all the information and help that Jessica and all the TA’s provided. (I really want to take it again!).

    Well – if you haven’t noticed….I HIGHLY recommend this course! Thank you so much!

  • Beth says:

    There are more and more documentary classes popping up these days… I signed up for this one because of all the amazing reviews, and it did not disappoint. The written and recorded material is well presented, full of great info and tips, yet not overwhelming to get through each week. The assignments were perfect stepping stones that built up to the final weeks where we got to try a family and a client day-in-the-life, which I’m SO glad I did, both for the learning experience and the final product. Also, the feedback provided by the TAs is invaluable… very detailed and a lot of care taken. Overall, excellent course… I’m sad that it’s over!

  • Juliane says:

    This workshop was the best workshop I participated in so far on CM. Jessica’s and the TA’s involvement in the course was amazing and the material was brilliant. I always wondered how photographers manage to catch the “decisive moments” in life – I finally got an answer. The class was definitively an eye opener for me. I very much liked the many lively discussions among the participants and the TAs and AHs. You will get the most out of CM classes when shooting every day. This is the more true for this workshop. Applying the concepts I learned in class was for sure challenging and brought me to my boundaries but I learned a ton and now know much better what kind of photos I want to take and on what I still need to work on technical wise. It is definitively worth running for this course!

  • Heather Mohr says:

    I can’t say enough good about this class. Jessica and the TAs were all so helpful. I loved all the in-depth discussions that took place, and the feedback was fantastic. I’m a birth photographer, and so many of the things I learned in this class will help me be better at that. The class also has transformed the way I think about my day-to-day shooting. I’m no longer afraid to miss moments of my life, because they lack some element of photographic perfection. I’ve now even done my first DITL as a result of this class, something I always saw as too daunting to take on in the past. Now I’ll be doing it multiple times a year, no doubt! If you’re undecided about this class, just stop thinking and sign up! You won’t regret it!!

  • Terri says:

    This class is AMAZING! I have taken quite a few classes at Clickin Moms (all study alongs because by the time I get around to registering the full participation is sold out). If you have the opportunity to take this as a full participation student do it. The amount of information Jessica provides is invaluable. The pictures, the stories she shares, the inspiration, it is all game changing. Even the TA’s are amazing and are so eager to help. The feedback all of them provide is awesome (I found myself reading their critiques of all the full participation students and got a lot of helpful insights here-but no where near as helpful as if I had been a full participation student). Run to sign up for this class, you will not be disappointed.

  • Agata Cicha says:

    I follow Jessica’s work for 3 years now so when I saw that she has a workshop coming up I knew I had to take it. I was late signing up for the first run and was considering SA seat but decided at the end to wait for the second run. Gosh I was so glad I did!!! This class is so amazing and I wouldn’t give up my FP seat for nothing!! Even though I learnt a ton from listening to the critiques on other participants assigmnent, more than anything I wanted to hear what Jessica and her wonderful TAs have to say about my work and progress. Jessica is an amazing teacher and her and TAs feedback was invaluable!!! If you love this style of photography don’t hesitate to sign up and prepare yourself for 4 weeks of learning from the best and overall incredible expierence. If there is ever a Documentary Approach part 2 I will be first one in line to sign up!!

  • I have nothing but good things to say about the course. I have been on a ” learning bing ” with documentary photography and hers is the best so far!!!

  • Elaina says:

    Goodness, I don’t know that I can give this class enough praise. While documentary photography is a genre I’ve been drawn to for a long time, I just couldn’t pull it all together in my own work. I lacked the confidence and my photos lacked that special feeling I was after. I signed up on a whim and with little to no expectations. I didn’t really know what to expect or even what it was I was hoping to gain. But that whim has paid off ten fold! This class blew me away from day one. Jessica and her TA’s were top notch. The course material was thorough, the conversations were on point and the feedback was amazing. I could go on and on and on. But in short, if you have any interest in documentary photography or are looking for more from yourself and your photos, put this class at the top of your list. You will not be disappointed! Best I’ve ever taken on CM.

  • As my first CM workshop, I have to admit I was blown away! The materials, discussion, conversations and constructive critiques went far beyond what I expected in the full class. Jessica and her TAs (and alumni helpers) were tremendous; everyone was serious about how to improve and encouraging the whole way. And not only was this a journey with my photography, but a personal exploration of why I shoot — I walked away with so much more than knowledge about documentary approach and I thank Jessica for that.

  • bobbie cohlan says:

    amazing class and teacher and TA’s. I am sooooo glad i took this class. I really didnt know much about documentary photography before. I learned so much and am so inspired by this class. I think it generally helped improve my photography no matter what the gendre. There was so much to think about the art of it all. Lots of links for inspiration and a very active forum for discussion. I really recommend this taken as a full class as the forum was very stimulating. Jessica is an amazing teacher and very responsive. She takes a lot of time and always answers the forum and questions. The cc for weekly assignments is very detailed and some even done as a video. Each cc was so specific and really helpful in my own development as a photographer. Jessica and all the TA’s were very encouraging. I highly recommend this class to any one, pro or hobbyist ( i am a hobbyist) . I guarantee you will learn and grow as a photographer/artist

  • Heather says:

    I just finished the latest run of The Documentary Approach. It was absolutely amazing. It was everything I had hoped for. PLUS. I can’t say enough about this class. I was feeling very drawn to documentary style photography and this class did not disappoint. Jessica is a passionate and dedicated teacher. As are her TA’s; Felicia, Lauren and Heather. I am very grateful to each one of them for their honest and incredibly helpful feedback. Do not hesitate to sign up for this class. It will push you and take you to new places as a photographer!

  • Kristin Rutherford says:

    RUN and get your seat for this workshop!!!! I have taken many here on CM and this is one of the best by far!! Jessica and her TAs were FANTASTIC!! They were present and gave such wonderful feedback. They will push you, but is is honest, raw and fun all wrapped into the perfect workshop!!

  • Karen Holden says:

    I just completed the documentary workshop as a SA. It was such a fabulous course and extremely informative. I have already been able to apply what I learned to my photoshoots. It’s such a refreshing way to approach photography. I loved it!

  • Michelle says:

    Well, what can I say about this class. I loved Jessica’s breakout and wanted to learn more from her on documenting my family in this style. This class is amazing and definitely changed my shooting style to something that I love about my images now of my family! Jessica put her heart and soul in this class was very active and interested in what all the students were shooting. Take this class if you think you would like to try and shoot more documentary style for your family and even clients. The TA’s were amazing also, and all willing to help and give guidance whenever you needed. If you are considering taking this class, take it, it was amazing and one of the best I have taken so far. Thank you Jessica for the wonderful workshop!

  • Kellie Llewellyn says:

    I have taken a lot of CM classes and this one is one of my favorites to date. The pictures I took while taking it I know will be some of my favorites forever. The DITL was truly eye opening and I made myself get in the frame for it. Now, I want to do one every 6 months. When someone is looking at a picture I took, I want them to feel something. This class taught me so much about how to make more pictures that are feeling evoking. The everyday routines and things that seem so small and irrelevant are what I’m going to miss the most someday when my kids are grown and gone. Taking this class I learned how to capture our family right now. Jessica and her TAs feedback was extremely insightful and helpful. I HIGHLY recommend this class.

  • Rene says:

    This is by far the best course I have taken here at CM and I have taken some great ones :) Jessica is an amazing teacher and it is obvious she put her heart and soul into creating this class! There is so much information. She is all in, very active. Questions were answered quickly. She gives good honest feedback that gets you thinking. If you are interested in documentary style photography, I promise you will not be disappointed!

  • Melissa says:

    This class is amazing! If you want to really push yourself to think about and shoot your subjects in a new way this is it. Jessica’s materials are fantastic, well written and challenging but don’t fear she is an amazing teacher who provides generous amounts of incredibly supportive yet critical and honest feedback. This class has reignited my passion for documentary photography but anyone can benefit from Jessica’s course especially if you are looking to document real life, real connections and real beauty.

  • Cody says:

    I’ve taken several classes through Clickin Moms, but this is the first one that I feel compelled to review! I’ve been drawn to documentary photography for several months now and The Documentary Approach convinced me that this is where my heart is. Jessica does not teach how to make a pretty photograph; rather, she helps you discover how to shoot to capture real-life moments. I loved all the assignments, and the feedback Jessica and the TAs provided was invaluable! I didn’t feel like I was just taking a class…I felt like I was welcomed into a community of like-minded photographers!

  • Nicole says:

    I discovered Jessica about a year ago when I fell in love with documentary photography. I started following her and when I found out she was teaching a documentary class I had to sign up! Jessica’s class is the first I’ve taken of any kind so I was a little apprehensive/nervous/not sure what to expect. Her class The Documentary Approach ended up being so awesome and I am so sad it is over. Her lessons were great as well as her feedback, support and encouragement. Jessica was an open book for all of our questions and I felt really comfortable sharing with her and the group. Even though the class was only 4 weeks I feel like it helped me to start growing again as a photographer. The photos I took of my family during the class are some of my favorites! I will be forever grateful to Jessica for helping to give me the direction I needed as well as teaching me more about storytelling, composition, moments and how to keep it real.

  • Erin says:

    I took this class as a study along student and I was hesitant because it is very different from the way I normally shoot. Also, I struggle with staying accountable and engaged in study along classes (totally just my personality!) Jessica is an amazing teacher and in the first week, I saw my shooting change to capture the moments I wanted to capture of my family. The study along group was amazing and Jessica made us feel engaged and welcome. She even popped in to check on us! If you are at all interested in shooting documentary, even if it is just for yourself, run to take this class!!!

  • Sylvie says:

    If you have any interest in documentary photography, run and sign up for this course! Jessica is not only a gifted photographer, but also a gifted teacher. Her feedback in thoughtful, generous, and supportive. I know I will come back to her advice and lessons again and again and again. I have taken many courses and this has been hands down my absolute favorite. Thank you Jessica for an amazing four weeks!

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