Storm Approaching Mahweet

As photographic artists, we are always seeking to improve our technical skills and keeping up with the latest camera and editing technology. But when we see a photograph we like, can we really say what it is that we like about it? We don’t usually say that we like a photograph because the artist stopped down three stops or used Lightroom to edit the image. There is usually an emotional connection to the image through the use of light, line, shape, etc. It is the composition that makes the image memorable. Composition in photography is often boiled down to the rule of thirds or “the golden rule of photography”. But can great art come from following one single rule?

Photography, like any art, has principles and elements that contribute to a well-composed photograph. What are these principles and elements? How do great photographers use those principles and elements to create memorable photographs? Photography is different than painting in that photographers do not begin with a blank canvas. Photographers are faced with visual chaos and are charged with making sense of that chaos. Understanding the principles and elements of photography and applying them is a step towards making that visual chaos into a good photograph.

In this small six-week workshop we will step back and introduce you to the elements and principles of art. We will show you how to use these building blocks well to create good compositions. Then you will learn what photographers use to create great photographs.

Week one: The first week we will break down a composition into the basic elements.
Week two: We will cover the principles, or how these elements are used within art.
Week three: We will look at our own work and at the work of great photographers in history.
Week four: We will review the principles of composition in real-world situations, and you will get to apply them by beginning work on your mini-portfolio.
Week five: You will check in with us as you work on your mini-portfolios, and we will discuss when it’s appropriate to break the rules.
Week six: We will do a thorough critique of each portfolio.

Our goal is to guide you along the way so that by the end your compositions have improved and you are seeing more like a great photographer.

Any and all cameras accepted, we just ask that you know your gear. This is not a class in how to use your camera, though we will discuss some technical details as they apply to composition and making great photographs. We will be reviewing work each week, so if you choose to use film, please be aware that you will have to create at least two images for each assignment to be completed before the start of each class.


Neeley (Main) Drown is a photographic artist with an insatiable appetite for travel and making photographs. Her award-winning work has brought her to many countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe and to one of her favorite places, Cuba. Meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and making friends are what inspire Neeley. Her work has been exhibited around the San Francisco Bay Area, San Antonio, Texas, and Havana, Cuba. She lectures frequently about many aspects of photography, including street photography and the photographic book. Despite teaching photography herself through regular workshops, she makes the time to learn new techniques and new ways of seeing the world from other great photographers, such as Amy Arbus, Frank Ockenfels, Kate Jordahl, Brigitte Carnochan, and others.



Don Whitebread PortraitDon Whitebread is a passionate photographer working mostly in black and white landscapes. His work has received a number of international awards and has been featured in publications including Black and White Magazine, PhotoTechnique Magazine, and Luminous Landscape. He exhibits his photography widely including solo exhibits at the San Francisco Airport, the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts. His past study with renowned photographers like John Sexton, Ray MacSavaney, Brigitte Carnochan and Mark Nelson, and decades of collaboration and experimentation give him a wealth of insight into how to create exciting photography.


Wednesdays: October 1 – November 5, 2014 

6:00 – 9:00 pm

Location: Neeley’s home in Sunnyvale. The address will be provided to those who register.

After processing your payment to secure your space in a workshop, you will receive confirmation that your payment has been accepted and the address of the workshop in Sunnyvale. Because we are teaching this out of Neeley’s home, that address will only be sent to registered workshop participants.

Two weeks prior to the workshop you will receive the logistics for the workshop, suggestions on what to bring or not to bring, and a course schedule.


Maximum 8 people


The cost for this six-week workshop is $425.00. This includes professional and personalized instruction, guidance, and regular critiques by the workshop instructors.

Payment can be made via Paypal. Please use Paypal link below.

Questions?: If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact Neeley at or Don Whitebread at

Cancellations, Delays & Refunds:

For any cancellations, we must receive written notification of your cancellation to

The following fees apply for all cancellations:
90 days or more before departure: full refund minus $250
89 days to 45 days before departure: 50% of workshop fee
Fewer than 45 days: 100% of workshop fee
Refunds will not be given due to inclement weather. We are not liable for any additional costs due to delays or cancellations.

Should we need to cancel a workshop due to insufficient enrollment, you will receive a full refund of all payments made within 30 days of workshop cancellation. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

A full payment will reserve a place for you in the workshop.

Payment for the workshop can be made via check, money order or credit using Paypal.

Images on this page are by Neeley Drown and Don Whitebread.

 Workshop Testimonials:

“Want to thank you again for a great day in chinatown. You have a knack of seeing what we are doing and what we need to do to improve and present it in a positive way. Really appreciated your insight and critique, especially when everyone was included. Learned from what you had to say about the images of others as well as mine. Well done Wonderful group of participants. Don’t remember the last time I took a class where everyone got along so well and were always willing to work together. This just added to the days enjoyment and learning.” – Sonny

“It was a great experience! Been to Chinatown many times, but didn’t really see it.” – Michael

“I enjoyed the workshop a great deal. I learned a lot and am looking forward to putting it to use with a lot of experimentation.” – Saphyre

“Thank you for a wonderful workshop! I learned a lot and it was a very fun, productive day!” – Sonya

“You did an outstanding job of being our mentor, cheerleader and more! The best in so many ways! You have a real gift for being a fabulous workshop leader” – Mary

“I want to thank you for the wonderful workshop this past Saturday. I enjoyed it very much and definitely learned some good techniques and ideas that will help my shooting.

I want to particularly thank you for being so organized and informative. So often I end up in a workshop or class where the instructor has not given the format and presentation sufficient thought to make it a truly learning experience. Not you. You really did a beautiful job on all counts.” – Tom

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