Strengthen your photographic vision by incorporating the elements of design and composition.

Date: Jul 29 – Aug 4, 2018
Levels:  Intermediate, Advanced
Workshop Fee:  $1295
Class Size: 14

Image Credit: Joe Baraban

THE ARTIST’S PALETTE: Imagine yourself standing at some location with an artist’s palette in your hand. A recently stretched canvas is waiting on an easel, and a jar full of cleaned brushes sits on a small table next to you. Cobalt and Ultramarine Blue, Raw Sienna and Burnt Umber are positioned side by side while Chromium Oxide Green, Cadmium Red and Yellow lie together opposite them; Mars Black and Titanium White sit in the middle. They all have been squeezed from tubes and anxious to be mixed together.

Now, imagine that instead of all those wonderful pigments on your palette, they are the ‘elements of design and composition’. Terms like: Vanishing Point, Negative Space, Perspective, Tension, Color, Texture, Pattern, Light and Line, have been etched into the aged wood.

Everyone knows what happens when you mix red and blue, right? You get purple. How about when you mix blue and yellow together? Green, right again. But, what happens when you add Tension, a few Patterns, and Perspective together while taking your daughter’s portrait during an outdoor birthday party? Or Negative Space, some Texture, and a Vanishing Point when you’re composing a street scene in a small Tuscan village? Well, you’ll get the picture.

Remember you’re still an artist, but a camera on a tripod has now replaced the stretched canvas and easel.  Through examples of my own work, I’ll help you develop your ‘eye’ by showing you how to incorporate these ‘elements of design and composition’ into your imagery.  A new, finely tuned vision will be the result, and you will walk away armed with the ability to create powerful and memorable photographs.

CHASING THE LIGHT: With daily assignments and exercises to heighten your awareness of shooting during ‘the golden hour’ (early morning and late afternoon), you will gain a better understanding and sensitivity to light as it enhances every aspect of these important ‘elements of design. The differences between backlight, side and front light will be studied, and last, learning to use the ‘angle of reflection’ in directing the light source to the subject will soon be an integral part of your visual thought process.

With provided software, students learn how to determine exactly where the sun will be anywhere on the planet from the moment it comes up at sunrise to the instant it sets; and where the shadows will fall days or even months before an important family outing, a personal trip, upcoming wedding, or commercial shoot.

Image Credit: Joe Baraban

SEEING PAST FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Photographers tend to come across a location or a subject and take the first picture that they see, then move on leaving a lot still on the table. During the week, the class looks at what Joe calls the ‘Master Shot’. This is the first idea that pops into your thought process, and a photograph you could live with in case it started to rain on your parade.

After taking this shot and putting it safely ’in the can’, Joe will show you how to look for better ways to visually say the same thing or tell the same story.  Getting up close and personal, looking at it from way down low then way up high, changing lenses, adding or subtracting props, and putting in or taking out people. Then, look at it from various ‘points of view’ while constantly keeping in mind the direction of the light.

What’s important about the Master Shot and the following images is that while you’re shooting you learn the difference between one of my favorite expressions; taking a picture and making a picture.

THE “DOES IT” LIST FOR GOOD COMPOSITION:  In this workshop, Joe discusses what he considers the ten most important areas to remember when composing your photographs, and students learn to love what he calls the Fifteen Point Inspection Plan.  This is when the commonly used phrase ‘use it or lose it’ will start to make sense. Joe’s Plan will become an important addition to your camera bag that you take with you wherever you go.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GESTALT:  How we perceive and process visual input is a part of our everyday life and as photographers, it’s our prime objective to present this visual information in a way that takes control of what the viewer sees when they look at our photography. In our reality, making the mind work harder is not necessarily a good thing, but in photography it is.  By leading the viewer’s eye around our composition, or having them complete an image, or have them consider the scene, they are taking an active role, and when we can accomplish that, our images will definitely be stronger.  Discussions and exercises based on the five concepts of Gestalt will be an important part of this workshop.

Joe has conducted workshops in Maine, Santa Fe, California, Florida, Texas, Canada, as well as online. Intermediate to advanced amateurs as well as working professionals have all learned how to take their photography up a level.  

Joe promises that “stretching your frame of mind”, breaking the rules, and making mistakes in a supportive atmosphere is a great way to spend the week and learn!

At the end of this workshop, provided you have committed yourself to the process of making better pictures, you will walk away with a much greater command of your craft, be at a higher level of perception, and have a redesigned portfolio to show off your new skills.

Since the workshop centers around the basic ‘elements of design’, Joe promises that everyone, no matter the skill level, can benefit from this class. A good knowledge of your camera and the ability to shoot on manual is all you need.


“I just finished taking Joe’s Stretching your Frame of Mind workshop. I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Joe for his approach to teaching and his willingness to share his tremendous wealth of knowledge. Learning about critical elements of design and the discovery of the artists’s palette has changed the way I make pictures, and the way I look at the world. This has been a truly outstanding experience with an outstanding teacher. Thank you Joe!”    – Alain

“I just finished taking Joe’s workshop and it was nothing short of extraordinary. Because of Joe and the ideas and concepts he teaches, I see everything differently now. Whether I’m driving along a country road or watching TV, I now see negative space, vanishing points, color, light, texture, pattern, shape, line, color, angle of reflection, tension, perspective – everywhere. Knowing these critical elements of design have truly not only changed how and what I photograph, but have changed the way I look at the world in a very real way. Joe is the best teacher I’ve ever had anywhere, on any subject. If you are considering taking a class with Joe, I cannot recommend him highly enough.”    – Shauna

Past student work(left to right): Hannah Wilde, Meryl Silver

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Instructor: Joe Baraban

After receiving his BA in Journalism, Joe ventured out into the freelance world and never looked back. For the past forty plus years, Joe has shot professionally for clients from Coca Cola to Hennessy, Cessna to United Air Lines and Boeing, and from Microsoft to IBM and HP. He has shot the full line car brochures for Acura, Saturn, and Range Rover, not to mention campaigns for Acura, Jaguar, Mazda and Ford. The tourism departments for Alberta, Canada, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Texas have contracted Joe to shoot images for their state campaigns. Just to name a few. Over the years, National Geographic, Life, Texas Monthly, Time, Geo, Newsweek, and the New York Times Magazine have used Joe for several of their editorial assignments. Recently, four of Joe's photographs, including three from the series "Window Dressings" have been added to the permanent collection of photography at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas.