Course Start:
Instructor: Kerry Drager & Bryan Peterson Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129

When it comes to photography, compelling composition is everything, and yes, it can be taught! In this
interactive online course, Bryan Peterson and Kerry Drager team up for an illuminating visual adventure. Their class is guaranteed to surprise and inspire while also elevating your photography to a higher – “Wow”-impact! – level. Here’s more:

  • EVERY successful image is first and foremost about the artful ARRANGEMENT of the content and NOT the content itself. Any subject – even a commonplace or mundane one – has the makings for a winning image, ASSUMING the composition is a strong one.
  • Bryan and Kerry both favor a “capture the image in-camera” approach. As a result, their course shows how it’s entirely possible to produce eye-catching images with just a camera and lens … WITHOUT the need for extensive post-processing!

“Understanding Composition: Beyond the Basics” features four jam-packed lessons, each comprised of an easy-to-read text filled with insights, strategies, in-camera shooting techniques and lots of photo examples. How-to videos – short, fun AND to the point – will take you into the field where you can see the creation of eye-catching photography. Not to be overlooked are motivating assignments AND revealing critiques.

Exploring ADVANCED COMPOSITION CONCEPTS, thinking OUTSIDE THE PHOTOGRAPHIC BOX and experimenting with INNOVATIVE DESIGN IDEAS are main course themes designed to unlock your artistic potential. Among the specific topics:

Appreciating beauty in all the “wrong” places; working the scene; discovering the “pictures within the big picture”; pursuing clean backgrounds; framing with a foreground frame; learning to spice up an “empty canvas”; striking a good balance; panning for impressionistic motion; sweating the small stuff; capturing the decisive moment; breaking the rules creatively; etc.

“Understanding Composition: Beyond the Basics” will change the way you look at the world around you. In short, plan on a rewarding experience that will give your photography a creative jolt!

Course Requirements

You’ll need a digital camera with adjustable controls (along with a familiarity of aperture, ISO and shutter speed), and a lens or lenses that extend from wide-angle to telephoto. A tripod and macro capability are encouraged, but NEITHER is required for assignments. Current or past enrollment in the instructors’ other class (“Understanding Composition”) is not necessary for this course. HOWEVER, if you don’t have a good handle on the principles of composition (i.e., rule of thirds), you may wish to start first with “Understanding Composition.”


Lesson 1

Expanding Your Vision & Seeking the Pictures Within the Picture

So you’ve captured the big picture. Great, but that’s only the beginning! It’s now time to look for intimate scenes, or the “pictures within the picture.” This lesson starts by encouraging you to discover beauty in all the “wrong” places (old cars, scarred sheet metal, broken glass, junk yards, alleyways, fishing ports, etc.). In fact, the photographs that command the most attention often involve commonplace subjects composed in the simplest way. Also: tips on design, depth of field, etc. – concepts that apply to any lens (NOT just macro) and which apply to ALL subjects, mundane or not!

Lesson 2

Pursuing Clean Backgrounds & Sweating the Small Stuff

Here’s another great “rule” of composition: The background is at least as important as the subject itself! Topics: Advice on choosing (and managing!) backgrounds, while avoiding distractions, working with lighting contrast, changing your point of view, switching lens focal lengths, going with a shallow depth of field, etc. Also, we’ll explore why it pays to sweat the small stuff, by adopting a discerning eye for “little” distractions that can have a big impact on a photo. ALSO: How to strike a good balance among key parts of the composition.


Lesson 3

Mastering the Empty Canvas & Framing with a Frame

Broaden your view with two more concepts! 1) Seeing the empty or blank canvas and then spicing up things by positioning a person or object against a wall; or by placing a flower, feather, etc., on grass, tile, wood or other surface; by shooting photogenic subjects against a sunset sky. 2): Framing with foreground “frames”: Add visual appeal by framing a background subject with foreground tree branches, large boulders, architectural features, fences, tall grasses, blooming flowers, etc. ALSO: Panning for a soft-motion effect that leads to impressionistic-like images.


Lesson 4

Working the Scene & Capturing the Decisive Moment

Don’t stop at the first picture! Effective composition often involves working, or chipping away at, a scene. Accomplish this by changing your point of view, trying another lens, switching to a vertical format, or adding another element to the mix. Plus, at times, this means capturing the decisive moment, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famed image of a man with an umbrella jumping over a mud puddle. ALSO: Developing personal projects, or using self-assignments to boost your skills, energize your passion and flex your artistic muscles.

Instructor: Kerry Drager


Kerry Drager is an outdoor photographer who is known for his friendly teaching style coupled with constructive encouragement and solid advice. He is the author of Scenic Photography 101, and the co-author of the BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and the BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light.

For Kerry, BPSOP has been a natural progression after 12 years of teaching through’s former online school.

“I’m really honored to be working with Bryan,” says Kerry. “His school is an amazingly creative and supportive environment. And BPSOP is a perfect fit for me, since I enjoy the interactive online-class experience and love helping students from throughout the world achieve their goals.”

In addition to his how-to books, Kerry has co-authored two photo-essay books, and has been published in many magazines, calendars, greeting cards, etc. He has also been profiled in Outdoor Photographer and Shutterbug magazines.

Kerry works mostly with natural light and in-camera techniques. He lives on California’s Central Coast with his wife, Mary, their two Newfoundland dogs and one cat.

To learn more about Kerry, go to

Instructor: Bryan Peterson

bryan petersonBryan has been a photographer for over 30 years and teaching photography for 20 years. He brings a unique teaching style to the school which will guarantee creative and fun learning by all photographers while elevating them to new photographic heights that they only have dreamed of. In addition, Bryan is the author of such best selling books as Understanding Exposure, Understanding Shutter Speed, Beyond Portraiture: Creative People Photography, and Learning to See Creatively

bryan peterson




Thanks for your time and insights these last four weeks! I’ve had a great time going out and doing these assignments. Thank you!!

– Karen, student in Bryan and Kerry’s Understanding Composition

This was a great class. Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback and encouragement!

– George Botelho, Understanding Composition

I’m really sad that the class has ended, as I thoroughly enjoyed your critiques and feedback. … I’m feeling like I now have more confidence in my photography. … It was great to work with you. Your insights were very much appreciated!

– Bob Prescesky, Understanding Composition

Loved the class! Although I was aware of these compositional elements, your assignments made me move beyond instinct and become much more analytical about how best to use them. Thanks for helping make me a better photographer!

– Janet Susin, Understanding Composition

I thank you so much for your helpful comments and pointers! I am so glad I took this course. You have reminded me of sooooooo many things!

– Jan Carter, Understanding Composition

I am very grateful for your useful advice, your patience and your regular timing with the critiques. I appreciate your expert opinions. … I have enjoyed your course, and it has improved my skills!

– Eva Borbas, Understanding Composition

Thank you, Kerry, for all your wonderful critiques; all were very insightful. … Cheers!  

– Paolo Alvarez, Understanding Composition

Thank you so much for your wonderful course and critiques. Your lessons are so involved, it’s obvious how much you love your work. Each lesson could make a little book of photographic instruction. I am missing you already!

– Cathy Shotz, Understanding Composition

Your class was wonderful. I wish it didn’t have to end. Thank you so much, Kerry!

– Christy Y. Dain, Understanding Composition

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your course. Everything about it was perfect: from clear lesson instructions to beautiful and inspiring photographs, to thoughtful and encouraging lesson critiques, to insightful Bryan’s videos which were such wonderful hands-on additions to each lesson. This course was exactly what I needed and was looking for. Thank you!

– Alexandra Gier, Understanding Composition

This has been a great course. I learned quite a bit and the assignments made me get out of the house and go to new places. Thank you for your teaching and encouraging feedback

– Wolfgang Enneker, Understanding Composition

Thank you, Kerry! I will surely miss this class as I always look forward to  your critiques. You encouraged me to go out and look for that extra something that make my subjects pop out.  

– Vangie Killalea, Understanding Composition