Understanding Composition

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


“The subject was awesome, and the rest of the scene was inspiring. So why did my photo turn out more forgettable than memorable?”

This question is an all-too-common one. But the answer rarely has to do with content. What gives an image impact and emotion is a strong composition – the artful arrangement of objects, graphics and space within the picture frame. In fact, a good understanding of composition will help you translate the wonderful scene you see into a picture that captures your imagination.

In this interactive online course, Bryan Peterson and Kerry Drager team up for an illuminating adventure designed to take your photography to exciting new levels. The instructors offer four extensive lessons, each comprised of an easy-to-read text filled with tips and techniques, and illustrated by instructional photos. In addition, videos will take you into the field where you can see – firsthand – the makings of a given photograph. Not to be overlooked are motivating assignments and enlightening critiques.

Understanding the fundamentals, thinking outside the photographic box and experimenting with new ideas are overriding themes in this course. Among the insights and strategies that Bryan and Kerry cover are the following:

Avoiding the bull’s eye and split horizons; using the Rule of Thirds; filling the frame; going vertical vs. going horizontal; recognizing the visual power of lines; creating and controlling depth; managing backgrounds; paying attention to the “fine print; embracing the wide-angle perspective; composing with contrast; and breaking the rules.

If you’re a beginner, this rewarding and fun-filled course will take you beyond the snapshot stage and into the realm of composing well-conceived images. If you’re an advanced shooter, you’ll learn innovative ways to fine-tune your vision and expand your artistry. Regardless of your skill level, these jam-packed four weeks will open your eyes and change the way you look at the world around you.




Lesson 1: The Basics & Beyond

Avoid the bull’s eye and split horizons: Why many photographers hang out in the middle. Embracing the Rule of Thirds – the traditional guideline for off-center subjects and horizons. Fill the frame: Don’t blow things out of proportion! To fill the picture with your scene, take two steps forward (“zoom with your feet”) or use the lens to zoom in tighter. Also: Border patrol (beware of “fine print”) and breaking the rules.


Lesson 2: Working with Format & Design

Verticals vs. horizontals: Why turning your camera on its side can boost your composition. When to go vertical, when to go horizontal, and why you should consider both formats whenever possible. Line & design: Learn to recognize, and artfully use, the most common design element: line.


Lesson 3: Controlling Depth

Learn the visual power of foregrounds – for a more intimate connection with your viewers as you lead them into the rest of the scene, and for creating a sense of front-to-back depth. Also: Choosing and shaping the background. Embracing the wide-angle perspective and “distortion.” Understanding Depth of Field. Compressing space with a telephoto lens.


Lesson 4: Composing with Contrast

Contrast comes in many different forms. For example: Light vs. dark. Vivid vs. subdued color. Blurred motion vs. sharp focus. Also, the disruption of a pattern can produce a compelling photo. Of course, this whole concept of contrast can be a negative thing, too: i.e., non-essential elements that draw the viewer’s eye away from your main subject.


Course Requirements:

The course’s emphasis is on shooting/camera techniques and on the use of natural light. You’ll need a digital camera with adjustable controls, and a lens (or lenses) that extend from wide-angle to telephoto. In addition, you should have a good knowledge of aperture, ISO and shutter speed. A tripod is recommended, although not required.




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.

“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 www.kerrydrager.com

What are students saying about Kerry & his online courses? 


Instructor: Bryan Peterson

bryanpetersonBryan 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 Flash PhotographyUnderstanding Exposure, Understanding Shutter Speed, Beyond Portraiture: Creative People Photography, and Learning to See Creatively.

bryan peterson

What students are saying about Bryan Peterson and his online courses?


Spring_Countryscape_Drager Succulent_Pattern_Macro_Drager Urban_Reflections_at_Sunset_Drager Sandpipers_Beach_Sunset_Drager Landscape_Storm_Clouds_Drager L4-Contrast_Buoy_Fishing_Ropes_Drager L3-Depth_Sunset_Pier_Drager L1-Subject_Rope_Gate_Drager L3-Wide_Horse_Blankets_Drager


I really enjoyed this course on composition a lot and learned again as always! Have just been through some more of your critiques for others in class – I also love to learn by seeing work of classmates. A big “thank you” for a great four weeks! You are always kind and never discouraging! This has been wonderful and helps a lot!!

– Séverine Blaise

Thank you so much for your critiques. You had a large class, but you managed to interact with each of us as though the class were small. I appreciate all the time you spent on my work. BPSOP provides me with education and professional critiques, but it also pushes me to get out there to deliver the best, fresh images I’m capable of, rain or shine. Thank you, Kerry, and thanks to BPSOP!

– Mike Ferrari

This course certainly taught me to compose differently, to look for color, contrast, and a theme to each picture. Sometimes I have very little time but I just “keep shooting”. Thank you so much for your time, Kerry!

– Eva Golecka

Thank you so much for your helpful and instructional feedback in the critiques. Thank you also for answering all my questions in this forum!

– Leslie Somogie

I have really enjoyed this class and learned a lot. Thank you so much!

– René

I loved being part of this class, seeing the photos everybody was submitting and really enjoyed your invaluable critiques, Kerry. Sometimes with a small change, you were doing magic with the photos. I hate that the class is over. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and skills with us!

– Barbara Michalowska

Thank you for an excellent course. The lessons were extremely useful, and your gorgeous photographs were and will continue to be useful inspirations.

– Angela Furtado

This has been a fantastic class! The lessons were full of great examples, and very helpful information (of course, including Brian’s videos). And your critiques were very detailed, positive, and will certainly help improve my future photographs. I have enjoyed viewing the rest of the classes photos, and critiques; and lots of information in the Forum discussions. Again, thank you for sharing your expertise.

– Jay Salzman

To Learn more about how our courses work please visit: Course Info

“I just wanted to thank you for another wonderful class. I have to confess that each week when I read the new assignment, my first reaction was mild panic and a deep certainty that I would not be able to produce anything worthwhile that fit within the parameters you had set. But before I knew it, the ideas started to flow, and I quickly became obsessed (no, that isn’t too strong a word!) with exploring the possibilities. I can honestly say that the photos I produced in response to your assignments are among my favorites. Thanks for bringing out a creative side I didn’t know I had!”

Barbara Geiger
Understanding Color

“Thank you so very much for this course! It’s allowed me to take the blinders off and present my images for what I want them to be without being a slave to the “reality” of the camera. I would also add that in conjunction with your printing course, this has been the most useful course I’ve ever taken. Your notes are more than comprehensive and your comments and critiques are direct, clear, and always directed to the improvement of the art.”

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” I want to thank you for this class and for your patience and availability to answer all of my questions. I have learned very much through this class. I have used LR in the past, but mostly for editing images. I now have a better grasp in the organization of my images, an even better understanding of editing images, and an understanding of the value of presets. I still have a lot to learn, but this has put me on the road to be able to improve my photography. Again, thank you! ”

Dale Yates
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