Michael Freeman

Photography Foundation

  • Recommended


    Includes personal feedback and tuition. More

  • $199

    Learn in an online classroom with no more than 20 classmates. More

Course Description

Award-winning photographer, author and teacher Michael Freeman teaches you the foundations of photography.

You'll receive a thorough grounding for pursuing photography seriously. This course uses the original Basic Course at the Bauhaus as its basis.

You'll learn all aspects of photography, and develop your own portfolio and style as you learn.

Choose Expert option to receive personal feedback from Michael on your work.

The course covers all aspects of composition, far beyond the idea of simply making a vaguely satisfying image by following so-called rules (least of all the trivialised rule of thirds). It is designed to be the basis for further courses of any kind in photography.

Composition is nothing less than the underpinning of photography.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master, wrote, “This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.”

Composition is the way in which photographers turn real, chaotic life in front of them into images within a frame. As such, composition begins with a clear understanding of what the subject is, what it means to you, and what you want to say about it.

Cartier-Bresson again: “You can’t compose gratuitously; there must be a necessity, and you can’t separate form from substance.”

This Foundation Course will equip you to create distinctive, meaningful images that express your personal way of seeing, an essential first step on the path to developing your own photographic style. Find out more


You will not need any special photographic equipment for this course. A DSLR is preferable, but a compact camera or even a camera phone could be used to complete the assignments. A tripod would be useful, but not essential, as well as a selection of prime or zoom lenses ranging from wide angle out to telephoto zoom.

We also recommend purchasing The Photographers Eye and The Photographers Eye: A Graphic Guide as a way of enhancing your learning experience, as additional reading is suggested in the course notes.

Course outline

  • Photo Composition

    Composition has a purpose in both art and in photography. It has three possible jobs:

    • Create Order,
    • Direct the Viewer,
    • Create Interest.

    Michael Freeman will teach you how to compose your photo, and you'll be submitting 3 new photos to demonstrate your composition skills.

    Lesson length: 27 minutes

    Assignment: Take a series of photos demonstrating creation of order, distracting the viewer's attention and adding interest (i.e. through unexpected content)

  • Frame and Framing in Photography

    Learn how to frame your photograph.

    Michael will show you how to choose which part of the image to include and what to exclude, and how to divide a scene.

    You'll learn where the main subject of your photo should be and be taking photos alongside Michael and your classmates to demonstrate frame and framing techniques.

    This class includes cropping techniques, stitching, vertical framing, creating frames within frames, how to use negative space and understanding historic ratios.

    Lesson length: 29 minutes

    Assignment: Take a series of photos based on the theme of frames/framing. You can either uses lines in the image, make a vertical framing, place an object in an extreme off-centre position or create a symmetrical and precise composition (choose 3)

  • Contrast and Balance

    Michael will teach you the fundamental concept of contrast and balance in photography.

    You'll learn and practice how to contrast between elements and parts of the image, from brightness and texture to sensation and meaning.

    You'll explore different kinds of balance, from static to dynamic, and finally the conceptual balance between content and the graphics of the image.

    You'll be taking photos which demonstrate your understanding of contrast and balance in a photograph.

    Lesson length: 30 minutes

    Assignment: Take 3 photographs demonstrating contrasting qualities, balancing different sized subjects, deliberate imbalence or using vectors to direct the attention of the viewer

  • The Viewer's Eye

    You'll learn how to use the viewer's eye in your photography.

    Michael will explain the the psychology of perception as an aid to composition, and how to consider the different visual weight of subjects.

    You'll see how to use eye scan-paths (and what the viewer's eye sees in a photo, and in which order), how to attract (or repulse) an audience, perspective and how to use repetition and rhythm in your photography.

    You'll take photos to show how to satisfy or challenge your audience.

    Lesson length: 30 minutes

    Assignment: Take 3 photographs which demonstrate either an image in which a small figure is distinctly noticable, one of the 'Gestalt laws', a row/group of similar subjects or a 'flattened' image with little perspective

  • The Graphic Elements

    You'll learn how to use graphic elements and visual vocabulary in your photography, and you'll discover why Cartier-Bresson viewed photos upside down.

    Michael will take you through using lines, shapes and vectors in your photos.

    You'll be practicing by uploading your own example photos with graphic elements.

    Lesson length: 34 minutes

    Assignment: Submit 3 photographs demonstrating either a single subject as a single point, two subject which are distinct enough to have a graphic relationship with one another, lines dominating the composition, use of an implied triangle or an image containing strong vectors

  • Photographic Elements

    Michael will take you through the mechanics and optics of the camera and lens

    You'll learn how to use the camera and lens to create their own graphic elements and effects in the image.

    This lesson includes an in depth look at focus (deep, shallow, tilted), shutter and motion, focal length and the family of lenses, from wide-angle through standard to telephoto.

    You'll demonstrate what you've learnt in a series of photos showing focus, lens use and motion.

    Lesson length: 37 minutes

    Assignment: Submit 3 photographs demonstrating either deep focus, shallow focus, frozen motion, or motion blur.

  • Composing with Light and Colour

    This lesson takes you through the use of light and colour in your photography.

    Michael will demonstrate high-key and low-key photography composition, you'll learn the art of chiaroscuro and you'll be exploring the use of colour including pastels, muted colours, and colour-accents.

    You'll practice with a set of your own photos which demonstrate your use of light and colour.

    Lesson length: 36 minutes

    Assignment: Submit 3 photographs demonstrating either a high-key image, a low-key image, chiaroscuro, colour domination, a two-colour scheme, colour accent, a scene in which all colours appear muted or a processed black and white image

  • The Process of Shooting

    In the last lesson you'll learn how to find images and create a portfolio of images that satisfy your audience.

    Michael will show you how to analyse your images, how to plan your photography and anticipate and create reactive shots.

    You'll learn how to use juxtaposition, create expressive photos and use a documentary approach in your photography.

    Lesson length: 30 minutes

    Assignment: Submit 3 photographs demonstrating either a reaction shot of an unplanned moment, juxtaposition of two subjects, still-life or a situation where you could anticipate what would happen, but not able to influence

Choose how you want to learn

  • The Expert option


    Develop your learning further with marked assignments and personal tuition from Michael Freeman

    • Start course whenever you like
    • 8 weeks tutor access for personalised assignment feedback & coaching
    • 8 assignments marked by Michael Freeman
    • Certificate of completion
    • Online classroom with up to 20 classmates
    • 8 lessons with expert videos & notes
    • Group chat & direct message with tutor & classmates
    • Lifetime access to videos, notes & classroom
    Learn more
  • The Peer option

    Discover the benefits of group learning in an online interactive classroom of no more than 20 people. Get the most from shared knowledge and community study

    • Start course whenever you like
    • Practise what you learn with your peers
    • Online classroom with up to 20 classmates
    • 8 lessons with expert videos & notes
    • 8 course assignments
    • Group chat & direct message classmates
    • Lifetime access to videos, notes & classroom
    Learn more

Photography classroom - how it works

  • Start anytime

    Watch video tutorials led by expert tutors

    Watch video tutorials led by expert tutors
  • Test yourself

    Practice what you learn with inspiring assignments

    Practice what you learn with inspiring assignments
  • Personal tuition

    Get assignment feedback from expert tutors

    Get assignment feedback from expert tutors
  • Share ideas

    Collaborate and chat directly to classmates

    Collaborate and chat directly to classmates

Meet Michael Freeman

Michael Freeman - Photography

Michael Freeman, is one of the world's most respected and prolific photography writers and teachers.

Amateur Photographer Magazine
Michael Freeman is the world's top author of photography books, drawing on a long career as a widely published international editorial photographer. He has published to date 133 books, of which 66 are on the practice of photography, with 4 million copies sold, published in 27 languages. He has an MA in Geography from Oxford University, and in a career spanning 40 years has worked for most of the world's leading publishers, including Time-Life, GEO, the Sunday Times Magazine and the Smithsonian Magazine, with which he has had a 30-year, 40-story relationship.

Much of his work has focused on Asia, beginning in the early days with Thailand, expanding outwards through other countries in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, with several books published on Angkor and other Khmer sites. This was followed by several years photographing in Japan, and more recently, China. His most recent book of documentary reportage is Tea Horse Road, tracing the ancient trade route that began in the 7th century between southwest China and Tibet. Before that was the 2005 Sudan: Land and People, still the only full visual record of the (now two) countries.

On the craft of photography, Freeman's best-selling volume is The Photographer's Eye, which has sold more than 800,000 copies to date. He conducts photography workshops in locations as varied as the Gulf states, Indonesia, Singapore and China, and speaks regularly on photography, at venues varying from the the Royal Geographical Society, to the Smithsonian in Washington and the Asia Society in New York.

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