The Art of Seeing Photographically

For Digital and Analog Photographers

with Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee


Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee have been photographing for a combined 85 years. Their photographs have been collected by 140 art museums worldwide. They conduct occasional workshops at home and abroad to share their experience and knowledge. They have no secrets.

Participants have come for their weekend workshops from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Korea, China, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Indonesia, Norway, Alaska, Hawaii, northern Canada to name a few. In addition, they have taught many workshops in other foreign countries. Don’t miss this opportunity to study with them at their home/studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


Workshop Description:

Friday evening–Sunday afternoon, September 14–16

For analog photographers: Monday, September 17 can be added for a full day in the darkroom. See below.

The purpose of this workshop is to help each person make better photographs, and in doing so, to experience personal growth. And if participants already make exceptional photographs, but find that they do not do so consistently, then this workshop is equally helpful for them. In most all photography workshops everyone learns something and has a good time. But afterwards they do not necessarily, in their own terms, make better photographs. After our workshops, almost everyone makes better photographs. This is because, we have been told, we have a way of describing and demonstrating an approach to making photographs that is exceedingly helpful and unique.

In this workshop you will not learn any “rules.” You will go “beyond composition.” You will learn to see more than you already see and to take a more creative approach to photographing, and as a result, based on our past experience with former participants in our workshops, your photographs will be better and you will have a higher percentage of keepers, as well as having more pleasure in the process.

This workshop is for all levels of photographers and for those who work in all formats—from digital cameras to 8x10- inch view cameras.

Complete Workshop Description

The workshop will begin on Friday evening and will continue through Sunday until late afternoon.

Friday: 7 p.m. –11 p.m. ±

Saturday: 9 a.m. – until dark

Sunday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. ±

On Friday evening we take a preliminary look at a sample of the participants’ photographs (without comment) from their portfolios. Each participant is asked to bring a portfolio of his/her photographs, at least 10, and up to 40 prints. This is followed by a discussion of our own work and the visual things that go into their making. This is an extensive discussion of visual concerns common to all good picture-makers. 

On Saturday morning we take our cameras into the field and demonstrate how we work. During this time we work with each person individually and demonstrate a creative way to use a camera that will, in all likelihood, expand and enhance the photographer’s way of thinking, looking, and working. Although we will be using an 8x10-inch view camera for this demonstration, it is relevant and useful even if the participants photograph in 35mm or any digital format.

Saturday afternoon is a time for everyone to make photographs. During this time we will actively look at the viewing screen of participants’ cameras and comment on how well they are seeing and will suggest broader approaches.

On Sunday we will take a careful look at each participant’s portfolio of photographs and discuss them in light of all that has gone before during the weekend. Our hope is, by this time, everyone will be able to anticipate much of what we might suggest to improve his/her work. The more photographs that a participant brings, the more helpful we can be. These photographs should be in as finished form as possible, and preferably mounted.

At the end of the workshop, at participants’ request and time permitting, we will cover any topic that may not have been discussed or demonstrated.

For those who still use film, we will schedule an additional day, Monday, in which we teach developing film by inspection and a printing session that demonstrates an approach to printing that will help you print more quickly, and at the same time, guarantee that you will make better prints. There is an additional fee of $500 for this extra day. 

Price: $995 (Friday –Sunday)

An extra day, Monday, in the darkroom is an additional $500

$200 non-refundable deposit is required in advance to hold your place.

Remaining workshop fee due 3 weeks before workshop.

Unsolicited comments by former participants:

 “You guys changed me, my photography and how I view what I do more than any other single event in my lifetime! I am serious :)”

 “I must say that your seminar was the best investment I have made since I bought my first shares of GE a long time ago. Not a day goes by that I do not put to use some of the vast knowledge base I learned.”

 “I truly enjoyed your workshop. The experience expanded my perspective and I have not felt this level of excitement since I started in photography. The best workshop of the dozen that I have attended.”

“Just a note of thanks to you both for having me at your wonderful workshop. There are events that occur in one's life that you consider a milestone for growth for who you are or become. I can honestly say that your workshop is one of my milestone events. You have renewed my photographic vision. You have reaffirmed my love of photography.”

 “I have been a commercial photographer since I was 17. I went to college, assisted the top photographers in London, worked on global international advertising accounts for the last twenty five years, and last year I went back to college to do my Masters. Not once in all that time have I ever had such an interesting and informative photographic experience.”

 “Michael and Paula’s insights and comments, provided me with a whole new understanding of what I was doing! I felt like the man who didn’t realize he was speaking prose his whole life!”

 “Just wanted to drop you a note to thank you both for a wonderful weekend. I feel privileged to have been part of your workshop. I learned more in those three days than I have in all my previous workshops. No further workshops are needed.”

 “Thank you for a wonderful workshop, I am still reeling over how much information and advice you gave all of us. I was very impressed with how both of you were able to balance working with all of us as individuals as well as a group. A very rare gift.”

 “Just a quick note to thank the two of you for a wonderful workshop this weekend. I cannot begin to express what an eye-opening experience it was working with you, both in the field and in the darkroom. I have been photographing a long time and I have never come across anyone who uses the camera the way you do to truly explore the world as a visual experience and turn that experience into a print that becomes something more than what was seen. This was truly revolutionary for me.”

 “I want to thank all of you for making the workshop such an unforgettable experience. I'll likely never look at a photograph or my ground glass the same way again. I couldn't be more excited!”

 “I used to feel that I mostly took OK images, and every once in a while I would have a real gem. I took the workshop last year and the only drawback is that I now have too many good negatives and not enough time to print them all.” 

 “The Vision and Technique workshops are amazing. Anyone who has not taken it, sign up now! I am an art/philosophy student at the university of Arizona, and that workshop was simultaneously the best and worst decision I ever made. “Best: You learn an incredible amount. Michael is an amazing teacher. The techniques he and Paula have developed make the process of making beautiful photographs simple, second nature like. Plus, they are amicable, down to earth, and give honest feedback. “Worst: I now feel the University is a waste of time and money! paying nearly $1200 (which is time and half the cost of Vision and Technique) for brutish 18-week stomp to cover a topic Michael can teach more eloquently, and thoroughly, in about 12 minutes! As you can see when I say worst I mean that as a compliment to Michael and Paula. Take the workshop! It is amazing!”

 “I want to thank you both for your guidance and inspiration. It really has had a major positive impact as far as my photography goes. You are really good at this teaching stuff, Michael. Really good. You understand and connect with the creative process at a core level and along with Paula are able to pass it along to others without a bunch of rules and “shoulds.” And if we can then connect (or reconnect) with that core (universal rhythms, visual relationships, inner resonance-whatever), we are free. Free to discover and see things in our own unique way. As long as vision/seeing stays in the driver's seat. That is some insight to be able to give to others. If anyone else out there is able to do the same, they are awfully quiet about it.”

 “I’d just like to again commend you both on a wonderful weekend. You both certainly love what you are doing and it shows. Your attention to detail in your photography is quite evident; it continues into the organization and preparation of the workshop itself. My thought process while making photographs is forever changed thanks to your observations and comments.”

“What an incredible last few days!!
You have definitely improved my photography by one (or more!) giant steps.  And pointed me in the direction for even more. And seeing the real prints of so much of both your work was such a treat!  And your kindness and hospitality were equally amazing.  Over the top.  And your house and other buildings are just so carefully thought out and executed so well.  And your fire truck and Land Rover.  And Paula’s amazing artwork above her most excellent photography.  So much talent!

… it was just a fabulous past few days.  In every sense.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!