Register before
April 1, 2017
for $319

Seeing Like a Camera Photography Workshop

  • David H. Wells, photographer & instructor
  • At PCPA Gallery, 118 North Main Street, 2nd Floor, Providence RI 02903
  • Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, 2017, about 14 hours total workshop time
  • Presentation and lecture — online presentation, “Seeing Like a Camera” covers the topics listed below. Presented on Vimeo and available on May 13, 2017. The video is over 1 hour in length and you can view once or many times.
  • Saturday location shoot (TBD) See the website of examples of location shoots for previous workshops— roughly 10am to 7pm
  • Sunday photo review, critique, and Q&A — 1pm to 5pm
  • Class limited to 12 participants
  • Registration fee for PCPA members please email Peter Miller for discount and invoice
  • Registration fee for non-members $359 per person, includes workshop and location shoot fees. Register before April 20, 2017 for $309

The hardest thing about photography is learning to see like a camera. It is a skill that the best photographers consciously (or unconsciously) master. It is the difference between a beginner’s occasional “lucky shot” vs the consistently strong images of a master photographer. Despite what the camera manufacturers claim, the ability to see like a camera is the most important thing in photography and not their cameras.

Humans look into a three dimensional world that our brain logically organizes. We see objects. We constantly scan a wide field and our mind focuses on specific things and “zooms” to isolate and target what and where we apply our attention. Our eyes are amazing instruments that automatically compensate for varying amounts of illumination, depth, and color of light. Our past experiences and emotions effect what we see and how we look at the world.

Cameras see only light and shadow with a limited, fixed-aspect view of two dimensions.

In order to see like a camera, photographers need to:

  • Learn how to use the monitor on the back of their cameras to evaluate the difference between what they saw in their mind’s eye and what the camera actually recorded.
  • Learn NOT to over-think their compositions by including content that is intellectually important to them but adds little to the viewer’s experience of the photograph.

Learning to see like a camera is a skill like any other skill, one that requires a grounding in the proper techniques followed by many hours of practice. Past students have loved David and his class. They learned how to master fundamental skills that apply to ANY kind of photography: landscape, portraiture, travel, street photography, still life, etc.

Topics covered in the orientation video and then on location include:

  • How F/stops and Shutter speeds control light (and their impact on the image
  • What is ISO and how controlling it helps (or harms) your images
  • Appreciating the quality and direction of light (and how to use it effectively)
  • The impact on the image of varying the photographer’s position (and angle)
  • The importance of “working” situations to get the best image of a situation
  • The impact of using different lenses (and when to use which)
  • Ways to control and use focus to create different narratives in your images
  • How and when to use the camera’s controls to convey a sense of time
  • Digital image file formats, JPG vs RAW, and when to use each one

The workshop will also explore proper techniques through short exercises in shooting, editing, and critiquing. With these new skills, photographers will practice, practice, practice, building skills as they move forward. This is a lecture/shooting class with extensive visuals.

Workshop agenda

May 13-19, 2017

  • The first part of the workshop is online at a time and place of your choice. David Wells has crafted a 1 hour, 18 minute video presentation and lecture specifically for the “Seeing Like a Camera” workshop. You will be able to view the video at one week in advance and watch again as many times as you like on Vimeo. See more details below.Saturday May 20, 2017 (times are approximate)
  • 10am – 7:00pm, location shoot (tbd). See the website of examples of location shoots for previous workshops

Sunday May 21 2017, Review, Critique, and Discussion

  • 1:00 – 5:00 pm
  • At Providence Center for Photographic Arts (PCPA) Photography Gallery, 118 North Main Street, 2nd Floor, Providence RI 02903. Directions and parking
  • Bring about 50 images, JPGs only, about 2000 pixels (+/- ) on long dimension. JPGS out of camera are good! No need to post process
  • 5 to 10 situations (no more!)
  • 10 or 20 images per situation (work situations!)
  • Bring images on HD or USB drive or flash card/memory card (no CDs or DVDs please)

Who is the workshop designed for?

The workshop is designed for photographers of all levels who want to improve their skills — from the weekend shooter to the advanced photographer. David is well known for his ability to work with every attendee, at every level of skill. At minimum, participants need to be comfortable using either manual exposure or aperture or shutter priority automatic exposure setting. You will need to know how to download images from memory cards to your computer and select the best 50 of the 200 plus you will shoot during the class.

What kind of equipment do I need?

A mirrorless or DSLR digital camera with zoom lens, autoexposure, and manual settings. Advanced “point and shoot cameras” often have these features and can be used for the workshop. Please email David with any questions.

Where is the workshop?

  • The first part of the workshop is online. David Wells will craft a 1 hour, 18 minute video presentation and lecture specifically for this workshop. You will be able to view the video one week in advance and watch again as many times as you like on Vimeo.
  • Saturday is a location shoot details TBD. We will meet at 8:15am and shoot until about 5:00pm
  • Sunday Review, Critique, and Discussion: Providence Center for Photographic Arts (PCPA) Photography Gallery, 118 North Main Street, 2nd Floor, Providence RI 02903. Directions and parking

David H. Wells, photographer, instructor, video-maker and blogger

David is an award-winning freelance photographer/video maker who specializes in producing photo-essays on location, across the globe. His finished “Light Studies” have been published in general interest magazines as well as photography magazines, and have been displayed in numerous exhibitions. See his work.

He is based in Providence, Rhode Island, affiliated with Aurora Photos, and is also a photo-educator. One editor described him as a “specialist in intercultural communication and visual narratives that excel in their creative mastery of light, shadow and sound, stills and video.”

His project on the pesticide poisoning of California farm workers was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Over the years he has worked on assignment for magazines Fortune, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Sunday New York Times, Time, and more. He also worked for corporations including Consolidated Natural Gas and DuPont and non-profits Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund.

David has received two Fulbright fellowships, a grant from Nikon/N.P.P.A., a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation’s Program of Research and Writing on International Peace and Cooperation.

His work has been in over fifty exhibitions and he has taught workshops at the International Center for Photography in NYC and at the Maine Media Workshops. He was featured in Photo District News as one of “The Best Workshop Instructors.”

You can see many examples of David’s educational videos on photography on his site, thewellspoint. It’s free!

See more at at his website.

Is lunch provided?

No, lunch is at your expense. We think it’s good to have a break outside the workshop. There are many excellent cafes and restaurants across the street or within two blocks with a wide range of cuisine and cost.

Cancellation Policy

Cancelled Workshops

  • If we are forced to cancel a workshop for any reason, your entire tuition will be transferred to another workshop or you can have it refunded to you.
  • For anyone traveling to workshops, we highly recommend purchasing trip insurance to cover your expenses in case of cancellation.

What does it take to cancel a workshop?

  • Only under extreme conditions. If there’s rain in the forecast, snow in the forecast, thunderstorms in the forecast, we will typically still hold prednisone the workshop. This type of weather can make for some incredibly dramatic images and it’s not something we shy away from. In addition to that, we are cognizant of the fact that our students have purchase plane tickets, made hotel reservations, rented cars and even gear and canceling these things can be a big hassle (with or without travel insurance).
  • The only time we will ever cancel a workshop is if conditions are absolutely guaranteed to bring un-shootable and/or miserable conditions or some sort of (God forbid) family emergency that can’t be ignored. Again, if something like this happens we will work with you to move your registration to a later date or get you a full nizagara refund.

Personal Emergencies

  • If you have a personal emergency such as a death in the family, please contact us as soon as possible, we are willing to work with you to reschedule or refund your fee on a case-by-case basis.


  • Partnered workshops require a minimum number of participants. In the event we don’t sell out or reach our minimum we reserve the right to cancel the workshop. In this case your registration will be transferred to another workshop or a refund will be given.