Aug 202012

Adam Marelli Photo Workshops

Before & After


There are a lot of photography

workshops out there.  How can

you be sure you are getting

the best value out there?  Here

is the first case study to share

the before & after success of

an Adam Marelli Photo



The same picture, taken from a different angle can make all the difference in the world. We reviewed how to set up a shot and wait for the subject. Cyrus proves that good fortune rewards those who wait. © Cyrus Katrak.


The Goal

Before I start working with someone, whether it is a workshop or a One-on-One, I try to get a sense of their perspective.  Its helpful to understand why a someone decides to pick up a camera.  I want to know what motivates them to devote the thankless hours of research, study, and practice.  Once I can see where they are coming from, I can start building a program that is right for them.  Depending on whether they are a workshop veteran like Cyrus, who completed Jay Maisel’s workshop twice before working with me or they are a total newbie, the approach needs to be different.  When it comes to teaching photography there is no “one size fits all” solution.  While the proverbial mountain may be the same the routes to success are as varied as the rocks on Mt. Everest.

Cyrus learned how to make his “umbrella subject” pop and create a simple, powerful image. © Cyrus Katrak.


Before Pictures

The set of images that Cyrus sent me were all street photography.  With his British sense of humor he enjoyed playing with the relationship of billboards to pedestrians.  The literal translation of the images was visible, but visually they were not working.  He could sense that and wanted to know how to make a picture stronger.  Like many people, he felt that something was off, but could not put his finger on it.  That is where I come into the picture.  When he arrived in NYC, I took some of his favorite photographers (Cartier-Bresson, Manos, ect.) and showed him the tools they were using in their picture, but they were not revealing in interviews.

By focusing on the geometry of the scene, Cyrus was able to make a horizontal image with a repeated series of verticals that what much more effective than the previous attempts. © Cyrus Katrak.


After Pictures

Out on the streets, just after a freak ice storm, we walked downtown to find some ideal situations.  During the learning or re-learning phase of a workshop we are not looking for the next cover of National Geographic.  We want to simplify the elements, so that he had lessons to practice when he returned to London.  I wanted to give him a set of ideas that would not be overwhelming, but rather they were intended to be just at the threshold of his skill set.  We found all the examples we needed to set Cyrus off in a new direction.

Cyrus learned how to use both the 1.5 format and the square 1:1 format to draw attention to his subject without loosing the gazing direction of the viewer. © Cyrus Katrak.

A few months after the workshop I checked in on his progress.  His new image were striking.  They were clear, powerful and a long way from his earlier shots.  He said that he felt like he could SEE a difference when he was walking around.  His busy schedule only allows for him to shoot sporadically.  Many of the lessons he learned were internalized over the coming months.  When he returned to his photo library he was seeing the same shots by Cartier-Bresson and Manos in a completely different light.


The old image on the left is flat and too literal to be interesting. But the image of the right, taken at this years Olympics in London, is clear in design, but leaves us wondering about the relationship of the screaming crowd to the man on the screen. (and Cyrus approved all of the images. I just did not get a chance to grab a non-copyright version in time for the article). © Cyrus Katrak.

When I asked him if the lessons I gave him were helpful he said:


Cyrus Katrak’s comment on my workshop. I was very pleased to deliver a working solution to Cyrus, especially considering the distinguished workshops he had taken prior to mine.

My Invitation to You

I never set out to be a teacher and in many ways that is not how I see myself.  I prefer to think of myself as an artist who opened his studio to people dedicated to learning the visual language.  It is something that grew very organically.  The further I pushed my own practice, the more often I found people asking me “Hey how can I do that?” or “How did you figure that out?”


This picture is more subtle. The images on the left looks flat. I wanted to show Cyrus how he could use atmospheric perspective to create a sense of depth in a scene. Now he knows how to do it every time. © Cyrus Katrak.


By approaching photography after years of drawing, sculpture, and building, I realized that the systems of design really do connect all of the arts.  The visual language is something that we all want to learn.  Next time you are with a group of kids, take notice of how many of them say drawing is their favorite activity.  Humans are creative beings.  Its in our nature.  These workshops are an opportunity for you to reconnect with the primal impulses that got you to pick up a camera in the first place.  We all have a unique perspective and deserve an opportunity to learn the tools that will allow us to express our thoughts, emotions, and indescribable feelings about the world around us.

Hope to see you at a workshop soon.


Adam Marelli


For Cyrus, there is no looking back. He can confidently compose a clean image with two people and give us a tremendous sense of depth and clarity. I cant wait to see how his pictures evolve in the coming year. © Cyrus Katrak.

  8 Responses to “Adam Marelli Photo Workshop: Case Study 001”

  1. Impressive progress indeed! Well done you both :-) . Personally, I’ve problably learned more with just observing and waiting for the composition to arise than with actually taking pictures….And thanks to you Adam, I’ve started to study the old masters (painters and photographers as well) and try to internalize their sense of composition (I hope that I express myself properly as I am not an native speaker).

    I’ve come across a great documentary on HCB and his fellow artists, which you are problably already aware of. If not;



    • Hi Vincent,

      I am most happy to hear that the old masters are going to use. Surely they are pleased too! Your expression is totally understood. What is your native language?

      THank you for the link, I have seen the film, but there are probably a bunch of people who have not seen it. Have a look, its a beauty.


      • Hi Adam,

        As I live in the Netherlands, my native language is Dutch. However, as I have a fairly amount of friends and acquaintances abroad, I use the english language quite often. I am actually born in the UK but have dutch parents and have only lived there for about 1 1/2 years. Glad to share de documentary on HCB, it’s a gem! Keep on the good work Adam and I wish you a lot of succes with your workshops.


        • Hey Vincent

          I owe you a response. Should be able to get back to you by tomorrow morning.

          Hang tight until then.


    • While we’re sharing nice documentaries. I prefer this one


  2. I’m not sure if you’d ever consider it, but if you ever decide to teach a workshop on the west coast of the US, I’d definitely attend. I’ve learned a lot just from reading your blog a workshop would be fantastic.

    • Hey Rob,
      If we can get a group together I would be happy to come to the West Coast. Where are you located?

      Could you leave a comment on the Workshop page, this way other West Coasters could chime in. Once we get a few we can put something together. Would be great to work with you in person.


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