Creative Eye Workshops By Mike MacDonald

Creative Eye Workshops By Mike MacDonald

1 employee
26 years in business

About this pro


Your instructor, coach, and the creator of Creative Eye Workshops™ is internationally published photographer, Mike MacDonald.

Self-taught, Mike started out taking pictures like everyone else. But just eighteen months later, Mike became a nationally published photographer with an article called “Frozen Images” in Outdoor Photographer Magazine.

As a world-class conservation photographer, author, comedian, computer programmer, and mathematician, Mike has a deep and insightful grasp of the technical and creative aspects of photography. But most importantly, he knows how to teach. The information he presents and the way he presents it inspires students to take their photography to the next level. After all, enthusiasm and passion are at the heart of Mike’s teaching, and the passion is contagious.

With degrees in mathematics and physics, and careers in scientific computer programming and professional comedy, Mike possesses rare and symbiotic credentials that make him stand out as a photographer and a teacher. He draws upon his unique background to simply explain complicated subject matter. This includes the use of  custom graphics and animations to help students visualize, imagine, and absorb even the most complex material.

For over twenty-five years, Mike has been photographing Chicago’s natural wonders. As Chicago Wilderness magazine’s most prominently published photographer, his images have been nationally and internationally featured in many publications, including Outdoor Photographer, Petersen’s Photographic, Boy’s Life, and BBC’s Gardens Illustrated magazine.

In 2015, Mike photographed, authored, and published the literary coffee-table book entitled <a href="">My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders/a>. It earned national acclaim when Publishers Weekly described the photography as “glorious” and the writing as “celebratory, soulful, and poetic.” Read full review. Building upon the book, Mike then created ChicagoNatureNOW!—a free website that  helps Chicagoans discover the natural beauty that surrounds them.

Never satisfied with his own work and always pushing the envelope, Mike’s goal has been to create magnificent images of the flat Illinois prairie that rival calendar shots of the mountainous western United States. And he’s done just that. The 2019 and 2020 editions of the world-famous Sierra Club Wilderness Wall Calendar will feature Mike’s images of the Chicago region.

In this effort to create dramatic photographs of the horizontal landscape, Mike created what he likes call “The Chicago Style,” an immersive style of landscape photography designed to give viewers a hyper-realistic experience of any scene. He uses an approach that fuses macro and landscape photography to transform a seemingly flat (prairie) landscape into a rich, three-dimensional panorama. This is why so many people admit feeling like they’re inside the photograph. The technique also emphasizes simplicity and sensitivity as a way of communicating the essence and emotion of complex panoramas—the hallmarks of Mike’s work. Another characteristic of Mike’s work is his exacting compositions that are frequently confused with paintings. But unlike a painting, Mike’s work conveys the beauty, magic, and emotion of the real world—one that is perfect, just as it is.

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Downers Grove, IL 60516
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What is your typical process for working with a new student?

First off, should you take a class or a private lesson?

If you're a beginner and our classes fit your schedule, then our photography classes are usually the best way to go. And they're less expensive than private lessons. Plus, because you're just starting out, you need to learn the fundamentals first. In just five short classes, you won't believe how far you've come. Check out this page for which classes to take:

- Beginners: If you cannot make the classes or you have a compelling reason for not taking the classes, then I can help you. Ultimately, you will be taught the same information contained in the existing curriculum. 

- Intermediate or Advanced Students: Depending on your existing knowledge, it may be more efficient to teach you in a private lesson. Just let me know precisely what you want help.

What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?

- Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Minor in Physics from University of Illinois - Chicago
- Nationally and internationally published photographer which includes how-to photography articles in national magazines like Outdoor Photographer and Petersen's Photographic.

Do you have a standard pricing system for your lessons? If so, please share the details here.

Class prices can be found here:

Learn about our Money-Saving Workshop Packages here:

Private Lesson pricing can be found here:

How did you get started teaching?

I wanted to share my groundbreaking landscape photography techniques with the world. Unfortunately, I soon realized that these self-described "intermediate" and "advanced" students were severely lacking in their techical abilility. That's when I decided to create a curriculum of classes that would teach the fundamentals and help students to confidently make great images in the real world.

What types of students have you worked with?

I've worked with all levels of photographers.

Because of my scientific background, I'm able to simplify and explain complex topics to any level of photographer, especially wobbly beginners.

What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?

Being a photographer isn't enough to be able to teach photography. Please read what our students have to say about Mike's teaching style and ability:

What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?

1) Tell me your goals, not what you think you need to learn. That's because, as someone new to the topic, you can't ever know what you need to know to achieve those goals.

When you tell me that you want to be a great _______ photographer (fill in the blank), that's a good start. What fills that blank lets us know what kind of subject matter you want to photograph. And subject matter is everything. But you need to trust me to tell you what you need in order to get there. This is why, for beginners, I simply say to take our five core classes:
- Get to Know Your Camera
- Digital Photo Basics 1
- Make Great Pictures, Now!
- Complete Exposure
- Photoshop Elements Essentials

If you skip any of them, then you're not learning what you really need to know. For instance, not taking "Photoshop Elements Essentials" is a huge mistake. But you wouldn't know that until the fourth session of Complete Exposure, when you learn why you desperately need it. (And, if you're a beginner, I guarantee that it's not for the reasons you're thinking right now.)

2) How serious you are about learning photography? I'm committed to your success when you are committed to your success. If you're serious and do the work, then the sky's the limit.

If you really want to learn photography (or anything, for that matter), you first need to learn the fundamentals. There are no shortcuts. Unfortunately, many teachers skip the difficult-to-teach basics to make it easier on them and easier on you. After all, they think that if it's too "hard," then you won't want to hire them again. But our philosophy is different. I teach you the "hard" stuff while also building your confidence. That's because I know how to make the tricky subjects easier to understand. And I know that if you work hard, with my help, you'll master them. Instead of trusting your camera's dubious automated controls and hoping that you'll get the shot, my goal is to train you so that you can stand on your own two feet in the real world, prepared for any situation. For instance, most instructors don't teach you the fundamentals of exposure and have you rely on the camera's guessing games. I teach you how to quickly and confidently nail your exposures by manually spot metering. I challenge you to find any instructor who teaches exposure this way.

At Creative Eye Workshops, I respect you and don't sell you short. I believe that, with a little work and our guidance, you'll be able to master any topic.

And finally, remember this: MISTAKES ARE YOUR FRIEND. If you make mistakes, good for you! You're better for them. Imagine, you're confused about a topic and have everything backwards. However, once you figure it out, you'll literally know it forwards and backwards. And you'll know it better than the person who picked up the idea right away.