Mastery: The Art of Color Photography

with Stephen Wilkes

May 7 and 9, 2024

Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 – 8:00 pm (Mountain Time)
  • Tuition $295.00

Course Description

Color is all. When color is right, form is right. Color is everything, color is vibration like music; everything is vibration.
 — Marc Chagall

Over the last five decades, Stephen Wilkes has been a passionate explorer of the language of color. Seeing color has captivated his soul, from his earliest explorations in photography to the evolution of his visual style in creating his “Day to Night” series. Color has been at the heart of everything he feels and sees. Over two evenings in early May, Stephen shares his inspirations in developing a personal language in the art of color photography. His four-hour program is certain to change the way you experience and perceive color as a photographer and alter your creative approach toward the medium.

On Tuesday evening, Stephen explores the photographers who shaped and defined the creative use of color in photography and the processes they used to define their work, beginning with autochromes in the early 1900s to Kodachrome to Dye Transfer to Polaroid to Velvia to digital capture. Stephen exposes the ground-breaking photographers from the early color masters to his contemporary colleagues. He uncovers the lessons and insights each photographer adds to the history of the artful use of color photography. The multitude of visual dialects within color photography over the past century is extraordinarily important to all imagemakers today.

As he moves through his rich history of artful color photography, Stephen covers light and color theory moving through a timeline of discovery and influence, we engage in a rich aesthetical analysis along with varied technical considerations—the WHY of photographing in color, and how certain photographs only work in color. He discusses how one can create a visual narrative using color and focuses on the unique interactions between colors, and how the color of light drives all of these interactions. Stephen reviews the different techniques for photographing with color film versus digital capture and how having mastery in analog expands your skills in digital. And finishing up this engaging evening, Stephen discloses how digital capture can actually allow you to dial in the color you are seeing in real-time.

On Thursday evening, Stephen focuses on his inspiration from studying art history and paintings, in particular. He guides us through a selection of master painters whose work has changed the way he perceives and understands color. We explore a deeper way to view a painting, how “optical blending” exposes your mind’s eye and sensitizes your visual cortex to see new colors within our natural world. As visual artists, there is much to be learned from examining and being inspired by painters. This evening also includes an insightful sharing by Stephen of his personal work in color—reinforcing how his influences and inspirations have formed his creative process as a color photographer.

Question and answer sessions are sprinkled throughout each evening presentation to keep the audience engagement at a high and enjoyable level. This being said, if you can’t make the live events, recordings of the two programs will be available for a month for all those registered.

Additional Information


Open to anyone interested in this special program.

Special Notes:

Class will meet 6:00 – 8:00 pm (Mountain Time) on Tuesday, May 7, and Thursday, May 9 (two online group sessions).

Zoom Video Conferencing software (available for no charge from will be used to facilitate the class sessions. Further details will be emailed to registrants.

Santa Fe Workshops always aims to produce a high-quality experience for our online attendees. That said, variables including regional and local internet provider speeds, traffic on Zoom's servers, and your own computing hardware can contribute to a less than ideal streaming event. While we do our best to minimize the impact of these variables, they are outside the control of Santa Fe Workshops.


View Withdrawal and Transfer Policies for online programs.

For the convenience of participants, recordings of each class session are posted privately for one month after the end of each session. Santa Fe Workshops takes the recordings down after one month to protect the intellectual property of our instructors.

2-Day, Creative Vision, Fine Art, One-of-a-Kind
© Chris Janjic
Stephen Wilkes

Stephen Wilkes is widely recognized for his fine art, editorial, and commercial images, as well as for his documentary feature film, Jay Myself. In addition to having editorial work featured in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and National Geographic, among many other publications, he has created advertising campaigns for businesses such as Netflix, IBM, Honda, and Nike. Stephen’s photographs can be seen in numerous private and public collections, from the George Eastman Museum to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Library of Congress. Among his accolades are the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography, Adweek Photographer of the Year, and the Sony World Photography Professional Award (2012).

Stephen, a National Geographic Explorer, was commissioned in 2021 by National Geographic to create a “Day to Night” of the Biden/Harris Presidential Inauguration. The resulting photograph was featured in National Geographic and exhibited at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in NYC. His newest project for National Geographic, “America the Beautiful,” was published in September 2022 and his photograph of Bears Ears National Monument was the cover image.

Instagram: @stephenwilkes

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