MT’s Email School of Photography

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The Email School of Photography is the best way to take a workshop without physically going anywhere: individual, tailored, and one-on-one. It comprises a portfolio review and objective setting session, and a series of nine lessons over the course of a year to get you to where you want to go. It’s for those who want personal tuition beyond the videos, but may not be able to make it to a Masterclass. Here’s how the Email School works. To accommodate a more diverse range of student, the 2016 revision now has two variants (please specify which program you’d prefer):

Program A: Regular monthly submissions of 5-10 images for a year, of whatever you normally shoot, with feedback specific to those images. This is recommended for post-Masterclass participants, those working on personal projects, who shoot a wide variety of subjects, or just want general improvement. This includes one portfolio review and eleven submissions.

Program B: As before, the structured intensive crash course, which is as follows:

  1. Determine what your final objective is – it can be as simple as ‘I want to make photos like this’ or as detailed as ‘I want to refine my wildlife photography technique’. You can pick stuff from my flickr portfolio, or anywhere else off the web. Please give me an idea of what you would like to achieve before we start so I can tell you if it’s realistic or not, and whether this is the best way of getting there.
  2. Select a portfolio of your 10 images most closely matching your objective with a quick sentence or two on why you think they’re good – this helps me to gauge where you are, what you’re seeing, and what you’re trying to achieve. If you have a gallery online, send me the link to that, too.
  3. I’ll then come back to you with a quick portfolio review and a lesson plan to bridge the gap between 1. and 2. This will only be about half of the course, because it depends on how you’re progressing and what other aspects need work along the way.
  4. Lessons take the form of nine assignments, email critiques/ teaching, practice (on your part) and photo submissions for assessment. All of the content is customized for you (in the form of long-form email for now) – which is the main difference between my course and others. Also, you should take as long as you need until you’ve mastered the lesson – not submit the first one or two images that you complete, even though that’s the requirement of the assignment. Submissions should be 2MP (~1500x1000px) JPEGs for now, unless specified (including the portfolio). Along the way, ask any questions you feel you need to – there are no silly questions; similarly if you come across something in your practice that you don’t understand or want to explore further, we can always rearrange the lesson plan to suit. I will be brutal but objective with my commentary – it won’t help you if I just say everything is nice. 🙂

For both programs:

  • Students have a year to finish all of the assignments, which is generally double what they need in practice – but this depends of course on how much free time you have to put to it. After that point, fees will be forfeit.
  • “The Fundamentals” and “Making Outstanding Images Ep.1” are the introductory portion to the course. You will need to watch those before submitting your first assignment.
  • If you don’t already have those two videos, the price of the course, inclusive of two videos, is US$900. If you do, it’s US$800, as before. Click here to sign up:
  • $900 (including videos)

    $800 (if you already have the videos)

  • Cancellations – before the program starts/ any videos or portfolio reviews are performed, there is no refund penalty. A high level of commitment is required on the part of both the student and the teacher, which places demands on time; as such, after the program starts (i.e. within a month of payment being made and videos sent, if applicable) refunds are not possible.

Testimonials from satisfied previous participants and students are after the jump…


Richard Karash (The Email School of Photography): Ming Thein gives the highest quality feedback I have ever encountered in any setting. You’ve been terrific all along and more than delivered on your promise. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of learning from the assignments and comments, but I think this is the time to say thanks and let you go. I mentioned way back in the beginning that I had a life-changing experience in a one-term course with Minor White in college. This time with you has been right up there. I think your feedback is about the highest quality I have ever encountered.

Ryan Kimball (The Email School of Photography): After completing my year with the email school I cant recommend it highly enough. My photography has benefited far more from this experience than any piece of gear or software. I felt like I had a good base knowledge and and a high level of creativity when I started the class but knew I was a bit sloppy, a bit lazy and a poor curator of my images. While I still work to improve in these areas I have seen a strong improvement in my images and more and more I am producing work that I am proud of. My compositions, my reasons for pressing the shutter and my ability to capture an idea have all grown strongly. If one is considering the school I would also recommend picking up as many of the videos as possible and signing up for the weekly workflow. I believe these things coupled with the huge wealth of free information on the site is one of the finest photographic educations available and for the price is an absolute steal. I would also like to add that during the entire course Ming was very responsive to questions I had along the way. Same day answers are the norm and much appreciated. His insights, critiques and suggestions were very helpful. Even images that I assumed he would find no fault he could always point out things that triggered those “Ah-ha” moments causing me to think more and try harder. If you decide to give the school a try you wont regret it.

Jing Tai (The Email School of Photography): What can I say that hasn’t been said by other participants already? A very effective customised teaching approach, great communication and detailed analysis (from a working photographer, no less!) makes this the best money I have spent on my photography, period. What Ming provided to me was not just immediate improvement of my photography in the short term, but also the tools and mental framework which I can use to kickstart my own independent improvement in the days ahead. If you’re not afraid of putting in some effort into it, set aside the fees and get started. You won’t be disappointed.

Andreas Kremer (Email school of photography): I found the course very useful, it´s worth every dollar and I can recommend it as well to people being already on their way to an own style. Although I felt to have special requirements, you were able to join in and find ideas and tasks helping me coming further on my way. I´m not only doing concept work and shooting differently, I´m looking at other pictures in a very different way now. The quite basic term “visual balance” has got a very extended meaning now…

Kai (Email school of photography): It has been a rewarding 12 months of photography. I enrolled into Ming’s email school one year ago, first hoping to get some real C&C from a working professional of my portfolio. What I got was a really “up to the point” assessment of my work to date, where my work was working and where it did not look right. This was a humbling exercise which one doesn’t get when posting photos on social media.  After knowing where I wanted my photography to go, Ming gave me exercise exploring compositions, balance, what’s in/out of the frame, working on a story, etc. Each of the assignment was difficult, and the feedback was constructive and consistent (maybe I have repeatedly made similar mistakes such as over blowing highlights across different assignments).

Overall, after 1 year of assignments, I believe I have achieved the following:

  1. Starting to be able to critically assess my photos. Next step is to curate them so that only the really good ones remains.
  2. Considered a lot more before pressing the trigger – the edges, histograms, colours, balance, “what I want to show”. 
  3. Make a lighter touch on pp. A lot of my old photos were full blast post processed and now they are an eye sore. Progression I suppose.
  4. Able to use different aspect ratios to show the pictures. 
  5. Definitely my photography has improved and that’s “a good thing ™”


Gerrit Volck (Email school of photography): As an amateur my one and only goal was to take stronger images. Thanks to your experience and guidance the images I’m taking now have improved a lot in several ways. From distracting elements through composition and postprocessing, the resulting images really are stronger. The route to reach that aim has been tougher than I first thought when booking the course. Partly due to my inability to see certain things and partly due to plain misunderstandings. In the end however I had lots of fun with the assignments and the impression that no other photography investment would have taken me where I am now. I know I have lots of room for improvements though. The only real difficulty I see now is to keep practicing preferably on a daily basis…
Conclusion: Highly recommended.


Dan Friedman (Email school of photography): I’ve been photographing for over 50 years, and I’m a professional photographer today. I thought I was pretty good, but had become dissatisfied with my work, although I couldn’t put my finger on why. Worse – I was more satisfied with the work I did many years ago than my current images. I signed up for Ming’s email school of photography hoping I would learn what I was now doing wrong. It was magic. Ming bluntly pointed out the errors I was making and each lesson gave me new “tools” to use. Basically, I found out that I had become lazy – something easy to do with today’s automated cameras and the reason I preferred my older work was that, with no automation I was forced to take my time and consider each shot and not just “point and shoot”. Now, I’m looking through the viewfinder in an entirely different way. I’m taking my time and considering: What’s the subject of the image; is the frame balanced; do natural lines take my eye to the subject; would it be better cropped tighter, or should I go wider; should I use a different lens; should I move and shoot from a different vantage point; should I wait for the light to improve; will this image look best in color or b/w; and more? I now scan the viewfinder with Ming’s pointers in mind and the results are much more pleasing. The lessons have forced me to slow down and study what I’m shooting. Certainly, I’m shooting fewer images, but many more are “keepers”. I consider the program to be money very well spent. Thanks Ming! 


Francois Arbour (Email School of Photography): I just recently completed Ming’s email course and I would like to offer my appreciation for Ming’s guidance. I had done previous email classes before but this the first one that left me with a strong set of tools to work on my photography. The way I look at photography has completely changed, and I did not expect that. By building only my strengths and pointing on my weaknesses, I have now a clearer sense of what I am doing when I am looking through my viewfinder and what I need to work on. I can honestly say that I make better pictures now and my appreciation of photography has unfolded.
In front on my desk I have a print of one of Ming’s comments that I have kept as a reminder. I would like to share it with you:
“ Honestly – photography, like any other discipline, does have a huge diminishing returns curve. And that curve gets exponentially steeper once you start chasing the peak of that pyramid – that base of skills and tools has to get increasingly larger to support it. Though there is good news because a lot of the basics can become intuitive and second nature with practice – awareness of light and subject, checking edges, for instance. Translation of the idea is always going to be something all of us have to work on.” – (Ming Thein) 
Not only is his mentoring very supportive (technically and aesthetically), but he also provides some philosophical insights.
I highly recommend Ming’s email course, it’s the best use of money I did in photography so far. This a a real course in the art of photography.


David Fisher (Email School of Photography): I really enjoyed the class Ming, and appreciate the honest and timely feedback.  It was a real pleasure and I definitely learned a lot.  I can really tell how I’ve raised the level of my photography and am not satisfied with images that last year I would have thought were good.  Thank you again.


Gilles Tourpe (Email School of Photography): Alama! I was back in school … I’ve enjoyed my e-school with Ming. He is an incredibly experienced, demanding and seasoned teacher – sharing his passion for getting the right result through a structured process. It has been a strange experience – with lot of high and lot of low to get to the next high. It has hopefully made me a better “hobbyist” and my results have improved. From white belt to yellow belt … the path is still long!


Sohail Karmani (Email School of Photography): Having just completed Ming Thein’s photography course, I’m happy to say it was worth every penny. I began just over 9 months ago as an almost complete novice. With perseverance, I was able with Ming’s guidance to achieve goals way beyond my expectations. Ming is a consummate professional that brings a rare combination of photographic talent, formidable communication skills, and highly effective teaching ability. As a professional educator myself with 25 years’ experience of teaching, I highly recommend Ming’s course if you’re serious about taking your photography ability up several notches. True to his words, he doesn’t pull any punches or sugar-coat his feedback; but he will help you bring out the best photographer in you.


Ray Hartman (Email School of Photography): Probably the best way to put it is like I wrote earlier: what you do and how you do it (your email teaching) works for me! I feel proud to see my improvements and feel confident that I am more consistent in my results. Therefore my hopes and expectations of this course were very much fulfilled.
The assignments seemed somehow just what I needed to improve in general: the separate parts really came together as the course progressed. You really seem to know what you’r doing when reviewing the initial portfolio.
What I find most striking is that something so seemingly obvious and simple like checking your frame through the finder for intrusions/exclusions is such a powerful tool.
And your remarks about the importance of careful metering suit my believe that photography is not just ‘art’ but also ‘craft’.
All in all I am ‘afraid’ that I can’t give you input for improvement. Just keep up your high standards of quality, integrity and respect. I really appreciated your way of communicating with me, in your feedback on the assignments or otherwise in our mailcontact: quick, to the point, no sugarcoating, but always honest and respectful.
I feel lucky to have met you as a teacher and inspiring person.

Dan Friedman (The Email School of Photography): Wow! What a great review of my work. I really appreciate the candid comments and they’ll certainly have an effect on how I look at things through the viewfinder. I’ve printed the “Observations” bullets that you provided and will keep in my pocket when I go out shooting. Clearly, I’ve developed some bad habits that I need to correct. Now, it’s a bright sunny day with lots of shadows and I’m going to grab a camera and go out shooting. Thanks again – your review alone was worth the price of the course.


Jeffrey Littell (The Email School of Photography): You in very short order have identified my single biggest problem and the key one in my frustrations to date in attempting produce better images: My images are flat! Oh golly, are they ever flat!
Looking at the images you sent to me, I SEE very clearly why your images are great and why mine are not particularly interesting. Even your most simple image is interesting.
I now see much more clearly that the world of photography is about contrast, for without it you have my images. Bland and flat. Seeking contrast to make the key image “pop” involves the sky, time of day or night, and as you so clearly state several other factors.
I must get busy studying these fundamentals so they become my primary criteria for shot selection. I see that I have a lot of work to do but I am not intimidated by what you say because although at times it might be frustrating it will still be great fun.
I like your rules. Tell me anything, make it a teaching tool for me to work on, and we will see a nice progression in my work.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Eugene Palomado (Email School) – I find Ming’s Email School a great way of learning and improving your photography skills. What I love the most about it is that you get to do it on your own time. I guess the disadvantage is that feedback is not instant because everything is done through email but Ming’s response time is awesome! I have no complaint whatsoever in our communication all through out the course of the program and he is very professional. He answers all questions and he even sends you a note if he is going to be delayed in providing feedback. I struggled a bit with email communication at first but it’s something you have to be patient with and understand that there’s no facial queues. Everything is in words so if there’s something that is unclear regardless of what it is, simply clarify or ask. I think the keys to making it successful are to be honest and to communicate well. I highly recommend this program. You’re awesome Ming!


Gary Greenberg (Email school, Intro to PS): As a current student of Ming’s, and owner of one of these videos, and of many from his MT Compendium iPad app, I can’t more highly recommend his training products. I have grown so much from both his products, and freely available blog. I can say that if personal satisfaction is an acceptable metric, I am more satisfied in my own work. His approach is systematic, his ability to communicate top notch, and end product- images- so pure. To many professionals depend upon heavy post-processing (IMHO) these days. I follow and recommend Ming because he pushes me (us) to create amazing images that do not look like they’ve been digitally altered. Thanks Ming for your guidance, expertise, and honesty!


Stefan Decker (Email school): Hi Ming, I just completed your E-Mail school and want to thank you very much for mentoring. Before starting the program, I was in doubt: Either your E-Mail school or a new lens/camera. It was definitely the right decision. It took 8 months full of individual mentoring. For this, the price is a real bargain and the learning effect is much higher than any other “weekend workshop” at a photo studio. The school improved not only my photographic skills, but also the understanding of what makes a good picture. You answered also all of my additional questions. (always super fast and competent). In conclusion: – Highly recommended – 9.5/10


John Chang (Email school): Thank you for a great course, perhaps the best money I’ve spent on photography, i’ve picked up more in the past 10 assignments than the last 10 years. Confident of your career trajectory, I’m going to keep all those images and advice and make money off your fame in the near future! : )


Pete Saunders (Email School): I certainly have benefited greatly from Ming’s mentorship. Don’t expect his critques to be sugar-coated. He will be honest (brutally so at times) but fair. If you want to be on the path to developing useful and creative photographic skills, this is the person to go to. I have been fortunate enough to have had the ear (and eyes) of Ming these past few years in guiding me to the satisfying levels I’m at today. Ocassionally, he even likes one or two of my photographs.


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