Rule Breaker

with Courtney Larson

self-paced course



NEW! This program is now available at Click Photo School as a self-paced course.

All class content is organized into simple steps as part of a clear, self-guided pathway inside a virtual classroom. Registration includes one year access to the course.

Learn when (and how!) to break the “rules” to create compelling images!

In a series of instructional videos, you’ll learn how to read a photograph, how to use intentional rulebreaking to tell a story, and how to draw your viewer into and around the frame.

You’ll see how and why Courtney uses (and breaks!) the rules for everything from composition and cropping to perspective and white balance.

Learn how light affects color and contrast, and discover how you can use color in your work to pull the viewer’s attention to your subject.

Courtney will even show you images that are unsuccessful and tell you how they could have been shot to strengthen the image.

Courtney will bring you behind the scenes to examine both her own images and compelling images from other photographers. You’ll learn what works, why, and how to apply the lessons to your own work.

what you’ll get

  • 1. Introduction: Let's Break Some Rules
  • 2. Use Sunny 16
  • 3. Choose the Right Focal Length
  • 4. Expose to the Right
  • 5. Freeze Motion
  • 6. Obtain Focus
  • 7. Use the Rule of Thirds
  • 8. Flow Left to Right
  • 9. Fill the Frame
  • 10. Keep it Straight
  • 11. Avoid the Crop
  • 12. Don't Shoot Up
  • 13. Bonus Video: White Balance & Color

PDFs on each topic that accompany the videos

A histogram quiz


Learn on any device! All class content is organized into simple steps as part of a clear, self-guided pathway inside your private online classroom.


You'll check off each interactive step as you go, from watching the videos to engaging in discussions with Courtney and fellow students.


Read through Courtney's answers to questions asked during the launch event (now concluded) and watch her Q&A video!


All class materials are yours to download and keep.

about your presenter

Courtney lives in Phoenix, AZ with her handsome ginger husband and their three children (nope, no gingers yet). She is the Director of Click Pro, a modern network of professional photographers with the goal of amplifying the voice of women in photography worldwide. Courtney is also ranked as one of the top 10 documentary wedding photographers in North America, and her work has been described as honest, immersive, with a side of daring. She credits her success as an artist and businesswoman to joining Click Community eight years ago.

68 thoughts on “Rule Breaker: Understanding the rules of photography and when to break them”

  1. Rule Breaker is one of the best classes I have taken with Click Photo School! Courtney is an amazing teacher and the way that she explains everything just clicks. This course is amazing for photographers of all skill levels. As a photographer that typically sticks to the rules, this was a great course to get me to think outside the box and not be afraid to take risks!

  2. Courtney is one of my absolutely teachers! I could sit and listen to her breakdown images ALL DAY! This class is a must-have for anyone wanting to learn the rules of photography and how to break them in new and inspiring ways! She will help you learn to analyze your own work and learn what works, what doesn’t and how you can make it better. The videos are so fun to sit and listen to – like chatting with a good friend (a very wise and inspiring friend <3) Courtney is the best and she strives to make every artist she is with the best that they can be! This class is an absolute steal.

  3. It’s no surprise at all that Courtney has created one of the best self-paced courses I’ve ever taken! Her explanation of the rules and how to break them is a must see for photographers of all levels and genres. I loved the detailed videos and accompanying PDFs. I can see myself revisiting these materials often!

  4. This course is so good! You first need to know the rules to then know how to properly and effectively break them and continue to create incredibly riveting and moving art. Courtney shows and teaches us that evolving as an artist is what it’s all about. She’s an amazing person, teacher and artist and this course is so very worth the investment in time and money to check out and have in your ‘bag of tools’ as you continue on your photographic journey!

    1. Thank you, Amy! It makes my day to see your immense creativity in my IG feed and on the Daily Project! I look forward to seeing what you create next!

  5. Autumn Crockford

    I just finished this course and found it to be so helpful. For me, the critiques and examples were very useful in bringing me back to the rules that I learned years ago, yet don’t always follow – and how to properly break them. I am slowly putting together a CP set and now after going through this course, I will shoot with more mindfulness to round out my set with stronger images. Well worth the money!

    1. “Shoot with more mindfulness”…! Yes! I cannot wait to have the high privilege of reviewing your Click Pro portfolio and seeing how you incorporate Rule Breaker into your work!

  6. This course is such a game changer! Courtney’s teaching style is so down to earth and informative. You feel like she is chatting with you one-on-one! She explains all the rules and how to break them, complete with examples of when it is successful and when it’s not! So helpful! This course is a must-complete for anyone working towards completing a ClickPro application!

    1. Courtney Larson

      Thank you! It was created because of the many questions I get from Click Pro hopefuls! Glad you found it helpful, too!

  7. Melissa Bissell

    This self-paced course taught by Courtney Larson, photographer extraordinaire, and Director of Click Pro, is must for any photographer, from beginner to seasoned pro, rule follower to rule breaker! I, personally, am someone who is a strict rule follower in some areas and cautious rule breaker in others. Courtney does such a superb job of explaining each of the photography rules, why they are important, when to use them, how to use them, and then when and how to break them. Taking this class has give me the confidence to make photography choices that work best for the story I want to tell with my images. Don’t even think twice about whether you should invest in this class. Do it! And if you are working on a portfolio for submission to Click Pro, this class will give you the tools you need to prepare a set of images to put your best foot forward.

    1. It’s surprising to me to hear you find yourself a strict rule follower! Do you feel like street photography gives you freedom to “play” more than macro/nature? I ask because I find your street to be extremely creative and rule-pushing! Love love LOVE all your work, Melissa!

  8. Natalie Greenroyd

    I already knew Courtney was an amazing teacher because I have taken in-person classes of hers before, but WOW, this course still blew me away! She really knows her stuff, and breaks it down into such understandable chunks making this the perfect breakout for all skill levels. I’ve been in a shooting slump lately and this is just what I needed to pull me out of it!

    1. Always a joy to have you as a participant! You are a remarkable artist!! Cannot wait to see what you create!

  9. I took this breakout mainly because Courtney Larson was teaching it. I love her style and I love her thoughts towards how to read a photograph. A photograph is just like any other piece of art: how it affects the viewer and translates a meaning or feeling as well is key. This course is basic enough for a beginner but also advanced in ways that will encourage a seasoned photographer to push the rules and get a little creative! I loved this breakout!

  10. The perfect class for a rule follower like me! I always love watching Courtney in her videos over at Clickpro Facebook page. She explains everything so well so I decided to sign up for this breakout and it exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed the image examples for each rule “broken” with the matching evaluation of why it works.

    1. Camille, thank you! What an absolute treat to have you as a participant! Your work is next level and it’s an honor to have any part in your continued success and growth!

  11. This self-paced class is amazing!! Not a surprise since Courtney is such a dynamic teacher. This class is perfect for any photographer, whether she’s a new to the craft or a seasoned pro. Having a strong understanding of the rules of photography is essential, but so is knowing how to successfully break the rules in order to convey your artistic intention. The class is a series of videos with Courtney providing gorgeous examples of how the rules have been successfully broken. If you are thinking of applying to Click Pro, you NEED to take this class. I am excited to challenge some of the rules that I am clinging to.

  12. I wish this course would have been available years ago! This course is the perfect starting point as it helps lay out the ground rules AND how to break them successfully and artistically for both beginners and seasoned photographers. Take this course! Learn in great detail and challenge yourself to use these principles to reassess your work AND be inspired to grow. There is a reason why this live run was extended–it’s THAT good!

  13. Ever since I learned Courtney is coming up with this course I’ve wanted to take it and it did not disappoint me. I am a rule follower and while it is sometimes easy for me to break technical rules, I rarely break compositional rules and this course gave me the right push for that. As I was watching the videos I could feel the wheels turning in my head and couldn’t wait to get out and click images with all the tips that Courtney has shared. I think this is one of those rare courses that everyone from a beginner photographer to an experienced person needs to take, because of how it teaches you rules and then also teaches you how to effectively break them.

  14. Courtney is an amazing artist & instructor so when this course was announced I signed up right away and I’m so happy I did! She has crafted this course in a way that is very easy to follow in order to understand what all of the main “rules” are and what are the best ways to break them so you can elevate you work. I highly recommend you pick this up no matter where you are in your photography journey.

  15. I am still working my way through the materials but I am loving this course so far!! Courtney has put so much information in and she presents it in such an easy to watch manner. She really makes you think about why an image works, rules broken or not, and this has encouraged me to dig deep into my own images with regard to whether they achieve what I intended. I can’t wait to go through the rest of the course!

  16. I am a big fan of Courtney’s work, so I knew I wanted to take this course. She had me in the introduction when she talked about the importance of knowing and understanding the rules so that you can break them. As someone who has been doing photography for a while now, this course has made me realize just how much I have gotten into a comfort zone with the way I shoot, and just how much more I should be getting out and experimenting with breaking the rules again. Whether you are a beginner or someone who has been doing it for years, Courtney’s methodical and well thought out approach to explaining the rules and how to break them will help kickstart your creativity. Take this course!

  17. As a self-professed “rule follower”, I’ve always been so impressed by those who successfully break the rules and of course wanted to understand how they do it. I previously took Courtney’s “Visual Rhetoric” workshop (highly recommend!) so when I saw this breakout where she’d be spilling the secrets on how to successfully break the photography rules we’ve all been taught, I knew I had to jump in. I absolutely love how Courtney clearly explains the various rules, why they are in place and then provides examples of success and unsuccessful rule breaking…and for me that really is the key….seeing what is and isn’t successful and, more importantly, the explanation of WHY it works or doesn’t. Courtney has also spent so much time reviewing participants images and providing detailed critiques, which has been invaluable. This is one of those breakouts that I know I will be coming back to for years and years to come.

  18. Laura Edmondson

    you have restored my faith in breakouts!! i tried one before now and it just didnt rock my boat …. this is so thought provoking it is totally worth it. Whether you already know the rules and break the rules or whether you dont, still take this class. its actually given me the creative nudge i needed to :)

  19. This is a freaking awesome class! I am loving every second of it!! The hours of video is so incredible! I am always shooting with my histogram now. I love how she talks through all the rules. I’m huge on relearning and I can’t wait to go through everything again! The price is peanuts compared to the knowledge you are given!!

  20. Johanna Wohlgemuth

    You should take this breakout!!! AWESOME! You learn so much about how following the rules and breaking the rules can help you tell a story and enhance your image. In this brekout Courney gives CC on images submitted by participants, which is just priceless. The breakout is packed with information and examples. I can really recommend this breakout to photographers on any level.

  21. Laura Bock Carlson

    Just take the course. You won’t regret it. Courtney explains the rule, why the rule exists, and gives examples of when the rule is correctly applied. But of course, it doesn’t stop there. There are also examples on when the rule is broken, and she talks about why that can work, too. The descriptions are clear, and Courtney is so enthusiastic in the videos. The materials are well organized for future reference. This class gets you thinking about so many of the decisions we make every time before we click the shutter.

  22. I am about half way thru this class and I must say it is excellent. I really enjoy seeing the process and why the rules work and when they do not. and how the use of LR and PS is used to assist in the processing of images. I will recommend it to everyone looking to get more knowledge on the basic principles of Photography rules.

  23. Jennifer Woizeschke

    I’m loving this breakout! It is packed full of information and not only teaches us the rules but how they affect the feel and message of the photo so that you can then break them with intention if need be. Courtney’s teaching style is highly engaging her critiques are constructive. You can tell she really cares to push people to be the best photographer they can be. I could not recommend this course more.

  24. Courtney is an amazing and passionate teacher, which shines through in each and every video, q&a chat, and video critique of submitted images. Her insight and encyclopedic knowledge of the rules and when to break them make this course a must have for any photographer. I am so glad I joined this course during its live run!

  25. Such a valuable course! Courtney is so thorough in her explanation of all the traditional rules and how to break them the right way! She has also answered a ton of questions and critiqued so many photos. Definitely recommend this course!

  26. This is a must break out. This course is invaluable if you want to break the rules and push your preconceptions and understand your own voice. Knowing the rules you are breaking is important to making informed choices about your vision. Or if you are a beginner and want to know what all the rules are in a very easy to navigate course – this is it! Your be surrounded by all different levels of photographers and Courtney reviews when and why photos work and when they don’t. So glad this is in my arsenal. Plus listening to Courtney talk about photography is just a pleasure!

  27. Jennifer Wilson

    I would sign up for any course that Courtney is teaching, and here she has created a unique course that is so rich with information. One of the best breakouts I’ve taken! She goes over so many photography “rules,” explains why they exist, and then goes on to show you how to successfully break them with intention. I wish this class had been available earlier in my photography journey, but even now I found it all so fascinating. I gained a deeper understanding of concepts I felt familiar with – and some I wasn’t. There is so much good information packed into this course, and getting to ask questions and see her provide additional critiques for the live participants is invaluable. I would highly recommend this course to anyone.

  28. Oh my gosh, I’m so thankful for this course! Although I’ve been shooting for several years and have taken many courses, this one provides such comprehensive information in a very accessible way. I learned a lot about reading a histogram, what the “rules” are, and why/how to break them to make it work. I really appreciate how Courtney details why an image was shot in a particular way, either to follow the rules or to break them. This course is a total steal for the price and one of the best I’ve taken!

  29. I have always admired Courtney’s work and to gain some insight into her how and why has been invaluable. The material in this course is thorough and insightful and its presentation is organized and engaging. This course is a wonderful investment for photographers of all genres and all levels.

  30. Courtney’s course is packed with excellent examples and insight into breaking the rules of photography. She also provides extremely helpful critiques of students’ submitted images. I am already looking forward to going the material a second time!

  31. This course is probably one of the best value for money courses I have purchased from Click Photo School! Courtney lays the material out in a very logical, methodical way that is so informative, easy to understand, with many practical examples. I have found it so helpful in really cementing my understanding of the “photography rules” and when and how to break them in an intentional, effective way. It has really deepened my thinking about how and why I’m making creative choices in my images and I know I will be thinking about this material for a long time to come. Courtney is also such a helpful, humble, thorough instructor – so SO generous with her time and knowledge! If you are thinking of applying to Click Pro I would say this course is a must take but really it’s incredibly valuable for any level photographer!

  32. Ines A. de Toledo

    I am really impressed with this course! The content makes you think the why of an image, why to break the rules or why to stick with them… it really depends on the image but It will be you deciding having the rules in mind.
    I think all photographers, wherever they are in their journey, should go through it once in a while to remember the “why”.
    I also find extremely valuable the live Q&A and the images critiques, they are helping so so much.
    Thanks a lot Courtney for putting this together!

  33. What a fabulous breakout! I love getting a complete and thorough review on what the rules are (along with some insight on a few that I did not know were actual rules) , and then some great examples on what broken rules are and what it takes to make them work. And as a bonus, I feel inspired to look for ways to now break the rules. This just adds another layer of mastery to achieve in photography. Courtney is a wonderful teacher – personable as it feels like she is sitting right beside me talking about the material in a way that makes so much sense. I look forward to trying all the exercises in the coming weeks and months.

  34. This self-paced course is packed with informative video tutorials covering the rules of photography and so much more. Courtney’s down to earth personality shines through in her approach to each topic making the time spent viewing each video seem less formal and more like a visit with a knowledgeable old friend. I took this course because I hope to one day apply to ClickPro. Courtney being the school director who’s job it is to review portfolio’s makes this course essential to that journey. This class is worth every bit of $25 and more! Thank you!

  35. I love any opportunity to get to learn from Courtney, and this course is no exception! She presents things in a clear way that is engaging and encouraging, but she also makes it clear what works and what doesn’t! I don’t know if I will ever apply for Click Pro (I’m a hobbyist), but I love making my images stronger and this course helps so much with that!

  36. Frances Dambro

    This was a great course!
    Courtney gives a detailed review of all the photography rules (including photos following those rules) and then turns it around and shows you how to successfully break the rules to create a work of art. With video tutorials and written material you can learn at your own pace using the learning method you prefer.
    Courtney took the time to review our work and give us feedback. I would definitely recommend this class to anyone looking to learn (or relearn) the rules of photography and hoping for that creative push to move past those rules and create unique, personalized works of art.

  37. Jennefer Murphy

    By far one of the most informative breakout courses I have taken with Click Photo School! No matter where you are in your photography journey, you’ll walk away from this breakout having learned something. Courtney ‘breaks’ the rules down into easily understandable parts and provides multiples examples of what does and does not work within a wide set of images.

  38. I am loving this Breakout course with Courtney. I’m a lover of documentary photos and her style hits all the marks. The best things about this course is getting a peak inside Courtney’s mind. I’ve been learning all the basic photographic rules for the past year and it’s refreshing to learn when it can be broken. She gives thorough videos as to when and how to break rules. Definitely helping me to see things differently.

  39. I have enjoyed this course so much! Courtney really breaks down the rules in Photography (and how to break them!) in an easy way. It’s a class that is great for newbies and established professionals. Also really great if you’re hoping to apply for Click Pro one day (like me!). I definitely recommend this one-it’s essential!

  40. I haven’t been able to complete too much of this course yet, as I’ve been on vacation most of the time it has been running. However, what I have been able to complete has been fabulous! Learning why and when to break the rules will be super helpful to my future photography. Courtney explains everything in a way that helps you easily understand. Join the course if you haven’t already!

  41. I was hesitant at joining this breakout at first- I’d just had my son six weeks prior and wondered if now was really a great time to really focus on a new class. I have to say this may be one of the best courses I’ve ever taken and I’m so glad I say to myself, what the heck why not? The wealth of information here is incredible. Courtney communicates everything with such clarity and I feel like I’m learning something with every single video. I feel completely inspired to create new images and feel empowered to try things out I’ve maybe shied away from in the past. I absolutely would recommend taking this course to any photographer looking to break out of a rut, really get creative, and jumpstart their photography journey.

  42. This breakout is very rich, I learn and unlearn at every section and there are lots of aha moments for me! I am learning all about rules that I didn’t know existed and this is super fun. I really love the way the course is laid out, am really enjoying watching the videos and there is so much information, this course is a steal at 25$.

  43. Jennifer Thomas

    This is a fantastic breakout! Courtney is amazing at explaining the rules of photography and importantly, why they exist. The course then does a deep dive into how to successfully break these rules. She goes through many examples and really gives you a good feel for this. I can’t recommend this course enough!

  44. Courtney is such a wealth of knowledge and lays it all out in such a comprehensive and eye-opening way. Watching her critique a photo and break down not only what works and what doesn’t work but also WHY is incredibly valuable! I’m SO happy I signed up for this breakout!

  45. Kelly Anderson

    Hands down one of the best breakouts I’ve done. Courtney really breaks down each rule and both why it’s important to keep and as well as how to successfully break it. This is a really well designed set of videos that have layers to them for experienced photographers as well as newer ones. Absolutely worth every penny.

  46. Courtney is an amazing teacher. As a very technical shooter, it’s helpful for me to see the “why” and “how” in acceptable rule-breaking. This course is incredibly comprehensive and I love having both PDFs and videos as learning tools. Having Courtney talk through why an image works is just so invaluable. So glad I joined this course!

  47. Elisha Pickles

    This course has been beyond valuable to me! I literally saw my photography improving as I went through the materials. There were several rules that I knew but suddenly realised that I hardly implement! Courtney brought all of that best practice knowledge and broke it down in a way that made it stick with me! I have already recommended this to a friend!

  48. Gemma Crockart

    I’m blown away by how much I have learned already from this course and I’m not even halfway in. The sunny 16 rule has blown my mind! To go back to the fundamentals of photography and still pick up new things has been awesome. Courtney is an extremely good instructor, she teaches in such a way that makes it easy to learn from her. I can’t wait to continue with the assignments.

  49. Courtney is an amazing teacher. She does a wonderful job explaining each rule, why it is important, and how to successfully and purposefully break it. You’ll walk away from this course not only learning how to take better, more intentional photos, but you’ll also gain the confidence to know when to toss aside perfection to let creativity tell a more complete and intentional story.
    Every time Courtney talks about photography, I always learn something, and this course is no exception. The content is phenomenal. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to learn from this talented artist and teacher.

  50. Wow this course is absolutely amazing!!!! it has so much information and it is beyond just about breaking the rules. Courtney is a fantastic instructor and really explains things in a such an understandable way. This breakout is a must for any photographer at any level.

  51. Understanding imagery, why it works or why it may not work is one my absolute favourite topics. I was excited to see a photographer whom I admire sharing her expertise of reading imagery. Courtney is an experienced instructor who provides so much valuable information in this self paced course.

  52. Jenny Rosenbring

    I have to say that this class is so comprehensive. It is so interesting to really think about and dissect the rules of photography and how we can use and break them. The videos are filled with info, it is easy to see how Courtney has poured her heart into this and that she is compassionate about storytelling and composition. It is very useful to study other images and break them down to see what appeals to you and why it works. Courtney does this in her videos and I have really enjoyed watching them. Courtney is an experienced and accomplished teacher and it shows. I can very mush recommend this breakout to photographers on any level.

  53. This is by far one of the best breakouts that I have ever taken! The amount of content in the course is jam packed. Even when you feel like you are familiar with the content of each of the rules Courtney covers, you will learn new information because of the depth with which each rule is covered. Courtney is a natural teacher. The course is well organized and easy to grasp because of the teaching style. Courtney’s review of images is also a great source of instruction. Listening to her thought process about what works and what doesn’t helps to see things I had not grasped before. I have loved each section of the class and look forward to taking other classes with Courtney!

  54. This class is amazing. The breakdown of each section is so well laid out and helpful. Courtney is so charming as she explains the why and how of each rule and intentional with her teachings of when and why to break them. This is definitely a course anyone at any level can enjoy and learn from and am so happy to have invested in this in this for my own photography journey.

  55. If Courtney is teaching, you should be in class. Yup, I said it. This course specifically is the most comprehensive class on photography rules I’ve ever found. No matter what skill level you are at, you can find something in this course to learn. Even for seasoned photographers, it is still important to go back to the fundamentals frequently. Courtney herself is a master of photography and she is a fantastic teacher. She explains these potentially difficult concepts in an easily understandable way along with great examples to illustrate her points. As the director of Click Pro, Courtney gets to look at so many images from different artists. There is no one more qualified than Courtney to teach this class about rules and breaking the rules successfully. The critiques she provides along the way in the course are absolutely invaluable. On top of that, Courtney is one of the most uplifting people you could ever find. When she is giving out constructive feedbacks, you can know that she truly enjoys helping others to be better.

  56. It doesn’t matter where you are on your photography journey, you need this class! You will refer back to the material for years to come. Courtney is the best at breaking things down so you know and understand the WHY!! This is the encyclopedia of photography rules… or should I say the “Google” of photography rules? Whatever you want to call it, it really is a must-have in your photography education toolbox.

  57. This course is awesome! I have been a photographer for over then years some self-taught some classic education and I break rules all the time the issues is that I can’t well articulate what rule it is that I am breaking and why I just know the photo “works”. This course has done a great Job at taking me back to my foundational roots of photography. Courtney is such a great instructor she is relatable and encouraging and the way she explains things make it so easy to understand and apply. On of my favorite things she did was show the work of Picaso over his life what and incurable illustration for this course and a great reminder that even the great artists in history changed and grew over time.

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