Contemplative Photography & Spiritual Companionship

Student Plan$79.00 $69.00
Standard Plan$79.00 $69.00
Enhanced Plan$79.00 $64.00
Premium Plan$79.00 $59.00

This 4-part webinar series will show you how to use any camera – including the one on your phone -as a gateway to contemplative life. You’ll review basic photo techniques; honor your own way of seeing; learn positive critique; and use image-making in spiritual companionship. Access intention, intuition and wonder through the lens. Watch recordings at your convenience.

Photography is perhaps the most accessible of art forms. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world carry an easy-to-use, high-performing camera with them every day as part of their smart phones. Photos cost almost nothing to make and share. And Instagram offers a digital gallery to anyone with internet access.

Yet few of us who offer spiritual care see our cameras as part of our calling, as potential tools for deeper awareness and presence.

This 4-part webinar series is designed to show how anyone can use any camera to awaken spiritually. To seek compassion. To embrace wonder. To invoke intention, intuition, perception, connection and yes, mystery, in the quest to make an image that resonates with people and draws them deeper towards direct experience with the numious.

SDI Creative Director, photographer and artist Matt Whitney will host this educational journey, aided by a quartet of talented photographers and spiritual companions.


This webinar offers hands-on, experiential learning. We’ll review basic camera operation, offered as a way to help beginners demystify the use of a camera. We’ll offer compositional tips to help you make more aesthetically pleasing images. Spiritual directors and companions will be supported to develop a new practice, encouraging those they companion to do their own contemplative photography. All participants will be invited to use the image as a medium through which to discern the intimate and the infinite in our life journeys. And all participants will have a chance to show and share their own work.

What to Expect


  • How photography can help us find compassion and embrace wonder
  • Contemplative practice: how to find and honor your own way of seeing; visual discernment
  • Basic photo practices: what to look for, what is “interesting”, some tips from established contemplative photographers
  • The process of positive critique (companionship): sharing our work, responding to others’ work – being generative, affirming.


  • Seeing and receiving the moment (practice)
  • Discerning the best of your photos (appreciation, gratitude)
  • Sharing photo with others (sharing our story)
  • Viewing others photos (deep listening)
  • Listening to what another person sees as a means to help them toward self-discovery (companionship)
  • In addition, we will create a special Facebook Group limited to webinar participants, so they can post their own photos and create a supportive community for this contemplative expression (community)

Who should take this webinar series

If you offer spiritual care of any kind – or if you are in training to offer such care – this webinar series is for you.

If you already love photography and contemplative practice, this series offers safe practice and community.

And this series is particularly valuable to those with little or no experience with photography or those of us who feel we do not have an artistic outlet of any kind. If you long for a creative practice as a way of manifesting your contemplative practice, this series is for you. The camera is a tool that we can use to awaken our latent ability to go beyond ego and to embrace a creative and connective awareness. Photography is one of the most potent mindful awareness practices around. And anyone – spiritual companion or seeker – can benefit from that.


Watch online recordings at your convenience

All sessions are 75 minutes in length.

Course Description

Week 1 Invitation to See: Basic Composition Techniques – Led by Matt Whitney and Teresa Pietsch. Our focus in this session: Being Present. Discerning how to see. How images can support spiritual companionship. Basic composition tips.

Week 2 Landscape – The Pearl of Great Price – Led by Matt Whitney and Diane Millis Our focus in this session: We will learn about portraits – what can work and what can be problematic. We will also cover camera basics like shutter speed and movement and aperture and its affect on depth of field (how much of the image rendered will be in focus). In addition, Diane will take us through her process of contemplative photography, which she calls “Opening the Lens of the Heart: Looking Out at the World, Seeing Into Ourselves.” Participants will receive access to her 2017 Presence article on that very subject.

Week Portraits – Led by Matt Whitney and Rev. Wilfredo Benitez. We will learn about portraits – what can work and what can be problematic. We will also cover camera basics like shutter speed and movement and aperture and its affect on depth of field (how much of the image rendered will be in focus).

Week 4 Your Voice – Led by Matt Whitney and Professor Howard Zehr Integration. How does your personal story and narrative come out in your practice?


Matt Whitney is SDI’s Creative Director. He is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and lives in Seattle. He works between drawing, painting, photography, collage, video, performance, and group facilitation, with a focus on the metaphorical and spiritual power generated through life’s everyday rhythms walking, riding the bus, gardening, making things, or simply being still. He has a BA in Art from Whitworth University and an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has taught photography at the college level for several years. You can see some of his personal work at If you’ve seen any of the splendid photos from Seeking Connections 2018 in St. Louis or the design of Listen, our quarterly publication for spiritual seekers (AKA all of us), that’s Matt’s work.

The Rev. Wilfredo Benitez is a priest, photographer, poet, activist, and Spiritual Director, who originally hails from the Bronx, N.Y. He currently serves as provisional priest in charge at St John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, Connecticut. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from La Universidad Inter-Americana de Puerto Rico, a Master of Science in Education Degree from the Bank Street College of Education, N.Y. with a Concentration in Counseling; and a Master of Divinity Degree from the General Theological Seminary, N.Y. Most recently he completed a two-year training program in Spiritual Direction with the Haden Institute, and he has contributed some of his writing to the Spiritual Directors International blog. He’s had numerous photography exhibitions, and his photographs have been published journals such as “Reflections” (Yale Divinity School) and “Image: Art Faith Mystery.”

Teresa Pietsch is a professional photographer in Santa Barbara, California. She has worked in this role for 36 years. She is a graduate of The Academy for Spiritual Formation and Brooks Institute of Photography. She has served as a children and family ministries coordinator at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara. She lives with her partner, Carrie Hamilton, a spiritual director and medical professional. You can see some of Teresa’s contemplative photography on her Instagram page.

Prof. Howard Zehr divides his attention between justice and photography – and is happiest when the two interests converge. Known as a pioneer in restorative justice, he lectures and consults internationally and has published numerous books and articles, including The Little Book of Contemplative Photography. He has worked professionally as a photographer and photojournalist, both in the North America and internationally. His current involvements are primarily in documentary, portrait and landscape photography. Since 1996 he has been Professor of Restorative Justice at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Zehr actively mentors other leaders in the field. More than 1,000 people have taken Zehr-taught courses and intensive workshops in restorative justice, many of whom lead their own restorative justice-focused organizations. Zehr was an early advocate of making the needs of victims central to the practice of restorative justice. A core theme in his work is respect for the dignity of all peoples. More information here.

For almost three decades, Diane Millis has had the privilege of serving as a midwife for others as they give voice to the vast array of stories inside of them. Through teaching and advising undergraduate and graduate students, consulting and coaching in a wide array of sectors, facilitating retreats and leading workshops, producing the video series, Lives Explored, and ministering as a spiritual director, she has observed, listened, and inquired as participants learn how to tell their most life-giving stories to which they are drawn. All three of her books, Conversation the Sacred Art, Deepening Engagement, and her recently published (by SDI Press) Re -Creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Story, provide toolkits for both one-to-one and group spiritual companioning. Diane currently serves in a wide array of sectors introducing the 4, 4, 4 format for group spiritual accompaniment.  She teaches Narrative Leadership at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (MN, USA).

Additional Information

Each session session will run 75 minutes. CEU credits are available for all those who participate. (See below)

Learning Objectives

The main goal of this series of webinars

Who may join the webinar?

Everyone is invited to participate in SDI Webinars.

Are CEUs available?

SDI will provide a certificate of completion for self-reporting to agencies. More information can be found here:  continuing education units (CEUs).


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