Registration opens April 2nd /// Classes begin May 7th
Awakening the Spark


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Photograph by Michelle Gardella of a woman walking in the ocean
Photograph by Michelle Gardella of someone sitting with palm up
Photograph by Michelle Gardella of a small child looking up

Awakening the Spark


Next class starts TBD
Registration opens TBD
Teacher Michelle Gardella

This is not a photography class. This isn't about taking pretty pictures or being the next famous photographer with 25K Instagram followers. This is about creating a corner of the world that is authentically yours, and creating a life set on fire.

Instructor Michelle Gardella is moved most by work, art, and life with a purpose – a REAL purpose – and that is the heart of this class. Bring purpose back to your work, your life, your moments here on this Earth.

At the end of each goal, each dream, each task, you must ask yourself, “What is the story I am telling with this action? Is it greed? Image? Fame? Or is it something with a much more beautiful and magical and meaningful footprint on this world?”

By using your hands, breaking out of the safety zones, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the company of other creatives, Michelle will guide you to find the honest answers to these questions.

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WEEK ONE: It’s time to DREAM! It’s time to be honest (and completely absurd) with your hopes, dreams and wishes.

WEEK TWO: We all face stubborn resistance, but in week two you will learn how to tackle it head-on.

WEEK THREE: This week is all about learning how to map out your dreams and turn them into realities.

WEEK FOUR: In the last week, you will explore faith, goodbyes, and persistence.

The Schedule

All participation and interaction will take place in a private online forum. (Registered students will receive instructions on how to access the forum a few days before class begins.)

On the first Monday of class, Michelle will share Lesson 1 as a PDF and upload a video to the forum. She will be available during the week to encourage and participate in conversations both publicly in the group and in a private and one-on-one setting.

Each week you will receive “stretch yourself” challenges to share with the group. Each week will follow the same pattern.

The beauty of this class and every other class at DEFINE is that you can read, practice, and participate throughout the week whenever it is convenient for you- from any timezone, anywhere you have Internet access, at any time of day. Most students spend 3-5 hours per week “in class.”

Please note that this class is very avant-garde, so upon signing up prepare to have all kinds of extraordinary fun!

If you have any questions please feel free to email

Is this class for you?

This class is for dreamers and creatives who want to find and celebrate their unique potential. This class is not for people who are looking for technical photography tips or a predictable teacher.

Material(s) Needed

Watercolor paints, a black sharpie pen, an art journal, a camera (any camera will do), and your dancing shoes.



  1. :

    I just completed taking Awakening the Spark class. I can’t not say enough about the class or the instructor, Michelle Gardella. the class helped me grow in ways that I was not prepared for but greatly needed. It gave me new insight to myself as a photographer and a person. Michelle is an excellent instructor. The weekly lessons were always on time and she responded to any questions in a very timely manner. The only downside is the class is over!

    Thank you for offering this class. It was truly a wonderful and life changing experience!


  2. :

    Michelle’s Awakening the Spark course has been amazing for me. It allowed me to get back to my own dreams. Learn how to knock down walls that I had put up for myself and really got me learning what I wanted and what made me happy. Yes, sometimes you need to take a class for that. Thank you Michelle!


  3. :

    Awakening The Spark is one powerful class and Michelle Gardella is a remarkable teacher! Her lessons truly hit home and helped me grow not only as an artist, but as a person too. I recommend this class to fellow photographers and anyone wanting to open their creative spirit, their heart and their soul. I’m so grateful for the lessons she taught and to The Define School for it’s amazing program!


  4. :

    Dear Michelle,

    When I sighed up for Awakening the Spark I thought I’d walk away with knowledge on how to get out of my photography funk (and I did!). What I didn’t anticipate was walking away with ways to make myself a better mother and wife! Awakening the Spark not only helped me as a photographer, but thanks to you, I feel a whole new connection to so many things in my life.

    Thanks for all you put into this class!


  5. :

    Oh Michelle…

    I will admit, I was super apprehensive about taking the class and it wasn’t my first pick. I don’t tell you that to make you feel like crap. I tell you that, because honestly, this class has I have been challenged more in 4 weeks than I have in the last two years.

    It has been extremely eye opening for me, to journal through the assignments, not only eye opening, but truly, my heart has been awakened. The pitter patter and zest for life that I once had, had become a flicker. But now, I feel and actually believe I am enough. I can conquer my ambitions and if I fail, it’s ok. I am ok. I can be passionate about life and the things that I desire. It’s ok, it’s actually awesome.

    I know this sounds cheesy, but my spark has been awakened, truly! I wish you could see me in person. Seriously, I dance in my underwear at home, heart full, feeling like I could literally explode with excitement for life. A new found joy, that I had been missing. (I mean, I don’t want you to see me in my underwear, that was weird, lol).

    But really, I just want to thank you, thank you, thank you for giving so much to this class. For pouring so much of who you are into this class. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart!


  6. :

    I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your vision with me in your Awakening class. I wasn’t the most active student on the forum, but I just wanted to tell you that your words have totally changed my life and the way I think of myself and my future. I’m just blown away by the simple idea of living life based on how you want to feel… it makes everything so much easier and everything so much more wonderful. And redefining success… wow! You’ve helped me shape a life I’m in love with! When I started your class, I was hanging on to a portrait business that was sucking the life out of me (and my family) and that I didn’t believe in. After the first week in your class, I quit it…. and it’s been amazing! I don’t know exactly where I’m going now, but I’m excited and I’m exploring all kinds of creative avenues… taking classes, trying new art mediums, going for drives in the country in my dad’s 1987 Camaro with the t-tops down and the music up. Thank you for kick-starting my journey!


  7. :

    Dear Define,

    I had such a hard time writing this review. I feel there are so many positive things to say and I can’t possibly include them all. I will say that Michelle Gardella is an absolute joy to have as a teacher and I think is the perfect person for the class. She is so supportive in every assignment and even in other areas. She genuinely cares about her students in every aspect and wants to see each of them grow in their own unique way.

    I went into this class very unsure of myself. My wants, dreams, needs, direction in life in general…I just floated through life everyday. This class has completely set me free.

    “Awakening the Spark” is the perfect name for this class. I now know who I am, what defines me, what direction I want to head next – with more confidence than I ever thought possible.

    She gives tools that aren’t just usable for the four week course, but to repeat and reuse every day after. I am so glad I took this course. Michelle believes that everyone who is in the class was meant to be there. I have no doubt that this holds true.

    From the deepest part of my heart and soul, I thank Michelle. I am forever grateful. I’m not sure what else could have woken up my spark. I thought it was lost forever.

    Be blessed (and take this class!!!),


  8. :

    Dear Define,

    I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for the class Awakening the Spark with Michelle Gardella. Honestly, the class on lighting was full and I just wanted to take something. I read the class description and thought hmm, this might be interesting. I mean we could all use some awakening, right?

    Little did I know that this class would change my life. Like really, really change my perspective of who I am as a person and what I want to accomplish in this lifetime. This class opened my eyes to the way I had been living and what I need to do to make the necessary changes to not just get by but to live my life to the fullest. Some of the assignments were hard but necessary. Many were uplifting and joyful.

    I just cannot thank Michelle enough for allowing me to spend 4 (short) weeks being real and honest and vulnerable. I have so much gratitude for her and my fellow students who were also there to lift me up and support me. I CANNOT wait to see what unfolds.

    Eternally grateful,


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