Whatever Your Skill Level, Improve Your Photography In Your Own Time With An Online Course
Whether you’re a beginner to photography or a seasoned professional, you can never stop learning your craft. Just when you think you’ve mastered the art of taking a good photo, a new advancement in camera technology comes along and you have to learn how to use it, or your clients start requesting a new style of photography and you need to alter your shooting style to fit their demand. It can be exhausting to keep up!
That’s where photography courses come in. If you need a tutorial on how to use the latest Canon DSLR, tips on how to take the best photos of food, or a video walk-through on how to post-process night photography, there’s a course out there for you.
“But what if I don’t have the time to commit to a class each week?” you protest. No fear – we’ve got you covered with our Top Ten Photography Course Websites. Most of the courses on this list have little to no time constraints, leaving you with the freedom to spend as much or as little time on the course as you want. Another bonus to online courses is the cost. We’ve included several free course websites, and listed the price of the others, making it easy to choose a course that fits your budget.
Here are the main things to keep in mind when picking a photography course:
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- What level of expertise are you?
- What style of photography do you shoot?
- How much time/money are you willing to invest in the course?
- What kind of camera do you have?
- What style of teaching are you looking for?
Remember that these courses are just the beginning. Keep practising what you learn, and you’re well on your way to improving your photography!
Cost: free or approx. $100 per course
Good for: free content, wide range of topics, experienced instructors
Creativelive has possibly the largest collection of photography classes out of all the websites on this list. With 905 classes to choose from, you’re likely to find help on any photography (and video) topic imaginable. The biggest advantage to Creativelive, however, is its reputation – with award-winning instructors and consistently high reviews, it’s no wonder that over 10 million students take Creativelive courses.
You need to sign up for a free account before gaining unlimited access to the website. Although the classes do cost money (averaging around $100, but it varies per course), Creativelive has different offers on each day for certain classes.
The courses are video-based, but sometimes include bonus material (for example, a practice image if the class focuses on post-processing). Once you buy the course, you can download the videos and watch them offline and for an unlimited amount of time. There are no deadlines to finishing the courses.
If you don’t want to pay for a course, however, Creativelive has a plethora of free resources available with your free account. Each week, a class streams live on the website, and if you subscribe via email you can be notified when a class you are interested in is streaming.
Along with the On-Air classes each week, Creativelive has a blog that is continually updated with new content each day. The articles are free to read, and they are all written by accomplished professional photographers. Like the classes, the articles cover a range of topics, with 47 (!!) pages of photography and video content.
Cost: $20/month for Basic, $30/month for Premium
Good for: experienced instructors, finding the most relevant course
One of the original creative training websites, Lynda has been providing courses online for over 20 years. Like Creativelive, another established website, the instructors are all experienced professionals – usually the case with a long-running website, you can be certain you will receive high-quality education.
Lynda recently became associated with LinkedIn, so when you complete a course, you earn a certificate that is applicable to your LinkedIn profile. This is a huge plus – you learn the skills and get credit for it, benefiting twofold!
Like Creativelive, Lynda is video-based. However, if you pay the extra $10/month for a Premium membership, you can access exercise files to download and practice with. The Premium membership also allows offline viewing. If you aren’t sure you want to fork out the money for a membership, Lynda allows you to sign up for a free trial before committing. We highly recommend this, as it allows you to test the teaching style of the website and make sure that it works for you.
The website is fairly well organized, with a list of topics, software, and authors on the left-hand side, allowing you to filter out the courses that are most relevant. The courses are also ranked according to level of difficulty: beginner, intermediate, advanced, or appropriate for all. Another handy feature is the notebook – Lynda allows you to take notes during the videos at any point, making study and revision easy.
One of our favorite elements of Lynda is their ‘Learning Paths’ feature. Beside the ‘Getting Started’ tab at the top of the page is a ‘Learning Paths’ tab, which orders courses into groups: for example, this Learning Path called ‘Become a Photographer’ offers a selection of 10 courses catered to beginner photographers as an introduction to the different facets of photography.
Cost: free or approx. $15 per course
Good for: free courses, detailed course reviews
With 55 free courses, Udemy is well worth signing up for even if you don’t plan to pay for a course. Along with the advantage of no monthly costs, Udemy.com almost always has a sale going on, meaning that the average cost of a course is around $15!
One of the reasons that Udemy is one of our favorite photography course websites is because of its visible Review feature. After taking a course, students can write a review and rate the course out of 5 stars. These reviews are very helpful, offering insight into the teaching style of the instructor, the best sections of the course, what the course is lacking, etc. Compared to other websites, this review feature is much more helpful than a simple rating. As well as the review feature, popular and trending courses are marked, making it easy to find the courses with the highest reviews.
Like Lynda, Udemy categorizes courses into 4 levels: beginner, intermediate, all levels, and expert. In addition to this classification, you can refine your search with subcategories like Portraits or Travel Photography.
All courses are video-based with supplementary articles. Some courses include assignments and additional resources, like the ‘Photography Masterclass: Your Complete Guide to Photography’ course. This course is one of our top picks – taught by Phil Ebiner, a best-selling instructor on Udemy, the course walks you through the features of a DSLR, how to create beautiful photos, and how to sell your photography.
Cost: $20/month or $200/year
Good for: additional features, professional help
Kelbyone has the most extra features available of all the websites on our list. Certainly not a basic photography course website, a membership with Kelbyone gives you access to the Lightroom and Photoshop User magazines as well as its extensive collection of photography courses.
The courses are video-based, but many also include downloadable files to practice with. Also available is a help-room chat and live webcasts with instructors from the course you are enrolled in. When you choose your skill level, Kelbyone creates a personalized ‘Learning Track’ to guide you in your learning, and remembers where you left off so you can easily come back to the course.
The creator of the Photoshop World Conference, Kelbyone has seminars held in cities in the UK, Canada and the US. As one of the biggest names in the world of online photography courses, Kelbyone has also teamed up with companies like Apple and Adobe to offer gear discounts to members.
Although there aren’t any courses available for free, you can try out Kelbyone for free for the first 10 days. During that time, you can take any courses you want and access everything that’s offered with a full subscription (like offline viewing for 2 classes at a time with the iOS app!).
The creator of Kelbyone, Scott Kelby is an award-winning author of several books on photography and post-processing. We recommend his course, ‘Top Ten Things Every Photographer Should Know About Their Camera’, for beginner photographers.
Cost: free or $30/month
Good for: website owners, quick courses
One of the lesser known course websites on our list, Tutsplus is an extension of Envato Elements, a stock photo website. Because they’re connected, you gain access to unlimited downloads of stock photos, graphics and templates from Envato Elements when you subscribe to Tutsplus. For a website owner, this is a big plus!
The organization of the website is fairly general, with only a few categories for refining your search (like Lighting or Post-Processing). The website does have a ‘Free’ tab for its courses, but you really only get the first couple lessons of the course free. After that, you need to sign up for the $30 subscription to watch the rest of the lessons in the course. What is free, however, are the many How-To tutorials, short videos with an accompanying article on a variety of specialized topics.
The courses are fairly short, lasting about 2 hours on average. Each course is comprised of lessons, short videos that lead you through the different topics in the video. A great feature of Tutsplus is the quiz that is available before and after the course. This allows you to test your knowledge prior to taking the course. It is also useful to have a preview of the content of the course, which helps you decide whether it would be worthwhile to take.
One of our favorite courses on Tutsplus.com is ‘A Photographer’s Guide to Light’. Taught by David Bode (a main instructor on Tutsplus), the course first describes what light is, then moves on to light transfer and reflection. Bearing in mind that light is perhaps the most important consideration in creating a photo, this course aimed at beginners covers all the basics when it comes to light in photography.
Cost: approx. $30/class
Good for: camera-specific courses, experienced instructors
It’s little known that Canon has an Education section on their website. Here, you’ll find 13 courses on various photography topics, like landscape photography, printing, and flash basics. All the courses are taught by professional photographers associated with Canon, so you know that you’re receiving quality education. Another plus to Canon’s courses is the cost – you pay by course, so you don’t need to worry about monthly subscription payments.
Each video lasts between 30 min to 1 hour long, so if you don’t have much time to devote to a longer course, Canon lessons are for you. Each video also comes with additional materials like PDF guides, quizzes, assignments and interactive diagrams, providing multiple ways to solidify what you learn in the video portion of the course.
Also available with the course payment is a peer-to-peer forum, so you can ask and answer questions from students enrolled in the same course. This can prove just as helpful as the course itself, as many of the photographers enrolled in the course are in the same stage of their photography journey as you, and can offer tips and tricks you may not have thought about. For the beginner professional, this is a great opportunity for networking with fellow photographers in the business.
We recommend the course ‘Photo 101: How to Take Great Photos’ by 20-year photographer veteran Rudy Winston. Covering topics like timing, light and composition, this course is a peek into the thought process behind a great photo.
Cost: approx. $60/course
Good for: detailed course reviews, in-depth videos
Although TheGreatCourses only has 5 courses on photography, they are a worthwhile investment. The classes are longer than most of the other courses on this list, with each course lasting around 3 hours. The courses are split into lessons, however, and each lesson lasts around 30 minutes. This allows you to organize your learning and means you can break up the course into manageable chunks.
When you buy a course, you have the option to choose a video download or a DVD, both of which come with video streaming online. After that, you can re-watch the course as many times as you want. TheGreatCourses also has an app for iOS and Android, so you can watch on the go.
The website offers course sets for a reduced price, like this one, which includes 4 of the 5 photography courses offered on TheGreatCourses.
Like Udemy, TheGreatCourses allows students to write reviews. With the ability to rate the course content, professor presentation and course value out of 5 stars, as well as personal messages, you can see in advance whether a course will be right for you. There is also a question and answer section of the course, where you can receive answers from both staff and students to your course questions.
We recommend ‘The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons’ – at a cheaper price of $25, you get a lot of bang for your buck with expert instruction from six National Geographic photographers.
Cost: free or $100/course
Good for: free content, in-depth videos
You may know Digital Photography School as one of the biggest online photography websites. As well as its large collection of articles, however, the website also offers several courses, priced at $100 each. Taught by some of the main writers for Digital Photography School (all expert photographers) the courses are detailed and comprehensive, including over 2 hours of video each.
If you aren’t willing to shell out the cash for a course, however, Digital Photography School has a Photo Tips section with an extensive library of free articles on all aspects of photography. Although most of the articles are aimed at beginner to enthusiast photographers, there are several specialized articles on topics like softbox usage, tripod reviews, or how to create double exposure images. You can also subscribe to Digital Photography School to be notified via email each week on new articles posted to the website, on a topic that interests you.
The courses are divided into modules, organizing your learning. Also included with your purchase are course notes, as well as lifetime access to the course, so you can keep coming back and reviewing what you learned in the course.
We recommend the Night Photography course by Jim Hamel. Lasting over 6 hours, this course covers all you need to know about shooting at night, taught by a night photography specialist. With lessons on gear, exposure and post-processing, along with field work in several US cities, this course is a comprehensive class on everything night photography.
Cost: $1/month or $12/year
Good for: detailed articles, help forum
Founded by three professional photographers and videographers (Michael Reichmann, Kevin Raber and Chris Sanderson), Luminous Landscape is a course and article website 18 years in the making. As one of the most affordable websites on our list, $1/month gives you an extensive collection of articles and video courses by the best in the business. With new articles every week and new videos monthly, your subscription will certainly be put to good use!
Course topics range from guides to Lightroom and Capture One to cinematography basics to camera-specific tutorials. Luminous Landscape also hosts photo expeditions to places like Greenland and Antarctica, and produces video journals with tips and tricks on location from their trips.
The Luminous Landscape user forum is one of the most widely read on the internet, and has question-and-answer pages on equipment, tricks and techniques, post-processing, and the art of photography. If you need an answer to a burning photography question, this is the place to come.
We recommend the ‘Video Journal – Issue 2’, shot on location in the Grand Canyon. As well as incredible footage from the trip, the course covers camera movement techniques, a tutorial for black and white post-processing in Photoshop and an interview with wildlife photographer CC Lockwood.
Our article recommendation is ‘Black and White vs. Color’ by Sharon Tenenbaum. If you have ever wondered whether or not to leave your photo in color or to post-process it to black and white, this is a great article to help you decide. It covers the basics of color in photography, and clarifies why black and white is a striking alteration for some photos and not for others.
Good for: lighting help, detailed articles
Strobist is a bit different to the other websites on this list. A blog website as opposed to a course website, the articles on Strobist are so detailed and comprehensive that they are referred to as courses.
Created by a Lynda instructor, photojournalism graduate and former staff photographer at The Baltimore Sun, Strobist is the brainchild of David Hobby. It has now become the most popular website for off-camera flash tips and techniques. Strobist’s 3 main courses are ‘Lighting 101’, ‘Lighting 102’ and – you guessed it – ‘Lighting 103’. These three articles cover all the bases of lighting, beginning with off-camera lighting basics in 101, light composition in 102, and color in 103.
Another interesting set of article courses is the ‘On Assignment’ collection. Here, David shows you how he applies the skills taught on his website to real-life shoots, in multiple different photographic situations. This particular article, for example, focuses on lighting prep for sports events in a dimly lit gym.
In addition to the website, Strobist has a few associated extra resources. On Flickr, there is a Strobist discussion panel where you can ask questions about lighting and connect with other photographers. Another handy resource is Strobist’s connection with mpex.com. Here you’ll find all the deals on camera and lighting gear recommended by David.
Strobist was listed as one of the 25 best blogs of 2010 by Time magazine, and we can see why. Although it may not be your traditional course website, we considered the information on the blog valuable enough (and free!) to list Strobist here. If anything, bookmark the site and come back to it when you need some expert lighting tips and tricks.