Whether you're looking to brush up, dive deeper, or learn a new photographic skill, here's a roundup of some of the best online courses for photographers.
We have some time on our hands at the moment and no place to go. With our options to be out and about shooting curtailed at the moment, it’s a great opportunity to learn something new from the comfort of our own homes. Books are good, but there’s a lot to be said for online video classes.
Whether you’re looking to brush up, dive deeper, or learn a new photographic skill, here’s a roundup of some of the best online photography courses. I’ve also posted a separate version focuses specifically on Lightroom tutorials and classes and another on lighting and flash courses.
These are go-at-your-own pace courses, on your own schedule, and there are no exams. Most of these are video courses–online teaching has come a long way in recent years.
This is a running list that I’ll add to and update over time. By all means, please suggest any that you think would make worthy additions.
CreativeLive is one of my favorite sources for online photography courses. I’ve been a subscriber for a little over a year now. As you’d expect from the name, their focus generally is on creative fields, including art and design, craft and maker, music and audio, and, yes, photo and video.
For creatives, and especially for photographers, their offerings are unusually wide-ranging. They’re aimed at us, and they speak our language. There are instructional how-tos on technique like lighting and technical guides, to engagement photography and tabletop photography, and how to start a photography business.
Topics range from fundamentals of photography to advanced technique to post-processing in Lightroom to how to start a photography business. There are classes on portrait photography, studio lighting, tabletop photography, and posing models. There are even fast-start guides for some camera models. You can find the full listing of CreativeLive’s photography classes here.
Highlights for me include the classes by Joe McNally where you get to shadow him in a street portrait shoot, but there are many other excellent photographers leading the classes.
You can buy classes individually, in topic bundles, or an all-access subscription. If you plan to take advantage of more than a few classes, the Creator Pass is a good value, and you can be billed monthly or get a substantial discount if you prepay for an annual pass.
There are plenty of courses suitable for anyone from beginner to professional.
If you’d like to try a class for size, they offer quite a few free photography classes that give you a good taste.
You can watch the classes online on your desktop through a web browser or with the mobile/tablet app (I often watch them on my phone at the gym).
You can sign up for a free trial here.
Classes worth a look:
SkillShare is another very large library of online courses with an emphasis on creative fields. I’m a new subscriber to SkillShare, and I’ve been very impressed so far. The videos and interfaces are high-quality and easy to use. And the content has a freshness and relevance that I like.
Their offerings are diverse and have a very fresh feel. And rather than multi-part courses, as such, they focus more on individual classes. Some might be as short as 20 minutes; others run an hour or two. That means that in addition to broader topics like photography essentials, street photography techniques, or studio lighting, you can get bite-sized classes on some very interested and specialized topics (eg. Portrait Photography on the Street: Connecting with Strangers, DIY Concrete-Looking Backdrops for Product Photography, or Cafe Photography for Instagram: Telling Visual Stories with Emotional Cafe Photos).
Their broad range of courses are suitable for beginners through professionals.
Classes worth a look:
If the name LinkedIn Learning doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because it’s much better known by its old name: Lynda.com. Workplace-focused social media platform LinkedIn bought Lynda.com a while back and rebranded it.
It has an enormous library of courses spanning diverse types of work. They’re especially famous for their business (Excel tips, anyone?), web developer, coding, and marketing courses, but they also have deep libraries of material on photography.
There are sections on lighting, compositing, and retouching, and they’re especially strong in the software-focused fields of post-processing, editing, and digital asset management.
One area where LinkedIn Learning stands out for photographers is in the non-photography classes that can be put to good use. A perfect example is the web development section. While some of it is too advanced for the casual photographer user, there’s much there that can be put to good use in sprucing up and optimizing a photography website.
They have a 1-month free trial, which leads into a monthly subscription (it’s cheaper if you pre-pay a year at a time).
Tip: Some local public library systems maintain a subscription to LinkedIn Learning for their patrons—mine does. So it’s worth checking whether that’s an option in your local area.
Udemy takes a more crowd-sourced approach to its courses, but it’s still nowhere near the free-for-all you get on something like YouTube.
Courses are sold individually, and you can get a sense of the quality of each of them through student enrollment numbers and star ratings.
You can find their photography courses here.
MasterClass goes for highly selective and high-end. They don’t have the same kind of breadth and depth of offerings of some of the other options on this page, but what they do have is quite unique. Their focus is on a select group of superstar masters in their fields. Think names like Annie Liebovitz and Jimmy Chin. Or Ron Howard for film making. Or Dr. Jane Goodall conservation. Or Anna Wintour on creativity and leadership. Or Gordon Ramsay teaching cooking. So in any given field, the range is somewhat narrow, but it’s unusually rich and unique.
Access is sold as a monthly subscription that gives you access to all classes across all fields.
It’s suitable for photographers of any level, but the approach isn’t so much hands-on nuts-and-bolts as insights into the approaches and inspiration.
There’s an enormous number of online photography classes on specific topics. Here are some that have caught my eye that focus on shooting that can be done without venturing out and about.
I’ve long been a fan of Gavin Hoey’s work. While he sometimes ventures out into the field, his specialty is making the most of a small home studio, particularly with lighting. He has a knack for explaining lighting in straightforward and friendly ways.
This course is right up his alley: explaining in a straightforward and approachable way a topic that can seem intimidating: using off-camera flash. Commendably, he doesn’t do it with thousands of dollars worth of expensive studio equipment; the things he shows in this class will work with even the most inexpensive camera flashes and get you results quickly.
I’ve posted a more detailed review of this course here. It’s best for those just starting out with off-camera flash.
You can find the series here (on Vimeo). It’s $35 for Stream + Download Anytime access.
Several of the paid options mentioned above include trials or a smattering of free samples. What I’m focusing on here are ones that are mostly or entirely free.
YouTube. The first stop for free instruction, as true for photography as just about any other field, is YouTube. You can find an enormous range of
As with everything on YouTube, quality varies, and it can be a bit hit and miss, but it’s well worth subscribing to some channels to try them out. As they say, what do you have to lose?
Alison Online Courses on Photography. Alison focuses more generally on certificate and diploma classes. They have some useful free courses ranging from beginner to advanced.
Commercial Photography: Still and Moving Image from Norwich University of the Arts is a certificate course spanning four weeks with 3 hours per week. As you’d expect from the title, it’s quite specialized and is best suited to someone already in the sub-field or trying to break into it.
Introduction to Photography and Related Media from MIT’s Open Courseware initiative. This is an online version of MIT’s nuts-and-bolts photography course focusing on fundamentals. It’s more self-directed than some of the other options here in that you can download the syllabus and course materials but will have to figure out how to best make use of them yourself.
Documentary Photography and Photojournalism: Still Images of a World in Motion at MIT. Part of MIT’s Open Courseware initiative. It is geared toward aspiring photojournalists and documentary photographers. Like the introductory class above, you can download the syllabus and course materials but will have to rely on self-guided discovery.
Lighting 101 from Strobist focuses on lighting, with a particular focus on minimalist lighting setups. It doesn’t have the fancy interface of some other newer options, but the information is top-notch. And once you finish Lighting 101, you can follow up with Lighting 102 and Lighting 103, both also free.