It’s always a good time to learn something new from the comfort of our own homes. Whether you’re limited in where you can get out and about (like we all have the past couple of years), you’ve got some downtime between clients, or the weather is just cold and uninviting out, learning something new about photography is a wonderful way to turn that time into something productive that makes you a better photographer.
Books are certainly good–I’m a big fan of books–but there’s a lot to be said for online video classes, where you can watch the processes in action and see the results. Video is just a good way to learn photography.
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 companion rundown that focuses specifically on the best Lightroom tutorials and online classes and another on lighting and flash online courses.
These are go-at-your-own-pace online photography courses. So you can do them in pieces, 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, so it’s a much better and more interactive experience than simply binge-watching YouTube videos (not that that’s a bad thing either!). And they work on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. I’m particularly a fan of taking my iPad along while I’m working out on the treadmill or elliptical.
And I’ve included a range of examples here–you can find anything from an introduction to digital photography course, to specialized classes on landscape photography, to classes gear to aspiring photographers looking to break into a new career, to courses geared more toward established professional photographers. Some focus on technical aspects, some on business aspects, and you can even find ones to help you overcome a natural hesitancy to approach subjects on the street.
It really is quite amazing how the offerings have blossomed in the past few years.
This is a running list that I’ll try to add to and update over time.
CreativeLive Online Photography Courses
CreativeLive is one of my favorite sources for online photography courses. I’ve been a paying subscriber for a couple of years now. As you’d expect from the name, their overall 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 especially rich. They’re aimed at us, and they speak our language. There are instructional how-tos on technique such as lighting and technical guides, to engagement photography and documentary photography, and an entire course on how to start a photography business, something that’s especially well-suited for anyone who dreams of quitting their job and going into a career change in professional photography.
Topics range from fundamentals of photography to advanced lessons on techniques 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 photography 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 those just trying to get a handle learning photography basics to professional photographers.
If you’d like to try a class on 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.
Here are some of CreativeLive’s digital photography courses that are worth a look:
- How to Start a Photography Business
- Incredible Engagement Photography
- Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture
- Tabletop Product Photography
- Filming Families: The Modern Family Video
They also have some very good bundles suited to photographers of different levels and interests. Here are some examples:
Beginner Classes on Digital Photography
- Fundamentals of Photography (John Greengo)
- The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners (John Greengo)
- Understanding Light (Mark Wallace)
- Mastering Your Digital Camera (Chris Weston)
- Adobe Photoshop CC: The Complete Guide (Ben Willmore)
SkillShare Online Photography Classes
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 and lively 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. So it’s less of a commitment, and it’s much easier to fit in between all the other stuff you have going on.
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 (e.g., 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).
They have a broad range of courses suitable for beginner photographers through professional photographers.
You can try it out for two weeks free, after which it converts to a paid subscription. You can find the photography classes here. You can get 1 free month of Skillshare Premium to try it out.
Classes worth a look:
- Street Photography: Unlock the Secrets of Composition, Color & Confidence
- Instagram-Worthy Photography: Shoot, Edit & Share
- DSLR Photography II: Understanding Lenses, Focal Length & Shooting
- How to Create a Cohesive Instagram Feed | Using Adobe Lightroom
KelbyOne is a learning hub created by Scott Kelby. Something that sets it apart from the other options here is that it specializes only on photography.
Topics run the gamut of photography niches, from commercial photography, to sports to family to fashion to food to portraits, and more. The course offerings are particularly deep on Photoshop and Lightroom. At the time I’m writing this, there are 917 courses listed in the catalog.
There’s plenty of content by photographers like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Dave Black and a host of other great photographers. Much of it consists of courses, but there are also interviews and workshops. There are plenty of short tutorials–some only seconds long–for features of Photoshop and Lightroom, the areas where Scott Kelby originally rose to prominent. And, of course, Kelby’s webcasts (The Grid and The Gallery). So it’s a good mix of content, ranging from in-depth courses to topical conversation.
The content is excellent overall. It is let down a little by the user interface–the web browser version is okay, but still not as polished as some of the others listed here. And the mobile app is poor. But the unique content makes up for it.
Courses can be bought individually, or you sign up for membership. Plus membership gives you access to roughly half the courses; the Pro membership gives you unlimited access and has a number of other perks. You can go month-to-month or annually (which gives you a better deal). You can find the current rates and benefits here.
Udemy Online Photography Classes
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. The a la carte approach means you’re not on the hook for a subscription, and you don’t have the obligation to use it hanging over you.
You can find their photography courses here.
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 spreadsheet 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 to be of much interest for the average 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 to 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–you might be able to get full access for free!
MasterClass Online Photography Courses
MasterClass goes for highly selective and the high-end of the market. They don’t have the same kind of breadth and depth of offerings as 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 filmmaking. 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. They’ve gone to a lot of effort to focus on true leaders in any given field–a kind of dream list of teachers.
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.
Summerana Photography Academy
Summerana is an especially good option for established or aspiring portrait, family, engagement, and wedding photographers. Their classes and focus is especially strong in that area.
In addition to their video course anrd workshops, they also have a lot of products such as Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions, digital backdrops, and so on.
You can check out their courses here.
Best Online Photography Courses: Specialized Topics
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.
Gavin Hoey’s Fearless Flash Photography with Speedlights
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.
Best Online Photography Courses: Free Classes
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.