Lynda.com is an online tutorial site. They have hundreds of courses covering everything from design and photography to digital art and app programming. Everything is available from just $20 a month. If you’re looking to get better at photography, it’s a great place to start.
Even if you’re already a competent photographer, one of the best ways to keep improving is to watch online courses. In a previous article, I recommended learning to post-process as one of the fastest ways to improve your work; Lynda is the site I used to learn how.
With so many courses to choose from it can be hard to know where to start; here are ten of my favorites.
If you’re new to photography, then you need to start with the basics. Digital cameras, and especially DSLRs, are complex tools with many different features and settings.
While you can take reasonable images with your camera set to Automatic Exposure, you won’t be in control of what it’s doing. If you really want to express your artistic vision, you need to understand how it all works.
In Introduction to Photography, Ben Long covers everything a digital photographer beginner needs to know. Long is one of my favorite instructors; he’s an exceptional photographer and teacher. His intro courses are the best around.
The basics aren’t enough to get the most from your camera; you need to understand exactly what it’s doing and how it converts the light in the scene in front of you into a digital file. With this knowledge, you can play to the strengths of your camera and avoid its weaknesses when you’re taking pictures.
Again we turn to Long and his fantastic understanding of the technical aspects of photography. In this course he breaks down everything photographers mean when they talk about exposure.
Light isn’t just one color. It depends on the time of day, the surroundings, the weather, and countless other factors. Our eyes compensate for these variances.
If you look at a white sheet of paper in bright sunlight or under a tungsten bulb, it still looks white to your eyes because your brain adjusts. To your camera, however, its appearance changes.
In this course, Long goes into why this is, when it matters, and when you can break the rules for creative effect. If you’ve ever wondered why the colors in your photos look wrong, this course will explain it all.
The technical aspects of photography are important, but a technically perfect picture of a boring scene is a boring photo. The key to capturing amazing images is to understand how to compose your photos so they have the greatest impact.
There are rules and guidelines that can help you do it, and in this course, Long explores them. If you’re not sure why your images aren’t as effective as you’d like, this course is for you.
In digital photography, capturing images is only the first step. You also have to develop them in the digital darkroom. The most popular program for that is Adobe Lightroom.
Adobe Lightroom is both a catalog system and a development environment; with it you’ll be able to keep track of every image you take and edit them so they look their best.
Chris Orwig’s methodological approach to post processing makes him an awesome instructor. I’ve binge-watched all his courses. If you watch Orwig do something once, you’ll often remember it forever.
While Lightroom is a great app, it has limited editing capabilities. If you really want to push pixels you need to use Photoshop.
Unfortunately, Photoshop is a huge and often intimidating app. The good news is that Orwig once again has a great course that covers everything a photographer needs to know.
Just as Photoshop is a companion to Lightroom, Orwig’s Photoshop course is a companion to his Lightroom course; it’s best to watch them together.
Deke McClelland, although he doesn’t know it, is the man who taught me to use Photoshop. I used earlier versions of this course, Photoshop One-on-One, to learn almost everything I know about image editing.
Deke’s course is a monster, it’s almost 15 hours long and goes into great detail on every feature of Photoshop. While some of the stuff won’t be useful for every photographer, if you’re interested in getting into the more composite and conceptual images (like I did with my series of Halloween photos) then it’s required viewing.
Photoshop is such a huge program that Deke needs 15 hours to cover the basics; he needs another 17 hours in this follow on course to explore everything else. 32 hours is a huge investment of time but, if you make it, it will pay off. You’ll be a Photoshop expert for the rest of your life.
You don’t need this level of Photoshop understanding to be an entirely competent photographer, but it’s an incredible advantage. While “I’ll fix it in post” is a terrible motto to live by, “I’ll enhance my vision in post” is what every photographer should be saying. With the knowledge you learn from Deke you’ll be able to do just that.
Understanding how the tools work is one thing, knowing when and where to apply them is far more important.
In this short course, Orwig walks through the retouching process for a studio portrait. Rather than an abstract, this tool does this kind lecture, the course puts everything into practice.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the knowledge you’re mainlining, this course is a great, practical break. It won’t teach you anything new but it will make you put your knowledge into context.
Black-and-White Project: Creating a Dramatic Landscape with Lightroom and Photoshop with Chris Orwig
Similar to the previous course, Creating a Dramatic Landscape with Lightroom and Photoshop follows Orwig walking through an image edit. In this case, it’s a landscape. Once again, he puts everything in incredibly practical terms. He explains why he is making each decision and how he is going to make the image match his vision.
If you’ve an interest in landscape photography, this course is great. You get to watch a fantastic photographer go through his full process.
There are very few learning tools as good as Lynda.com. While it’s important to spend time with your camera in hand to get better, you can learn a huge amount about the theory of photography and the technical aspects of post-processing online. To be a great photographer, you need to do both.
Have you used Lynda.com to learn photography? What were your favorite courses? Let us know in the comments.