The best photography course you can take is the one just outside your front door. In other words, get out there and take photos of anything and everything! However, there are also some great online photography classes worth exploring.
If you are an absolute beginner, here’s our own beginner’s guide to digital photography. This will teach you the absolute basics. However, there are plenty of other photography courses available online for those eager to learn.
Key Benefit: A basic course that spans 30 self-paced lessons.
This free online photography course is more recognizable as the Reddit Photoclass. It started its life on the r/photoclass subreddit and ripened into 30 full-fledged lessons on its own site. You will be in the good hands of Alex Buisse, an adventurer and a photographer himself.
You don’t even need to own a DSLR. A smartphone will do the job. Lessons have assignments which you can submit in the comments. Community feedback helps but there is no grading here.
Key Benefit: A complete photography class from Michigan State University that can take seven months to complete.
This online photography course for beginners is a specialization track that is a package of five different courses. Go from the fundamentals of camera controls to publishing your best photos with a project.
You can do the whole thing in seven months or less. Or, you can pick one of the courses to finish first. Read and go through the course content for free if you do not want to pay for the Coursera certification.
Key Benefit: An ad-free photography tutorial site that’s easy to read.
Cambridge in Color has existed from 2005 and is still going strong. It is an organized tutorial site that helps you progress step by step. Start with Concepts and Terminology if you have just picked up a camera for the first time.
When you are deeper into it, browse through the Tools section for handy calculators that will help improve your shots.
Round off your learning in the Discussion forums. A book is also available if you want to carry the instructions with you.
Key Benefit: Learn to take fantastic pictures in manual mode.
Beginner photographers are wary of the manual mode on their camera. But this four-hour course pokes a few holes in those fears by teaching you the basics. And it stresses the need to get comfortable with the manual mode.
Jerad Hill is a wedding photographer who is self-taught. He offers this course and a few others like the Photo Editing with the iPhone for free. Tackle this course with any camera and at your own pace.
Key Benefit: An entire course from a Stanford professor for free.
Mark Levoy’s Wikipedia profile says that he is a computer graphics researcher and Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and a Distinguished Engineer at Google. The world came to know him better when he released his entire Stanford lectures on photography online.
The course is more on the science behind photography. But you do not need any prior photography or programming knowhow to follow the 18 lectures. Each lecture is approximately one hour long. There are optional photographic assignments which you can do on your own.
The course will help you fill the gaps in your technical knowledge. For instance, how does a camera work? And what’s the formula for depth of field?
Key Benefit: A more technical course on the fundamentals of photography.
Harvard University offers many open learning opportunities. They are usually launched through MOOC platforms like edX and others. The Exposing Digital Photography course materials are available online for free as OpenCourseWare (or OCW). There is no enrollment required.
This course attracts students with a wide range of experience and expertise in photography. There are 12 videos that cover the technical aspects of photography.
Topics include Software Tools and Light, Exposure, Optics, The Histogram, Digital Cameras, Color, and Video. Each video class runs for 2 hours, so you get 24 hours of instruction from top tier instructors from one of the best colleges in the world.
Key Benefit: Use the Ivy League syllabus as reference material.
This course made a splash when MIT released it for free via the Open Course Ware (OCW) program. It’s one of a range of photography courses offered by MIT you can follow by downloading the course materials provided for free.
It’s a bit difficult to do the semester-long course without the live classroom interaction and field projects. But you can use the course materials as a teaser to understand what undergraduate level photography courses are like.
Some of the photography courses do include video lessons. Most of them come with reading lists, lesson guidance, assignments, and projects.
Key Benefit: Learn the art of creating timeless portraits with one of the best names in the field.
This photography course is part of the Masterclass series of lectures which are taught by some of the biggest names in their field. Anna-Lou Leibovitz is a well known American portrait photographer. You can pay to join this single class or sign up for access to all the masterclasses taught on the site.
The quality of the teaching is second to none. Especially if you are interested in photographing people in portraits or candids on the streets. Work through the videos, an assignment workbook with extra materials, and feedback from fellow students and Annie herself.
Learning to weave a story with photographs, or just mastering the art of natural light photography, could make this worth the price of admission.
9. Nikon School
Key Benefit: Short and easy-to-follow courses for Nikon users.
Nikon offers workshops and online courses in most of its major markets. The Nikon School is a banquet of courses from the camera manufacturer which can help you advance through the various stages of photography. Beginners can enroll in the Getting Started with Your Nikon DSLR ($14.95) or the Fundamentals of Photography ($29.95) course.
The courses are available at different price points but won’t break the bank. Most of them have short videos and you may not even need a Nikon camera to complete them.
Key Benefit: Short courses taught by industry experts who use Canon.
If Nikon is there, can Canon be far behind? Canon also offers a similar bundle of premium photography courses that train you in the different aspects of taking great photos and videos. Some courses like Photo 101: How to Take Great Photos are camera-agnostic, but there are a few model-specific courses too.
The interactive courses are taught by industry experts who offer tips, techniques, and tricks of the trade. Prices range from $19 to $40 depending on the topic.
Tackle Multiple Online Photography Classes
Learning never stops, so feel free to tackle more than one of these online photography classes. Each one of these photography lessons could teach you something new.
There are also some professional photography courses available on Udemy if you want even more options. You can also go offline and seek out mentors. Just Google “photography classes near me” and you should find a few options close to home.
When all is said and done, learning how to take better photos is an ongoing process. And it can be hard word. So arm yourself with more knowledge, then go outside, and try these skill-building photography exercises that really work.