The internet represents the democratization of information. This is never truer than in the realm of learning. Once upon a time, to learn a skill you had to seek out experts in the field to teach you, enroll in a college or university, or grab a textbook. Today, online, interactive classes and courses offered by many platforms have made the process of learning easier, more accessible and cost-effective.
Which are the best online photography classes?
The answer to that depends on your learning levels, current skill levels and the time and money you can invest in an online photography class. From amateurs with YouTube channels to Ivy League university programs, the number of online photography classes available grows every year. Many of these are free photography classes, but the highest quality courses need to be purchased or viewed using a subscription service.
The vast selection of online photography courses has circumvented the need to find learning opportunities near your location. You now have access to a plethora of quality content from around the world at your fingertips. The best online photography courses require a lot of time and knowledge to put together, and when done well, they can be just as useful as doing an apprenticeship or taking up photography lessons near you.
Here are the top 23 online photography classes that you can choose from:
1. Beginner Digital Photography from Alison
Alison is an Irish-based web learning company that offers diploma and certificate course online. Their online classes are free and wide-ranging. From learning a foreign language to master web design, Alison has great courses available to be taken anytime. Alison offers a photographer career path which includes 16 different photography classes.
Alison offers several free online photography courses with certificates, including a diploma program for digital photography. Beginners can try out their course offerings by taking Digital Photography for Beginners course. This online photography class covers basic image composition, using and picking digital cameras, and other great tips to help you get off on the right foot.
2. Introductory Photography Course from Udemy
This hour and half long video photography class from Udemy offers a lot of value to beginning shutterbugs. The course covers camera basics including controlling autofocus modes, controlling exposure and metering modes, and controlling the depth of field. The course goes beyond camera settings too and introduces compositional concepts like the rule of thirds and leading lines.
The introductory online Digital Photography Course is just one of the online photo classes offered from Udemy. Many courses on the site cost around $10, but they offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee. Many of the online photography courses are about five hours long, but several masterclasses cover over 20 hours of material. Topics range from general how-to like “Mastering Off-Camera Flash” to very specialized niche topics like “Newborn Photography Secrets.”
3. Your Road to Better Photography from Udemy
Another one of the free online photography courses offered from Udemy, this short course encourages students to get out of the automatic camera modes they’ve started out in and explore the world of manual control. By teaching you to master the exposure triangle for aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, you can enjoy complete creative freedom with whatever type of camera you pick up.
4. Basics of Digital Photography from Craftsy
Craftsy is a website dedicated to educating craft makers and artists using quality video lessons. Topics on the site are wide-ranging: from knitting and cooking to gardening and photography.
The Basics of Digital Photography course was created in collaboration with the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop and features nine HD video photography classes given by instructor Rick Allred. Topics included in this online digital photography course cover light and exposure, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lenses, and composition and creativity.
5. The Essential Guide to Photoshop from Craftsy
Among the many online digital photography courses offered on Craftsy, this Photoshop essentials course is a gem. No list of online photography courses would be complete without at least one Photoshop course. Even if you don’t personally use the program, chances are you will use it for an employer or come in contact with it at some point in your career. Other photo editing software programs that you might use have undoubtedly been designed to look and feel like Photoshop, so learning Photoshop has become a de facto requirement for being a digital photographer.
This course, presented by Skott Chandler, consists of 14 video sections and covers basics like using Bridge and Camera RAW to organize files and import camera RAW files. Retouching is divided logically by the type of photograph you are working with, be it portraits, landscapes, or vintage photo restorations.
6. DSLR Photography from Skillshare
Skillshare is a diverse community of online video courses. The site offers many free online photography courses to try out, but a reasonable monthly subscription fee gets you access to over 24,000 classes. The site provides a one-month free trial to try it out, so you can probably even complete one or two of the best online photography courses it offers for free.
The DSLR Photography course consists of 11 chapters of videos that cover using your camera for everything from street photography to portraits. Even the free courses like this one on Skillshare have a lot to offer. Additionally, there are several introductions to photography courses, as well as several Photoshop and Lightroom tutorials. Classes include projects which you can share and compare with others in the Skillshare community.
7. A Crash Course in Photographic Composition from Skillshare
Another of the great photography courses online offered by Skillshare is this course focusing entirely on composition. In over two hours of videos and materials, the course covers all aspects of composition, geometry, and lines.
8. The Practicing Photographer from Lynda
Lynda is the professional training website from business social media giant Linkedin. Lynda’s courses feature high-quality video training of any number of topics to help you build marketable skills and expand your knowledge base. These are some of the best online photography courses out there, but they do come with a price tag. Luckily, Lynda offers a free month to try out their courses so you can see if it’s a good fit for you before beginning a subscription.
The Practicing Photographer is a quick 30 minutes web course designed to give students a feel for what it’s like being a working photographer. This overview course quickly dives into different styles of cameras, lighting techniques, and post-processing programs. For a quick session, it covers a lot of ground.
If you are interested in getting more in-depth information, Lynda offers learning paths specifically tailored to photography. Their photography lessons online feature hands-on projects and learning assessments to ensure mastery of the material. What’s more, their photography section includes over 600 courses and more than 25,000 video tutorials.
9. The Elements of Effective Photographs from Lynda
Another photography course from Lynda’s extensive catalog, The Elements of Effective Photographs covers more of the creative side of the art. This course is taught by Natalie Fobes, a National Geographic photographer. It covers topics like composition, leading lines, and exposure. The course also highlights the use and control of light, whether in the studio or outdoors. This focus on compositional elements, using movement to capture the emotion, and proper lighting will be refreshing if you’re getting bogged down in the technical side of camera settings and equipment.
10. Portrait Photography Bootcamp from Creativelive
If you are looking for a more hands-on, specific course for portraiture then look no farther than Lindsay Adler’s course. This well thought out lesson covers all of the essentials of shooting portraits and is an excellent reference for all photographers. From the basics like camera settings, lighting, and lens selections, to advanced posing techniques for individuals and groups, this course covers it all.
Creativelive’s offers quite a few specialized online digital photography courses in photography, as well as a few general beginner’s courses. No matter what topic you are interested in or what skill you need to master, Creativelive has a specialty course for you.
11. Beginner Photography Course Bundle from Creativelive
Another great offering on Creativelive’s course platform is the four-course bundle for beginning photographers. These four courses, when taken together, cover everything from basic camera settings, composition, lighting, and digital post-processing. The Fundamentals of Photography course alone encompasses 107 video lessons and is a fantastic class to introduce you to the basics of photography.
The following online photography courses are included in the bundle but are also available separately.
• Fundamentals of Photography by John Greengo
• Understanding Light by Mark Wallace
• Adobe Lightroom: The Complete Guide by Ben Willmore
• Practical Adobe Photoshop Basics by Khara Plicanic
12. Beginners Start Here from Kelbyone
Kelbyone, the website started by a professional photographer and author Scott Kelby, is chockablock full of best online photography courses. Fifteen courses are available if you sign up for a free membership, the rest of the 1,000 plus video catalog requires a paid Plus or Pro membership. Industry-leading photographers and experts teach classes, so there are probably a few instructors whose names you’ll recognize.
Kelby’s own “Beginners Start Here” course covers the basics of photography, and several other free courses cover topics of interest to aspiring photographers. You will find classes that include every aspect of photography, from lighting and composition to business techniques and equipment reviews.
13. Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual from Jerad Hill’s Courses
Jerad Hill is a wedding photographer and website designer with an eye for the business of making money online from photography. In his free, well-designed course, you’ll learn the basics of camera settings and all that you need to master the exposure triangle and light.
Jerad Hill’s website also includes other courses, some paid and some free. Many courses cover topics like using Foursquare or Instagram to promote your business, which is extremely handy for photographers looking to start their own companies.
14. Photography Basics and Beyond from Coursera
Coursera is a leading online platform provider for MOOCs, or massive open online courses. Many of the MOOCs offered on the site are provided by accredited universities and colleges. The photography specialization is available from Michigan State University. This is a seven-month program with flexible deadlines and scheduling to meet your needs. Upon completion of the program and the hands-on projects, you earn a certificate in photography, which is excellent for your resume and employment options. As a freelancer, certifications help bolster your marketability and credibility with clients.
The following five courses are included in the Photography Basics and Beyond specialization.
• Cameras, Exposure, and Photography
• Camera Control
• Principles of Photo Composition and Digital Image Post-Production
• Photography Techniques: Light, Content, and Sharing
• Photography Capstone Project
15. Professional Diploma in Photography from Shaw Academy
One of Shaw Academy’s stated goals is to “reskill and upskill the world.” Their professional diploma programs are accredited by the European Qualifications Framework. Their courses and programs vary from photography and video to design, marketing, and even health and wellness.
Specifically, their Diploma in Photography consists of five modules, each taking four weeks of study time. The first module alone includes many of the basics skills photographers might be looking to master, including composition, lighting, and equipment basics. The first seven days of membership with Shaw is free, and then each month is billed as a membership.
16. Reddit Photo Class by Alex Buisse
Designed initially for Reddit, lifestyle photographer Alex Buisse put together this immensely popular class on his website. The text-based course takes the student through thirty lessons, from “What is a Camera” to “Sharing your Work” and “How to Go Further.” The course is easy to follow and covers all the essential basics, plus some professional level insights into RAW files and using tools like the histogram function in your camera. Each lesson includes an assignment to hone your skills. Alex’s stunning photos help illustrate points. Best of all, the site isn’t bogged down by advertising or sales gimmicks.
17. Photography Courses by David
David Molnar is a celebrity and advertising photographer whose clients include Google, Pepsi, & Sony among many others. David is now focusing on sharing his knowledge with others by being a photography mentor and creating world-class photo education, inspiration & resources. David’s photography courses are structured for beginners and span the entire spectrum of learning photography from mastering your camera, understanding lighting, and composition and learning how to edit and organize like a pro.
18. Masters of Photography
Masters of photography brings you online photography class by the most celebrated photographers in the world. They currently have courses by three photographers, namely Steve McCurry, Joel Meyerowitz and Albert Watson wherein you get lifetime access to hours of content. Once you have finished the course from them, you will also get a personalized certificate.
19. School of Visual Arts Photography Lectures
The School of Visual Arts has created a YouTube playlist that serves as a free photography class for beginners. It contains more than 100 lectures related to photography and is presented by their Masters in Photographic Studies program. This free online photography course is called i3: Images, Ideas, Inspiration, and includes lectures by experienced photographers in various fields like fashion photography, documentary photography, etc.
20. Continuing Education in Photography from the School of Visual Arts
There are two online photography classes provided by Continuing Education.
Creative Seeing: This paid course focuses on the creative vision of the photographer and aims to expand it. The course includes photography exercises as well as those which focuses on seeing. Photographers in their early stage and those who want to improve their perspective of how they see the world can enroll in this course.
Queering the Portrait: The course will teach portrait photography that is far from average. It also includes subjects such as lighting, direction, and location choosing. Weekly and long projects will be assigned to you, and feedback will be given for it.
21. Annie Leibovitz MasterClass
Annie Leibovitz’s a world-famous photographer known for photographing people such as John Lenon. Her iconic photographs appeared in magazines such as Vanity Fair and Rolling Stones. She believes in telling stories through photography. Her years of experience are taught through this MasterClass that allows students to get an online peek into her studio and live shoots. This online portrait photography class contains fifteen video lessons.
22. Jimmy Chin adventure photography MasterClass
If you are into adventure photography, then this online photography course is for you. Jimmy Chin is well known in the world of adventure. He is a National Geographic photographer who teaches you how to plan, capture and edit the adventure photographs taken by you. Whether it is for a commercial shoot, editorial projects, or your passion, Jimmy teaches you to take your photography to a new level.
23. Seeing Through Photographs
As the name suggests, this free online photography course wants the learner to understand the photograph, not just look at it. When a photo is made, there are different ideas and approaches, which the course will help you understand. The course provided by the Museum of Modern Art also aims to help you understand the different ways a photograph is seen and used, whether as a way of documentation or as a way of artistic expression. It is one of the best free online photography courses that can be done in 16 hours and is suggested to be divided in six weeks.
These 23 courses aren’t the only online photography courses out there, but they provide a great start to laying the foundations of your photography knowledge base. Photography is a varied field with many specializations and areas where we can all learn more. Thankfully, online learning has empowered us all to keep learning and to keep improving our skills. What skill do you want to learn next?