I have often heard the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” What I think maybe a more accurate phrase is, “Someone else’s experience is the best teacher.”
Provided, of course, that the student actually pays attention and applies what they learn. “Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.”
While few of us have access to our own diminutive 900-year-old Jedi master, we do have readily available to us the best online photography courses.
In this post, I have rounded up some of the best courses available on the web. Best of all is that a majority of these are free!
17 Best Online Photography Courses You Can Take Right Now In 2023
1. Ultimate Photography Course For Beginners (Free On Skillshare)
Coming in at my number 1 position is the “Ultimate Photography Course for Beginners” by teacher Jellis Vaes (who is a full-time professional photographer) which currently has 1,450+ students on Skillshare.
What I really loved about Jellis Vaes’s course was that it covers everything that a beginner will need to know in order to capture amazing photos in no time at all!
Modules covered are understanding a DSLR camera, exposure triangle, composition, ISO, shutter speed, focusing, histograms, and also editing photos in Lightroom.
This course seriously has it all! I only wish this course was around when I first started learning photography…
Also, with this course being run on Skillshare, users also get access to 100’s of other photography courses such as Instagram, portraits, product, street, and wedding photography!
For new users, Skillshare is offering a 2-month free trial (cancel anytime), which means users can consume all these courses for FREE!
2. R-Photo Class (Free)
A free course with a whole lot of useful information, you don’t even need a DSLR or other advanced camera to take this course, a smartphone camera user can benefit from this course also.
There are 30 lessons covering most of the basic subjects, assuming no prior knowledge, and with a focus on the practical over theoretical explanations.
While the lessons have assignments, there is no grading of finished work. Although you could upload to Reddit and get feedback from fellow course users.
Another feedback option is to post your thoughts and photos in the comments section of the lessons and interact with fellow students.
Since it is constantly accessible online, you can go through the 30 lessons at your pace, even repeating them if you want.
These 30 lessons cover basic photographic knowledge and techniques. Subjects include:
- camera usage
- exposure techniques
- white balance
Each lesson is complete with details and photographic illustrations.
A fine course for beginners, intermediate photographers will also benefit from the insight and instructions. This is hands down one of the best online photography courses available.
3. Udemy Introduction To Photography Course (Free + Paid)
Free for the first five parts, this online video course offers a certificate of completion and covers subjects from the absolute basics to more advanced topics.
The videos are engaging and easy to follow, complete with an illustration of the subject discussed with demonstrations and examples.
Subjects range from familiarizing yourself with whatever camera is being used, to more advanced techniques covering exposure, composition, and using a histogram.
Additional course modules are inexpensive and can be completed at your leisure and in any order. Subjects include camera-specific instruction, using off-camera flash, post-processing basics, and in-depth continuations of subjects.
This free online course from Alison is an updated and more detailed replacement of the old Harvard University Digital Photography course.
Importantly, it is easily accessible online at any time of day, anyone can learn photography with this course.
It contains multiple modules that give the student an opportunity to increase knowledge and understanding of digital photography.
Topics include the basic features of digital cameras, exposure guidelines for capturing the best images, post-processing, and even a history of photography.
Free to enroll and complete, certification is available at extra cost with a successful completion rate of the lessons and modules of at least 80%.
Besides learning about basic and more advanced photographic techniques, having a verifiable certificate of completion could be included on your CV or resume as education is completed.
The scoring comes from the completion of assignments within each module and the lessons can be repeated at any time. Courses are available in several different languages.
6. Beginner Photography Course – Photographycourses.net (Free)
A series of free tutorials designed to advance a photographer from the basics of just starting out all the way to advanced techniques.
The multimedia approach is used which has written lessons, photos and other illustrations, and links to videos.
In addition, a lot of illustrations are used to help to explain some of the more difficult to understand concepts. Courses are self-paced and can be accessed at any time from anywhere.
Some of the lessons are geared toward beginners, while others go into detail about more advanced subjects.
Exposure Triangle, flash photography, explaining white balance, and even iPhone photography are some of the lessons offered.
7. Stanford University Photography Lectures (Free)
18 videos, each one about an hour or so, of lectures from a Stanford University professor on various photography subjects.
Also, being on YouTube, each lecture is free to access and you can bookmark them for future playback.
In addition, a link to the assignments is provided on the YouTube playlist page, so it really is almost the same as being there.
As you would expect from a college professor, some of the subjects get a very in-depth coverage.
With all the graphs and whiteboard illustrations, though, even advanced ideas are easy to follow and understand.
I thoroughly enjoyed his approach to the subjects. Geared more toward photographers with intermediate skill sets, a beginner can also benefit from most of the lessons.
Furthermore, advanced photographers can also gain much from these lectures.
8. Lifehacker Photography Course (Free)
From the people who brought you “How to Break Into Your Own Car” and “Moving from Australia to New Zealand” lifehacks comes this fun introduction to photography.
Consisting of five parts, this free course talks about camera control basics, automatic and manual exposure, composition, and ends with post-processing basics.
Besides the easy-to-read web pages, a PDF of the entire course is downloadable, for whatever reasons you may have to download a PDF. Having a PDF on your device means you can still read it even without web access.
A lot of other information is included on the photography course homepage, including links to other courses, both free and behind paywalls.
9. Lynda: Practicing Photographer (Free Trial)
If you can get to all 30 hours of the course in a month, then this is a free class, since it has a 30-day free trial on the website.
Note, you can download it to see it while offline, or get a transcript to read it all at your leisure.
It has some really fine information not covered by several of the completely free courses, such as a tutorial on metadata, HDR photography, and using filters, both on camera and in post-processing.
An engaging manner from the instructor makes these tutorials both interesting and pleasant to watch.
Coming in at a fairly substantial price for some, this is a full-featured course with quizzes after each lesson. Including quizzes, there are over 100 different parts to this course.
A full load of materials is also included with this class, basically a workbook of the course. Thus, you can keep reviewing the information after completing the lessons.
As far as the price, it is a good course. The price is similar to what some higher-end memory cards cost, so it could be easy for some photographers to ante up.
11. Annie Leibovitz Master Class ($140)
Annie Leibovitz is a master of interesting portraiture and can be considered a modern-day artist. Two price models exist for accessing the course.
They are a one-time course payment, or a year-long subscription to the website, which allows access to other classes on the website.
Included with the single course are 15 videos, a class workbook with extra materials, and feedback from fellow students and Annie herself. Pretty cool, especially if portraits are your main focus in the art of photography.
Even if her style of portraits is not your thing, the information is extremely valuable. It is worth a look if you are involved in any people photography businesses.
When you combine all these features together, this is easily one of the best online photography courses on the web! Can’t go wrong!
Along with great photography workshops, MasterClass also offers up some great classes on filmmaking from non-other than Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese to name a few.
If you want to learn more about filmmaking, then check out my complimentary guide on the best film schools in the world!
12. Kelbyone: Learn Photography, Lightroom & Photoshop ($9.99/mo)
For the low subscription price, about equal to a basic Adobe subscription, a huge volume of video classes are at your disposal.
The Photoshop course is worth the price for all skill levels, as it shows the basics and teaches all sorts of tricks and tool use.
Besides the topic-specific lessons, the subscription also gives you access to a series of lessons from successful photographers across the board of styles and genres.
This was really interesting, to see what others have taken and made into a success.
Not just a feel-good story of their success, but a real hands-on tutorial of why they are successful, and what they did and are doing.
13. Jerad Hill: Start Shooting Manual (Free)
A free course specifically for getting beginners over the manual control hump. A four-hour tour of the basics of camera controls is best viewed with the camera in hand for best results.
Other classes are available if you sign up for the entire site, including lessons on Photoshop, Black and White Photography.
Additionally, parts that are important to a photographic business such as using WordPress, blogs, and social media.
If you are running your photographic business, the information in some of the other course modules could be well worth the cost of the site subscription.
14. Learning Lightroom Video Course Series (Free)
Separated into 50 episodes of 15 to 20 minutes each, this is one of the most comprehensive tutorials on Lightroom I have seen. Free on YouTube!
A photographer doesn’t need to watch all 50 videos. Start with the first 5 or so for a good overview and then pick and choose topics important to your own work.
While not everyone has the same artistic style, the skills used to create your styles are the same across the board.
Watching all of them would take about 16 hours or so, so it wouldn’t be difficult to complete them all. If you only watched one a day, you see them all in less than two months.
Furthermore, you could watch the episodes on your computer while simultaneously working on your own images on Lightroom.
15. Shaw Academy Photography Course (Free)
Webinar style is how this class operates. A free trial or a modestly priced subscription gives you a choice of beginner or advanced lessons.
Since the classes are presented as webinars, the students can ask questions and get answers from the instructors in real-time.
Topics include basic camera controls, composition, exposure control, and other useful subjects.
Additionally, quizzes are included in the lesson plans and a certificate of completion for use in your own CV is downloadable after course completion.
You can also check out my post on some great online photography courses with certificates that go along way to getting gigs or a photography job!
16. Springboard: Computational Photography (Free)
This free intermediate-level video lecture course has an interesting focus. To best describe the unique course, here are some basics of the class description:
The goal of this course is to introduce you to the basics of how computation has impacted photography. It begins with a conceptualization of photography as drawing with light and capturing light to form images and videos.
Students will learn about how the optics and the sensor of a camera are generalized, as well as learn about how the lighting and other aspects of the environment are also computationally generalized.
This course is interdisciplinary and draws upon concepts and principles from computer vision, computer graphics, image processing, mathematics, and optics. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
17. Art Of Photography Course (Free)
About four hours worth of video and then 9 different quizzes gets you through this free course. Interestingly, it has a slant more towards the artfulness of photography as opposed to the crafts.
It still walks you through the basics of the craft but shows how a photographer can create art by mastering the technical aspects of photography.
Besides the camera controls, a good amount of information is given about the use of post-processing techniques.
18. Cambridge In Colour Photography Courses (Free)
Rounding out our top 17 list, this online course is a full treatise on photography and everything involved in the art and craft. This website has some of the best graphs and photographs illustrating the lessons that I have seen.
A photographer, whether beginner or advanced, can happily spend hours perusing the information contained. It covers something about everything and is very easy to understand as well.
If you like a classroom setting more and are located in the US, then you’ve got to check out my guide on the best photography colleges in the US!
Discussion forums make it a full interactive photography course. A book of the course information is also available, as well as other fine books on all aspects of photography from various authors.
19. Skillshare Photography Composition (Free)
Titled “A Crash Course in Photographic Composition,” this video course is free to watch for a month but requires an account to see it. Within the two hours and 16 minutes of the four videos, a good tutorial on composition basics is given.
A good amount of real-life photographs accompany the written matter and illustrative graphs and tables. Each module includes photo assignments for the students.
It really does primarily focus on composition, assuming that the student already knows other photography basics.
How can an online photography course help?
Online photography courses are great for several reasons. You can learn at your pace. They often cover detailed ideas, techniques, and practices that aren’t readily evident.
Also, many of the best online photography courses cull knowledge from several different experienced photographers. That means it is more than the knowledge and experience of just one person.
Online courses are also usually varied in what is taught. A beginner or an intermediate photographer can learn about the best portrait techniques, how to capture stunning nature and wildlife photos, what the exposure triangle really mean, what is needed for successful event photography, and how to post-process an image for the best results, and so on.
Obviously, any beginning photographer can learn a lot from a good teacher. Intermediate photographers have much to gain as well.
Even if we have gotten pretty good at something in our photography, there is always room for improvement. Also, knowing what works in one situation, doesn’t automatically guarantee success when attempting something else.
Not all classes are the same. Here is what we think are the online courses that could benefit our readers.
If you feel like I have missed a photography course on this list, please let me know as I plan on updating this list with more courses being released. Happy shooting and thanks for reading! 🙂
Want to learn more about film? Well, you should definitely check out my post on the best filmmaking courses and schools to get started! I have also included some great tutorials for those who are complete beginners!
That’s all folks! Hopefully, this guide has steered you in the right direction to picking the right photography course for your needs. If there are any courses that I have left out or you would like me to review, please let me know down below!
Also, remember, the best teacher is you and trial and error when it comes to taking photos. While you can take all the courses in the world, you won’t really learn until you go out there and take some photos. Even if you are using an iPhone or a point-and-shoot, it’s better than nothing!