The world keeps spinning, and yet photographers are constantly trying to make the world stop. This quote by Andy Warhol describes it perfectly:
“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”
When you reflect on how much you’ve grown in 10 years, or even just one, this quote makes a lot of sense. Without the memories of where you started, the joy that comes with success doesn’t have the same punch.
That’s why great photographers will always be in demand. As long as the world keeps spinning, someone will have to slow it down to put things in perspective—from weddings to birthdays to graduations alike. Photography can also come in handy for other jobs like marketing, filmmaking, fashion design, or anything where a beautiful photograph may be needed.
If you’re looking to tell honest, captivating stories via camera lens, taking an online photography course is a great way to start. With a little dedication and a lot of practice, any of these 10 exciting courses will take you from amateur to pro.
1. Masterclass, Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography
Annie Leibovitz specializes in celebrity portraits. Never striving to set her subjects at ease, she captures the raw tension simmering just below the surface. For Annie, it’s less about staging shots to perfection and more about capturing the quirks that make us human. In her eyes, the more vulnerable, the better.
In 15 lessons, Annie unravels her world of storytelling in unexpected ways, such as dedicating entire lessons to photographing close friends and reviewing your work through self-reflection. Though she admits to not being a “technical photographer,” Annie addresses it deeply in lessons about digital post-production and the constant volley between focus and sharpness.
Nonetheless, this masterclass is about capturing raw emotions no viewer can hide from; bring your sense of curiosity and empathy when signing up!
2. Beginning Photography with Trey Ratcliff
If you hate instruction pamphlets but love cameras, I have the best news ever from Trey Ratcliff: No. More. Manuals.
“We begin by throwing away the camera manual and then I’ll gently guide you in the ways of photography,” he says.
In this course, Trey guides beginners on how to navigate everything from DSLR to mobile photography. An explorer at heart, Trey touches on astrophotography, landscape shots, mastering street photos and more. If you have a passion for exotic, breathtaking shots, spend some time learning from a man who has taken photos on all seven continents. And if that’s not enough to convince you, reflect on this quote from film director J.J. Abrams: “Trey’s images are other-worldly, mind-blowing creations that, at first glance, appear to be some digital trompe l’oeil; a Photoshop trickery, post-production creation. But no, Ratcliff’s photographs—through techniques he freely shares—are inspiring and real. Something which makes them all the more incredible.”
3. Photo School, Learn Photography and Photoshop From the Masters
Do you like Rihanna’s Unapologetic album cover? How about the official poster for the FX show Sons of Anarchy? The photographs used for these masterpieces were shot by Photo School founder Michael Muller. He’s one-half of the teaching duo that leads this amazing photography course; the other half is Patrick Hoelck, Michael’s longtime friend and Photo School co-founder. Together, these celebrity photographers deliver a polished training that feels like an all-access pass to Hollywood.
Clearly in a league of its own, this course doesn’t begin with discussions about camera settings and lenses. This training instead starts with interviews from seven expert photographers, including Michael and Patrick. It’s a welcome change of pace, as the introduction excites the viewer for lessons to come. From there, Michael and Patrick cover photo fundamentals from the perspective of high-end editorial or album cover assignments. With tons of expert commentary and case studies from actual shoots, this is the most exciting course by far.
4. CreativeLive, Fundamentals of Photography
Just like Trey Ratcliff, John Greengo has captured life on all seven continents. Specializing in outdoor and travel photography, his biking, hiking and canoeing adventures result in breathtaking landscape shots that make you wish you’d taken them yourself.
Right off the bat, the most striking thing about John’s course is that 100% of reviewers would recommend it to a friend. With over 400 ratings and counting, a perfect score is no easy feat. If I had to pin his students’ satisfaction to just one thing, it would be the humongous layout of the course. At 107 lessons, almost every question you could have about basic photography can be found somewhere in Fundamentals of Photography. Twenty-five hours of video content houses lengthy lessons on camera settings, lighting, image organization, composition and so much more.
5. The School of Photography, Complete Guide to Photography
If you want to make photography your profession, the School of Photography boasts a powerful learning experience. You won’t be relying on automatic mode when practicing the theories in this course, but rather, taking full control of the creative direction in manual mode.
The real value in this course is that instructor Marc Newton films his lessons at various shoots. There are no mundane slideshows here, as Marc teaches complex techniques in the woods, indoors, at dusk and more. While covering things like aperture and shutter speed, he displays before and after photos to help explain the effect of making small adjustments to the camera settings. With 58 videos, 16 PDFs and 12 quizzes, this course is geared toward creating professional photographers who truly know what they’re doing.
6. Udemy, Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography
A Complete Guide to Photography enlists three instructors who have skills in both photography and cinematography. As a result, Phil Ebiner, William Carnahan and Sam Shimizu-Jones add some interesting layers to this course that you’ll absolutely love.
The benefit of having three instructors is that they can cover a lot of material. More manpower allows the course to expand on underrated skills, such as aerial and drone photography, capturing product shots, selling stock photos, editing in select mobile apps and more. Additionally, this course was created from scratch based on the feedback of thousands of students who took the original Photography Masterclass. The result is an enhanced training that truly addresses the needs of all students, whether they are new to photography or still growing their expertise.
7. Skillshare, Fundamentals of DSLR Photography
As a beginner photographer, one of the biggest learning curves is understanding how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together. That’s why fashion photographer Justin Bridges addresses this pain point with the “exposure pyramid.” By choosing to start here and explain how each of the three points balances the other, Justin cuts through a lot of beginner frustration and anxiety early.
After you’ve conquered your fear of the exposure pyramid, Justin releases you into the wild (New York City) to master manual mode in real time. With short video lessons under 14 minutes, it’s easy to digest small chunks of information before heading outside. For students who love taking action on their knowledge, this course emphasizes tons and tons of practice, as Justin’s course is just over an hour long. Helpful bonus content includes tips for buying cameras and lenses, which comes in handy given all the different options to choose from.
8. New York Institute of Photography, Professional Photography Course
If you’re serious about becoming an expert photographer whose work is well-respected, consider the NYIP’s Professional Photography Course. Pursue this in-depth training opportunity, and you could end up becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP).
Though learning a new skill is important, part of the magic of taking an online course is the power to purchase prestige—a career-defining badge of honor that makes your resume shine brighter than anyone else’s. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, be sure to complete this powerful course; NYIP graduates are eligible to become certified by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and save $50 on their certification. Unlike other trainings, this one prepares you to rise above hobbyists, so bring your ‘A’ game!
9. Lynda.com, Photography 101
With Photography 101, Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke offers a traditional, straightforward training. The focus of his course is making sense of the camera and demystifying all those “buttons, dials, and settings.” Breaking things down on a super granular level, he even explains how to hold the DSLR camera correctly.
If you’re an absolute beginner, this is the place to start. Photography 101 covers the absolute basics on how to build foundational skills, such as stabilizing the camera, working with flash, controlling autofocus and more. While creative thinking and artistic expression are touched on, the majority of Joseph’s lessons are an in-depth guide to camera functions. With over a million views, plenty of beginners have used this course to get up to speed before tackling more advanced subjects, like photo editing and aerial photography.
10. Cousera, Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR Specialization
Unlike other courses, this training offered by Michigan State University takes seven months to complete. That averages out to around four hours a week, so this training is best suited for those who have a little extra bandwidth. It’s a major time commitment, but the reward (a certificate from MSU) is worth the effort.
Deemed a “specialization” training, this online course is the closest thing to a collegiate-level program. With five topic areas to master, including exposure, camera control, photo composition and more, the course wraps up with a capstone project. In this independent study, you’ll get the opportunity to show what you’ve learned by crafting a 10-photo story of your choice. As other students submit their work, you’ll have the chance to participate in peer reviews and gain more insight on how to express yourself through photography.
Make your mark with stunning images
No matter how many awards or accolades a visual artist receives, there was a time when they knew absolutely nothing. No one is born a photographer, which means it’s never too late to develop an eye for taking amazing photos. Starting right now, give yourself the chance to capture amazing moments!