With the Best Online Photography Classes, you can gain the skills you need to take better pictures, whether professionally or just for fun as a hobbyist.
Improve your skills behind the camera. 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.
Over the course of the medium’s history, photography’s main tool, the camera, has evolved from a massive box and lightbulb to the compact, efficient lens on your smartphone. Thanks to new technology, getting started and refining your skills is easier than ever.
Online learning has grown into a huge industry over the past couple of years, and many photographers with significant experience in their field have chosen to share their wisdom with the masses. While you have to pay for many of the best digital photography courses, you can find plenty that don’t require you to part with your hard-earned cash.
Whether you’re interested in mastering the basics of shooting black and white or on film, setting up your own darkroom, getting an academic understanding of the medium, or learning from some of the most celebrated photographers working today, we’ve put together a list of the best online photography classes you can take at home.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on online classes, or you simply don’t want to, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll identify the 10 best places to learn more about photography online. You’ll find courses related to the basics of digital picture-taking, along with others that focus on specific genres.
Below are The Best Online Photography Classes
Best Digital Photography Technique: Harvard’s Digital Photography Course
Key Benefit: A more technical course on the fundamentals of photography.
Harvard University’s “Exposing Digital Photography” class is accessible for free through the OpenCourseWare program. Since it’s a class once offered at the Ivy League university’s Extension School, there’s no need to officially enroll—you have the freedom to complete it at your own pace. – Best Online Photography Classes
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 is a course that attracts students with a wide range of photography experience. If you’re new to photography or have used a camera before, you’ll find something worthwhile here because the objectives of the course are to explore the scientific foundations and techniques of digital photography while allowing you to learn about photography as an art form, improve your technique, and get comfortable with editing software.
This course was started back in 2015 and remains relevant today for the technical ground it covers. 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.
Along with a recommended list of reading and projects, there are 12 video lessons, ranging in length from approximately 45 minutes to 2 hours, that break down the technical aspects of photography such as exposure, optics, digital cameras, and color. While the focus of this class is on photography, other disciplines related to the medium like film and video are also explored.
Lectures on Digital Photography
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 that 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?
Best Artist Guides: Magnum Learning
In 1947 over a bottle of champagne, legendary photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger, and David Seymour started Magnum Photos, an agency dedicated to supporting photographers worldwide. In the decades since, the artists’ cooperative has represented some of the most important photographers and visual storytellers in history. – Best Online Photography Classes.
In addition to managing their robust archive and day-to-day operations, Magnum Photos also has its own online learning platform called Magnum Learn, which strives to provide education through the lens of the agency’s photographers. While the courses are more of an investment, starting at $99, the price is worth it thanks to the expertise of the instructors. For example, Alec Soth, a photographer famous for his representations of Midwestern America and who has shown his work at the Whitney Museum and SFMOMA, recently led his own course on photographic storytelling.
According to Magnum, the courses include personal advice through “in-depth interviews, on-location shoots, and off-line workbooks with expanded interviews.” For example, The Art of Street Photography has 10 on-demand videos, featuring seven photographers—including the world-renowned Bruce Gilden and Martin Parr—who walk you through their own idiosyncratic philosophies and approaches to street photography.
Price: $99 and up
MIT’s Introduction to Photography
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.
Best for Nikon Cameras: Nikon School Online
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. – Best Online Photography Classes
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.
Nikon, one of the biggest camera companies in the world, has been making cameras since 1948. The company offers affordable photography education for all levels of expertise. Whether you’re a beginner, hobbyist, or pro, the Nikon School will allow you to refine your skills—most advantageously on a Nikon camera, but the classes are still good for any brand.
Led by a variety of professional photographers and content creators, the tutorials can be streamed on all of your devices.
The class offering starts with the building blocks: Getting Started with Your Nikon DSLR, Fundamentals of Photography, and Beyond Fundamentals of Photography. Depending on your interests and skill level, you can also stream Exploring Dynamic Landscape Photography with photographer Taylor Glenn, Photographing Children and Pets with renowned lifestyle photographer Tamara Lackey, or an environmental portraiture class with Joey Terrill. Classes are offered for a limited time and availbility of classes may change.
The Nikon School also offers The Art of Making Music Videos, a crash course in how to bring your DSLR video productions to the next level.
Price: $14.95 and up
Canon Online Learning
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. – Best Online Photography Classes.
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.
Best Black and White Photography: ILFORD Photo How-Tos
ILFORD Photo got its start back in 1879 when Alfred Hugh Harman began making gelatin dry plates at his home in Ilford, England. More than a century later, ILFORD continues to be the authority on black and white photographic technology. – Best Online Photography Classes.
ILFORD offers a variety of information on its website, such as an accessible beginner’s guide, and has an array of instructional how-tos available for free on its YouTube channel. It’s best to start with the Introduction to Film Photography playlist, which features 11 short and simple animations to introduce not only the terminology but also basic techniques used in film photography and darkroom printing. This playlist includes How a Film SLR Camera Works, a Darkroom Essentials Checklist, as well as beginner’s guides to film ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and processing your first film—all essential skills to getting the highest quality image.
Once you’re ready to move on, the How To playlist series focuses on darkroom processes. Browse from videos including Setting Up the Darkroom, Processing Black and White Film, Processing Traditional Darkroom Paper, Making a Basic Contact Sheet, and more classes designed to teach you the basics and then push you to the next level.
Annie Leibovitz Master Class
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 streaming lectures which are taught by some of the biggest names in their field. Anna-Lou Leibovitz is a well known American portrait photographer. MasterClass is an educational streaming platform and an all-access annual membership for 100+ courses costs $180 (or $14.99 per month).
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.
Best Digital Tools: Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom Tutorials
With a digital camera, there is a host of options to organize, alter, and enhance your work using digital software tools in post-production. That’s where Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, two of the industry standards for photo editing, come in. – Best Online Photography Classes.
Both programs have a staggering amount of functions that are sure to overwhelm new users, but you can access free demonstrations from the brains behind the programs themselves to flatten the learning curve on the Adobe website. While Photoshop is a springboard to create and edit your photos, Lightroom, at its most fundamental, is a program you can use for organizing, post-processing, and exporting them. Both feature a powerful array of photo editing tools.
Adobe breaks down a variety of topics into bite-sized tutorials, most of them ranging from five to 20 minutes. For Photoshop, the introductory Get Started section will demonstrate how to change image sizes, work with layers, retouch images, and apply filters. Then you can move on to more specific courses about photo editing, selections, layer masking, and compositing.
The Lightroom tutorials also start with an introductory course, after which you can learn about photo editing, using presets to enhance your photos, and more. There also are projects for beginners and some inspirational content that you can use to inspire your next photo shoot.
Best for Expanding Your Horizons: SVA i3: Images, Ideas, Inspiration Lectures
Presented by the MPS Digital Photography program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, the lecture series titled i3: Images, Ideas, Inspiration features presentations by a wide array of digital photographers, hardware and software developers, and photography industry experts. – Best Online Photography Classes.
More than 100 lectures are available to watch for free on SVA’s YouTube channel, and some are posted in Apple Podcasts for listening. The program itself, according to SVA, “addresses the technical, conceptual, and creative needs of professional photographers, photographic educators, and visual arts professionals who are looking to advance their skills in digital image capture, asset management, and high-quality output.” That means you’ll get a rundown of all the problems a photographer might encounter, in-depth education on cameras, and a background in photography theory.
Browse through the options and start with a lecture that piques your interest. Guest lecturers bring their own expertise and unique point-of-view of photography to the table, whether it’s from a perspective of fine art, commercial, fashion, documentary, curation, or filmmaking. The program truly offers something for every style.
Best Critical Thinking: Seeing Through Photographs From MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art’s free online courses cover a variety of areas across artistic disciplines, but they have one devoted especially to photography. Taught by Sarah Meister, a photography curator at MoMA, the course is designed to work with your own pace and time availability since its flexible deadlines allow you to complete it as you wish.
The course’s goal is to bridge the gap between just simply seeing and truly understanding photographs and photography’s role in art and our culture over its 200-year history. Using works from the MoMA’s photography collection, this class will dive deep into photography as a means of artistic expression, a tool for science, a method of documentation, and as a way to communicate, tell stories, and bear witness to history.
The course Seeing Through Photographs is divided into six distinct components, covering such topics as Documentary Photography, Pictures of People, and Constructing Narratives & Challenging Histories. You’ll gain academic insight into the medium and will come away with a new perspective of your own photography practice, thanks to a new understanding of the medium’s history and classic works.
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 work. So arm yourself with more knowledge, then go outside, and try these skill-building photography exercises that really work.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Taught in an Online Photography Class?
An online photography class generally teaches the following:
- Explore foundations and techniques of photography
- May focus on a type of photography such as digital photography
- Explore other related media such as film
- Learn about the technical aspects of photography
- Learn about lighting
- Study the parts of a camera and how they work
Who Should Take an Online Photography Class?
You should take an online photography class if:
- You’re interested in photography as a hobby
- You want to learn about the history of photography
- You want to master the basics of photography
- You’re studying photography and want to take an additional class on the subject
- You work in the photography field
Can Beginners Learn Photography Online?
Beginners can learn photography online, but should also practice offline. Learning online can help you go at your own pace, study the history, and learn the basics before ever picking up a camera. You can also learn how photography impacts society and what type of career paths are available. However, once you start learning, you will want to have a camera to practice and to put your new knowledge to the test.
Plenty of Free Online Photography Courses for Aspiring Photographers
If you want to improve your knowledge as a photographer, you’ll find several places online to do so. Moreover, you’ll almost certainly find a course that helps you improve the exact skills you want to level up within. Our guide has covered a pretty extensive range, but you’ll find plenty elsewhere too.
Once you’ve completed the courses, it’s important that you go out and practice with your new knowledge in mind. So, why not get started and begin improving your image-making?