10 best free online photography classes

Amid global lockdowns, online learning platforms have seen massive increases in interest worldwide. On Skillshare, for instance, daily viewers and minutes tripled from last year, and Udemy saw an online enrollment boost of more than 400% between February and March. In 2020, schools, universities, and institutions have all turned to remote learning, but so have individuals hoping to learn or refine a new talent—photography included.

At the peak of the crisis, brands ranging from Canon to Nikon, Leica to Fujifilm, and more rolled out free resources for photographers or made their existing courses free to the public. During this challenging time, experts say that keeping busy and discovering new ways to learn can foster confidence, community, and motivation. Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, we rounded up this list of just ten free photography courses you can find online today.

Creative Photography Challenge with Lindsay Adler

CreativeLive has thousands of online classes, some free and others paid, and they also host CreativeLive TV, a free, live-streamed variety show open to all. The renowned portrait and fashion photographer Lindsay Adler has dozens of classes available for every budget, including this free course to keep you inspired.

As part of this bi-monthly series, Lindsay provides fun, out-of-the-box prompts and assignments, designed to get you out of your comfort zone, refine your artistic vision, and foster new skills. Challenges range from “making a mess” to “printing on alternative surfaces” (and many more); you’ll get creative ideas and pick up some fresh techniques along the way.

Each class is just five minutes, and students can share their images on social media using the hashtag #creativephotochallenge. There’s also a public Facebook page where you can join the discussion.

Camera Buyer’s Guide by John Greengo

Here’s another CreativeLive course, this time from the photographer and gear expert John Greengo, who teaches both paid and free classes. There are tons of gear reviews out there, but John breaks it all down, from models and brands to sensors and viewfinders. It’s also not sponsored by any brand, so he offers objective advice on what to buy, depending on your genre and area of expertise.

This course is also super specific, so chances are, you’ll be able to find a camera that’s perfect for your needs, whether you’re a student or pro, interested in sports and family or landscapes and travel. Even if you’re unsure about upgrading, John provides a valuable reminder of the basics of photography so that you can make the most of the gear you have. When it is time to upgrade, he has concrete recommendations—and some common camera purchasing mistakes to avoid.

Lifestyle Photography: Everyday Storytelling in Photo & Print by Dan Rubin

You know that Skillshare offers thousands of classes through an affordable subscription, but what you might not know is that they offer many of their classes for free. This is one of multiple courses taught by the legendary travel and lifestyle photographer Dan Rubin. You’ll follow Dan as he spends the day with his friend Laura, capturing relatable, everyday photos that tell powerful stories.

The class is just 25 minutes, so you can watch it anytime, but it covers a lot of ground, from prepping for a shoot to editing for print and online. The assignment is fun and simple—“go on an adventure!”—and you can do it with family in the backyard or around your neighborhood during quarantine. Take this class during a free afternoon at home, and learn how to transform a casual day into a published photo essay.

Fine Art Photography: How to Create a Unique Self Portrait by Maureen Eggleton

This course, also from Skillshare and hosted by the portrait and fine art photographer Maureen Eggleton, walks you through the process of creating a single, unforgettable self-portrait. You don’t need a studio or any fancy gear, as Maureen teaches you how to make the most of what you have at home.

This class is all about breaking through your creative barriers and getting vulnerable; toss perfectionism out the window, and embrace your intuition. Maureen also shares great tips for gathering inspiration, finding your “happy place,” generating posing ideas, using available light, editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, and more. Throughout, she also shares creative prompts to get your brain flowing, each of which takes just one to five minutes tops.


Surfer at dawn by Tony  Gale on 500px.com

Outdoor Social Distancing Portraits by Tony Gale

The B&H Event Space is offering free seminars and lectures throughout the summer via Zoom, including this one, sponsored by Sony and taught by the award-winning portrait photographer Tony Gale. Available on August 12 at 5:30 PM EDT, this course will cover portrait photography in the age of social distancing, including best practices and tips for getting creative and staying inspired during this time.


Burano, Veneto by Jeff Curto on 500px.com

Photo History by Jeff Curto

The photographer and professor Jeff Curto taught at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, from 1984 until 2014, and he’s kept a full semester of his History of Photography Class Sessions available to the public via his website (he also has a podcast based on his lectures). Sessions cover the early experiments of Daguerre and Fox Talbot, the oeuvres of Stieglitz and Muybridge, the tenure of John Szarkowski at MoMA, and much more. As you listen to each class, students can access resources, texts, and ebooks through the site.

Introductory Photography Course by Chris Bray

The Australian Geographic wildlife photographer Chris Bray has been teaching this course since 2009, and now, it’s available for free via Udemy. He covers just about every subject you can imagine, from composition to exposure to camera settings and lighting. It’s geared towards beginners, but it’s also perfect for pros wanting to brush up on the basics. Sick of shooting on auto mode and ready to get the most out of your camera? This is the class for you.

Understand Photographic Exposure by Kasia Zmokla

This course from the artist Kasia Zmokla, also available on Udemy, breaks down the nuances of the exposure triangle for perfectly lit images. She’ll teach you about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, and she’ll also walk you through understanding your camera’s histogram so you don’t get any clipping in the shadows or highlights. The explanations are both thorough and digestible, enabling you to harness the power of light—and your camera’s technical ability—to capture images that reflect your vision and mood.


Opulence by Sean Tucker on 500px.com

Creating Mood and Mystery in Your Street Photography by Sean Tucker, feat. Joshua K Jackson

This episode of Sean Tucker’s much-followed YouTube series, which focuses on substance and philosophy over tech and gear, follows Sean and the street photographer Joshua K Jackson as they explore Soho in London. In this tutorial/interview, you’ll get tips for using light and color theory, noticing overlooked details in your everyday surroundings, abstracting the environment, and capturing the spirit of a specific time and place.


Joshua K. Jackson by Joshua & Craig on 500px.com

How to Shoot Food on Your Phone Like a Pro by Joanie Simon

The food photographer, blogger, and educator Joanie Simon hosts tons of courses via her popular YouTube series The Bite Shot, including this one on mobile photography. The course is under 15 minutes, but it’s jam-packed with actionable tips, from insight on camera settings and third-party camera apps to composition and natural light tricks. Want to adjust white balance or focal points, or learn how to shoot RAW on your phone? Joanie has you covered.

The workshop is all about food photography, of course, but you’ll also pick up some skills that’ll help you take better pictures on your mobile device in any situation, regardless of genre. Be sure to hit “subscribe” once you’re done for more of Joanie’s videos, with subjects ranging from backdrops to flatlays and everything in between.

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