Apr 8, 2014

The Best Free Online Photography Courses and Tutorials


Given my interest in lifelong learning and skill-development, I often ask people which new skills they’re looking to learn. The most common response? “I want to be a better photographer”.

And for good reason! Few things evoke the instant emotional response a great photo does. It’s what made Instagram worth a billion dollars to Facebook.

For those of you who, like me, are looking to kick their photography skills up a notch, I’m curating a list of the best free online courses and resources I’ve found. Pair this with your digital marketing expertise and whether you’re a budding photojournalist looking toward a career behind the lens, or just a hobbyist looking to take better shots on your next trip, I’m hoping you’ll find something useful for your success!

I realize that this is by no means an exhaustive list, rather it’s a work in progress. If you know of other awesome free resources, share them in the comments and I’ll add the best ones to the list.

P.S. Huge thanks to the amazing /r/photography community on Reddit for helping compile this list.

Photography for Beginners

1. Introduction to Photography and Related Media: Video lectures from a semester-long undergraduate-level course at MIT. Covers the fundamentals of analog and digital SLR, film exposure and development, darkroom techniques, digital imaging, and studio lighting.

Level: Beginner | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

2. Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide: A comprehensive resource for beginning photographers, compiled by the friendly folks at Lifehacker. Starts by explaining how a digital camera works and goes on to explain image composition, technique, and editing. Mostly in text format, interspersed with a few explanatory videos.

Level: Beginner | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

3. Free Beginner Nikon Digital SLR Photography: This highly-rated course teaches you how to use all the buttons and dials on your camera (e.g. exposure, aperture, shutter speed and the mode dial) by doing rather than memorizing.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 2.5 hours | Always Available

4. Photography: Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual: As the name suggests, a course for amateur photographers who have been using their DSLR or fancy Point-and-shoot camera in “auto” mode, but want to learn to unlock to it’s full potential.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 4.5 hours | Always Available

5. Karl Taylor’s FREE Photography Course: Among the most popular courses on Udemy (almost 50,000 students enrolled, hundreds of rave reviews). Instructor Karl teaches using a mix of videos and PDF fact sheets. In his words, all you need is “a camera and some enthusiasm”.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 2.5 hours | Always Available

6. A Complete Introduction to Photography (aka Reddit Photoclass): Reddit never ceases to amaze me! Alexandre Buisse taught this 30-part class to 7,000 Redditors a few years ago. Now archived on his website, this gem covers everything from gear to post processing. Great for those who prefer reading to watching videos.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

7. Strobist: Perhaps the most popular resource for beginners to learn how to use light and their flashes, especially their Lighting 101 course that many photographers swear by.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

8. Cambridge in Colour: A great site for beginners to browse tutorials and have their questions answered by a community of learners. And no, that extra “u” in “Colour” is not a typo — this is Cambridge, UK we’re talking about!

Level: Beginner | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

Post-production and Specific Techniques

9. Using a Photographic Light Meter: A course for photographers who have just started using a hand-held light meter to determine exposure.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 2 hours | Always Available

10. Pixels After Dark: Shooting the Night: An outstanding talk by three-time Olympic photographer Jeff Cable on shooting images at night.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: 1.5 hours | Always Available

11. Getting Started with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5: A detailed series of video-lectures from Adobe on how to effectively use their Lightroom software to do everything from importing images to adding special effects and printing. The Adobe TV website has plenty of more great “how-to” resources for photographers.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 3.5 hours | Always Available

12. Photoshop & Lightroom for Photographers: You’ve learned to use your camera and compose great pictures. Now make them look better! This highly-rated course teaches the two most popular software tools used by photographers to process and touch up images.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: 6.5 hours | Always Available

13. Create a Gorgeous Photography Site with SmugMug in 90 mins: Now that you have some great-looking pictures, use this course to set up a website to showcase them!

Level: Beginner | Duration: 1.5 hours | Always Available

14. Computational Photography: This Georgia Tech course talks about how computation affects various aspects of photography — from photo-editing to sharing. Knowledge of college-level mathematics, general physics and basic computer programming are recommended for this course.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: 4 weeks | Next Start Date: To Be Announced

15. Phlearn: All about Photoshop. This site has short explanatory videos on how to do specific things in Photoshop (e.g. watermark your images, remove tan lines). They have 450 free videos, and release 5 new episodes each week.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

16. Anthony Morganti’s Video Series on Lightroom 5: This 40-part video series covers everything you need to know about Lightroom 5 — starting with the very basics, and going on to cover advanced topics.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate | Duration: 12 hours | Always Available

17. An Introduction To Tilt + Shift Photography: A detailed (and very popular) guide by Peter Hill on what the “Tilt + Shift” effect actually is, and how to achieve it.

Level: Advanced | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

Photography in Society and as Art

18. The Art of Photography: This course from Australia’s RMIT University covers both the academic and practical aspects of photography. Instructor Dr. Shane Hulbert, an artist-academic whose work has been shown in Victoria’s National Gallery, covers photography as a visual art practice, explores the work of contemporary photographers, and introduces the idea of a “digital darkroom”.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 4 weeks | Next Start Date: April 28, 2014

19. Documentary Photography and Photojournalism: Still Images of a World in Motion: Want to be the next Steve McCurry? This MIT course for budding photojournalists course requires some prior background in photography, e.g. knowing the difference between f stops and T stops, and being able to find one’s way around a camera.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: 4 weeks | Always Available

20. Photography and Truth: This course from MIT’s Anthropology department studies photography as a medium of expression and its interactions with politics, economics, and social life.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: Self-paced  | Always Available

21. History of Photography Podcasts: An archive of 15 weekly podcasts by Jeff Curto from his course at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The podcast is accompanied with a video slide show of the photos in discussion.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 4 weeks | Always Available

Reference Resources and Advanced Materials

22. Digital Photography School: Very popular (360k Facebook likes!) free resource with lots of useful information, articles and tips. Especially bookmark-worthy is their page – Tips and Tutorials for Beginners.

23. Creative Live Photography: They live-broadcast a handful of free online courses each month. They also have a large library of pre-recorded courses, but these are usually expensive.

24. Tuts Plus Photography Tutorials: Hundreds of helpful articles and tutorials on pretty much any photography topic you want to learn about.

25. Lynda.com Photography Courses: Since it’s a paid resource ($25 monthly subscription), I wasn’t sure whether I should include Lynda.com in this list, but my professional photographer friends swear by their advanced tutorials. In any case, you could try them out via this free 7-day trial (note: this is an affiliate link, I couldn’t find a non-affiliate link to their 7-day trial, please let me know if you can find one).

26. Photography Life: The brain child of Nasim Mansurov, Photography Life is a top-notch website with a ton of resources for Beginners and Experienced photographers alike.

Get Inspired!

27. Hari Menon Photography: Hari’s photographs are a visual treat – his versatility with landscapes really stands out for me. His website is an explosion of colour as well.

28. William Patino Photography: Another master with landscapes, William inspires with his ability to show the wide range of hues the sky paints itself in. Each photograph of his is accompanied by a short, touching message which make his work a joy to go through.

29. Photriya Photography: Photriya is a team of photographers which has over a decade of experience (and excellence) in Wedding Photography. Their ability to portray human emotion is captivating, and manages to blur the line between commercial photography and Art quite effectively.

30. Rathika Ramaswamy: This page is a goldmine for Wildlife enthusiasts. She also (very generously) mentions the mode and EXIF data on the photos she puts up so you know exactly what goes into her stunning photographs.

Since you’ve made it this far, you deserve an inspiring video! Check out this fascinating TED Talk by Swedish photographer & retouch artist Erik Johansson who creates “realistic photos of impossible scenes” by combining dissimilar photographs!

Have you taken any of these courses? What other resources have you found useful? Tell us in the comments below!

Want to learn something new this year? Whether it’s photographyplaying the guitar, or web development, you can find a course on Springboard!

  • Shari Brase-Smith

    What an excellent list of free resources for photographers! I have used many of these site and they are all excellent! I just signed up with Lynda.com, and have to say I wish I had found them a long time ago. They are so worth the $25 per month fee! You can learn almost anything there, not just photography, which I think is great!

  • Kary

    Awesome list! Thanks for taking the time to do this!

  • Great list of resources ! Good work, Was not aware with Erik Johansson’s amazing photography skills. Thanks for sharing.

  • Andrea Farnworth

    This list is a gem. Thanks for taking the time to create this.

  • Stephanie Butler

    Since I am a full time mom, I am looking forward to learn photography online. That will make me happy.

  • I am totally agree with you, everyone now a days take Photography as a hobby whether they have the DSLR or not. I myself also want to be better in Photography. Previously it was only a hobby, now it turns into a passion for me.

  • FujiFilm

    Thanks for sharing this blog. We have gained nice information about digital camera. You can search Digital Camera on our website.
    Fujifilm India Private Limited has made its digital cameras available on its website and other renowned stores all over India. The company’s slogan is Value From Innovation. It explains the desire to combine the company’s original technology with its expertise, human resources and the technology around the world.

  • Marc Levoy

    I’ve placed freely online an 18-lecture course on Photography, with applets and assignments, taught live at Google in 2016, and based on a course I taught at Stanford for many years. Here is the web site: https://sites.google.com/site/marclevoylectures/home, and here is a playlist of the lectures on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7ddpXYvFXspUN0N-gObF1GXoCA-DA-7i
    Have a quick glance at this material and decide if you’d like to add this course to your list.

  • John Mathew

    A great resource for photography tutorials which is absolutely free to learn photography. Actually i have been enrolled for free photography course at http://www.shawacademy.com/photography/free-online-photography-courses.html

    I appreciate your effort to share free resources of photography courses.

  • Rachel Esco

    A few other good resources – Skip Cohen University (http://www.skipcohenuniversity.com/) & PhotographyTalk (https://www.photographytalk.com) for people looking for tips to improve their photography skills (beginner to expert). Another good resource is DPReview, particularly for camera and photography accessory reviews (https://www.dpreview.com)

  • Rajveer Singh Rathore

    Great Blog posting its really helpful..http://www.fashiondigistudio.com

  • Eugen

    Beginner Nikon Digital SLR (DSLR) Photography. Its not free. Its price 20$ so the name of this article must be changed to almost free or just delete the 3 link from (Photography for Beginners)