In the digital age of social media, many people want to learn the basics of photography. Nearly everyone, myself included, has a smartphone where we can take pictures instantaneously. Photography accounts on Instagram are a great way to showcase amazing photos taken on fancy digital cameras and on the iPhone.

Taking photography classes has increased in popularity, but getting into photography can be expensive. People can enroll in photography classes at a photography school, but many opt into taking online photography classes. For something that doesn’t require hands-on learning, are online photography classes worth the money?

Are online photography classes worth the money? Online photography classes are worth the money only if the person is serious and passionate about learning the in’s and out’s of photography. Courses that cost money allow access to being taught by photography experts that earn massive respect in their field.

Taking photography classes has increased in popularity but getting into photography can be expensive. People can enroll in photography classes at a photography school, but many opt into taking online photography classes. There could be additional tips and details that a free course won’t offer. Although, free courses are available and a great option for those starting out in photography. What matters is the intention of enrolling in photography classes.

Online photography classes are worth the money only if the person is serious and passionate about learning the in’s and out’s of photography. Courses that cost money allow access to being taught by photography experts that earn massive respect in their field. There could be additional tips and details that a free course won’t offer. Although, free courses are available and a great option for those starting out in photography.

Do Online Photography Courses Work?

The big appeal to photography is that it’s an easy hobby to pick up. The basic concept is pointing a camera at an object and capturing it. But whether it’s beneficial to someone to learn photography from the comfort of their own bed is debatable.

Many critics have supported online photography courses because it’s flexible for the student. Many people that have full-time careers don’t have the means or the time to sit in a traditional classroom setting for an hour or two. Learning photography from a remote location gives people flexibility with their time and schedules to learn at their own time as long as they meet deadlines.

There is a downside to online photography courses, and that is losing the in-person critique process. A teacher can’t easily give constructive feedback to a student on their photos as well over the internet rather than in a classroom setting. Also, in a classroom setting, many photography teachers use group critiques to help the student improve their techniques and skills. Not everyone learns well in this setting if they have a lot of motivation and self-discipline.

How Do Online Photography Courses Work?

Taking online photography courses comprises written-out instructions and guiding photos that relate to the lesson. Once the assignment is complete, students can upload their photos and teachers have opened a group critique to comments on the photo that detail the pros and cons of the picture. This visual way is great for those who learn by seeing examples of a technique in a photo.

An aspect of in-person photography classes is the chances of a particular instructor’s personal taste impeding learning for the student. Online photography courses eliminate that almost entirely.

Many instructors from the art world judge a person’s work subjectively, and this mindset can discourage students from their creativity or make a group of students conform to the opinions of the instructor. In online photography courses, the instructor doesn’t form as close of a relationship with their students, so their artistic preferences aren’t as obvious, giving freedom to the students to express their creativity.

Things to Keep in Mind When Signing Up For Online Photography Courses

Now that the prior section explained how online courses work, there are important things to know before enrolling in these kinds of classes. Apogee Photo Magazine has great tips for beginner photographers on what to take into consideration:


If you enroll in an online photography class through a college, tuition is costly. However, the NYIP offers specific programs for as little as $500 for the class. Not everyone can afford this, not to mention equipment, such as the camera itself, which is a few hundred-dollar investments on its own. However, some photography courses are free!


Most online photography classes teach the basics of photography. Quality photography courses follow instruction by professionals in the field, often through accessible websites like Skillshare. More of these websites will be mentioned later in the article.


For the benefit of learning, students would need to invest in a high-quality DSLR camera and corresponding lenses. Most people taking entry-level photography courses won’t know what to purchase until the class begins. Fortunately, good equipment will last a while, so the investment is worth it.


No one can master the art of photography overnight. Online courses and in-person classroom settings can teach knowledge from a book or a lecture, but the most valuable experience comes from trial and error. It might take years to become a good photographer, but continuously practicing the skills and technical aspects of taking photos will be the only way to improve.

While many online courses offer flexibility in completing the class, finding the determination to learn a new skill or improve on photography is difficult for many people. Any photographer will mention that being open to criticism for their work can be scary. If the photographer is always willing to learn and grow, that’s where the online courses will find their true success and worth.

Websites to Consider for Learning Photography

If you enroll in paid online photography courses, you expect to pay for quality lessons taught by respected experts in the field. Some free courses are also of high quality, as since cost is a major factor of investing in improving photography skills, finding the right course can be daunting. Where to begin?

A good deal of photography experts has a select few trustworthy platforms that they highly recommend. They come with hundreds or thousands of courses that make learning photography easy for all skill levels.


Skillshare is an online learning community website that offers a multitude of courses in different subjects, especially in photography. It’s a popular website that many people in the media field talk about and used to improve their skills. Skillshare also reaches out to many influencers on social media like YouTube to endorse their product, usually offering a special discount in subscriptions of three months free with a discount code.

What makes Skillshare stand out is the wide variety of classes they offer. Each of the classes on the Skillshare photography page features a photo of the lesson, followed by the number of students enrolled and the class length.

A few of Skillshare’s most popular classes cater to beginners looking to spark their passion for photography. For example, the website collaborated with Justin Bridges to create Fundamentals of DSLR Photography class, where he goes over features of the camera including aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Bridges is one of many professional photographers that teach on Skillshare.

Other popular niches for photography on Skillshare include iPhone photography, outdoor photography, street photography, and creating the perfect feed for Instagram. The courses also incorporate other skills related to photography, from Adobe Photoshop to Lightroom and photo composition. Skillshare offers the 1st month free before you begin paying a small month subscription unlocks unlimited access to all the courses. Sometimes, Skillshare offers promotions for longer free trials, so be on the lookout for those deals.


Udemy is another online learning education website whose focus is on business and IT, but the site posts credible photography courses. Some classes featured on Udemy, such as Dale McManus’ iPhone Photography course are also on Skillshare but offered at a different price.

The best selling class Udemy offers in photography is Phil Ebiner’s Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography class. Ebiner assures that students don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to complete this course, just a smartphone camera will do. Since many people starting out in photography begin on their smartphone, mastering photography that way is easy.

The course caters to the most basic level of photographers, while the later lessons have helpful tips for advanced photographers. Basic skills for shooting, editing and making business are highlighted in this course, and a variety of styles of photography come up here. This class includes 22 hours of video lessons and 63 articles and students receive a certificate of completion of the course.

Udemy’s courses, if paid in full, are about $200 per course, which gets costly for the average person. Fortunately, the site offers limited-time discounts, including a new student deal of about $20 per class. There is also a 30-day, 100% money-back guarantee for unsatisfied students.


Unlike Skillshare and Udemy, Phlearn is an independent photography tutoring company run by its own professionals that gear their lessons towards more seasoned veterans of photography. This site stands out by incorporating Photoshop and Lightroom into their photography lessons.

Phlearn offers its own Photography 101 course, taught by the founder, Aaron Nace. It includes over 14 hours of 76 videos and sample images to use to follow along. However, most of the courses focus on learning the in’s and out’s of Photoshop and Lightroom, which are valuable skills to master in photography.

Phlearn is a course that proves its worth spending money on online photography courses, because of the in-depth lessons into difficult software taught in easy terms. Their best-reviewed class focuses on mastering the retouching feature on Photoshop that teaches photographers how to retouch blemishes like a professional. It has a perfect 5-star rating out of 114 reviews at the moment.

A Phlearn Pro subscription costs about $100 a year, or about $12 for a monthly subscription. However, this price includes a free download of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom onto your computer, which is cost-effective in the long run.


For those active on LinkedIn, the business social network created their own version of Skillshare with Lynda. The education website offers 4,000 courses for marketable skills designed to help people learn skills that will advance them in the workforce, including photography.

The site offers the first month free and then offers subscription plans ranging from $25 – 37.50 per month. Many experts recommend their introductory photography class, The Practicing Photographer. The class was created in 2013 but has been updated for 2020 to keep up with the new trends of cameras and new discoveries in photography.

Online Courses Accredited By Universities

For some people, earning a certificate or degree in photography from a university adds more credibility to their education. For those colleges, they reap the benefits of using their program to educate students that want to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting. For example:

  • Michigan State University offers a Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR Specialization on Coursera.
    • The course lasts on average about 7 months, as Coursera suggests focusing 5 hours per week on this class.
    • There are 5 classes to complete for the student to earn the certificate in photography from Michigan State.
    • For Coursera members, there is a 1-week free trial, and then it’s about $50/month. It seems to be a more expensive option, but a viable one.
  • Harvard University offers a free course called Exposing Digital Photography on the Harvard extension school website.
    • The course makes it clear this was a class offered at the university first, showcasing the finished projects from the Fall 2015 class.
    • The course information, schedule, recommended books and projects are all available for free for people to take.
    • PDF’s and YouTube videos showcase the lectures from this class and is a great option for a little taste of Ivy League education.
  • Marc Levoy, a professor at Stanford University, posted lectures on YouTube going over digital photography.
    • Because it’s on YouTube, the 18-video playlist is free to view and goes over his power points that people can follow along from their laptop.
    • It gives the closest to a classroom feeling without being present in the classroom.

Many other universities offer certificates in photography, and many can qualify for financial aid to help pay for the cost.

How Can I Teach Myself Photography Without Courses?

If you’ve decided that paid courses online for photography are not the best option for you, or if the free courses don’t seem like a good choice, there is the opportunity to teach yourself photography. Many professional photographers taught themselves how to work their camera, which makes independently learning photography a workable option.

Many people begin by learning tips and tricks on their smartphones. The iPhone has various amounts of lenses on the camera, including portrait mode and the wide-angle lens, on the more recent models. A lot of the settings are automatic, but beginners can learn how to test lighting and framing in their photos.

However, to get serious about teaching yourself photography, you must invest in a camera. Eventually, a high-quality DSLR camera will be necessary for getting more serious about photography, but many self-taught photographers emphasize tons of practice over a fancy camera. People usually pick up photography because they want to shoot a particular subject, such as food or people. Finding a niche is crucial.

Workshops and Networking

Many self-taught photographers credit reaching out to other established photographers for their success in their careers. The best way to learn different styles of photography is to learn more about the artist behind them and learn directly from their photos. Playing an advising role, the photographer can give insights into how they perfected the lighting and composition, what lens they used, and other tidbits.

Networking is most important if you want to make photography into a business. Building relationships is important for this aspect, but even for starting out in photography, workshops are a perfect way to advance skills. Many photographers set up workshops (many cost the same amount as an online course) that focus on traveling to a location, taking photos, and getting to know the photographers in your area.

Workshops like these are perfect for aspiring photographers looking to take their photography to the next level.

Conclusion: Can You Truly Learn Photography Online?

While photography school is an option that people can choose, it’s important to reiterate that anyone can learn photography, especially online. With nearly everyone having access to a smartphone with a camera or a camera anyone can be an amateur photographer.

People that enroll in photography courses online have a passion for the medium and want to learn more about their camera. Online tutorials are readily accessible with an internet connection and appeal to photographers at all levels of ability.

Online photography courses not only provide the education necessary to increase skills, but they open doors to virtual connections with other photographers and setting up personal portfolios. Photography portfolios are great as resumes, marketing tools, and pieces to reflect on creative advancement. Many people set up their own websites for these purposes or use social media like Instagram to display their work.

So, are online photography classes worth the money? In short, yes. Even if the courses are free, there is a cost in purchasing the equipment and time investment will be a cost too. Learning photography online gives more access to collaborating from others and getting skills from trusted experts. There are many websites that offer courses that many people trust. It’s never been easier to get into photography thanks to online photography courses.