The 10 Best Free Online Photography Classes of 2019

Beginner or advanced, you can get quality photo training online

A female photographer holding a camera with portraits in the background.

 Getty Images

Whether you’re a beginning photographer, just getting to know your equipment and the basics of photography, or you’re advanced enough to nail the manual camera settings in every shot, learning about your craft (or hobby) is a lifetime effort.

Fortunately, this list of best free online photography classes has something to offer photographers of every level, using all kinds of equipment from a DSLR camera, to a point and shoot camera, and even those amazing smartphone cameras.

Most of the selections included in this list present the information via video courses. You don’t limit yourself to learning only through video, however, as there are a lot of useful tutorials online that are all text based. Check out any camera shop’s website (Adorama is a good one) or do a quick Google search for “free online photography tutorials” to find even more great learning materials.

01
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Beginners to Advanced: Alison Photography Courses

The Alison website showing available photography classes.

What We Like

  • Short, but thorough classes.

  • Wide range of information for all levels of photographers.

  • Downloadable resources for offline reference.

What We Don't Like

  • Classes are free (ad-supported), but certification requires a payment.

  • Registration required to access free courses.

  • Only a handful of photography courses offered.

Alison is  an online learning destination that has much more than just photography courses, but the ones they do offer span the range from beginner to advanced. For example, Introduction to Digital Photography, Diploma in Digital Photography, and Advanced Digital Photography, all cover differing levels of training and include modules that teach everything from composition techniques to  exposure, focal length, and reading histograms. All classes also offer the option for a digital, print, or framed certificate.

02
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For the New Newbie: Intro to Photography Class (r-photoclass)

The Intro to Photography Class website.

What We Like

  • Very thorough.

  • Course author, Alex Buisse, is a highly regarded, award-winning photographer.

  • Lots of illustrations to help students understand the point of the lesson.

What We Don't Like

  • No video, which for some students is a better way to learn.

  • The class doesn’t appear to be repeated live any longer.

If you’re just starting out in photography, start here. This text-based class is one of the most thorough you’ll find for the newbie with little to no photography information. Originally, it was created in response to a Reddit request. At one point, the course was repeated live through the r/photoclass subreddit, where students could get feedback from the course and interact with other budding photographers, but it appears the last time the class was run live was in 2017.

03
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For Specialized Photography Courses: Skillshare

They SkillShare website with specialized photography classes.

What We Like

  • Classes that go beyond the basics of photography.

  • Resources and class projects help improve learned skills.

  • Message board community so you can connect with other photographers.

What We Don't Like

  • Some of the best courses are hidden behind a paywall.

  • Finding free classes can be challenging if you don’t have a direct link.

You may have heard about Skillshare in association with other types of learning, but the site actually has a good selection of specialized photography courses, some of which are free. For example, Nightscapes: Landscape Astrophotography; Frame a Great Shot: Exploring Photo Composition; Lifestyle Photography: Everyday Storytelling in Photo & Print; and Building Trust Between Photographer and Client: Capturing Emotion Evoking Images are just a few of the classes you can expect to find.

04
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Basic and Unusual Classes: Udemy

The Udemy free photography classes selection web page.

What We Like

  • Each section of the course is divided into short videos, usually less than 10 minutes.

  • Free resources (like ebooks) included with some courses.

What We Don't Like

  • Some courses are hidden behind a paywall.

  • The cost of courses that aren’t free can get very expensive.

Udemy is a well-known online learning site that features all kinds of classes, including a little more than a dozen photography classes. They have the basics, like the Introductory Photography Course, but you’ll also find some classes at Udemy that you don’t find anywhere else, like Green Screen Photography. You can also Learn Landscape Photography or how to get started in Street Photography.

05
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Unique Classes for Photographers: CreativeLive

The CreativeLive website for free photography classes.

What We Like

  • A few interesting & unique classes.

  • Student Work area that allows students to upload their own photos based on the lesson.

  • Offers some mobile photography classes, as well as DSLR.

What We Don't Like

  • There don’t appear to be projects or assignments.

  • Even free classes require sign-up.

  • Some classes require a paid membership to access.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced photographer looking for information that’s slightly different from what you’ve seen elsewhere, you should check out CreativeLive. The site offers regular courses that stream live online almost everyday. They also have a selection of pre-recorded classes that delve into unique topics. For example, In Focus: Can We Be Objective Observers? addresses how to engage with subjects and In Focus: Starting a Personal Project can help you get started on your own photography project.

06
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For the Scientifically Minded: Exposing Digital Photography

The Exposing Digital Photography class web page.

What We Like

  • Lessons are available on demand as video or PDF.

  • Recommended books, projects, and problem sets help students learn.

What We Don't Like

  • The course is no longer monitored/updated/active.

  • Critiques are not available.

  • Some videos appear to be missing.

From the Fall 2015 period at the Harvard Extension School, this photography class is good for beginners that want to know why and how things work, rather than just how to get started. Some students have reported that the class is heavy on mathematics, but also thorough in helping students to understand the intricacies of photography.

07
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Another Beyond-the-Basics: Lectures on Digital Photography

The Lectures on Digital Photography class page.

What We Like

  • Lessons help you really understand what works in photography, and way.

  • Review and discussion of famous historical photographers.

  • Includes assignments and applets to increase learning.

What We Don't Like

  • The course is no longer active or maintained, so there is no feedback on completed assignments.

From Stanford University, the Lectures on Digital Photography class is a basic class that goes way beyond the basics. This 18 lesson class takes students through optical effects in nature, depth and perspective, sampling and noise, and much, much more. It’s taught by Marc Levoy, who is a Professor Emeritus at Stanford and a Principal Engineer at Google, so expect the subject matter to get deep into the computational side of photography.

08
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Single Focus: Professional Family Portraits

The Professional Family Portraits photography class web page.

What We Like

  • The course layout is easily accessible.

  • Single skill focus allows for in-depth learning.

  • Portrait photography equipment cheat sheet.

What We Don't Like

  • You have to register (free) for the Bluprint site to access the course.

  • There’s a projects area, but no written instructions for the project.

If you’re interested in portrait photography, Kirk Tuck’s free class on Bluprint focuses entirely on how to capture great portraits. You’ll learn about everything from lighting and engaging with subjects to props and posing, and post-processing tips that make portraits pop.

09
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For Intentional, Focused Learning: YouTube

YouTube - Jared Polin, FroKnowsPhoto Channel

What We Like

  • Huge variety of photography tutorials.

  • Ability to build your own photography course and access as many different teachers as you like.

  • Lessons available for both DSLR and smartphone photography.

What We Don't Like

  • Not all teachers are suited for video.

  • No lesson plan for cohesive photography courses.

  • No assignments or projects to leverage to practice new skills.

You’re probably on YouTube several times a week, but did you stop to consider that it might be a great source for free photography classes? It is. There are some fantastic photographers out there that are willing to share everything they know with you. You just have to find them. Jared Polin, of FroKnowsPhoto.com is an excellent example. He offers many different lessons on different aspects of improving your photography. Another favorite is First Man Photography; the channel offers dozens of easily digestible photography tutorials.

One thing to keep in mind about YouTube is that the videos hosted there are less like full-blown classes and more like short(-ish) tutorials. Videos average 15 minutes to 2 hours long, but usually only focus on a single aspect of photography.

10
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Not Exactly Free: LinkedIn Learning

The LinkedIn Learning website for Photography Courses & Training.

What We Like

  • Classes all have a certificate that can be added to your LinkedIn profile or printed.

  • Classes are professionally produced by dynamic instructors.

  • Very large selection of courses.

What We Don't Like

  • After free trial, courses are charged individually or through an annual subscription.

  • No projects or assignments to practice newly learned skills.

LinkedIn Learning not offer free courses, but you can usually get a free trial that will allow access to all the courses on the site for 30 days. During that time, you can take as many courses as you can finish. And most of the photography courses can be completed in the allotted 30-day trial.

The courses on this site are worth the time it takes to sign-up for and cancel the free trial (or the cost of a subscription — there a lot to learn here). You’ll find courses from the basics through nearly every aspect of photography you can think of from mobile photography to learn how to create great head shots, photography as a storytelling tool, kids photography, and creative photography techniques.

More about Online Photography Courses

One thing to keep in mind as you work your way through these photography training sites is that you have lots of freedom to choose which works best for you. There may be other sites online, too, where you can learn broad or very specific skills. Most of them will offer no college credit or certification for your time, but if what you’re after is improving your photography skills, there’s no need to shell out a chunk of change to get it. Not when there are so many free photography classes online.