Are online photography courses worth it?

Photography is one of the world’s oldest and best-loved art forms and one of the most popular professions for people to take up.

But photography can be pretty complex and takes time to master, so you will want to formally or informally learn the fundamentals such as; lighting, exposure, focus, and depth of field, but what are your choices when it comes to learning about it online?

Well, you can attend formal classes in a classroom setting, but more likely, in this day and age, you’ll want to take a blended approach, including online courses, but here’s a question for you, “are online photography courses worth it?’.

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Quick answer… Kinda.

Photography, by definition, is a practical activity; understanding your camera, lighting, framing, and composition is super important, and online courses can be great for that, but they should only be used to understand the theoretical concepts involved, either during a course or afterward, you’ve got to get yourself outside and start taking pictures to get your photography to the next level.

Let’s look at some of the considerations you should make when answering the question, “are online photography courses worth it?”

Introduction – Are they worth it?

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

are online photography courses worth it?
Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

In a single phrase, yes, I would say so.

When I was learning photography, I wanted to understand how shutter speed affects motion blur or to learn best practices around the composition.

I wanted some help from a pro that I could listen to and try out practice activities so I could master each photography area of

Numerous online learning platforms, such as Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare, are available with great photography courses.

Ultimately, I chose Skillshare as it’s the best platform available, specifically aimed at the creative arts, and it materialized they had the best content for what I needed.

If you’re interested, pick up a Skillshare subscription here.

Here is the course I used on Skillshare.

The above course was taught by an engaging instructor who made the process much easier for me. It was also very step-by-step, which made it easy to follow, and lastly, it gave me time to pause and try out what I’d learned to master each part, allowing me to develop my overall photography skills in a broad sense by the end of the course.

What types of Photography are there?

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

Long Exposure Photography
Photo by PhotoMIX

Some areas of focus in photography are the following:










Long Exposure

Long story short, you should learn many different styles of photography in more depth; they all use very different methods and lenses needed, amongst many other considerations, so please research before purchasing your first online course. 

Due to how wide-reaching the field of photography is, knowing whether you want to specialize or keep your learning general is something you should consider early on. 

If you want to know some more styles of photography, check out this post. 

Why is an online course a great choice for Photography?

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

Online Photography Courses
Photo by Pixabay

One of the reasons for taking an online photography course and saying a resounding yes to, are online photography courses worth it?, is flexibility. Due to online training being mostly video based, they align well with Photography, a visual medium, making it easy to follow.

The other thing about photography courses is they can effectively document the technical aspects of Photography, e.g., lighting setups, shutter speed,

Related: New York Institute of Photography

Lastly, an online course enables you to absorb learning on any device, including your phone, and being location agnostic, so on the train, in the passenger seat of a car, or anywhere you have a WI-FI connection.

You can learn Photography in a way that suits you, which is a massive plus over traditional classroom-based learning.

There are times when attending a physical class is better, though. This could be if you’re learning traditional film techniques and need access to a dark room, or you need a lecturer to speak to, to talk through your ideas and vision, but other than that, an online course or a broader online learning program will more than suffice.

What to look for in a course

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

When looking at online photography courses, there are a few things you should look for; some great examples are:

  • A robust and broad curriculum 
  • Simple navigation
  • Easy to understand.
  • Lighting techniques
  • Exposure
  • Understanding camera angles
  • Composition
  • How to take photos
  • Photo Editing

These are a few areas that I typically look for when taking a photography course online. Personally, I think lighting is the most critical aspect of photography, which is weird to some, as certain people feel it’s all about the camera, but that is just a tool; lighting is what enables you to craft your look and get a soft shadow and highlight roll-off to make your photos pop, so lighting is a must. 

Also, courses that provide robust tutorials not just on what your camera features are or do but actually how you can apply these fundamental skills in real-world situations are where the actual educational value comes from. 

Photography Fundamentals

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

Photography Fundamentals
Photo by Alexander Dummer

This is big and one that should be front of mind.

As mentioned somewhat above, lighting, handheld or tripod shooting, shot composition, angles, photo editing, and colour correction are some of the aspects of the fundamentals of photography, and you should only dive into online courses when at the beginning of your journey if these are included as it will put you on the right path to success.

Also, although I’ve said that actual camera functions are not always the most important things to learn initially, you should ensure that this is still covered in detail. The more comfortable you are with your camera, the better photographer you’ll be.

Because an instructor uses a different camera, the great thing about photography is that the principles taught apply across all cameras.

Shutter speed on one camera works the same as another and the same with settings such as ISO, and aperture to round off the exposure triangle. Don’t get caught up with specifics and enjoy the journey., 

Photographic Film vs Digital

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

Digital vs Film Photography
Photo by Rachel Claire

This is another consideration but will depend on what style of photography you enjoy most.

Most photography now has gone the way of digital exposure nowadays, mainly because it’s simpler and much quicker. However, understanding how to expose film is a skill that you may want to focus on, especially if you want to partake in traditional photography techniques.

Related: Film vs Digital

My advice is to go with digital, as that will give you the greatest chance of a successful career in the photography space. You can also do a top-up course or module that focuses on film topics anytime you like if you want to learn some traditional techniques but to start with, digital will yield the greatest results immediately.

It should be added here though, that film will give you a better image quality than digital photography due processing at higher resolutions and a higher pixel count, so it should be a consideration still.

Funny side topic, though, from a photography standpoint and filmmaking as well, with the lenses we use now being soo sharp and precise, we are constantly trying to provide a vintage and less than perfect look, so as impressive as digital photography is, don’t rest on learning film techniques to help you broaden your photography expertise.  

So we think about, are online photography courses worth it? Well, looking into film vs digital is a must to answer those questions.

Tutorial Quality

Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

Photography Tutorials
Photo by Pexels

When evaluating if an online photography course is right for you, take a look at the tutorial aspect of the course. This can really answer our question, “are photography online courses worth it?

How your instructor relays the information to you when teaching is extremely important. Is the tutorial complex and convoluted, or simple and to the point?

A lot of online courses allow you to pilot the first few modules to get a taste of what the entire course may be like, so I believe it would be in your best interest to take these free lessons to get a solid understanding of what you can expect and if your needs will be met.

Related: 8 ways to improve your online course

Make sure you like the way the instructor engages you and that they truly know what they are talking about and know the content well.

Also, most online courses have a Q&A component where you can ask questions to your instructor, well, see if you can have a look and see how responsive they are to their community. This will tell you a lot and provide insights into how they engage with their photography student audience.


Are online photography courses worth it? (Are They Effective?)

Photography Course Pricing - Udemy

Pricing for online photography courses can vary massively from as little as $20 to as much as $1000+; it really depends on the length of the course, the complexity, how in-depth it is, subscription or individual pricing, and the curriculum available. 

Here are a few examples of some top-rated courses, along with their respective prices:

Annie Leibovitz teaches photography – Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography ( – $15 monthly Masterclass subscription.

An Introduction to Photography by Karl Taylor Education – Free Photography Course – Online Photography Classes & Quiz (  Free course.

Photography: Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual by Jerad Hill – Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual – Daily Learn – $25.00 or name your suggested price.

Final Thoughts

So, are online photography courses worth it?

So, as I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this blog post, I 100% think online courses are worth it for budding or professional photographers.

They provide a safe space where you can learn and, more importantly, make mistakes, as well as provide the flexibility to learn in the hybrid world we find ourselves.

Taking online courses as one part of the broader learning process is advised.

You can start with an introductory course as per above, then take a more focused course, participate in a webinar, then go out with your camera around your neck and start taking photos.

Take photos in different lighting, some with ND filters and some without, and experiment with different shutter speeds, lenses, primes, and zooms.

Mixing online learning with classroom and social learning and then getting outside by yourself or with friends and family will level up your photography skills tenfold.

Are online photography courses worth it? That would be a resounding, yes!

Just ensure you are using them in conjunction with other forms of learning. By doing this, you’re well on your way to being a top-level photographer.

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