10 Great Free Online Courses For Photography – Online Course Report

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In the digital age, photography is everywhere. Every time we turn on our phones or visit sites like Instagram or Pinterest, we are bombarded with images. These days, having a good eye for photography can shoot your social media pages into the stratosphere and turn you into an influencer. Additionally, many people choose to make careers out of photography and spend their lives capturing images of people, landscapes, or products. Photography is an incredible career path to embark on because you can work for yourself, and you can always practice your craft even when you aren’t being hired for a job.

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If you have ever thought about starting to learn about photography or you already own a DSLR, it’s in your best interest to take a free online photography course. Photography courses are great for those who are starting from square one and know nothing about taking pictures since an online course will teach from the most basic of concepts to the most complex. Using our exclusive methodology, we’ve honed a list of ten great free online photography courses. Keep reading for the whole scoop.

Ranking Ten Free Online Courses For Photography

1. Fundamentals of Portrait Photography: Using Natural Light to Create Drama

Offered by SkillShare

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This 1.5-hour course is taught by Justin Bridges and is designed to teach students how to use lighting with whatever camera you have to create dramatic portraits. Whether you have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) or a cell phone, you will be able to gain something from Bridges’ course. SkillShare is a MOOC (massive open online course) platform that allows users to access many of its courses with a free membership. SkillShare also offers a premium membership that allows users access to things like premium courses or certificates of completion for the courses they finish. 

Justin Bridges is a professional photographer based in New York City who shoots fashion and portrait work, and he has gained massive success in the industry. By the end of the best free online photography course, students will have learned how to choose angles, backgrounds, and settings that highlight their subjects, how to identify which lenses and camera equipment they should be choosing, how to work with models, how to do specific types of shots, and how to edit your photos after you are finished shooting. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes (with SkillShare premium membership)

Time to Complete: Approximately 1.5 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Learn how to actually conduct a shoot, not just work with a camera 
  • Also teaches about post-production and editing  

Cons:

  • Certificate does not come free with the course 

2. Introduction to Photography 

Offered by LinkedIn Learning

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In this 2-hour course taught by Ben Long, students will learn that it takes more than just having a good camera to become a photographer. Long will instruct users on the basics of photography, offering them insider skills like understanding the basics of DSLR cameras and lenses. LinkedIn Learning is a MOOC created by the premier professional networking site. While it typically requires a paid subscription to access courses, the site offers a one-month free trial for new users. Additionally, students enrolled in an accredited college or university can often access the materials for free. 

Ben Long is a photography industry veteran and has worked in photography for a few decades. His work has been used by clients like National Geographic, the British Museum, and the White House. By the end of the free photography online course, Long will have taught users how to examine and utilize all of the factors that control photography, including lighting, exposure, composition, and focus. Additionally, Long includes lessons on shooting portraits, how to understand the geometry of photos, and how to edit your photos after shooting. 

Cost: Free Try a free trial for Linkedin Learning.

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Approximately 2 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Learn skills from a veteran industry professional
  • Also teaches about post-production and editing  

Cons:

  • Certificate does not come free with the course 
  • Free trial expires after one month, course content cannot be accessed after that

3. Cameras, Exposure, and Photography 

Offered by Michigan State University via Coursera

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This course from Coursera is the first course in a specialization called “Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR”. If you are looking to pursue a longer selection of courses or pursue photography as your career, this could be the perfect place to start. While this specific course is a shorter introduction, taking the full duration of the specialization will give you a more well-rounded, comprehensive understanding of photography. Coursera is a MOOC that offers both free and paid courses and larger specializations, perfect for those looking to jumpstart or advance their career. 

This free photography course with certificate is provided by Michigan State University and is taught by Peter Glendinning and Mark Valentine Sullivan, who are both professors at the university. The course comes with a free, shareable certificate upon completion, perfect to share on social media or with your LinkedIn connections. By the end of the course, students will have gone beyond the basic understanding of the DSLR camera. You will have also learned important photographic principles like framing and vantage point, which can greatly improve the aesthetic value of your photos. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes 

Time to Complete: Approximately 18 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Longer course, goes more in-depth on topics
  • Free, shareable certificate of completion

Cons:

  • Not for those who want a quick overview course 

4. Introductory Photography Course 

Offered by Udemy

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This free online photography course, created by Chris Bray, has the main goal of moving you away from taking pictures on ‘Auto’ mode. Instead, Bray aims to help students shoot manually, teaching them everything they will need to adjust their camera settings accordingly. Udemy is an online course site that offers individual courses on both a paid and free basis, created by individuals with the goal of educating their virtual students. Udemy is free to join and your course search can be limited to free classes, meaning you’ll never have to pay a cent! 

Chris Bray will take students through all of the basics of using a digital camera in this 2.5-hour course, teaching simple techniques to make your photos stand out like setting your AF mode, resolution, aperture, and depth of field. You only need your camera to start, and by the end of the course students will have learned how to accurately set up settings like ISO and shutter speed. Students will have also learned how to choose the correct lenses and camera for their specific needs. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: No 

Time to Complete: Approximately 2.5 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Teaches students how to correctly set every setting on their camera 
  • Easy to understand course, does not use complicated photography jargon

Cons:

  • Certificate does not come free with the course 

5. Fundamentals of DSLR Photography 

Offered by SkillShare

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This course on SkillShare is taught by Justin Bridges, who appeared earlier on the list, in collaboration with Photo Essentials. While the course that was previously mentioned is applicable to any kind of camera (digital, smartphone, etc.), this course is geared more specifically toward DSLR users. As previously mentioned, Bridges is a veteran of the photography industry and has worked with many celebrity clients. He has also had his work published in major magazines and publications like GQ, Esquire, and Complex Media. 

The lessons in this short photography course are meant to be very easy for beginners to follow and free from complicated photography jargon. The course is designed to get beginners up to speed quickly, so they can start shooting on their own as soon as possible. By the end of the free online photography course with certificate, students will have learned how to accurately balance settings like ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and exposure. Bridges will also teach students how to edit their photos in five minutes or less after shooting, making it easy to share with others or post on social media. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes (with SkillShare premium membership)

Time to Complete: Approximately 1.5 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Allows students to conquer their fear of shooting manually 
  • Taught by an industry veteran who has had many celebrity clients

Cons:

  • Certificate does not come free with the course 
  • Aimed specifically at DSLR users only 

6. Introduction to Photography and Related Media 

Offered by MIT Open Courseware

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MIT, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of the premier universities in the country for technology and is notoriously difficult to get into. Luckily, you don’t need to fill out any applications to take this Introduction to Photography and Related Media course. MIT Open Courseware offers a variety of different free courses for online students, providing all of the downloadable course materials for pupils to complete the work independently. 

This free photography course from MIT is especially important for aspiring photographers because it discusses both analog and digital photography work. Most classes you’ll find online nowadays only discuss digital cameras since they are what most people use. However, understanding analog and film photography gives students a more well-rounded understanding of the subject. By the end of the course, students will have completed practical instruction in both analog and digital photography, understanding concepts like film exposure and development, studio lighting, and darkroom techniques. The course is taught by professors Andrea Frank and Reilly Rabitaille, who both have advanced experience working with digital and analog photography. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Approximately one semester

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Discusses analog photography as well as digital
  • Taught by a premier university

Cons:

  • Certificate does not come with the course 
  • Not very interactive, mostly downloadable course materials

7. Introduction to Digital Photography

Offered by Alison

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Alison is a MOOC platform designed to connect students to a variety of free courses to enrich their learning experience and further their careers. This course is provided by Advance Learning, which has aimed to direct students in the multimedia field and connect them with major clients like Microsoft since 1998. You can take this photography course on your laptop, tablet, or any other mobile device as the platform is cell phone-friendly. The course takes between one and a half to three hours to complete and comes with a free certificate of achievement upon completion.

Throughout the course, students will learn the most important functions, techniques, and settings to use in digital photography and how to operate their own digital camera. Nearly 200,000 students have enrolled in this course thus far and it is rated 4.2 out of 5 stars on the platform. This course is perfect for those who want a short photography overview from a trusted site, since the course won’t take you too long to complete. By the time you finish the course, you will know how to take the right photo for any possible occasion. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes

Time to Complete: Approximately 1.5-3 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Good overview of digital photography techniques 
  • Taught by an advanced IT company

Cons:

  • Not an in-depth course, more of a beginner overview 

8. Professional Family Portraits

Offered by Craftsy

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This free photography course by Craftsy is perfect for those who want to go into the more professional world of family portrait photography as opposed to a more creative side. Craftsy is a MOOC where you don’t even need to be a member to purchase classes. While this class and many others are free on the site, Craftsy does also offer many paid classes for those who want to get more material out of their online course work. Kirk Tuck teaches this particular course, who is a wildly successful photographer that has had multiple high-profile clients including IBM, Dell, Elle Magazine, and Time Warner. 

Family portraits can be difficult since you work with a variety of different people of different ages, none of them being professional models. In this course, Tuck takes students through how to appropriately work with toddlers, teens, young adults, and elderly people to get the best portraits possible. Tuck also teaches students about his preferred lenses, his lighting setup, and how he edits photos in Photoshop and Lightroom for the best possible results. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Approximately 1.5 hours

Curriculum: Intermediate 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Learn specifically about family portrait photography 
  • Taught by a highly successful portrait photographer

Cons:

  • Assumes you already have some knowledge on how to use a camera
  • No certificate of achievement

9. Photography: Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual 

Offered by Udemy

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This free photography online course from Udemy is designed to get students to switch their DSLR cameras from automatic shooting to manual shooting mode. While it can seem really complicated at first, this course simplifies camera settings to make it accessible for everyone. As previously mentioned, Udemy is a MOOC platform that offers a variety of courses that are both free and paid depending on the instructor. Jerad Hill, who instructs this specific course, is a web designer and photographer who has incredible self-taught skills. Hill has worked on his own since high school and is committed to extending his skills to other needy students. 

In this nearly five-hour course, Hill takes students through the steps of how to get the most out of the investment they’ve made in a DSLR camera. Hill goes through every level of customization that you can achieve in manual shooting mode, making it much less daunting to approach. At the end of the course, you will feel confident shooting in manual for nearly any situation and will be able to easily make camera adjustments in real time.  

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Approximately 4.5 hours

Curriculum: Beginner 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Learn specifically about manual shooting mode 

Cons:

  • No certificate of achievement

10. Fundamentals of Digital Image and Video Processing 

Offered by Northwestern University via Coursera

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This free online photography course from Coursera is provided by Northwestern University, one of the preeminent universities in America. Nearly 100,000 students have enrolled in this course so far, and it is certainly not an opportunity to miss. A quarter of all students who completed the course either began a new career after its completion or gained some kind of tangible career benefit from taking the course. After the course is completed, students have the option to download a shareable certificate of completion, which is perfect to share with your employer, social media, or your LinkedIn connections. 

Aggelos K. Katsaggelos is a professor at Northwestern University and is the primary instructor for the course. Katsaggelos works in the department of electrical engineering and computer science and is more than qualified to help students learn more about digital imaging. In addition to learning about digital imaging and video, students will also be informed on how to apply these principles in commercial and scientific ways. If you are more interested in the business or scientific side of photography, this course could be perfect for you. 

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes

Time to Complete: Approximately 36 hours

Curriculum: Intermediate 

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

  • Start anytime and go at your own pace
  • Learn specifically about scientific and commercial aspects of photography
  • Also integrates video 

Cons:

  • Teaches more business and science, less creative 

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Frequently Asked Questions About Free Online Courses for Photography 

Like any creative career or industry, it can be incredibly scary to start a new job on your own where you could possibly fail. Getting a job in photography is certainly unlike working in an office: photography is typically gig work, and income is not promised. The great thing about learning photography is it can be done on your own time and can be done even when you aren’t under contract to do it. Taking practice photos can be as simple as using your cell phone, or as complicated as orchestrating an entire photoshoot. 

Whether you’re looking to start a new career in photography or you just want to brush up on some basic DSLR skills, you likely have questions about how these free online courses will work for you. The following section details and answers some frequently asked questions about free online photography courses. Hopefully, if you are feeling nervous about embarking on this new career path, these questions will somewhat settle your nerves. 

What Will I Gain From A Free Online Photography Course?

Most online photography courses are tailored to the kinds of tools you are using, and how much experience you have using them. Courses vary in the kind of tools needed to start them, ranging from a cell phone to an analog film camera to a DSLR camera. If you own one or all of these tools already, you should start by searching course results for the tool you want to learn more about. If you only have a cell phone camera, you won’t learn anything from taking a DSLR course. 

Typically, courses will go in-depth first about how to use your specific camera. These lessons could include things like aperture, ISO, exposure, lens type, and basic camera controls. These customizations will help you achieve the style of photo you want depending on the situation. Often, courses will then discuss how to actually conduct a photoshoot. These lessons could include things like working with models, setting up lighting, adjusting the setting and background, and editing photos in post-production. 

Who Should Take A Free Online Photography Course?

There are a variety of different people who can benefit from a photography course. If you are even slightly interested in photography, you will benefit from an online course! Whether you want to make photography a career or not, photography can simply be an enriching creative hobby to enjoy when you are not working. Photography is something you can always practice and do on the side, even if you aren’t good at it or you aren’t being hired to do it. Additionally, knowing some simple photography techniques can greatly boost your social media clout! 

Are Free Online Photography Courses Difficult?

Like any new skill, photography can seem difficult to learn if you haven’t been exposed to it before. While camera settings might seem quite daunting, they are rather self-explanatory once you learn how to appropriately use all of the functions. In these courses, professors are less likely to try to challenge you to the point where you find the course incredibly difficult. Instead, instructors will ask you to look at creative concepts in a new way and broaden your perspective on creative outlets like photography. Photography is a skill that can be incredibly relaxing and therapeutic! 

Are Free Online Photography Courses Worth It?

In short, yes! One thousand times yes! Especially since all of the courses on this list are entirely free, you have nothing to lose from at least attempting to complete one. If you begin one of these courses and find that they aren’t right for you, you haven’t lost anything except time if you abandon your progress. However, we think it will be unlikely you will abandon any of the courses on this list since they are all incredibly engaging and are taught by extremely qualified instructors. 

Photography is one of the most important skills you can learn if you want to become a creative entity at any point in your career. Not only can photography improve your social media and creative reach, but you could also have the opportunity to change people’s lives through important events like wedding photography or family portrait photography. Even if you want to just stretch your creative muscles, these free courses are the perfect way to do that. Your time certainly won’t be wasted on any of these online courses since they are quite literally designed for those who have no experience whatsoever in the photography world. 

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