By Brad Zomick on SkilledUp.com

With the frantic proliferation of smartphones with built-in cameras, we’ve all become instant photographers. It’s now so easy to point and shoot that we instinctively take snapshots of just about anything that takes our fancy. However, we’ve all experienced having to discard what we thought would be awesome photos of once-in-a-lifetime events because the snapshots turned out too hazy, out of focus, blurred or with poor lighting. The sad bottom line: we failed at capturing some of life’s most wonderful moments.

Presumably, people who invest hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars in iPhone camera extensions, DSLR cameras and accessories should be able to take professional grade photos. However, the truth remains that regardless of your equipment, taking photos that are worth cherishing is a serious challenge and takes a lot more than just a camera and a pair of hands to hold it. Making matters worse, people with fancier equipment also assume an implicit responsibility (and pressure) of extracting the full value of the camera’s array of features, which is often easier said than done.

Those who master the art of photography will find that it is a skill with many benefits. Aside from being able to capture moments into images that will last forever, you can also save a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on professional photography fees for major milestones like childbirth, birthdays and weddings. Furthermore, photography skills have real commercial value. For instance, marketers can take their own great photos for business websites and Instagram feeds, saving money in process.  Meanwhile, those with real passion and skill for photography can pursue fulfilling careers in photojournalism and portrait photography. Imagine the excitement sports photographers experience as they attempt to capture game-defining seconds or the privilege of wedding photographers as they travel the world to attend their clients’ picture-perfect events!

The truth be told, there is a lot going on in photography: equipment, accessories, lenses, lighting, subject (what you are shooting, whether a scenery, person, object,  etc.), and environment (the time and place where you are shooting). For newbies, that’s enough to make heads spin. For the passionate few who plan to convert all that stuff into a viable source of livelihood, things may not be as easy as clicking a shutter release button. The good news is that there are many great online photography courses that can help anyone at any skill level — and we’ve got the best of them rounded up below!

The Best

Kelby Training
Composition Made Easy

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At Kelby Training you’ll learn from the best in the field.
In this course, you will learn from David Ziser, an internationally renowned wedding photographer who has taught thousands of students around the world. Taking this course will help you learn all of the nuances and tricks of on-site composition techniques. To spice things up, the class moves to different locations with various lighting and composition challenges, which will ultimately prepare you for different shooting scenarios with varying visual elements. The class also addresses lens choices, camera settings, as well as lighting gear selection. It runs 1.5 hours and is broken into 10 videos. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg because Kelby Training is “all photography, all the time,” and David is just one of many experienced instructors. Kelby Training has more than 200 courses in photography, 100+ on Photoshop, and even more courses related to integrating photos with web design. The whole library is available for $24.95/month or $200/year.

lynda
Foundations of Photography: Lenses

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lynda is the “Old Faithful” of online creative training.
The capability of a professional photographer hinges on his or her ability to select and use the best lenses for any given shooting scenario or purpose. Instructor Ben Long will walk you through the world of lenses and teach you how to choose lenses to enhance creativity and picture quality. The first half of the course covers the fundamentals any DSLR camera owner should know, and teaches how to shop for and evaluate new lenses. The second half focuses on shooting techniques. Ben is a photographer and teacher who has authored more than 20 books on digital photography and video. The class runs 2.5 hours and is composed of 7 parts. Again, this is just one of many photography courses in a huge tutorials library. lynda.com is one of the oldest and largest online training libraries with a strong specialty in creative content. It has 2,100+ courses, almost 20% of which are devoted to photography. The full library is available for $25/month or $250/year or at $37.50/month or $375/year for the same privileges plus access to related project files, which will reinforce learning by putting your newly learned skills into practice. Project files for photography courses will likely include Photoshop-related activities.

Tuts+
Photo Restoration 101

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Tuts is very strong on Adobe Photoshop, which is an important tool for professional photographers.
Many of us probably have a pile of old photos from way back when people used cameras with real film. If you belong to that category and want to retouch those old photos and make them look new, Photoshop is the best tool for the job and this course is the best one for you. Photo Restoration 101 is comprised of 19 lessons and runs 3.5 hours. This course is taught by Kirk Nelson, who has a 15-year track record in graphic design and has worked with the likes of Disney and government defense contractors. Tuts+ is another one of the major education players in the creative and design space. In total, they’ve got 200+ courses, 30 of which are dedicated to photography and design. The Tuts+ library also includes hundreds of text tutorials, ebooks, guides, and downloadable project source files, all of which are available for $19/month or $180/year

Free and Interesting Alternatives

CreativeLIVE
28 Days With Sue

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CreativeLIVE has free live workshops. However, if you snooze you lose.
CreativeLIVE has a markedly different model than most of the libraries mentioned in this list. The first major difference is that all of its courses are recorded in a live studio, and they are 100% FREE while the class is being taught. Some classes take a few hours, while others run the whole month, so there is lots of value to gain if you have free time. Once the course passes, you need to pay to watch it and the average price per course isn’t cheap. Courses are served up a la carte and average $99/course. The courses are very much focused on the instructors and their brands. This particular course is a month-long class with Sue Bryce, an award-winning fashion photographer, in which she teaches how to start your own photography studio business. The course has 28 segments ranging from 30 minutes to 4.5 hours and includes daily challenges. Both the post-lesson assignments and videos are downloadable.

Digital Photography School
11 Quick Food Photography Tips to Make Mouth Watering Images

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Digital Photo School is great for tips and tricks.
Digital Photography School (DPS) is a product of professional blogger and photography enthusiast Darren Rowse. At DPS, he’s invited professional photographers and photography lovers from around the world to write about their passion. The tutorials have an article format, which is a change of pace compared to the video courses listed above. The texts are delivered in laser-precise mini-tutorials that often focus on a very small niche in the world of photography. This particular article focuses on food photography and contains not only great tips but vivid imageries. It is authored by Darlene Hildebrandt, a professional photographer from Edmonton Canada who has extensive travel photography experience and a passion for shooting exotic foods. The best part of this course? DPS is totally free!

The Bastards Book Of Photography
How to Make Interesting Photos

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The Bastards Book of Photography is the training you’d get from a drinking buddy.
The Bastards Book of Photography is an “open-source guide to working with light” and is authored by Dan Nguyen, an internationally-exhibited photographer. It is a free online book that is a “low-maintenance” guide to photography and it assumes you don’t have fancy equipment, deep knowledge, or even the time or passion for the subject. It gives practical advice to those starting out, and reads as if a friend was speaking casually to you. The site has a simple design and teaches via text, but the imagery is really what takes over the page and gives these tutorials life. This article is one of 19, and is really about setting up opportunities for great photos. Each photograph is properly labeled and includes full details on camera models used as well as lighting and exposure settings. Overall, it’s a great place to get started. Dan Nguyen is an award-winning journalist, programmer, and writer in New York City.

Choose Wisely And Start Learning Soon!

With all the technical equipment, accessories, camera settings, shooting techniques and other factors one needs to learn, getting started in photography can be really daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. The key is to learn from the best. Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who is regarded as the father of photojournalism as we know it, once said,“Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.”

Like most subjects, photography has a learning curve and even professional instructors like Mike Ziser and Ben Long started from modest beginnings. The key is to pick a reliable learning resource. There are many online photography courses that address the many needs of amateur and professional photographers. Remember, an online course is just the start of your education. Be sure to take what you learn in the classroom and experiment in the field. Have fun learning and take some great photos!