How to Learn Photography
Find what works for you to learn photography
As photographers we are constantly learning. Not only is gear and technology advancing quicker than toasting bread, it feels as though the level of creativity required to work professionally is constantly rising. Knowing how to learn photography and more importantly, finding a learning style that suits you (because we’re all different!) is an important step in your creative journey.
That need to continue developing our editing techniques, creative approach, unique styles and technical knowledge sticks with us whether we’re working as professional photographers or just starting out in photography. Remaining open to new ways of photographing and seeking to stay innovative within the industry is the key to longevity and motivation as a photographer.
For inspiration and new knowledge, I personally love browsing the bookstore, finding old photo books that existed before social media or scouring through satellite images on Google Earth to find that next dream landscape to visit. In terms of learning, I’m always pressing buttons on the camera to see how they can contribute to my image or searching through ‘How To’ videos on YouTube to see if someone has advice on what I’m trying to achieve.
Sometimes the learning process will happen slowly, other times we need to learn much faster, particularly if we’re dealt some unexpected conditions during a shoot or adventure!
I wanted to put together this list of photography resources and learning pathways for those who are looking for ways to improve their photography or just get a boost of inspiration. They’re not the only way to learn, just some examples of mine that tie in with eBooks + courses I offer and where I personally get tips and advice.
Take a peek, have a read and click through to see if any fit your current creative path! One last thing, as photographers, I strongly believe there is no single way to learn. Textbooks can of course offer technical assistance, but a huge element of photography is the creative mindset so spending time developing your own unique vision and refining those creative skills is essential to producing work that’s identifiable as yours.
8 Ways to Learn Photography
01 – Explore and Experiment
Learning style – You like to solve problems and find your own way of doing things
I’ll pop this one right at the very top of the list because it’s how I learnt photography and it’s how I continue to test and try new techniques. As an art form, learning photography shouldn’t be about sitting in a stuffy room and following chapters, it should be about getting out there, playing with light, pressing the wrong buttons and having fun exploring the possibilities!
When was the last time you just went out with your camera and tried something new without Googling how to do it first?
Getting comfortable using your camera requires you to experiment and really spend the time taking photos, seeing how it can work as an extension to your creative ideas.
You want to start using your photographic eye and pairing that with the available functions of your camera. While an instructor or textbook can suggest how to do this, another way is to teach yourself and form your own process and way of capturing images. Settings like ISO, shutter speed and aperture are important to learn but you can also develop ways to blend these with your creative ideas to create something special!
02 – Online Photography Courses
Learning style – You enjoy guidance, set tasks, social learning and love having information to refer back to
With the world feeling closer than ever, learning online can provide some incredibly unique opportunities to expand our skillset. If you need to improve your knowledge of camera settings, you’ll find various online courses via platforms like Udemy or local institutions to get you started.
Those who already know a little about how to use their camera may be on the lookout for business courses relating to photography. Perhaps you want to set up a print store? Or launch a new business focused on portraits or weddings? You’ll find those courses out there too and the best part is that you don’t need to attend in person! So many online courses include video content or downloadable workbooks you can learn from wherever you are in the world. You can decide what learning style suits you best and research a course to suit.
The Creative Photography Course
I launched The Creative Photography Course in 2020 and have loved working with photographers from around the world to improve their photography. It’s a six-month program aimed at releasing your creative talents and limited to only 3 start dates throughout the year to ensure I can be involved in the Facebook group. We focus on everything from curating, composition, creative techniques and working with natural light through to challenges in various genres, social media for photographers, setting up a print store and starting a career as a professional photographer.
It’s only run three times each year and includes a private Facebook group so participants can network, chat about their experiences and ask questions as they progress through the course. All content is downloadable so even if you’re falling behind, you can work through it at your own pace whether that’s six months, a year or more!
03 – How to Learn Photography Via your chosen Camera Brand
Learning style – You’re keen to get all the information, especially the technical, the more the better!
Most camera brands will offer guidance in a number of ways, allowing you to find out how to learn photography while using their gear. You’ll find it in the form of online documentation, it can also be in-store via workshops or information sessions or, most brands have started generating a strong social media presence which is really helping to boost the industry as a whole!
I use Olympus gear and they’ve got a variety of programs, both online and in-person on offer for people who purchase a camera. There’s the Online Learning Centre or ‘Coffee with Olympus’ where you can meet with a trained professional in-store to learn about the functions of your gear (check availability near you due to local Covid-19 restrictions). Olympus UK has a fantastic LIVE Facebook chat each week that covers creative techniques and interviews with professionals. You’ll find the chat I did with them in April 2021 here and some other recommended videos are the Macro Photography with Geraint Radford episode or ‘How to Improve your Astrophotography with Peter Baumgarten episode’.
04 – Learn Photography with Workbooks + eBooks
Learning style – You love learning solo, reading slowly and spending time soaking it all in
If you’re someone who prefers to study or learn in their own time and solo, downloadable content is probably your best method of learning. I know I totally fall into this category and prefer being able to read at my own pace and apply the content to my situation rather than be told I ‘have to’ complete an assignment.
Sites like Amazon are filled with eBooks you can download on all sorts of topics within the photographic industry but it’s also more and more common to see photographer self-publishing now! Supporting a photographer by purchasing their eBook means they’ll do a little happy dance when they see your order come through so take a look around and see if any of your favourite photographers are publishing online.
I’m slowly building an online library of workbooks and eBooks for my readers, the latest is a Workbook Bundle filled with four downloadable PDF books to help you curate, compose + create unique images. There are creative challenges inside to complete if they’re relevant to your style, along with steps to follow to improve your creative composition, techniques like using minimalism, ICM Photography, foreground elements + a Creative Check-up to keep track of your progress.
There’s also a Camera Settings eBook for Landscape Photography along with a Photographer’s Guide to Creative Vision which aims to share insights into the creative process while guiding you through the stages of finding your own unique eye and creating projects.
05 – Free Photography Tutorials + Online Videos
Learning style – You like to gather information from variety of sources to see what feels right
We’ve all Googled ourselves out of all sorts of scenarios before whether it’s photography related or not. Just last night my fire alarms were going off and there I was at 3am in a daze trying to find a solution! Well, it turns out there is a tutorial for almost anything, even the exact fire alarm model my apartment has installed is featured in a 3min video about how to deactivate them.
When it comes to photography, you’ll find an endless rabbit hole of information available. From universities, libraries, schools, brands, photographers, professionals, amateurs, people with opinions, people who simply want to share what they’ve learnt, you can truly find almost anything out there for free.
The beauty of it is that where there’s one tutorial, there’s usually another hundred so you can watch and learn from a variety of sources before deciding which is best for you or the most suitable to how you photograph.
YouTube is filled with creatives offering free tips and tutorials on every single photography technique or genre that exists. If you want to learn about time-lapse video, underwater photography, how to set up a tripod, how to use filters – there’s a video or channel dedicated to it. Most camera brands will also have a full online library of featured videos sharing tips too which work in conjunction with their social media accounts. If you’re keen on adventure film-making/photography and Olympus gear, Chris Eyre-Walker has an incredible channel filled with inspiring content.
Rather than rushing your creative learning process, spend the time finding what sources resonate with you. Browsing tutorials and online content like you scroll through Netflix looking for something to watch will help you to compile a collection of places you can go to whenever you need inspiration and insights.
Articles + Photography Blogs
While I’ve mentioned videos, that’s not to forget written articles too. My library of free guides and tips is filled with everything from sunrise photography settings, split-level underwater photography, using a zoom lens, how to work as a travel photographer and more.
Some links to themed content are below –
06 – Sign up to Photography Related Newsletters
Learning style – You get inspired by others
A lot of photographers have started newsletter lists in which they share updates on their own work, but sometimes also information on their creative processes or photography tips. While I know most of us are already signed up to a lot of unwanted mailing lists for products we purchase (clothing, books, travel etc), if you follow a photographer on social media and love their style, it’s worth seeing if they have a newsletter list you can join to ensure you’re getting sent emails when they release them.
I’ve got a newsletter list that I don’t like to push or promote, it’s just organically growing with people who want to hear more about The Wandering Lens and how to improve their photography. I share a newsletter roughly once every week or two, nothing spammy and always filled with a creative tip to try!
It’s worth researching for newsletters that will keep you inspired to learn more and improve your photography. Signing up to a camera store newsletter is fine, but more often than not their goal will be to sell you gear – you want information, creative guidance and authentic content to read!
07 – Join a Photography Class or Photo Walk
Learning style – You’re a social butterfly and get motivated by group settings and learning with others
Local photographers tend to host short classes or workshops focused on a particular genre or style. For example, you may live in the city and could research classes on street photography or portraits.
Photography classes that get you out in the elements, working with real environments and learning on the go are my recommendation as you’ll instantly start to see results and can put the concepts into practice immediately.
Not only will you learn photography, but you’ll also meet like minded people that share your passion for photography. Photo walks are becoming more and more popular and while they don’t always involve a learning aspect, it’s easy to pick up tips from other photographers simply by chatting and sharing.
Websites like www.meetup.com are great for seeing what’s happening in your community!
08 – Challenge Yourself to Get Creative
Learning style – You’re a doer, putting what you learn into practice
I’ve saved this one until last because that’s exactly where it fits.
Once you’ve read workbooks, completed courses, discovered sources that inspire you, trawled through free tutorials and gathered a knowledge base suited to your photography, now comes the fun part. It’s time to take action.
Challenging yourself in the field is one of the best ways to learn as a photographer. After building your base skill set and creative vision, create plans to put them into practice and go out to take photos.
You may find your first few attempts don’t rock your socks off but that’s completely normal. No one wakes up or completes a course and is suddenly a professional photographer, it takes time, patience and practice. Those ‘practice makes perfect’ sayings are kind of right, taking photos is the only way to improve as a photographer!
Repetition, experimenting in varied light conditions, challenging yourself to capture unique compositions and really showcase scenes with a unique eye is what every photographer keen to improve should be doing. You’ll find some tips on creative techniques to try here.
If you’ve got a resource to share that’s help you on your photography journey feel free to leave it in the comments below as it may just help someone else reading this too!
Travel and landscape photographer from Australia who is far more comfortable in a pair of flippers than heels! Having worked for publications such as Lonely Planet, Wanderlust and the Sunday Times, Lisa founded The Wandering Lens to share destination guides to the worlds most photogenic places and outdoor experiences.