The Truth of Free Online Photography Resources

A lot of professional photographers started their journey with a pure interest in taking photos for pleasure. Statistics show about 50% of all US population between the age 18 to 64 own a digital camera. Photos taken by US adults every year reached 12 billion in the year 2017. With so many photos we collectively took, our enjoyment of photography is clearly linked to the ability we acquire to take better than average photos. These skills are able to be learned easily online from the comfort of your own home. But not all online photography learning experiences are created equal. Some of these resources are paid, others are free of charge. There are considerations you may wish to take before you spend your time and money into one. Let me help you decide.

Free resources

I find the internet is a great place to find learning material for beginners. This includes the most  fundamental theories and camera functions (e.g. aperture, shutter speed, focal length), digital image hardware and features (e.g. Megapixels, ISO, share reduction), photography theory (e.g. composition, landscapes, portraits), and post-processing (Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, filters and presets). There is so much you can learn about in the topics, one can spend a few years reading and learning and dramatically improve the quality of photos taken.

Examples of these good, beginner level photography resources are

  • Udemy
  • Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom websites
  • camera manufacturer websites (to understand the features of your camera)
  • Camera user forums
  • Photography magazine websites of your country

Great video resources are more than ample on YouTube. All you need to know is to be critical and pick those that are from reputable sources. The numbers of views, likes and comments usually give a pretty good indication. Recently, I discovered my preference for video tutorials over text based beginner level photography lessons because of the laid back position I can be in (you guessed it, in my couch) when learning.  The way presenter communicates using conversational language, accompanied by images and graphical information helps me understand the concept much better. this is especially the case for a visual art such as photography.

if you find a particularly good resource for beginner level photography students please feel free to share with me via the comment section at the bottom of this page and I will be sure to post your ideas and resources here.

Issues of Free Online Photography Learning Resources

free beginner level photography lessons do not come without issues or pitfalls. Most of the lessons can be somewhat unstructured. this means when you learn about basic photography techniques, optical features of a camera, advanced functions of digital post-processing and artistic filters, you run the risk of not capturing everything but leaving gaps in your knowledge system without even realising it is the case. This is not a huge issue for beginner level photography learners because it is somewhat obvious to identify a basic concept that has been missed, which you can then make up relatively quickly. Another pitfall to avoid is that free courses usually do not have a structured and timed learning program which means the student needs to rely on his own discipline to ensure he follows through. Photography as a hobby may not be on top of the lists amongst other priorities in life,  so if changes, there is a possibility of giving up. For a beginner, this may mean giving up photography as a hobby after all. the Internet is filled with self-published information nowadays, it is a revolutionary change as a lot of previously privileged information is now able to be freely accessible to a lot of people around the world with no cost. The downside of that, however, is that you can come across self-published, non-authoritative information. Information created by individuals without rigorous reference and proofing. You may learn 80% or 90% of all the information (this is beneficial compared to not having access to that information at all) but the 10% or 20% gap that’s left unknown is a real issue which can cost you that prize or assignment if you let it slip past you.

I believe in paid online educational resources to be the preferred method to advance my photography learning. Once we understand the basics of photography and have been taking photos for a few years, many of us find the factor limiting us from rising up to the next level is more advanced knowledge. We can still use online free resources for this type of more advanced learning, but the drawback is obvious. First of all resource in a specialised field of photography is much less readily available because there are more generalist but few Experts in a specific genre of photography style. Secondly, it will be much more costly if you’re using non-authoritative sources to digest information. The reason is, you may not know that there are gaps in your knowledge base because there will be less material available for you to cross-reference in a much narrower field. What you may not know we remain a cab for a relatively long period of time and that defeats the purpose of learning and bring down stove all potential in the progress of your photography.

Balancing your investment (equipment vs self)

From an investment perspective, as photographer we know we spend sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in photography equipment. It only makes sense to me if we also spend a proportion of that into ourselves, into developing our skills to match the advancement of equipment. Spending only in material and equipment but not in learning how to better use it is simply not justifiable to me. So I would not hesitate to pay for learning, if I know I’m paying for quality information and structured learning programs that will give me the confidence to use my equipment and to present my work in front of peer photographers.

Monetise your Hobby

another reminder for those wanting to monetize photography hobby is that the quickest way to start earning is to pay for specialised knowledge in the area that you want to be a specialist in. Whether it is wedding photography, portraits, fashion or event photography, getting into a local photography school or a reputable online program we will allow you to network with peers and even get an internship to break into the industry relatively easy. It is also the case that paid photography courses are better supported by their providers to answer questions and assess learning outcomes. This is valuable in structured learning.

Support and feedback

Learning photography using paid resources can go wrong sometimes. It is wasteful if one excessively enrol into these programs without carefully identify and choose the most authoritative and suitable ones for himself.  Paying someone often gives you the entitlement to learn all the knowledge and experience of that person. so a lot of times it’s up to you to extract the maximum amount of value from the person and really grasp all the value via personal experience. These benefits are always beyond the theoretical learning material that’s provided. Whether paid learning is worth a few extra dollars is up to you to ensure that you get these valuable contents from the provider.

Some would rather buy books

a lot of us would rather buy a physical book as a way of structured learning rather than in growing into a virtual online photography program. I respect this decision and I understand the reason. Having possession of a physical book means the structured learning can take place in a self-paced environment. you can read a few pages or a whole chapter depending on the bed ability of your spare time. You may wish to learn a certain technique, put down the book and actually try to apply that technique by taking photos, before you come back and continue to read and learn the next technique. Disallow you to learn more thoroughly and it’s up to you to determine when it is satisfactory for you that you fully grasp the information before you move on to the next. Amazon has a good collection of photography related books. At the bottom of this post, I listed a few that I personally bought and would recommend to beginner photographers.

Tips – Start with free online resources and move on to Paid

Try some free resources before you pay. This allows you to compare them with paid resources to really appreciate the quality differences. Some free resources can be really good and comprehensive, comparable to paid resources. If this is the case, by all means use them. starting with Free educational resources also avoids the issue of over investing. You only pay for the specialised context that is required, but not the more generic information that’s no longer privileged to a small number of providers. To extend the concept a little bit, you can also start with an app or a program on a subscription basis that allow you to spend relatively few money and I’ll buy a book to start with before you investing to specialised contacts which are more expensive.

Tips – Make use of note-taking technology to turn unstructured into structured knowledge

Modern note-taking technology such as Evernote, Notability, Microsoft OneNote is incredible in turning unstructured learning into structured knowledge. Make sure you leverage those resources and use it in your advantage to take notes everytime you come across information. Over time you will build a knowledge base. The ability to search, sort, organise, regroup, copy and paste the information in the notebooks means what started as structured learning can become structured information with the note editing and management process. I personally use this method to gather information I learnt online over time and gradually it becomes my own wealth of information that allowed me to quickly search reference copy and paste from whenever I need knowledge or information. This was not possible even 7 to 10 years ago before people were taking notes digitally. It’s really an amazing advancement of anyone that’s learning about anything.

Tips – Consider the value of your time

Your time is valuable. Spending a lot of time going through free information may mean that you spend a significant proportion of that time in assessing inferior information resources. Is this the best way to spend your time? I want to focus my time on digesting the best quality material. Although I am paying a little bit more, I do so knowing I am not going to waste my time having to second guess the material or getting frustrated with poor quality. Please take my advice and treat your time as the most valuable asset over money.

Tips – Set a Goal

Just like operating a GPS, if you want to go somewhere, you set a destination before starting a trip. In photography, knowing that you will be holding an exhibition, participated in a competition, agreeing to take photos of your friend’s new-born child, will be the motivation for you to learn the extra skill know how to operate the speed light comma I’ll pick up a whole new genre of geography over all. Setting up a goal and achieve it also give a sense of accomplishment which inspire you to further learning.

Tips – Socialise with other photographers

We’re all social animals, there is no doubt that we can choose to learn photography by ourselves. But why do that if we can be amongst a group of friendly people sharing the same passion? Socialise with other photographers as much as possible, so that we can pick up information and knowledge from each other in a non-competitive environment and having lots of fun along the way. With peer photographers, there will be opportunities to discover new photography techniques and learn how to monetize your hobby with business opportunities. 


The free resource is usually not free it cost you time your most valuable asset. Paid resource, however, means you could potentially save a lot of your time by not going through pitfalls comma and by reaching the desired outcome much quicker which will then bring a lot of enjoyment. After reading this article, let me challenge you by rethinking the concept of free and paid in a holistic way Beyond the currency in your wallet. I invite you to share with me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Digital Photography School has been running for a long time. All the courses are written by professional photographers, for photographers. They are not free, but neither is your time going through unstructured free online material. 

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