Whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced pro, there’s always something new to learn in photography. Practice is essential, learning through trial and error, but you can fast-track your improvement by interacting with other photographers, sharing difficulties and successes, and getting feedback from expert instructors. Whether you prefer to learn at home at your own pace, join others in a classroom setting or travel to exotic locations with like-minded fellows, there’s a class, workshop or tour—or a combination of these—that will help you overcome technical and inspirational hurdles.
Traditional classes provide a convenient way to improve your technical proficiency and experience with your camera, lenses, lighting and software at your own pace. There are a lot of classes available, from beginner to advanced, in almost any subject you could ask for. While some may prefer in-person classroom settings, more and more online courses are available, making it easy to learn at home.
New York Institute of Photography (NYIP.edu) was founded in 1910 as a residential school in Manhattan, but has since transitioned to web-based learn-ing exclusively, offering The Complete Course in Pro Photography, Photoshop for Photographers, The Complete Course in Video Making and Storytelling, Marketing for Photographers and Fundamentals of Digital Photography.
While a shift to a virtual classroom may appear to lack the one-on-one attention you’d receive in person, Zach Heller of NYIP allays that concern. "One of the things that really sets us apart from some of the other online photography options is that you have one-on-one access to a mentor. Students can call or email their mentor anytime that they have a question or trouble with the course or they really just want a little more information," explains Heller. In addition, "Students submit photographs that are then evaluated by their mentor, and they get personalized feedback about how they’re doing, how they accomplished the goal set out for them and things they can do to improve moving forward. And that mentor sticks with them through the entire course."
NYIP classes assume that you have no prior experience, so they teach from the ground up.
"The online course format really benefits those people for whom this is the best way to fit something into their schedule. They may have a couple of hours on one day to really go through a bulk of the material and then not get back to it for a couple of weeks. And at the same time, if there’s something they already know or find relatively easy, they can kind of fly through it at their own pace, too," says Heller of the learning style.
CreativeLive (creativelive.com) approaches the online classroom in a different way, but with an equal emphasis on interaction. CreativeLive provides free classes that are broadcast live online. "The reason we do it live is that it’s very interactive. The hosts are talking with each other and taking questions from our students, but also taking questions from our chat rooms, from Twitter, from Facebook. So it is a live, interactive class," explains CreativeLive’s George Varanakis.
CreativeLive offers over 400 classes on photography alone, spanning subjects such as portraiture, lighting, posing, weddings and nature. "We’ve basically covered every topic possible in photography. You can just go into our catalog and learn a ton. But I still believe that a hands-on workshop can work for our audience, too. And kind of the cool thing about it, if you ever want to come and be in the audience in CreativeLive, it’s actually free to be in the audience—you just have to get here on your own," says Varanakis. CreativeLive has studios in Seattle and San Francisco for those interested in being a part of the studio audience.