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What's The Best Way to Learn Photography? Online Vs. Live Photography Courses

written by: Lori Soard•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/20/2008

Thinking you might like to become the next Ansel Adams? Or maybe you just want to shoot better pictures of your family and friends. Whatever your goal, there are many different choices in beginning photography classes. This article explores the pros and cons of online and live photography classes.

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    Learning the Ins and Outs of Photography

    More and more people are taking up photography, both for pleasure and for profit. Anyone can buy a good quality digital camera these days, but not everyone knows how to use those cameras. Learning the basics of good photography can take the help of a professional. Classes in photography are a great place to start. Classes typically focus on the basics of lighting, camera features, and development of pictures. Classes are often offered at local universities, through community centers, by individuals and online. With so many choices, it can be hard to know which classes are the best option for a beginner's needs.

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    Online Vs. Live Classes

    With the ready availability of online classes, it can be a tough choice whether you should spend the time and gas money driving to a location each week for photography classes or take the class from the comfort of your own home. Here are a few things to consider:

    Online Classes

    Pros

    1. Cost - Although some online courses are costlier than others, typically online courses cost much less money than live classes. In addition, you will save money because you will not have to commute to another location and you'll save wear and tear on your vehicle.
    2. Convenience - Many online courses are set up to allow the student to do the classwork at any time during the week. A live class usually meets at a specific time, limiting your ability to participate in other activities.
    3. Anonymity - If you make a big goof and create some images that are sub par, no one online really knows who you are. Because there is less pressure to perform for peers, students often take risks and try photographs and techniques they might be scared to try in a live class.

    Live Classes

    Pros

    1. Expert Instruction - Some online courses have instructors with impressive credentials and others do not. Live classes, especially those given at universities, typically use experts in the field, who have a lot of on the ground camera experience.
    2. Interaction and Discourse - Live classes allow you to meet up with like minded individuals who are also interested in digital photography. This leads to discussions on different photography techniques, which digital cameras are best and how to save money as a professional photographer.
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    What to Look for In a Photography Class

    There are several topics that any good photography class should cover. There are many free digital photography classes available online, for example, and you'll want to be certain you are getting the basics you'll need to be a proficient photographer. Whether you choose to take a class locally, pay for an online or correspondence photography course or take advantage of a free online digital photography course, here are some topics you'll want to make sure are on the syllabus:

    • Resolution - The course should cover this topic in depth, including info on interpolated, optical and pixels.
    • How a Digital Camera Works - All digital cameras have some features in common. The course should cover different features, lenses, zooms, LCD menus, flash, exposure, USB connections, storage, card readers and file management for images.
    • Framing - Most courses will cover what to look for in the frame, point of view and how to choose between vertical and horizontal.
    • Light - You should learn the basics of shadows and light and their effect on a picture.
    • PhotoShop - Most courses will cover the basics of PhotoShop for editing digital photos.

    As with most things, in digital photography classes you often get what you pay for. A free online course will likely not cover all the basic topics you need to get started in photography, but they can be beneficial in giving you a good basis and a place to start. Additional study may be needed or a class taken later at the local level. However, free online courses can sometimes spark a new passion for photography that will lead to a fun new hobby or possibly a new career.