Brush up old skills or learn new ones altogether. Led by some of the biggest names in the industry, these online classes will develop your craft and inspire your creative spirit – all without leaving the house.
Words by Hudson Brown
At the time of writing this, photographers around the world are staying home to curb the spread of coronavirus, and the options are pretty limited when it comes to shooting right now. But if there’s one positive that can be drawn from browsing the internet all day, it’s that there are seemingly endless ways to hone your photographic skills. So if you’re still getting to grips with a DSLR or want to learn from some of the industry’s most esteemed voices, close your Netflix tab and launch Photoshop instead.
This selection of online photography classes will undoubtedly add something to your creative arsenal, giving you something new to try when the outside world is back on the menu.
For the first time in an online format, photographers everywhere have the chance to learn from Annie Leibovitz, a pioneer who’s captured the likes of John Lennon, Barack Obama and Meryl Streep. This 15-part video series dives into her philosophy on creating portraits. It also follows Leibovitz’s emergence as a photojournalist, showcasing her eventual rise to prominence as a portrait photographer working with the stars.
Across the program, Leibovitz explains her thoughts on what makes a compelling portrait, alongside why she doesn’t think photographers have to put their subjects at ease to get the best photo. There are also technical lessons, like how to master photography with natural light or knowing when to shoot on-location or in a studio.
In this class, respected portrait photographer Elizabeth Weinberg, who has taken portraits of stars like Anne Hathaway, Rami Malek and Emma Thompson for The New York Times and Afar, shows you how to enhance your digital photography with a greater appreciation for grain, colour and light.
Suitable for both beginners and professionals, this course aims to help photographers develop a unique colour style that’ll make your work stand out. Through an array of editing tips, Weinberg also highlights how to get the most out of your RAW files. For those that want a more natural, analogue-esque aesthetic to their work, Weinberg’s course is for you.
Photographic collectives don’t come more esteemed than Magnum Photos. In their online class on street photography, you’ll hear from seven of the group’s most renowned artists, including Bruce Gilden, Martin Parr, Susan Meiselas and Carolyn Drake. Through detailed interviews, case studies and on-location shoots, this thorough curriculum offers a range of perspectives on street photography’s beauty.
You’ll discover techniques that’ll help you anticipate the action, while learning about the group’s varied approaches to candid photography. The tutors will also delve into the mindset needed to build a successful career, plus offer guidance on developing a confident artistic voice. Finally, you’ll see your acclaimed teachers in action, including Bruce Gilden shooting in New York City and Martin Paar capturing a local fair.
When it comes to photographic storytelling, Alec Soth is one of the foremost artists working today. Presented by Magnum Photos, this 19-part video series sees Soth delve into the methods that informed his renowned projects, many of which were also used by pioneers like Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Stephen Shore.
Throughout the series’ five-hour runtime, Soth tackles an array of creative and industry questions. He discusses how he spent 10 years working side gigs before finding success, while he also outlines his approach following an idea’s conception to its publishing. There are specific insights into projects like Songbook and Niagara, plus you’re invited to watch Soth in action on a new shoot.
For those looking to up their photographic game from a phone or point-and-shoot to a DSLR, this class gives you a head start on the fundamental camera settings and principles required. Led by New York-based fashion and portrait photographer Justin Bridges, he provides a variety of advice acquired across shoots for the likes of GQ, Giorgio Armani and Esquire.
Featuring 12 lessons spread over more than an hour of footage, you’ll learn important basics like how to set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Taking both indoor and outdoor settings as examples, you’ll also learn how to choose the perfect focal point, edit effectively and shoot using RAW files.
Justin Bridges returns with another introductory course – this time on the basics of photo editing. Whether you’re shooting with professional gear or simply on your phone, Bridges offers an easy-to-follow guide to get you up to speed on Adobe Lightroom.
You’ll receive a range of tips on how to correctly adjust the hue, saturation and luminance, as well as tricks to fix your image’s exposure, white balance and lens distortion. There’s also a helpful rundown on adjusting curves, applying masks to improve your shots, and the ideal way to import and export your work.
This course will have your street photography skills primed for when a semblance of normality resumes. Photographer Craig Whitehead draws on his fine arts background to provide easy-to-understand guidance on framing colour and movement together. Explained across nine concise lessons, Whitehead begins by diving into the power of street photography and how to develop an eye for it.
Later, you’ll receive valuable instructions on recognising the patterns, lines and textures that make up the street, plus develop your understanding on how to frame people around colour and shape. Alongside some thoughtful pointers on shot selection and basic editing techniques, you’ll be prepared to capture awesome scenes no matter the lighting or weather conditions.
Developed over a 30-year career shooting for National Geographic, Michael Yamashita offers a novel perspective on successfully shooting landscapes from above the ground in his online class. Whether that means boarding a helicopter or climbing a ladder, Yamashita passes on an array of knowledge that’ll ensure you get the shot.
Once you’ve completed this 40-minute class, you’ll have a greater understanding of how to shoot landscapes that truly showcase a sense of scale. Yamashita also presents ways to identify the perfect light and patterns within your subject, while also discussing the technique of visualisation to subconsciously picture your finished shot before pressing the shutter.
Selected as EyeEm’s Photographer of the Year, Porter Yates has shot immersive documentary projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas. His in-depth class is based around composition, but he explores the topic minus the boring technical details. Instead, he shares useful tips on how to use framing and creativity to capture visually dynamic shots.
This includes what to look for at a location and how to layer varied visual components within the frame. There’s also a strong focus on how to shoot the unexpected, even at a well-known tourist destination. To illustrate his points, Yates uses his own images and applies the techniques he’s teaching, making for a practical learning experience where you can see how each shot evolves.
In this quick 30-minute series, lifestyle photographer Dan Rubin walks novice photographers through the process of creating a compelling photographic narrative. Step-by-step, Rubin explains how to plan out your shots, sequence the right images and edit cohesively. He also describes how to maintain a comfortable vibe with your subject, ensuring you can still capture the moment without your camera getting in the way.
Throughout an impressive career, Rubin has long been at the forefront of lifestyle photography. As one of Instagram’s early adopters who paved the way for influencers, he’s travelled the world shooting for clients like Redbull, Williams Martini and Barbour.
In another portrait-related class, Brooklyn-based photographer Aundre Larrow leads a 50-minute session on the specifics of environmental portraits – or when you photograph someone in their usual surroundings. With beginners in mind, you’ll learn how to tell stories through images, develop mood boards and work proactively on a shoot.
Larrow will help you turn your creative vision into a reality, as you study how to choose the ideal camera settings and make eye-catching stylistic choices. Even if you’ve only got a phone to work with, this course offers quick ways to improve your photography during your stay at home.