I caught the photography bug in 2003 when digital cameras were starting out.
Before then, I had only owned an automatic, point-and-shoot film camera and never really had much interest in taking photos outside of “documenting my life”. Over the past 11 years, my work has improved in leaps and bounds.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself self-taught per sey (here’s why I think that’s a crock), I am good at finding resources, understanding explanations, practicing and then integrating them into my repertoire.
So if you’re wondering what resources I use most often to improve my photography, check these out:
Even though David Hobby has moved away from updating his Strobist blog regularly, it still holds a huge archive of great information about lighting. All for FREE.
Start off with Lighting 101, move to Lighting 102 and then deep dive into the plethora of his greatest posts, reviews and 100 of his favourite lighting videos.
If you want to understand how to use light and what terms like quality, intensity, gobo, snoot, cookie, octa, VAL (etc.) all mean and how you can use them to create the lighting you see in your mind’s eye, I can’t recommend a better resource.
David has built a huge following online and it’s easy to see why.
Create Compositions ($)
You’ve heard of the rule of thirds? It’s hard to find resources that discuss more than this tic-tac-toe grid.
I’m lucky that an amazing photographic artist Olivier du Tre broadened my horizons by sharing some of the ideas of Dynamic Symmetry. My first step was to change the crop overlay I use in Lightroom. He gave me a taste, and now I’m pursing it myself.
Enter the Canon of Design by Tavis Leaf Glover of IPOX Studios. Have a look at his analysis of the elements that Annie Leibovitz uses to create compelling compositions. Let it sink in.
I just bought access to the rest of the posts a few weeks ago and am loving it so far. I’m not expecting to be able to implement everything he talks about right away but I love that I see the multitude of compositional possibilities that can be created within the framework he teaches which can only lead to my work improving over time as I refine my photographic eye.
Refine Retouching ($)
My own growth as a photographer has led me into exploring how post processing can help bring my visions to life.
Photoshop is an incredibly powerful program that most people only scratch the surface of what’s possible.
If there’s one person who seems to know the ins and outs and is able to explain them succinctly, it’s Ben Willmore. I don’t follow his blog myself (at least not yet), but found his Photoshop Mastery courses on CreativeLive and can wholeheartedly recommend them. His explanation of “curves” is mind-blowing yet simple.
I haven’t even finished watching all of the videos but can say that through what I’ve seen so far, I have a much better understanding of how to use the various tools in Photoshop to get a desired result.
Going down the CreativeLive rabbit hole also led me to Pratik Naik’s course on High-End Retouching.
I’ve been a fan of Pratik’s work since I found out he’s one of the retouchers that Joey L works with. I love how the images Pratik retouches have a realistic, premium look. I’ve gone through most of the tutorial and have used the techniques on both personal and commercial commissions. It’s easy to follow and augmented my retouching immediately.
It also got me to get comfortable with my Wacom tablet which has been priceless.
Composite Imagery & Special Effects
Although the work in my portfolio is all done in real locations with 95% natural light, I’m always looking to add to my skill set.
I’ve recently stumbled upon Aaron Nace’s Phlearn. They have a bunch of great free videos, as well as more in-depth paid tutorials. Aaron clearly explains the techniques he uses so that you can apply them yourself.
I have two links for you that deliver both inspiration and insight.
The Defender of Vision
David duChemin is one of the strongest voices in helping photographers pursue their vision.
In addition to being a photographer, he regularly updates his blog, writes and publishes books and somehow even finds the time to post a weekly video podcast on YouTube. You can subscribe to his email like I do and get regular updates.
If you’re feeling stuck creatively, let him help you reconnect with your vision.
The Passionate Creator
Commercial Photographer and serial creative Chase Jarvis (who is also the founder of CreativeLive) recently started a new video series: #cjRAW 2.0. It’s a quick, tightly edited video on various subjects aimed to lead to success in photography – artistic, technical and business success.
He posts links to each episode on his blog which may seem somewhat redundant, but it allows him to share links and summaries if you only want to check out certain parts of the video. His blog has lots of great articles from the past and links to his Chase Jarvis LIVE episodes. Those are in depth interviews from creatives across all walks of life.
If you want insight into what it takes to deliver creatively and ship your work, look no further.
Build a Business
I tend to do most of my business reading in books, although I’m sure there’s a lot of great business websites out there.
However, there is one website that I’m signed up for that I read every single post: Seth Godin’s Blog. Seth has a unique way of viewing the world and business that I really connect with.
He’s passionate and concise (the latter being something I still need to learn…). Since he tends to present insights in bite sized pieces, you can implement and try things while slowly integrating his knowledge into your own practices.
What about the basics?
If you’re still getting your head around the basics like aperture, shutter speed and ISO, I have the best website for you: Google.
I’m not saying that flippantly. In fact, that website is so good for resources on all aspects of photography at whatever level you’re at. I still use it all the time to find posts on the things I want to learn about.
If you’re not sure how to do something, anything:
And when you find the answer, make sure that you try it out for yourself, since otherwise you likely won’t be able to use that knowledge effectively when you’re on an important shoot.
Learn Photography Link Summary
Here’s the best 9 links I know of to learn photography online:
- Canon of Design
- David DuChemin
- Chase Jarvis’ Blog
- CreativeLive – Photoshop Mastery by Ben Willmore
- CreativeLive – High-End Retouching by Pratik Naik
- Free Phlearn Videos
- Seth Godin’s Blog
What about you?
What are your favourite sites to learn from and get inspired? Share in the comments below; I’d love to check them out! MK
SHARE THE LOVE, SHARE THIS POST.DISCLAIMER: This list of free photography resources, some of which have paid ($) options.
When I wrote this post on Nov 17, I had no relationship with any of the websites mentioned in this post outside of being a user. I recently became an affiliate of CreativeLive and Phlearn (as of Nov 29, 2015) and my committment you is that my recommendation of any course will be honest and based on my actual experience.
Images for each website are screenshots and are being shared under fair use. If you are the copyright holder and would like the images removed, please get in touch.