Photography is both a form of art and science.
Art because it is a visual representation of what an artist (in this case the photographer) sees and how he chooses to represent so that others could see; and science because it encompasses a number of basic characteristics of light and how it behaves, which most of us have learned in school.
Both as an art form and a science it is an ever-evolving school of knowledge, one that requires a continuous process of learning to help us evolve our skills and make better images.
There are two distinct ways of learning photography
One, shoot more and learn from your mistakes, which can be a long and tedious process.
The other one is to join a class. Back in the days of film photography and before the Internet came about such workshops would have been conducted inside a classroom with eager learning minds present in person.
Thanks to the Internet there are now online photography workshops and classes.
These allow one to learn from the convenience of one’s study, never requiring to leave home except to practice what has been preached, in a real life situation.
The million dollar question, however, is how does one choose a workshop/course for himself?
There are so many of them all claiming to be the best, run by the best, with the most qualified faculties and claiming to teach you everything under the sun.
Well, you don’t need to know how to take your camera apart and put everything together again.
Photography is such a vast ocean of knowledge that it’s hard to assume one can have expert knowledge on each and every branch of it.
As a beginner you can, however, follow the following simple methods to zero in on the online photography workshop that’s going to help you get better:
Scenario 1: Beginner photographer
You have just purchased a new DSLR and are unable to make any head or tail of the various buttons and dials on it. You have tried reading the manual that came along, but it seems all Greek!
You need to understand how to use your DSLR from the ground up. You also need to know how to master the basics of a good exposure and take decent images in most lighting conditions.
What you need, invariably, is a beginner course that will teach you everything that you need to know about your DSLR and how to use the camera correctly to shoot good images.
Most beginner photography workshops will touch the basics of camera operations, the relevant buttons, and dials that you need to know how to use as well as how to get the best out of your camera.
Apart from that, they would also touch the basics of lighting. Most would also give you practical assignments to complete and submit for the faculty to review and understand how much of the concepts you have been able to grasp.
Look for references offline
Offline is where most self-taught photographers started their careers, before the days of digital cameras and the advantages that come with it. Look for references offline of the workshop that you are planning to join.
If you are a member of any photo club, ask around for pointers and references. Some of the members would be happy to help you.
Feel free to ask for references of past students who have completed the course and get in touch with them.
While you are trying to get background information about the course, it will not hurt to get some information about the faculty as well. If the faculty is a photographer of repute he/she is bound to have a portfolio online; a website, a Flickr page, a blog anything that can give you some idea of how good a photographer he/she is.
You would want to know in advance whether the person who you will be learning from is capable of producing decent images him/herself, wouldn’t you?
Speak with the course coordinator
As a beginner, you will be overwhelmed when presented with so many courses to choose from.
How would you ever know which course will allow you to learn the things that you wanted to know? The first thing that you can do is get in touch with the organizers of the course and find out more about it.
Know the various aspects that will be taught. Speaking with the institute conducting the classes will help you to understand more about the suitability of the course for your personal needs.
Every institute will have a course coordinator and they are best placed to address your questions.
As a beginner, you may have specific questions about different aspects of photography.
The course coordinator will be able to answer whether those questions will be addressed in the course in question.
Jot your questions down
Speaking of questions, you can also start writing down your questions.
You would have already used the camera for a few days, and probably you already have a few things in your mind that you would want to get clarified.
- E.g., why does the image gets blurry when you use certain shutter speeds?
- How can you make everything but the subject’s face blurred?
- How can you shoot an image of a cyclist riding past so that it is sharp while everything else is blurred?
- Why do images have a particular color cast? …
Some of these questions could be addressed in a beginner course whereas others could best be addressed in a course meant for amateur or even advanced photographers, e.g. the basics of exposure compensation is a topic that is universally explained in any beginner course.
However, the creative uses of light using various filters is a topic meant for advanced users.
Speak with the faculty
Speak to the faculty first hand and find out more about his / her background. Speaking with the faculty in advance will help you to understand how he/she explains specific concepts in photography and whether you are happy with their communication.
These will be vital when he/she will be teaching photographic concepts to you. Additionally, you will be able to understand whether the classes would be very stereotypical or be flexible allowing you to ask questions around topics that you need to know.
Sometimes courses are designed so that they cater to a specific type of camera be it DSLR, point & shoot or otherwise.
If you happen to have a camera that is not suitable for the workshop that you are trying to get into, it is advisable to find out how much of the workshop is relevant for you.
E.g., you have a point & shoot which cannot use interchangeable lenses.
However, the course that you are trying to get into has major sections that are about buying lenses for your camera, type of lenses that you need to buy for different shooting requirements, how to make use of each type of lenses and so on. Needless to say, this course does not fit your needs.
Again, if the course is on lighting and requires that you own at least two speed lights or strobes to be able to use the instructions, and you don’t have any, this course will not make sense either.
Cost is an important decision-making factor.
Thankfully, online photography workshops cost a lot less than physical ones. There are no studio requirements which can accommodate several photographers at the same time.
No one’s required to travel and meet at a predestined destination for attending the workshops.
No accommodation requirements and certainly no transfers, meals and other incidental expenses.
All this makes online photography workshops a much more viable alternative when compared with traditional workshops.
Scenario 2 – Amateur
What if you are already aware of the basics of photography and want to know about the advanced concepts and techniques? Follow the same methods detailed in the beginner sections above to understand the exact course curriculum.
Speak with the course coordinator and the faculty. If you are interested in a specific course which has traces of both beginner and advanced materials, find out how much of each is there in the course.
Can you learn what you need from other sources? Is the material relevant to you worth of the full price of an otherwise unrelated course?
Photography Workshops Resources
Here are some great online photography workshops/courses which you can check out:
- New York Institute of Photography
- KelbyOne (get $20 using this link)
- Online School of Photography (by Bryan Peterson)
10 Photography Beginner Mistakes & How to Avoid Them