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Yes, you can take free online photo classes from Harvard and 5 others

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Andrea De Martin / 123RF
Nope, that’s not a typo in the headline – you can take Harvard photography classes online for free. While any free online class, whether from an Ivy League or the best YouTubers out there, won’t leave you with any sort of certification or degree, it will leave you with a better understanding of photography. Reading how-tos is great way to learn, but sometimes that audio-visual presentation in an online class just helps those concepts stick around longer.

Online classes are great ways to boost your photography skills, and there are several ways to learn for free, from shorter teasers from paid companies and experts sharing tips and tricks on YouTube, to entire courses from top universities.

Ready to learn? Here are six places to learn photography online, from beginner’s concepts to advanced techniques and post processing.

Harvard University Extension

Harvard photography professor Dan Armendariz’s lectures are available online, and free to view. Dan Armendariz, Exposing Digital Photography, Harvard University

Harvard photography professor Dan Armendariz recorded all of his lectures for the Exposing Digital Photography course, and they’re now available on YouTube (videos are also hosted on the course website). As a Harvard course, this series of lectures goes beyond the how-tos and covers aspects like the science behind photography, though the course description says the overall class goal is to, of course, improve both photographic skills and understanding.

This course is available online as part of the Harvard Extension School that offers a number of free courses as well as paid classes with certifications and actual college credits. The photography lectures were recorded in 2015, but the information is still current.

Stanford Professor Marc Levoy

Marc Levoy - Lectures on Digital Photography - Lecture 1 (21mar16).mp4

Marc Levoy, a Stanford professor and a computational photography engineer at Google, lists an 18-part photography course online. Based on the lessons from the digital photography course he taught from 2009 to 2014, the lectures cover the scientific, artistic, and computational side of digital photography.

The 18 videos are about an hour each. Levoy says no previous knowledge of photography is required, but you also shouldn’t try to tackle the course if you’re afraid of a little math.

Adobe on YouTube

Lightroom CC - Overview of the Lightroom Interface

Adobe has its own YouTube channel dedicated to helping users make the most out of their software, including photographers. If you’re looking for short, specific how-tos on Photoshop or Lightroom, the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom channel is a good place to start. While these are more how-to videos than a full class, it’s a helpful resource for photographers new to post-processing or looking to build on their skills.


5 Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts for Faster Editing!

Phlearn is a Photoshop and Lightroom resource that has more than 700 free video tutorials. The longer, more in-depth classes require a fee, but the sheer number of available shorter tutorials are helpful regardless. Host Aaron Nace is generally easy to listen to and occasionally throws some humor into the how-tos.


Newborn Photography: Flow Posing with Kelly Brown

CreativeLive hosts classes taught by some of the biggest names in photography today. There is a catch though – you have to watch the classes live if you want to tune in for free. On-demand classes are available if you have the budget, but even if you don’t, you can catch some good classes if you time it right.

(Disclosure: This author has contributed to CreativeLive.)


Like CreativeLive, Udemy classes aren’t always free, but they do offer a list of free online classes that you can watch anytime. Most free courses are under two hours long and most are also beginner-oriented, but there are a few that focus on specific topics.

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