Learning resources

December 14, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most common questions I get asked is about resources to learn more about photography. Now first I need to add a disclaimer - on no level do I claim to be an expert or professional photographer. I have had no formal training in photography and am completely self-taught. This does of course give me a unique perspective on how to learn though, because I've tried to do it while being as skint as possible! We all know photography is NOT a cheap hobby, so a guy's got to save on something right? 

Fortunately we live in an age where information is available at our fingertips (as long as those fingertips have access to an internet connection), and even more fortuitously there is no shortage of competent people willing to share their knowledge, expertise and ideas for little or no cost. I've come across innumerable sources of information for the photographically inclined among us, both on the web and in print, but I've listed a few of my favourites below (where there is a cost involved I've put a £ sign in brackets, and if I can put a figure on it I have, although these may not be accurate if you're reading this much after the date of writing):

For learning:

YouTube is Of course a fantastic resource for online tutorials of all kinds and photography is no exception, but finding a reliable channel to subscribe to can be challenging. One that I have found invaluable is the B&Hphotovideo channel. They have some superb webcasts of live sessions they have conducted at various places which you can subscribe to or just view at your leisure. The videos tend to be quite long (over an hour) and are mainly focused on post-processing (at least the ones I tend to watch) but are well worth it!

Cambridge in colour (www.cambridgeincolour.com)
This is an excellent resource for learning about the basics of photographic technique and colour theory. For beginners and amateurs it would be one of the places I would start.

Digital photography school (www.digital-photography-school.com)
DPS has become a prominent online presence in the photographic community with some good written and video tutorials as well as a regularly updated website with links to interesting and useful external sites and blogs. 

Outdoor Photography magazine (£, varies by type of subscription; £4.25 for a single issue)
I spent a great deal of time (and considerable amount of money) buying and reading different photography magazines, but never found one that consistently kept me interested issue after issue enough to get me to subscribe. That is until I came across Outdoor Photography. The balanced combination of feature articles, reviews and reader-submitted content makes it an enjoyable read and one I can whole-heartedly recommend to anyone interested in landscape and nature photography. An iPad version is also available, which is great (and cheaper), but somehow I prefer thumbing through the physical magazine.

Lynda.com (£)
Subscription-based online tutorial website for almost any software you can think of. Deke McClelland does a great series for them on photoshop but before you are tempted by that check out his video podcast on iTunes called 'Deke's photoshop top 40' (also available on YouTube) to see if it's the kind of thing you're after.

Chris O'Donnell (christopherodonnellphotography.com)
Personal website by this landscape photographer based in Maine (USA). There are some useful tutorials and he also does a series of ebooks (reasonably priced) which could be of interest to budding landscape photographers. You can subscribe to an intermittent e-newsletter, the good thing about which is that it really is intermittent (one every month or less) and does not bombard your inbox with mindless spam on a daily basis. His style is very individual and perhaps something of an acquired taste, but his take on colour processing makes for interesting reading.

Another blog style website with plenty of tutorials, videos and links to other great photography websites to help get your creative juices flowing. 

Adobe TV (tv.adobe.com)
If you use adobe products, who better to learn from than adobe themselves?! The Adobe tv site is a good resource to refer to but of course to get the maximum benefit you need to be a creative cloud member. Currently they are still doing the photographers package which includes Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 plus 20GB online storage for $10/months, which I think is good value. For most post-processing Lightroom is all you need, and for the occasional real keeper of a shot that you want to frame on your wall or do some really intricate post-processing with Photoshop is the last word in editing (for most of us anyway.. I'm not getting into debates about Phase One Capture One and the rest of it!)

Online courses

There are lots of e-learning courses for photography out there, and choosing the right one for you can be tricky. One useful resource that can help you make this decision is  www.onlinecoursesreview.org/photography/ . 

For gear:

Cameralabs (www.cameralabs.com)
Gordon Laing and his time run this website featuring reviews on most of the cameras and lenses you can think of, from point-and-shoots to pro-DSLR's. The reviews are very thorough with sample pictures taken with the specified models and most importantly they are pictures of the same places and objects every time, so you get a very good comparative review if you use the site regularly. Any time someone asks me 'what do you think of this new camera' I point them straight to cameralabs!

WEX photographic (www.wexphotographic.com)
A great place to shop for gear online if you live in the UK - they usually have some good offers and customer service is great. They have even started offering used items now at reasonable rates.

Of course amazon is a go-to site for online shopping but one of the best aspects of it are the customer reviews, which sometimes give you insights that you would not otherwise come across. Having said that you may find yourself reading through half a dozen impertinent rants before you find a useful review!

This list is by no means exhaustive. A google search for 'photography tutorials' returns 34,700,000 results (in 0.24 seconds)!! The key to that is not so much the number of results but how quickly you can access them in this day and age. It really is a wonderful time to be a student, of anything, and especially of traditionally artistic subjects such as photography. On the other hand it means there has been an almost bacterial growth of the amount of imagery being put online. And much like bacteria most of them just continue their existence rather benignly, never coming to the attention of anyone in particular; some are downright nasty and are best avoided, although as they say 'one mans poison is another mans cure'; and still others are actually very useful, inspiring creativity in others or evoking a sense of wonder and excitement that leads to... Well, something positive anyway! 

Some would argue, and on certain levels I would tend to agree, that the concept of photography as an art form - with the apprentice learning from a master and all the rest of it - has been lost. Whether this inspires more individual creativity or not is up for debate I guess (a very interesting in the Guardian here). But there are people who are taking up even this challenge, and coming up with a modern version of the master and apprentice form of photographic instruction. A sort of Gurkul of the future, for those of you who know your Indian history. It's called The Arcanum. Check it out, it's a cool idea, and it's the last link I'm putting on this list for now!


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