Recently, I’ve reviewed several online photography courses and other forms of education.
Now it’s time to summarise and compare them. In the following, you’ll find all the photography courses that were reviewed here at ExpertPhotography. They range from introductory, beginner courses to advanced-level products teaching pro lighting.
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Online Photography Courses: Our Scoring System
To make our reviews more objective, we decided to introduce a score-based ranking system.
Our system gives a score out of 100.
You can see a breakdown of each section below the following table, but most importantly, this is how you should interpret the total score:
How to Interpret the Total Score
As a guideline, here’s how we evaluate the scores.
- 0-50: Avoid at all costs.
- 50-65: Mediocre, but may be valuable for a certain niche of photographers.
- 65-80: Good, with flaws that we don’t believe to be deal-breaking.
- 80-90: Excellent products, with few to no issues.
- 90-100: No-brainer deals.
Here is the brief, score-based summary of each product we’ve reviewed. Below, you will find more detailed descriptions. Keep in mind that we’re updating this list often.
How we Score Each Product Review
1. Value for Money
In this, we compare a course’s price to its direct alternatives on the market. We also assess how much you will gain financially and intellectually from it. We always base this on the advertised, often discounted price, not the theoretical full price. Consider 14 and above a good deal, and 17 or above an exceptionally great deal, out of the maximum of 20.
Given our experience in creating and reviewing courses, we have a fairly clear picture of what a course or ebook should contain within its niche of photography. If it misses out on important points, this score goes down. If we see additional, valuable knowledge included, it goes up, and can reach a total of 20 points.
During the review process, we often find inaccurate, or even wrong information being disclosed, or heavy oversimplifications. We believe that a great course should not contain any of these. This score can also go up to 20. Above 15, there are no significant problems in this aspect. Above 18 is what we consider excellent, meaning that the creators paid great attention to detail.
4. Ease of Learning
It’s important for a course to translate well to its audience. We look at how logically a course is built, and how clear its line of thought is. We assess its consistency in terms of design, use of words and signs, and understandability. Additionally, we examine the use of unnecessary professional jargon, which is often a problem. This score can reach a total of 15. Above 12 is considered great.
5. Production Value
This point looks at design, formatting, transparency, and digital integration in ebooks. In video courses, we judge audio and image quality, editing consistency, animation and text elements, lighting, and resolution. This is also where the quality of the photos in the course counts. The maximum here is also 15, and we consider anything above 12 excellent.
Here, we look at how specific a course’s niche of photography is. It goes up if there are very few alternatives. We also give extra points here for unusual features, such as extra videos in ebooks, or additional checklists or cheat sheets. These are not strictly related to the core content of a course, so we view these points as possible plus points, a maximum of 5.
7. Community and Learning Support
We give another 5 points if a course provider has great customer support, gives customers extra educational material, or updates their courses often. Community can include Facebook groups or good comment integration on the provider’s own website.
The Products We’ve Reviewed
The best photography course I’ve reviewed in the past few months is SLR Lounge’s ‘Lighting 3 – Advanced Off-Camera Flash’. It’s flawless in production, quality of content, images, style, and wow-factor. There are no accuracy issues or mistakes whatsoever. It’s entertaining, fun, but full of valuable information. It’s also quite long, at 8 hours.
From this course, you’ll learn a number of ways to creatively light your (mainly portrait) subjects. Your photos will catch the viewers’ eye from afar and will keep them amazed when watched close-up. These lighting setups are key for professional-looking and feeling images.
But there’s more to this course than just its core content. It teaches taste, creative vision, and critical thinking in photography. It’s presented by Pye Jirsa, a photographer and educator whom I much respect.
For whom: advanced photographers who want to take their game to the next level with eye-catching light patterns.
Mastering Lightroom is claimed to be the “Complete A-Z Lightroom Tutorial”, and this statement very close to reality. Starting at a beginner level, the course quickly carries on to advanced techniques and options, reaching a firm pro user level. No matter how much you know about Lightroom, you can learn a lot from it, just as I’ve done while reviewing it.
It’s a true gem because of its extensive coverage, flawless precision, outstanding production and fun, logical, and to-the-point presentation. There are cheaper, still great alternatives. But if you want for the best you can get, especially if you’re a professional or aiming to be one, this is it.
For whom: beginners to advanced photographers who want to be as proficient as they possibly can in Lightroom.
A sequel to Lighting 3, Lighting 4 teaches you how to emulate natural light environments with flashes, strobes, and modifiers. It has all the great things from its prequel – the quality of content, the imagery, the production and the style of teaching are all fantastic.
SLR Lounge’s lighting courses are all gems. It’s rare to come across such well-produced courses in this industry. If you want to learn lighting as an amateur or a professional, there’s no better way to do it than these two courses. If you’d like to start from the basics, pick up the entire lighting series.
You might have noticed that all three courses on the podium come from the same provider. This is not a result of partiality towards SLR Lounge, these courses really do stand out.
For whom: advanced photographers who want to be independent of natural light and able to simulate it anytime.
4. Photographing the World 1 by Fstoppers
This is a massive, 13-hour video course on landscape photography and post-processing. It’s mesmerising in all aspects.
It’s the first result of a collaboration between Fstoppers and Elia Locardi, a well-known landscape photographer. Their plan from the start was to create the most complete and most ambitious video course ever shot on this genre. I believe they have achieved this. The course is the first part of a series of four, released since 2015 successively. The other parts focus on cityscapes, astrophotography, and more advanced landscapes.
In the first half, we find ourselves immersed in Iceland’s vast winter mountains, waterfalls, and caves. Most of the second half is shot on the beautiful South Island of New Zealand, famous for its breathtaking scenery. You will learn many rare techniques for both capturing and post-processing breathtaking sceneries, as well as get to know Elia’s workflow from start to finish.
Photographing the World wears, by far, the heftiest price tag on our list. Thus, we haven’t been able to reward it with a high score in ‘Value for Money’, but its awesomeness level in other respects is still high enough to propel it to the 4th place.For whom: dedicated and determined enthusiasts of landscape photography.
5. The Photo eBook by PictureCorrect
A bit of an easter egg here. This ebook is one of the best guides on cityscape and landscape photography. It features impressive techniques, resulting in amazing images. While some parts are not fully up-to-date, its core content is extensive and elaborate, with great attention to detail. There is also a new edition in the works.
There is a section for complete beginners, but it’s better to read this book with some basic knowledge. The amount of new information will quickly overhaul you otherwise. Be advised that learning all the tricks and tips might take a while – there are some hard-to-master techniques in there.
But, you’ll be equipped with pretty much all you need to know to be successful in the city and landscape niches. This, of course, should not stop you from even further advancement.
For whom: intermediate to advanced-level photographers who want to dive deep into cityscapes and landscapes.
Beginner photography courses are all over the place – but they rarely reach the level of awesomeness Photography 101 does.
It’s very detailed, showing you all the little pieces of successful photography that many others miss out on. It focuses on teaching understanding and manipulating light, which is vital. It also gives you an introduction to many photography genres, most importantly, portraits.
It also has little to no inaccuracies, technical mistakes, and tongue-slips, which is something that lifts it out from the crowd. Like the Lighting courses, this one is also presented by Pye Jirsa.
For whom: beginners who are looking for a well-rounded course on photography, with a focus on portraits and controlling light.
7. iPhone Photo Academy by iPhone Photography School
In this course, you’ll get to know your iPhone’s camera, its advanced features and options, and how to get the most out of it. You’ll learn many techniques, tips, and compositional rules that professionals use. Many of them work perfectly with the iPhone.
This tutorial stands out with its unique approach, easy-to-understand style, and beautiful production. It also has a vast, worldwide community.
For whom: iPhone users who want to get the most out of their phone’s camera, and learn the fundamentals of digital photography.
This hybrid ebook plus video course is the best take on composition I have reviewed. You’ll be able to go from a beginner to a level where you understand composition and can masterfully compose your own photos.
It teaches you all the “rules” that every other ebook on composition does. But it also tells you how and when to break them. You can learn how to form your own style and how to manipulate your viewers’ eyes. It develops your subconscious vision in a way very few other books do.
Additionally, this course is beautifully designed, well written, and features stunning imagery. It is a joy to read.
As Photography Concentrate’s other hybrid courses, this one comes at a higher-than-usual price, too. Update: Photography Concentrate has reduced the price of this ebook specifically for our readers by 50%. This change is reflected in the ‘Value for Money’ score, as well as the ebook’s new 6th place.
For whom: beginner to intermediate photographers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing ebook on composition.
This ebook is similar in idea to the top performer on this list, with a difference in format. It aims to further develop your skills with off-camera flashes and other lighting accessories.
Containing 52 lighting patterns by 52 pro wedding photographers from all around the globe, you will get countless ideas and massive inspiration from this ebook.
For whom: Experienced photographers pursuing even better and more creative lighting.
Photography 101 is a beginner course that promises to teach you how to take control of all the manual settings on your DSLR camera. It walks you through a basic understanding of lighting and using flash. Then, it takes you along on a shoot to put everything into practice.
It also includes extensive sections on Photoshop retouching and Lightroom editing.
For whom: for the amateur photographer wanting more out of their images.
To fully understand and appreciate what Lightroom is able to do, it’s not enough to be able to pull some sliders.
Introduction to Lightroom by Fstoppers offers you not only the basic set of tools but also the right approach and philosophy for editing.
The course strongly focuses on showing Lightroom’s image editing capabilities.
For whom: beginners just getting into Lightroom and in need for well-rounded education on the software.
This ebook is written by renown photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich. It promises to teach you how to tell strong stories and make an impact with your images.
If you’re not among the few who have this skill in their blood, it’s probably the hardest, but most rewarding thing you can learn in photography.
For whom: intermediate to advanced photographers who want to tell even stronger stories.
Flower photography is a specific niche, so you might be surprised that Photzy’s new ebook about it has made it into this list. But here’s why: it’s very well put together, teaches you everything it promises to, and really makes you a better photographer. Not just in flower photography.
Along with Powerful Imagery, this is one of Photzy’s best ebooks. Writing and general style are both outstanding. The images shown throughout won’t disappoint you – and neither will your own photos, once you learn the ins and outs of flower photography.
The ebook also comes at a very friendly price, especially compared to the courses in our Top 5.
For whom: beginner to intermediate-level photographers who want detailed education of flower photography.
As a less expensive, but quite comparable alternative to No 2, Decoding Lightroom is a great choice for the hobbyist photographer who wants to learn Lightroom’s ins and outs. You don’t need to have any former knowledge to take this course. Yet, it has the potential to take you to a level where you will intuitively use even the more hidden features of the application.
Proper editing, after all, is a core part of a successful photograph.
For whom: beginner to intermediate photographers who want to understand Lightroom.
Understanding and controlling light is an essential skill in photography. This ebook promises to teach you exactly that. Its clear line of thought, relatively broad coverage and attention to detail make it a great product. It does a fantastic job of explaining how light behaves.
However, the fundamentals of light is a topic that relates to everything. It’s presented in almost any photography course to a degree, especially in lighting courses. Yet, this ebook has a very hefty price tag, especially considering that it doesn’t cover anything really advanced.
If you’re okay with spending a lot for quite a short ebook, you’ll be rewarded with a great reading and learning process, though.
For whom: beginner to intermediate photographers aiming to understand light better and clarify some misconceptions.
These cards are designed to help you on the field with quick summaries of the key things you need to know, much like cheat sheets.
The Snap Cards are ideal for the intermediate amateur who is looking to get more out of their work. You can use them as go-to guides for specific topics.
I wouldn’t recommend them for fully beginner photographers. You need some fundamentals – but the cards are there as a reminder.
For whom: beginner photographers in search of an on-the-field, quick and easy guide.
Wedding photography is a field that can yield great successes, but you need to do it very responsibly. Lauren Lim’s ebook gives you the information you need to create and run your wedding photography business.
You also get a closer look at the actual photography side of things. It does this in an entertaining, easy-to-follow style, while not compromising attention to detail.
Despite its high price, this ebook is a good investment if you’re planning to photograph weddings professionally.
For whom: aspiring professionals who want to jump into the wedding business.
18. Digital Camera Mastery by Photography Pro
This course is the older sibling of Photo Shortcuts (mentioned before), and it’s the better of the two. It gives you very firm fundamentals in photography. This includes mastering manual mode and getting familiar with camera settings, focusing, editing, and photo genres. Its video production is outstanding, too.
This time Photography Pro didn’t make a pricing mistake. It’s a compelling choice, priced in line with most comparable beginner courses on the market. It has some problems with attention to detail, but not so much as Photo Shortcuts.
Overall, this is a well-rounded, comprehensive beginner course with no deal-breaking flaws.
For whom: beginner photographers looking for a comprehensive beginner course with a focus on travel and street photography.
SLR Lounge are great in all sorts of photography education. While their take on Milky Way photography is not quite as strong as their lighting or beginner courses, it’s still a great tutorial.
It’s quite short at 2 hours and focuses on teaching the essentials, with great accuracy. This is a great intro into astrophotography if you have some photography experience and an understanding of the technical stuff.
For whom: intermediate photographers searching for a dense, comprehensive, but short course on Milky Way photography.
Photzy’s attempt on teaching sophisticated composition approaches and techniques is a successful one. But it’s not for everybody. Its core content is great, but it has some issues with images, graphic design, and accuracy.
In a field so crowded as composition books, it’s hard to stand out. From some standpoints, ‘Advanced Composition’ doesn’t do so either. However, its interactive, slightly textbook-like approach is unique, as far as I know. It’s also not particularly expensive and comes with some valuable bonuses.
For whom: intermediate photographers who want to further develop their compositions with subtle, less-known elements and tricks.
Phil Steele’s best and newest video course is a cohesive tutorial for those who want to perfect the basics of off-camera lighting. Contrary to its title, there’s not a lot of advanced stuff in it – but the fundamentals are solid. The course is aimed towards aspiring amateurs.
It suffers from serious production issues, which is its greatest drawback. Video and sound quality are quite mediocre, especially in 2021. It’s also very loosely edited, far from being fast-paced and dense in content.
If you want to broaden your photography skill set with something new, it’s definitely worth checking it out. The course will safely bring you to a strong intermediate level in flash lighting.
For whom: beginner to intermediate photographers looking for solid basics and some fancy extras in flash photography.
This one is a hybrid, ebook plus video course. The core is the ebook part, but there are short videos interpolated with it, explaining some chapters in more detail. It gets you to a point where you can instinctively use manual mode on your camera, and know all of its core functions.
However, there’s not a lot more coverage here. There are no chapters about using other gear, basic compositional techniques, or popular genres of photography. Yet, it comes at a price for which you can buy more serious and complete video-format courses.
If it was sold at a more realistic price, this ebook would be several ranks higher in this list.
For whom: beginner photographers who want to understand their camera.
Photo Shortcuts is a video course for intermediate amateurs. It aims to provide guidance in a handful of specific fields. Overall, it’s a nice product. It teaches the key points and gives you an understanding of what genres you can pursue in photography. Its production is great, and it’s shot in a beautiful location.
However, it has a recurring issue of being imprecise in the details. There are hardly any chapters where I couldn’t find oversimplifications or technical inaccuracies. Also, its price is remarkably high.
Still, if you’re the type of photographer who has solid basic knowledge, and your main goal is to broaden your horizon, it’s worth checking out.
For whom: beginner to intermediate photographers who want to learn the basics of most photo genres.
Action Cards help photographers on the go and when their creativity is down. The cards feature 31 different photo genres, with short explanations, tips, tricks, and motivation. Their content is generally well-rounded and inspiring.
The authors also give time and difficulty estimates for each of the topics, but I found these to be inaccurate.
Overall, the Action Cards are a handy tool for amateurs who want to try as many genres as possible.
For whom: beginner photographers in need of specific motivation.
This ebook is one of the less appealing photography products I’ve seen. The only thing that saves it is its moderate, sub-$20 price. From the ebook, you get a fairly clear picture of what gear you’ll need and how to set it up. There’s also some valuable composition advice – but nothing extraordinary. In every other aspect, this ebook is heavily lacking.
I hope this guide will help you choose the best sources of photography education.
If you’re looking for a course in a niche you can’t yet find here, be sure to come back soon! We will continuously be updating this list as we review new products.