How to learn photography on your own

Photography is one of those things you can and can’t learn on your own. Getting a camera and just clicking away won’t make you a better photographer. Going to an expensive school and having the best teachers won’t make you a better photographer.

So what can you do to become a (better) photographer?

It’s a bit of a create-your-own-adventure kind of thing. What works for one person, doesn’t work for another. Personally, I learned more because of YouTube and Blogs than my photography teachers in school.

So let’s get started with summing up your options. You can pick and choose which options you like the best. Just make sure to go through the entire list before starting your adventure.

Decide why you want to learn photography

There is a lot you can do with the power of photography. So it might be interesting to decide why you want to learn the art form.

Is it because you want to relax and focus your mind on something. Or maybe you like to make beautiful shots of the memories you create with friends and family. It could also be that you just want to make better Instagrams.

Set up a goal what aspect to learn of photography

The first step is to set a goal. What do you want to achieve? A niche? A specific technique? Maybe just the wedding of a niece? Whatever it is, make a clear goal and break it up in things you might need to know.

For example the wedding of a niece. It might be interesting to know a bit more about composition, taking photo’s in different lighting situations, and how to create a specific mood in your photos.

Decide when you will learn photography

If you are a fulltime photographer, like me, you can put aside some more time to learn things about photography than if you are a hobbyist who does it on the side. No matter what situation you have, you can always set up a time for you to go deeper into photography.

If you have a day-job it might be nice to block some time for yourself in the weekends. Or an evening during the week that fits your calendar nicely.

Make a budget for your photography learning

Think about how much money you want to spend. Is it nothing? Maybe just stick to reading blogs and watching YouTube. Is it a little bit? Buy some good books. Maybe follow a cheap class. Is it a lot? You can attend workshops and follow a course.

Get the gear you need, not the gear you want

We all would love to shoot with the newest and best DSLR. However, it’s not necessary at all. Look at the kind of camera you need to learn the photography topic you want to learn about.

Is it composition? Maybe a smartphone is already plenty. Is it all about wildlife? A decent camera and telephoto lens might come in handy there.

Steps to learn more about photography

Another important factor of getting into photography is doing it step by step. There are a lot of aspects to learn about photography. So doing it all at once is probably not the best idea. Try to go about each factor one at a time.

I recommend the following order to learn about photography. Of course, it’s all dependant on what you want to learn and how fast and in depth.

  1. Composition
  2. How to find good subjects to photograph
  3. The exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO)
  4. You camera settings
  5. White balance and how to use it creatively
  6. The different focusing and light metering options
  7. Post-production with Lightroom, Snapseed, VSCO or other applications
  8. Try different niches: macro, street, portrait, landscape, …
  9. Use extra equipment like flashlights, tripods, …

It is possible you have to learn less than these options. Or it could be even more. The important factor here is to take it step by step. Don’t rush into it and try to do multiple at once.

Places to learn photography

There are a lot of places you can go to to learn more about photography. On the internet alone you can access lots of learning materials by just going to the right place.

The offline places to learn photography

Let’s start with the offline places first. Things you can do to learn and improve photography without even touching a computer. Ideal for everyone.

Photography school

The most expensive one, and only for those who really want to go into photography. You can do this in many different shapes and forms. You can go to an actual school as I did back in high school.

You can also do evening classes for adults if that fits your schedule better. There are plenty of organizations and school providing those classes. It can help you if you’re in need of the discipline and regular study moments.

Play around and practice

This one is basically ‘just do it’. Take a camera with you and just photograph anything and everything you see and encounter. This way you get to know your gear, your eye, and you can train your reflexes, sights, and vision.

Read books about photography

You can vary between the informative books explaining you certain principles, and teaching you how to make a composition. You can also just buy books from famous photographers and look at their work. How they compose certain scenes. Learn photography from the pro’s, right?

Network and do shoots together

Finding other photographers via various channels, becoming friends and doing shoots together is a very educational activity. You can see how others photograph a certain object. While you are there too. You can compare what they are doing with your instincts. I think this is the most social and fun way to learn photography.

Participate in workshops

It’s not only a place to network with other photographers, but it also helps you focus on different aspects of photography. It’s not just a teacher telling you how it should be done, it’s a real photographer telling you how he/she does it, and why they do it this way.

The online places to learn photography

We all have lazy days where we just don’t want to get out of bed, the couch, or your study. That’s okay because you can also learn more of photography from the comfort of your own house. Just take your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and get started.

Online tutorials

There are a lot of websites where you can buy and download courses. Udemy is one of the more popular ones. You also have skillshare, and All websites help you get better in a skill of your choice. Just go to the photography section, find a course that fits your goals and get to learning!

Subscribe on YouTube channels

There are so many YouTube channels these days! Which also means there are plenty of them discussing photography in all its forms.

I actually made a list of good photography related YouTube-channels.

Follow podcasts

Another medium that’s popular online these days are podcasts. In short episodes, like YouTube video’s, you get the gist of a certain facet of photography. It’s nice to just walk around the house with your earbuds in, listening to an expert tell you all about photography.

Get active on forums and Facebook groups

I’m in a ton of photography related Facebook groups. The idea of these groups and fora is to help each other with feedback. Upload your photo’s and get the opinion of others. And the other way around. Tell your opinion to others too. It might be a bit painful sometimes, but it’s the best learning school.

Follow photographers on social media

Watch their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook page, Pinterest, … . Take a look at their work. Usually, you get a good view behind the scenes too. Which is even more helpful than the end result. It’s also possible to ask them questions this way, so make sure to use that opportunity!

What’s your favourite way to learn more about photography? Let me know in the comments!

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