It Ain't the Oven
A few short years ago, I would see a great photo and think, "man, they must have a really good camera." Like a lot of people, I always thought great photography was the result of a good (expensive) equipment. I'm sure many of you think the same way. I know this because, recently I started to hear those same comments about my photography. Although it’s true, a good camera can improve your photography, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine telling a world class chef that their food taste good because of the oven, that would be the same as telling a photographer, that their photos look great because of their camera. In the end the camera (or oven) is just a tool. You can't discount the education, creativity, experience and yes the "talent" of the photographer, to do so is an insult. I spent the money on a good mid-range DSLR and yes, my photography was instantly a little "better" but certainly not great. The main problem is you have a lot of options with a better camera, but you still have to know how and when to use those options. My images were still terrible when compared to professionals, and this bothered me. Because I wanted to produce great images, I started looking at really good photographs and wondered how they took that shot. When I started hearing terms like, exposure, composition, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, white balance, and ISO, I knew then, I needed to LEARN the techniques and the art of photography.
YouTube is the Bomb!
When I got ready to learn photography I turned to YouTube. I use to think YouTube was just a bunch of videos uploaded by teenagers, doing something stupid, but it much more than that. YouTube has turned into a vast library of tutorials on all kinds of topics. There's a ton of reputable content uploaded on a daily basis. For example, every photographer needs to have a firm understanding of "exposure." If you do a search on YouTube and enter the search terms "photography exposure", you'll get over 200,000 results. This is an example of the wealth of how-to's and tutorials and it's all free. The videos on YouTube are limited to around 15 minutes, unless you have a YouTube Partner account, then you’re allowed a lot more time. There are some videos that are an hour or more. Even though I still use YouTube to learn some aspects of photography, I got to the point where I needed more detailed "classroom/workshop" type of training. That's when I turned to Lynda.com.
Let's Go Higher
Lynda.com is one of my favorite online learning websites. It's a great place to learn about software, business, design, video, audio, 3D and various creative disciplines. Lynda.com has a lot of photography related training material and I highly recommend it. Lynda.com however, is not free, it operates on a subscription model. They do have monthly subscription so you can subscribe for a month and then cancel, with no hassle. They even have lab files for some courses (additional cost), so you can download them and follow along. Another option is you can buy DVD's of the training classes that I believe include the lab files. I've subscribed to Lynda.com for the past two years and I highly recommend them, even if it's for a month or two. This is a resource the entire family can benefit from.
Lynda.com has a broad range of topics, there are however, online training websites specifically geared more toward photography. One is Kelbytraining.com. This leaning site consist of other professionals delivering online training for photographers. Kelby Training is also subscription based, there's monthly and yearly subscription, or you can rent a single course in which you have three days to watch it online. Secondly there's CreativeLive.com, like Kelby Training, it offers online photography courses but they have a different model. CreativeLive training is more like a workshop, and they can last from one to three days. These workshops are broadcast online and they are free to watch "live." After the workshop is over, you can purchase the videos. CreativeLive currently has a summer sale where workshops are up to 50% off, that's a great deal.
I've listed several sources of training material that will help you grow as a photographer. My recommendation is to always start with the free resources. If you discover you have an insatiable passion to learn more, then I would proceed to the paid services. I subscribe to several YouTube channels and I'll list a few below to get anyone who's interested started. Happy higher learning.