Learn Photography

a Comprehensive Guide to Start Learning Photography

Photography is the art of producing an image by recording light with a camera. Digital cameras and editing software create lots of possibilities for the photos you’ll be able to produce if you choose to study photography. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what photography is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it so you can determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.

Are you interested in turning your interest in photography into a profession? This comprehensive guide covers everything from the history of photography, the various careers that commonly use photography, to the different ways to learn photography effectively.

Key Insights

  • Photography is an ever-evolving field, with digital photography leading the charge in modern times. Learning digital photography offers numerous career possibilities.
  • From studio portrait photography, event photography, nature photography, wildlife photography to photojournalism, the field of photography offers many specializations.
  • The employment rate for Photographers is projected to grow 9 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is above the average across all professions.
  • Photography skills are also useful for other careers such as Graphic Designers, Journalists, Social Media Managers, or Professional Influencers.
  • Learning photography involves understanding the use of complex physical technology, principles of photographic composition, and the use of photo editing software.
  • The financial investment in learning photography can be substantial, including costs for high-quality equipment, software, and training. However, it can lead to a lucrative career, especially in fields like wedding photography.

Photography is the art of producing an image by recording light with a camera. Digital cameras and editing software create lots of possibilities for the photos you’ll be able to produce if you choose to study photography. If you’ve always wanted to learn photography but can’t figure out how to get started, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the various ways to learn photography, free resources to take advantage of, and the types of careers that commonly use photography.

What is Photography?

Photography is the art of producing an image by recording light with a camera. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first photograph in 1826. Photography was a revolutionary technology because it made it easier for images to be reproduced and widely distributed. The first cameras were large and awkward to handle, and the lengthy exposure times necessary to capture an image required photographic subjects to hold still for uncomfortable intervals. However, as the technology evolved, cameras became easier to use and more affordable.

For over 100 years, all photographs were captured on film and developed using chemicals. In 1975, Steven Sasson invented the digital camera, which dramatically increased the ease of capturing and distributing photographic images. Most photography today is digital: the device taking the photo saves the recorded image as a digital file. Smartphones capture 92.5% of those digital photos, but there’s still nothing like a dedicated camera for getting a sharp, high-quality image. 

Digital photography classes will teach you how to make the most of your digital camera. You can learn how to use all of your camera’s settings to the best advantage, how to work with studio or outdoor lighting, and how to adapt the choices you make as a photographer to the environment and goals you are working with. You’ll also explore the powerful, industry-standard software that allows Digital Photographers to edit and retouch the photos they take. 

Read more about what photography is and why you should learn it.

What Can You Do with Photography?

Since the first photograph was taken in 1826, creators have been using this skill to capture images of the world around them. Photography allows people to document events, moments in time, and things they have seen. It can also help human beings gain a better understanding of the world, in the case of scientific photography or photojournalism. Photography is also an artistic medium—the Photographer presents their interpretation of the human experience through what they choose to document and the perspective their photos show.

Another important aspect of photography is that photographic images can be reproduced, allowing them to be circulated and distributed worldwide. Even before digital photography, a film photograph was easier to reproduce than the paintings and drawings that had previously been the best way to convey an image. One early example of how the new technology of photography rapidly came to shape the world is the work of Matthew Brady. His photos documenting the American Civil War showed the brutality of the war’s impact, powerfully influencing public opinion about the conflict.

Now, with digital cameras, the distribution of photographs can be nearly instantaneous, and reproducing one only requires uploading a file. Also, the powerful editing software available to modern Photographers makes remarkable transformations possible. Social media has shown some of what one can do with the opportunities provided by digital photography, with photos of dramatic events witnessed by private citizens being rapidly distributed all over the world. However, the full potential of digital cameras and photo editing software may have yet to reveal itself.

Careers that Use Photography

Within the field of photography, there are many possible specialties. Whatever your particular interest, photography has much to offer as a profession, in both personal fulfillment and practical value. In terms of career outlook, the employment rate for Photographers is projected to grow 9 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is above the average across all professions.

If you enjoy meeting new people, studio portrait photography or event photography could be good options for you. For those who prefer the outdoors, nature photography is a popular field. A student who likes to travel might consider becoming a Wildlife Photographer or a Photojournalist. Advertising photography can be a lucrative career, especially when combined with skills in marketing or graphic design. 

Photography can be useful for other careers as well. Graphic Designers often make use of their own photographs in their work. Being able to design with their own photos saves them the time of working with a separate Photographer, or, alternatively, the money they would pay for the right to use someone else’s pre-existing photo. While Photojournalist is a specialized career in itself, Journalists who primarily work in written form also sometimes find it useful to be able to take their own excellent photos in circumstances where they may not have a separate professional Photographer with them. Social Media Managers or Professional Influencers will also want to be skilled in photography, especially if Instagram is one of the formats they use. Regardless of your career, employers and co-workers also value having someone around who can document major events or snap impromptu photos of happenings around the office. 

Why Learn Photography?

There are a host of reasons to learn photography, both in terms of enriching your life and with regard to building a career. Photographers say that photography allows them to see the world differently. It keeps them in the present and allows them to capture moments. It also helps the Photographer realize what their perspective on the world is because the specific photos they take express who they are. 

Photography can also be a great career choice. Once you’ve invested in your equipment and studied your craft, you can earn a substantial wage as a Photographer, especially if you go into a lucrative field like wedding photography. Photographers often travel to new places and meet new people as part of their work. There is also an active community of professional Photographers that you can learn from and contribute to.

Read more about why you should learn photography.

How to Learn Photography

Taking live classes, whether in-person or online, gives you real-time access to an expert instructor. For a successful study of photography, it’s useful to connect with a skilled Photographer who can answer your questions, provide feedback on your work, and guide you as you proceed through your studies. Those who like to be in the classroom can find a list of in-person Photoshop classes through Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool. You can also check out the available options for studying Photoshop live online.

You may find that a self-paced class fits better into your busy schedule. If so, Noble can help you find on-demand Photoshop courses that will suit your life and needs. These cater to a wide range of skill levels, with substantial variation in length and intensity. On-demand lessons generally come in video format. Most require a subscription to a learning platform such as Udemy or Skillshare.

There are also free materials available that can help you learn more about photography. A great place to start is Noble’s free Intro to Photoshop tutorial video. Noble offers free seminars on many topics, including this photo retouching seminar. Video playlists, like this YouTube playlist on photo editing, are a good way to start investigating the topic. More of a reader than a watcher? Take a look at this hub of photography articles, tutorials, and resources. On the Noble Desktop blog, you can find tutorials like this Photoshop tutorial on how to restore old photos, and informative posts like 3 Essential Ways Photographers Use Photoshop. You’ll also want to check Noble’s full list of available photography courses.

Read the full guide on how to learn photography.

Free Introductory Photography Course Online 

You may not be ready to dive into a full photography course right away. In that case, an overview of photography can help you determine your next steps. There are quite a few free photography courses available online. Noble has some free materials that can help you get started. If you’d like an introductory course on the editing aspect of photography, try Noble’s free on-demand Intro to Photoshop video tutorial. You can also check out Noble’s free seminar on photo retouching.

Sites like Udemy and Coursera offer some free on-demand videos about photography, both on how to use your camera and the editing process. The camera-focused courses typically take you through the basics of using your camera's settings. They teach you about composition and how to frame shots. You’ll also learn to adapt to variations of lighting. And you can explore how to work with the principles of aperture and depth of field. Brief free courses on the most popular Photoshop and Lightroom techniques are available on these sites as well.

Read about more free photography videos and online tutorials.

Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost 

Learning photography can be difficult because of the varied suite of skills you must acquire to become a successful Photographer. You’ll need to learn how to notice a scene that might make a good photo, employ the principles of photographic composition as you frame an image, and use your camera’s settings to select the correct aperture and depth of field. As a modern Digital Photographer, your photographic skills won’t be complete without a knowledge of photo editing software. There’s a great deal to learn with photography, and it takes most people 2-3 years of study to become skilled photographers.

To learn photography, you will need to be fairly comfortable with manipulating complex physical technology. You’ll also need basic computer skills before you can edit your photos, a key element of modern digital photography. For serious photographic study, you’ll also need to invest in high-quality equipment and software.

Learning photography can involve a substantial financial investment in your equipment, software, and training. To make a serious study of photography, you’ll need to buy a mirrorless or DSLR camera. These average about $850 and $500 respectively for an entry-level model. You’ll also want to buy at least one or two lenses. Lenses range widely in cost, from $150 to as much as $2000. For an intermediate lens, you’ll likely pay $400-$600. In addition, you should get photo editing software, ideally the industry-standard Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. As of November 2022, you can subscribe to the two together for $9.99 a month. Training costs can range from $0 for an introductory course covering the basics to full tuition at a four-year university.

Read about how difficult it is to learn photography.

How Does Learning Photography Compare to Other Skills?

If you’re contemplating studying photography, you may be wondering what other skills you could study instead of or alongside it. Some comparable skills include video editing and graphic design.

As with editing photos, video editing comes after someone–whether the Video Editor or a separate Videographer–uses a piece of complex hardware to record the world around them. But while cameras record a single image, videos add the element of movement over time. This aspect can make video editing more time-consuming, and potentially more difficult, because editors must both adjust individual frames and stitch clips together. In many cases, they also need to synch a sound recording with the video, another element that is absent from photo editing. However, Photo Editors generally spend significantly more time on single images than Video Editors, so the time spent and level of difficulty can vary greatly. Like Photographers, Videographers and Video Editors must make an initial investment in equipment and software before they can begin their work, which can be fairly expensive.

While photo editing and video editing both start with someone using hardware to record something as a digital file, graphic design generally begins with software. Graphic Designers certainly incorporate images into their creations. However, graphic design's main work uses software to combine elements like images, text, shapes, and colors to create a specific visual effect. Graphic Designers may or may not need to buy a dedicated computer or tablet for their work, but they need an image editing program. Depending on the elements they use in their designs, they may also have to pay for the right to use images or other items created by someone else. 

How to Decide the Best Way to Learn Photography

Knowing how to choose the best way to study photography can be tough. Which one will best fit you and your situation? The key to deciding on a learning method is knowing what you’d like to do with the skill once you learn it. Other things to think about are your experience level with photography, the amount of money, time, and energy you can afford to invest in your study of the topic, and whether you will learn best in an in-person, live online, or on-demand format.

For beginners who don’t yet want to make a financial investment in their training, there are free introductory courses you can use to get a general overview of photography. On Udemy and Coursera, you can find some free on-demand courses that will teach you the basics of using your camera and editing your photos. If you want to learn about editing in Photoshop, you can start with Noble’s free on-demand Intro to Photoshop video tutorial. However, while using free on-demand materials can help beginners get oriented, the disadvantage is the absence of an expert instructor to guide students in the critical early stages of their learning process. Also, the money you save by following a free course is only a small percentage of what it will cost to invest in the necessary equipment for practicing at home, whereas a paid in-person course may offer you access to state-of-the-art cameras and high-quality editing software.

If you want to master photography for a new career or pivot to a new industry using your photographic skills, you should look into doing Noble’s digital photography certificate, offered in both in-person and live online formats. The small classes will give you access to expert instructors who can answer questions in real-time and give you feedback on your work. Students who are particularly interested in photo editing might consider doing Noble’s certificate in photo retouching or entering its Photoshop bootcamp.

Learn Photography with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Noble Desktop’s small class sizes and expert instructors make it an excellent environment for learning photography and related skills. Students can choose between in-person and live online courses, depending on which is better for their particular situation. Students can also retake Noble classes for free, which can help expand their knowledge of the topic.

Noble offers a certificate in photo retouching specifically, delving more deeply into critical skills that Photographers should have. Another option is Noble’s popular Graphic Design Certificate, which covers Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and graphic design principles. If you don’t yet want to commit to earning a certificate, you could take an individual Photoshop course to start with. You can also do a Photoshop bootcamp for beginners with Noble.

When you do a digital photography certificate at Noble, you’ll acquire foundational skills for photography and photo editing. Students learn to use manual settings to help them make the most of what a high-quality camera offers. They also discover how to work with different types of lighting, both inside a studio and out in the world. In terms of digital photo manipulation, students explore how to manage their photographs with Adobe Lightroom and edit them using Adobe Photoshop.

Graphic Design Certificate: Live & Hands-on, In NYC or Online, 0% Financing, 1-on-1 Mentoring, Free Retake, Job Prep. Named a Top Bootcamp by Forbes, Fortune, & Time Out. Noble Desktop. Learn More.

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