Updated 3/4/20: we've added all the latest free photography courses to this guide
Today's age of lockdowns and self-isolation might not be great for travel snapping, but it is the perfect opportunity for beginners to learn how to shoot – so we've rounded up the best free photography courses, apps and YouTube channels to help you do just that.
With many educators and developers recognizing that there are millions of potential photographers stuck at home, there's been something of a surge in free courses and downloads. Whether you use a smartphone or DSLR, these could be the perfect way to give yourself a little photographic firmware upgrade over the next few months.
Some of these free offers are based on extended free trials, so you'll simply need to set yourself a reminder to avoid being charged down the line.
But many are simply free photography courses or YouTube channels that we've long rated as a great way to boost your camera knowhow. All you've needed was enough spare time at home to give them a good crack...
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Best free photography courses
These free photography courses will level up your photographic skills no matter where you're starting from...
Digital Photography Exposed
This free, 12-part course from Harvard University might be a few years old now, but it's long been one of our top recommendations for beginners (or intermediates) who are looking to get a solid grounding in the photographic fundamentals.
It starts at the very beginning with how digital cameras work, but then quickly moves through lenses, histograms and image artifacts. There are project ideas too, and while you might be five years too late to submit entries, they're good exercises to follow and many can be done at home.
One of the best free online courses options for beginners, the Nikon School has made its ten classes free for April only.
The classes cover a range of subjects, starting with the 'Fundamentals of Photography' and going all the way to more complex topics like 'The Art of Making Music Videos'.
All of the sessions, which range from 15-minute primers to hour-long explainers, are taught by Nikon's pro ambassadors, who collectively have decades of snapping experience.
You don't need to have a Nikon camera to benefit from the lessons either, just a free account. To find out how to sign up for them read the full story here.
While Creative Live does offer some fairly pricey paid-for classes, which you can rewatch whenever you like, there are also free, live broadcasts that are on 24-hours a day.
This does mean it's a slight case of pot luck, but at the time of writing there were interesting classes on portrait photography and Photoshop layer tips scheduled. All you need to do is sign up for a free account and RSVP to the class you want to tune into. While you're there, you can also dip into other free classes in music and art.
Professional Photographers of America
The Professional Photographers of America hit the headlines this week by announcing that its catalogue of over one thousand online photography courses will be free for the next two weeks, ending on 4 April.
As their name suggests, a lot of the courses are aimed at pro photographers and cover exciting subjects like navigating contract cancellations. But there are few educational gems for aspiring snappers, like an introduction to Capture One and some Lightroom tutorials.
Stay Home with Leica
Less a photography course and more a series of web talks with famous photographers, the new 'Stay At Home with Leica' program brings together some chats from the educational Leica Akademie on a range of subjects.
These range from 'Photo Book Inspiration', where a range of instructors talk about some of their favorite tomes, to 'Family as subject', which is a timely discussion on photographing relations who you might even be spending a little bit too much time with at the moment.
Coming soon is a session with renowned Hollywood portrait photographer Dennys Ilic, who'll be talking about some of the stories behind his images.
Best free photography software
Looking to boost your photo editing skills? These recent offers are a great way to dip your toes into image tinkering waters...
One of the more popular alternatives to Adobe's Photoshop, Affinity Photo has announced a lengthy 90-day free trial of its desktop software for Mac and Windows.
That gives you a generous window to get familiar with the photo editing app, which we once described as "a fabulous program that really does rival the best professional and enthusiast-level image-editing packages on the market", to see if it's for you.
And if you do decide it's the editing program for you, there's also a 50% off deal on the Mac, Windows and iPad versions of Affinity Photo, which brings it down to impulse buy pricing. Unlike Adobe creative Cloud, there's no subscription needed either.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Shortly after Adobe announced that is was providing free home Creative Cloud access for students, a broader offer for all CC customers emerged – one that could get you two months of its desktop apps for free.
To get the offer you need to be an existing Creative Cloud subscriber and follow the cancellation process at the link below, but it could land you some big savings of up to $105 / £99 / AU$155.
It's not the first time Adobe has run this cancellation offer, but for those who were considering cancelling to make some savings in tough times, it's a welcome bonus that could give you the opportunity to delve deeper into apps like Lightroom and Photoshop.
Apple Final Cut Pro X
If you're looking to brush up on your video editing skills then it's well worth checking out Apple's new extended trial for Final Cut Pro X, which has recently been boosted from 30 days to an impressive 90 days.
This premium software retails for $299 / £299 / AU$499.99 and is ideal if you feel like you've outgrown the more basic iMovie than comes installed on most Macs. While that price tag sounds hefty, it's great value considering the editing tools and AI-driven skills Final Cut Pro X brings to the table.
Best photography YouTube channels
Looking for some video-based photography inspiration? These YouTube channels will inspire you to level up your skills...
Sometimes it's good to take a step back and look at why you want to get into photography, rather than the specifics of how – and there's no better YouTube channel for doing that than Sean Tucker's polished, thoughtful channel.
While he does offer some excellent technique guidance on subjects like shooting in manual or taking great headshots, some of the more enlightening episodes – whether you're a beginner or photographic veteran – are on topics like discovering your own style, finding time to shoot when you're busy, and overcoming creative block.
If you've got a specific photography question, particularly if it relates to editing or processing your shots, then the chances are good that Mango Street has an insightful video covering it.
Produced by Los Angeles-based couple Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep, the prolific channel carries the tagline "photography tutorials that don't waste your time" and covers everything from underwater portraits to mastering Lightroom Classic.