Online Photography Classes vs. In-Person Classes: Pros and Cons

Have you been thinking about taking some photography classes but you’re not sure if you should go for online classes or try something in-person? There are benefits to both, and drawbacks to both. Depending on your goals and specific circumstances, something that might be a pro to me could be a con to you! Because of that, I’m not going to list these under the headings of “Pros” and “Cons”. Instead, I’ll go through the main aspects of photography classes and explain the differences (or similarities) between the two different class formats. Ultimately, you need to make the decision that is best for you, your schedule, and your learning style.

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Time

One of the most important things to consider when you’re looking at taking a class is what your time constraints are. Do you have a full-time job? Are you a parent of young children? Are you in school full-time? Or are you looking for something to soak up all the extra time you seem to have lately? Online classes generally run on your own schedule. Typically, you can view the material whenever it works for you. This works really well for people who have a busy schedule but still want to make the time for their photography. Conversely, in-person classes meet at a set time of day, on a set day of the week. If you’re a person that needs to be held accountable for actually attending your classes, this could be good for you.

Cost

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When it comes to cost, there is so much variance that this factor needs to play a big part in your class decisions. Some in-person classes can be relatively inexpensive. For instance, community classes can range in price from $50-$300. However, if you want to attend a photography college and receive a degree, cost typically ranges in the tens of thousands of dollars. Taking classes online frequently affords you a much more reasonable price, but often comes without a degree (since not all online photography classes are accredited). Some online photography classes award a completion certificate at the end of your class.

Materials

Photography Camera BackgroundIn-person classes often require that you purchase textbooks and other “not gear” materials. These things can be a great help in the future as a reference, but will add more to the cost described above. Online classes usually don’t require extra “not gear” materials – generally, all your materials are already online and you have paid for them with the cost of your class. Unfortunately, some online classes don’t give you access to the class material forever – once the class is over, you walk away with only the knowledge in your head. (Our online classes do offer that – lifetime access, right on the web, to all the materials from your course.) In either type of class, you will of course need the essentials in photography gear: a camera, a lens (at least one, sometimes more), and some other basics like a tripod, flash gear, and photo editing software. These supplies are not vastly different for in-person vs. online classes. Check the requirements of the class you are interested in taking to find out what gear you will need.

Help from the Teacher

In-person classes give you a chance to interact face to face with your photography instructor. Having a hard time figuring out a concept or making the camera do what you want? Walk in to class and ask the teacher for some help. This can be an especially great benefit to a beginning photographer – fighting with your gear is not how you want to be spending your time. Many online classes don’t offer this one-on-one instructor contact experience. Usually, you pay for the classes and you’re left on your own to figure things out. (Here again is where photoclasses.com shines – we offer instructor feedback with every class we sell, so if you have questions, need some feedback on your photos, or just need help getting the settings right, we’re here to help you.)

Interaction with Other Photographers/Students

Another important aspect to consider is your ability to interact with fellow photographers. In a face-to-face classroom setting, you will have the chance to interact with your fellow students on a regular basis. The benefits of being able to interact with other photographers are that you are able to see different styles of shooting, learn from the mistakes and questions of others, and find someone with similar interests in photography as yourself. It’s always fun to go out on a photo shoot with a friend.

Online classes don’t offer this same style of interaction, because often the students are in very diverse and distant locations. However, there are generally many options for students of online photography classes to interact with other photographers. We have a community of photographers on Facebook as well as a large following on our photography tips website, ImprovePhotography.com. You can also find fellow photographers in your area by searching places like meetup.com for photography groups. And of course technology affords interaction with people all over the globe via means such as cell phones, email, Skype, and social media.


The decision between online photography classes and in-person photography classes is one that needs to be made on an individual basis. With so many different factors, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Take the time to think about what you want to get from your class, and then choose the option that makes the most sense for you.

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