Can you really learn photography on YouTube? (& 3 things that work)

Can you learn photography on youtube?

So you want to learn photography?

You’ve been meaning to acquire this skill since you bought this new fancy DSLR, which you realized is capable of taking great pictures.

With such a deep desire for learning you head to the second biggest search engine; YouTube.

After all, it is the place to learn anything for free. Right?


Why? I’ll tell you in a few minutes.

But before that, let’s see what is wrong with the whole thought process above.

See, it is your capabilities not the camera’s, that matter. If you are a capable photographer, you can take great photos with any camera.

So if you were just wanting to learn photography because you own a fancy camera. Don’t even bother.

But if you are seriously interested in learning the craft, go on, by all means. But not to the Youtube.

Now here’s the why?

They tell what sells

Have you ever heard of the term SEO?


Keyword Research?

Ad Revenue?

If you don’t know what these terms mean, google them. Because these are the drivers of YouTube content.

Now, take a moment to ponder this.

If as a content creator, you’re driven by one or all of the above, your videos would have all or one of these characteristics.

  • an Irresistible title ( click-bait!)
  • a title that creates a FOMSI( Fear of missing something important ) effect
  • A quick fix to a problem
  • Tips and Tricks

I don’t think there is anything wrong with these videos. They have their use in the world.

But, think if you are at the learning stage, what these type of videos would do to the whole process?

You’ll learn fixes, not concepts.

You will not have the understanding of the basics.

You’ll waste a lot of time.

Also See:- Jakarta Diary

Creates serious gaps in knowledge

If you’re a beginner at anything, you need a solid foundation to build your skill on. That means learning the basics correctly and knowing all the tools well. Because unless you know all the tools you’ll never figure out how to efficiently choose and use the right one.

Now imagine, if you remove the first two years of your education where the simple stuff is taught like alphabets, numbers & how to write them. Do you think the rest of your education afterward would even make any sense to you? No, right?

Now guess what would you do if you learn photography from YouTube videos? You’ll not create a solid foundation and not know things you should which will create serious gaps in your knowledge and will be a pain to fill later on.

Apart from that, you’ll never feel fully confident as a photographer.

For example, there is a video titled “How to shoot northern lights?”

Now you can follow exact steps as per the video and create a successful shot.

But you may not have had to watch this video in the first place if you knew basic working of your camera and how to deal with different types of light.

You’ll find a lot of workarounds and quick fixes on YouTube but rarely the things that matter.

However, the tips and tricks videos are useful at times but mostly for those who have a well-laid foundation of knowledge.

For the beginners, these will end up leaving them confused or misinformed and constantly struggling to take better images.

That being said, you must be wondering what one should do then, to learn photography?

There are majorly three things.

  • Books
  • Courses
  • Workshops

Let’s talk about them one by one.

Also See:- Beginner’s Guide to Next Level Photography

Photography Books

If someone tells you he will teach you a skill for free. Would you believe him?

Mostly No. Right?

There must be something he is getting out of it. Satisfaction? Nah, it’s not a lasting motivation. Think again, it’s not that difficult to figure.

There are no free lunches in the world.

But when you pay for something, you get it. If you pay for a cup of ice-cream, you get a cup of ice-cream.

If you pay for a book, you get the real knowledge trapped in the bundle of pages. Of course, to benefit from it, you need to read it like you need to eat the ice-cream.

This is an agreement between two parties. One pays and another is obligated to deliver the promised benefit.

But, do you pay for YouTube videos?

I believe the answer would make my point more clear.

I agree there can be badly written books. For the same reason, you should look for recommendations from trustworthy sources.

If you are a beginner and for some reason, can trust my word, I have the below two recommendations for you.

Learn PhotographyUnderstanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

This is one of the first photography books I have read. I personally recommend this one to anyone who wants to learn photography. The text is simple to understand and there are exercises in this book which would sound simple enough to try but if you follow this book until the last page, you won’t realize when suddenly your understanding of photography grew so much deeper.

Learn PhotographyThe Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum

This book was first published in 1994. But till date, it is relevant. It talks about composition, contrast, tones, color and the art side of photography etc. These are still the crucial things for photography. Though you may want to skip a lot of content like negative development and printing techniques etc.
But once you read it, you may actually find yourself re-reading many of the topics.

Also See:- Best Camera for Photography Beginners

Photography Courses

The best way to learn something is by being taught. I know there are many self-taught photographers out there but if they are good its because they have invested time in learning.

But, let’s face it. Not everyone can learn by self. Some people lack self-discipline and some people just can’t grasp things without face to face interaction.

And regardless of whether you fall in one of the above categories. Doing a photography course can be a rewarding experience.

One thing to note though, not all good photographers are good teachers. And sometimes a good teacher may not be that great a photographer but he is capable of turning you into a great one. So, find out about the teacher before joining a course.

Photography Workshops

Workshops are different from a course in terms of duration and also the skill pre-requisites. These are usually short-term and are focused on specific topics. Also, mostly the workshops do the least good to absolute beginners than those who have a sound understanding of the basics.

I won’t recommend workshops to the beginners but when you have reached a point where you are ready to take the plunge into a specific genre of photography. This is the time you must attend some workshops.

Like the courses, here also you need to consider the teaching skill of the photographer. You can find that out by reading reviews and asking previous participants. Because it is a costly affair and nothing hurts more than not getting the true value in return for the money & time spent.

Lastly, if you have not purchased that fancy camera yet and you happen to be on a budget. Buy a cheaper camera but allocate a budget for learning(books, courses etc.).

Because as I said above, a camera is just a tool, it’s you who matter.

A great camera with unskilled hands is a recipe for a disaster.

Good luck!



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