The variety of courses available today is amazing. The ease with which you can access good programs seems almost miraculous. For example, the Internet has made it possible for someone in Italy to use a home-study program designed by a photographer in the United States.
You can use your computer and a rather inexpensive digital camera to learn the basics of the camera itself.
You can take the next step and learn how to display and share your photos. If you feel the need to be a little more technically savvy there are courses that will help you edit your photos on the computer, changing sizes, enhancing colors and so on.
Then you can create a slide show that will please family members and friends. It's all available for a reasonable price - without leaving your home!
If you are energetic and self-disciplined the home-study course might be a perfect way to enhance your skills. The goal, of course, is improving the quality of your photographs.
The best home courses combine theory and technical information with opportunities to apply what you learn.
Reading books usually isn't enough to take you where you want to go in the world of photography!
Learning from home
Many professionals emphasize that home study is the best way to learn photography and improve your skills, simply because you are always ready to try out the new ideas.
Home study is much less expensive
If you are in a classroom or just have a book, you may be limiting your practical opportunities. Of course, another benefit is the cost - home study is much less expensive than attending university or community college classes.
Some professional photographers have constructed a home photography course that takes you beyond personal use and amateur status. These programs are intended to get the student moving toward full use of their equipment, even to the point of becoming a professional or part-time/semi-professional. One great example comes from Amy Renfry, an experienced photographer from Australia.
Her course is designed for amateurs who want to reach
"professional level in terms of the photographs you produce."
Renfry's program and several others offer a full range of "technical theory, practical advice and motivational discussion." (Keep in mind that we are not endorsing or recommending any particular programs. These are provided only as examples.)
You can become completely comfortable with your camera while working through these courses. You will also have the opportunity to develop an "eye" for landscape photography, flower photography or one of several other specialty areas.
Another fine example is the category of home photography courses that focus on business. Obviously, these programs have a slightly different focus. Many home-study programs can take you from the amateur ranks to the professional level.
These courses state up front that they are for you - if you want to
"turn your love of photography into a way to make extra cash or even into a new career." (Quote from Roy Barker's program Starting a Photography Business)
Photography-business courses are not necessarily designed to teach you how to use your camera. These programs usually start by investigating the many ways you can use your equipment to make money. The key words in this discussion are "market" and "business perspective." Legal issues are often covered as well, though the instructor isn't giving legal advice. You'll need an attorney for that.
To take our discussion in a slightly different direction, we should look at the category: home photography course offered by established schools rather than individuals. For example, the New York Institute of Photography has been in existence for more than a century. In the last few decades the school has offered home-study courses.
This is one of the world's oldest photography schools so you can be sure that you will be getting experienced, top-shelf instruction. The courses from this venerable institution are designed to let you
"study on your own time, at your own pace, from anywhere in the world".
Course materials include written items, audio CDs, video training on DVD and assigned projects. So, to return to our original question:
What's the best way to study photography?
The answer is still:
Taking the home-study route means you're on your own. You'll have to decide for yourself if a home photography course is right for you.