Learn Digital Photography with Harvard University’s Free Online Course

Since the tak­ing of the very first pho­to­graph in 1826, pho­tog­ra­phy has devel­oped, as it were, in ways hard­ly imag­in­able to its first few gen­er­a­tions of prac­ti­tion­ers. The most thor­ough trans­for­ma­tion so far has, of course, come in the form of the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion (and espe­cial­ly its lat­est fruit, the cam­era phone), which has in many real ways deliv­ered on its promise of mak­ing “every­one a pho­tog­ra­ph­er.” But the abil­i­ty to take a pic­ture is one thing, and the abil­i­ty to take a pic­ture worth look­ing at — let alone look­ing at more than once — quite anoth­er.

For­tu­nate­ly, high tech­nol­o­gy has democ­ra­tized not only the means of pro­duc­tion, but also the means of learn­ing with online cours­es like this free one on dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy sourced from no less an insti­tu­tion than Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty.

Its mate­ri­als come from Dan Armen­dariz’s Har­vard course DGMD E‑10: Expos­ing Dig­i­tal Pho­tog­ra­phy, and its twelve mod­ules “will take an aver­age stu­dent about 10 to 15 hours to com­plete, and they teach a wide range of top­ics in dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy, includ­ing expo­sure set­tings, read­ing his­tograms, learn­ing about light, how sen­sors and lens­es work, and how to post-process pho­tos.” You can watch the lec­tures above, or find them on YouTube and iTunesand find relat­ed mate­ri­als on this course web­site.

Even a basic under­stand­ing of all those top­ics will put you far ahead of the aver­age social-media snap­per, but as with any pur­suit, gain­ing some knowl­edge cre­ates the desire for more. You thus might also con­sid­er tak­ing the dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy course from Stan­ford pro­fes­sor and Google researcher Marc Lev­oy we fea­tured last year. (Also see this free mas­sive open online course, See­ing Through Pho­tographs. It’s from the MoMA, and it starts again on Jan­u­ary 23.) It would take a life­time to mas­ter all the gear and attain all the know-how out there, even if pho­tog­ra­phy stopped chang­ing today, but don’t let that intim­i­date you. Just bear in mind the wise words of Hunter S. Thomp­son: “Any man who can see what he wants to get on film will usu­al­ly find some way to get it; and a man who thinks his equip­ment is going to see for him is not going to get much of any­thing.”

Har­vard’s free dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy course will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Annie Lei­bovitz Teach­es Pho­tog­ra­phy in Her First Online Course

An Intro­duc­tion to Dig­i­tal Pho­tog­ra­phy: Take a Free Course from Stan­ford Prof/Google Researcher Marc Lev­oy

Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) Launch­es Free Course on Look­ing at Pho­tographs as Art

The His­to­ry of Pho­tog­ra­phy in Five Ani­mat­ed Min­utes: From Cam­era Obscu­ra to Cam­era Phone

How to Take Pho­tographs Like Ansel Adams: The Mas­ter Explains The Art of “Visu­al­iza­tion”

Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son and the Deci­sive Moment

Alfred Stieglitz: The Elo­quent Eye, a Reveal­ing Look at “The Father of Mod­ern Pho­tog­ra­phy”

Hunter S. Thompson’s Advice for Aspir­ing Pho­tog­ra­phers: Skip the Fan­cy Equip­ment & Just Shoot

ALISON — A Trove of 750 Free Online Job Train­ing Cours­es

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.