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Elon musk Famously said “You can literally learn any skill you want for free on YouTube”. Now, I’m not sure brain surgery would be included, but for many of us it’s true that there’s a fantastic array of free learning available on the internet. Here’s a comprehensive list from Open Culture detailing 1,700 examples, some with certificates from leading universities.
However, for photographers and filmmakers, there are many practical learning opportunities. Some genuinely free, for example those listed at storyhunter.com here, and others as a taster for paid courses, such as these listed here. The good thing is that each taster often covers a different skill, and so looking at all the free options from each one builds your knowledge.
There are many, many such examples, including established gear seller websites that offer free classes as part of their customer engagement program, much like our blogs, and a host of YouTube videos that often link to such sites; where I go to search any skill I need, including servicing my car!
An important point is that approaching learning by searching for a skill we haven’t yet mastered, as many of us do, is not the best way to master a subject.
In a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything session), a user asked Elon Musk how he learns so much so fast. He answered:
“I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can,” They sell themselves short without trying.”
“One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
The reason I’m not a professional photographer, although I’ve been paid for work, is that I’m not confident enough that I’m a master of photography. I’ve done a wedding free, which the couple and family loved, but there’s no way I’m competent enough to do it professionally. I made it clear I may make mistakes and wouldn’t take their limited budget. I dabble as an enthusiastic amateur.
So, my advice to any budding professional is: learn the basics. Start from there and build your knowledge on foundations that have existed for years and are repeated in even the most expensive courses.
Learn and then practice the fundamentals of light, composition, the exposure triangle, storytelling, sound, and understanding how each affects the other - the foundations are the trunk and big branches upon which the other skills not only depend, but are easier to learn and remember.
If you’re serious about your profession or hobby, nothing beats becoming a master of it. A master of any craft makes it look easy because they *know*, or “Grok” for any Heinlein fans.
Finally, and importantly, online learning is just part of the process. There are some excellent and highly recommended books, and let's not forget the opportunities offered by local camera clubs and the established classes available from experienced and successful photographers.
Please share your go-to for online learning in the comments below.