Is YouTube the best way to learn photography?

Jun 20, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Is YouTube the best way to learn photography?

Jun 20, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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The world is changing fast, and those of us who started photography with film cameras have seen how the creative world evolves. But no matter your age, I’m sure you have, at some point, learned new skills from YouTube. I know I have. Be it photography, editing, arts & crafts, fixing a leaky faucet… I’ve learned quite a few things by watching YouTube videos.

But are YouTube videos the best way to learn photography? Craig Roberts discusses this in his YouTube video (a bit ironic, isn’t it). In his recognizable, humorous tone, he raises some important questions about learning photography and practicing your craft.

Photography meets YouTube

Craig is in his early 50s, so you can say that he’s an “oldschool” photographer. He learned photography from books and magazines and of course – lots and lots of practice.

But like the rest of us, modern photographers have now extended their work on YouTube and other video platforms. They’re not strictly photographers anymore, they’re YouTubers and TikTokers, sharing their adventures through the lens. What’s more, their income also comes from their videos, with the sale of their actual photos coming second. This is quite different from the traditional way of doing things.

If you’re older than 30, you remember that there were no platforms like YouTube to learn from when we were kids and teenagers. Many seasoned professionals like Craig began as photographers first and only later adapted to the vlogging trend. But nowadays, many photographers go full YouTube straight away. Some of them earn from monetizing their videos, and others use them as a medium to spread the word about presets, courses, and workshops they sell, and yet others combine the two. Either way, it’s hard to stay off YouTube nowadays when it comes to both learning and teaching.

Learning photography: Then vs. now

Like everything else, the art of learning photography has evolved. These days, if you want to learn anything, YouTube is often your first stop. But people in the pre-YouTube era relied on photography magazines, books from the library, and lots of practice, as I mentioned above.

Craig notes that there were also no photography workshops to attend back then. Today, if you appreciate a particular photographer’s work, you can learn directly from them. It can be in person through workshops, or indirectly through their YouTube channel. Still, you can still rely on books and magazines, too, so I believe that YouTube has just expanded our options, which is awesome!

How YouTube and accessibility of knowledge affect our learning?

All of this leads us to an intriguing question Craig asks: does the learning method change the photographer you become? Is there a difference between being self-taught, learning from someone else, or picking up skills by watching YouTube videos? Is it easier now to get into and master photography than it used to be?

I say – it depends. As I mentioned, YouTube and other online resources give us plenty of choices and make knowledge more accessible. On the other hand, it can be overwhelming. For absolute beginners, it’s difficult to know where to start and to weed out good sources from bad ones.

Ultimately, does all this fundamentally change the way we take pictures? Our Craig is entirely self-taught, and he wonders if he has missed something or has done things differently from others, with no one to tell him otherwise. That might be another disadvantage of learning through YouTube, but I think it’s a disadvantage of being self-thought in any other way – you lack structure and guidance while learning.

Still, don’t let this discourage you. As a self-taught photographer, you have a unique perspective, and you find photogenic beauty in subjects others might overlook. This ability to see the world differently is often attributed to the self-taught journey, which contains a lot, and I mean, a lot, of trial and error.

Other than YouTube, how to best learn photography?

Although YouTube and other resources are valuable for learning photography, some things can only be improved by reading instead of watching a video or teaching yourself alone, with no assistance from others. In other words, good old-fashioned trial and error might still be the key to significantly improving your photography. There’s a great comment on Craig’s video that pretty much sums it up:

Having wanted to be a photographer in my teens and just not affording it (wrong priorities) to picking it back up in my late 50s, I can definitely say that it’s easier to now to get the basics down, and it’s easier to be exposed to different ideas.  But I suspect there’s no difference in the mastering part:  ultimately you have to get out and just do it on your own, make your own mistakes, spend the day getting wet, tired, and lost, try techniques that don’t work for you, and eventually unearth a gem.”

How would you learn if there was no YouTube?

Craig asks some important questions in his video: what if YouTube didn’t exist? What if all the workshops were canceled? What if all you could do is teach yourself photography without watching anyone else or getting any guidance? That’s some food for thought!

Would all of this change you as a photographer? Would you become better or worse, or perhaps even give up photography altogether? Would it be more or less challenging for you, would you enjoy it more? I still remember the pre-YouTube days, and this video made me recall them and think about the times I explored the world of photography on my own. I have to admit – I kinda miss them, now when I think about it. I am grateful to have YouTube and other online sources to learn from. That’s how I’ve learned a lot over the last ten years or so. But on the other hand, I also miss exploring the medium completely on my own.

So, perhaps step away from YouTube from time to time. Make some time for finding your own path, exploring photography, and finding your own voice. Ultimately, no matter how you choose to learn, keep taking pictures and keep making those mistakes: you’ll just keep getting better!

[Is YouTube the best way to learn photography? | e6vlogs]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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5 responses to “Is YouTube the best way to learn photography?”

  1. Mike Shwarts Avatar
    Mike Shwarts

    Hard to get away from youtube. Websites like this one often have a short paragraph or two and a youtube video. Often a youtube video from somebody not affiliated with the website. Then you sit through seemingly endless minutes of drivel about the maker of the video before getting to the point of the lesson. And sometimes, it wasn’t worth the wait, or time trying to advance through the video to get to the lesson.

    Give us text. We can skim through it and then decide if it is worth the read or going to the accompanying video.

    1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
      Libby Sutherland

      “Give us text.” — Yes! I for one am sick of a short paragraph or to and having to scrub through a YT video where half the time is spent trolling for Likes and then pushing affiliate links.

      And “back then” we had camera clubs. We would get together at peoples’ houses, in church basements. My old camera club was classy — it met in a nice room at a local museum. All the doctors shot Leicas 😀 We exchanged phone numbers sometimes. And I even got mentored by one of the old studio portrait photographers in town. I just walked in there one day hoping he would share a few tips for a school project. Such a nice guy. That’s the way we did it.

  2. Greg Silver Avatar
    Greg Silver

    I wouldn’t dismiss YouTube altogether but I agree that sometimes you have to waste a lot of time before you get the nugget of truth.

    However, I always appreciate a good tutorial from a website. I can read and skim through at my pace.

  3. Wim van der Geest Avatar
    Wim van der Geest

    Trail and error is nowadays, in the digital world, much easier then in the film age. Now there is instant feedback and I think that my photography improved more in this era than it did in the good old film era. And yes, I have developed my own films then 😀

  4. Brazomax Photography Avatar
    Brazomax Photography

    With a proper teacher yes. Not everything about gear used is shared during some of the youtube tutorials. For example if the photographer used a filter on the lens or if he made other adjustments in photoshop.