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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Online Learning Comes Of Age


Much more than the correspondence courses of a past era, you can build upon your photo education by taking a class through the Internet

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The old-fashioned correspondence course has grown up, and in the digital age, it has become a viable and truly enjoyable way to learn how to take better pictures. At the forefront of online photo education are companies like BetterPhoto (www.betterphoto.com) and the New York Institute Of Photography (NYIP) (www.nyip.com).

OP readers will be particularly interested in NYIP’s professional photography course that pairs physical materials (color lessons, DVDs and audio) with online evaluations and support. Plus students benefit from a staff of professional photographers, an online forum and personalized evaluations returned via e-mail.

NYIP has recently added the Essential Business Skills series to the pro course that covers topics like basic business communication, how to open your photography business, finding freelance work for publications and how to market yourself. The NYIP Complete Course in Professional Photography covers all these essentials. The course is packaged into 30- to 80-page lesson guides and audio CDs.

NYIP lessons get into the hard specifics like negotiating contracts, pricing your photography, insurance and legal protection, model-release forms and other issues that don’t come up when you’re just out shooting as a hobby. Outdoor photographers who are looking at the possibility of selling their work will find tremendous value in lessons on these fundamental subjects that will get their career moving forward.

NYIP has been in business since 1910, and they have a staff of working professionals doing the training. The instructors offer insights on the latest digital cameras and photo-archiving technologies, as well as instruction in traditional photographic techniques. You receive more than 30 lessons in addition to the business lessons. There also are 20 hours of audio commentary to accompany the lessons in which NYIP faculty members review all the key points and share their insights with students.

Where the course really shines is having the instructors personally review each student’s work, with the same instructor following a student throughout the course. Because students have the same instructor reviewing the work throughout the course, the critiques are especially valuable as the instructor is monitoring the individual’s progress. You’re also assigned a student advisor to answer other questions and give advice.

BetterPhoto was the first to offer correspondence learning in an online format with e-mailed lessons and world-acclaimed professional instructors. The company has grown up and evolved with the technology from the outset. What began as a website to give photographers a place to share techniques and discuss trends in photography has evolved into a full-fledged learning institution. Traditional photo workshops are an excellent way to learn more about photography, but they aren’t always possible to fit into one’s budget or time schedule. At BetterPhoto, photography enthusiasts get much of the information one would get in a traditional photo workshop, but do it in a home-study environment.

BetterPhoto courses also cost much less than photo workshops and the resulting travel expense. At $200 to $350, these cutting-edge classes deliver an effective learning experience. The company now offers more than 80 classes on just about all facets of photography, and the instructor list is an impressive collection of professionals, including several OP contributors. Keeping to its roots, there’s also an active BetterPhoto community forum and continuous contests where photographers can interact with one another. The classes are in four- or eight-week sessions. Each week, a lesson plan is sent to students, along with an assignment for that week. Images are submitted, and the instructor critiques and gives feedback. Also, your fellow students can see the images you submit, as well as the instructor feedback. Classes are kept small to be manageable for both students and instructors.

Taking advantage of the possibilities of the Internet, you can get more out of distance learning than ever before. The web gives you a vehicle to take in material at your own pace, within the confines of a busy schedule, and still get the sort of quality feedback and one-on-one instruction that will have you making vast improvements to your images.

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