tips & tricks | 10 Ways to Learn Photography and Design on the Cheap

Learn Photography & Design Tips & Tricks

I was going to name this post, “10 Ways to Learn Photography and Design on a Budget” or “10 Great Photography and Design Resources”. But truthfully, when it comes down to it, photography and design are expensive, and if anything is handed to me “on the cheap,” I’ll take it! As many of you know, photography and design are not exactly budget hobbies. Expensive equipment, complex software and a steep learning curve don’t make it any easier. However, learning photography and design doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are 10 ways to learn photography and design on the cheap.

01 | Get yourself to the library

The library hosts a wealth of knowledge. Plus, it’s free. I actually rarely buy books anymore and just borrow them from the library. Check out great photography teaching authors like David DuChemin, Scott Kelby, and Bryan Peterson. Good beginning design instructors include Robin Williams (not the actor) and John McWade.

02 | Learn from over 1,500 software courses for only $1/day

Have you ever tried to look on YouTube to figure out how to do something only to be directed to poorly created videos with bad sound and dizzying film footage taken by amateurs? offers unlimited mobile access to over 1,700 video tutorials for only $25/month on courses including business, web, photography, design, animation — basically, all things tech. I also just learned that my local library offers access to for free! Check and see if yours does, too.

03 | Watch free photography, design, software, video/film & business classes online

I simply love CreativeLive. CreativeLive is a worldwide classroom that offers classes in a wide range of creative fields taught by world-renowned creative professionals, all for free! While the classes are airing live, you can watch for free, and then pay a reduced fee if you decide to buy the course. I have learned a LOT from creativeLive, and they have had so many interesting classes lately that it’s often constantly buzzing in the background while I’m working

04 | Learn from a wonderful set of photography ebooks for the same price as a latte

Photographer and best-selling author, David DuChemin, is the creator of Craft & Vision, a site committed to providing quality photographic education for incredible prices. Each ebook, written by a member of the highly accomplished Craft & Vision Team, only costs $5, and if you sign up on their email list, you can get a coupon code for $1 off each PDF when the latest ebook is released. These are wonderful books with great tutorials and gorgeous photography.

04 | Invest in a nifty fifty

A nifty fifty is the nickname for the well-loved 50mm f/1.8 lens that provides that creamy dreamy bokeh effect that you could never get with your kit lens. It’s a prime lens (which means you zoom with your feet), and works great in low-light situations, is super-sharp, and only costs about $100 at Amazon.

05 | Get lost on Pinterest

I can easily spend hours looking through Pinterest getting inspired, reading tutorials, and simply enjoying the beautiful eye candy! It’s also a great way to save content for future reference and inspiration.

07 |  Take a course on Alt Summit for $15

Alt Design Summit is a premier business conference for bloggers and a fantastic way to connect and collaborate with other bloggers. They also offer classes taught by bloggers and social media experts and have a really useful blog full of great content. If you ever get the chance, attend one of their uber-hip conferences, including their new Alt For Everyone Conference online. I missed out on the lottery for the San Francisco conference, so I’m all in for the Alt for Everyone! 

08|  Check out free tutorials on blogs

Many blogs offer tutorials on how to design, photograph, blog, etc. Some fun ones to peruse are PuglyPixel, Nicole’s Classes, Her New Leaf, Digital Photography School, and Clickin Moms

09 | Take inexpensive web-based classes in your pajamas.

I could not think of a clever title for this set of weblinks, but I like their catchy taglines, and they’re worth it just to check out! Photography Concentrate (“learn photography faster, and funner too”), Skillshare (“learn with anyone, anywhere”) — here’s my referral code for $10 off your first class — awesome!, Shutter Cliq (“bettering photographers’ businesses, through education, inspiration, and sheer love of the game), and Before & After (“how to design cool stuff”).

10 | Connect with other designers and photographers.

I have recently become part of a local art group for women where we meet once a month to inspire, encourage, motivate, teach and learn from each other. We all have very different styles, but in our uniqueness, we have been learning a tremendous amount from each other, can trade services and skills, and simply connect. 

There are many generous creatives out there who are willing and wanting to share what they’ve learned. Education doesn’t have to be expensive — you just have to look for it. Anyone have any other cost-effective ways to learn photography and design or websites/books you’d like to recommend? Please do share with the rest of us — we’d love to hear about it!


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