Times have changed.  No longer are trade secrets, well…secrets!  These days, you can gain an unbelievable (and free) education online.  I like to call it ‘Google University’, my alma mater.

I’ve always had a passion for photography but when I made the decision to turn it into a business I knew I had a lot of work to do. Being a work from home mom of 3 wild ones, going to a traditional college or university was not an option.  So I started Googling everything I wanted to know.

I’ll save you some time and share with you the top 5 FREE resources that have helped transform my photography.

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#1 Find Photographers that you love and follow them.

No, not to the grocery store but on Facebook, their blog and Instagram.  The more you saturate yourself with inspiration the better you will become.  More and more photographers are becoming generous with their knowledge, they are teachers as well as artists. They are happy you are learning from them (here’s one for example). Emulate your idol.  Try to figure out how they got that shot that you love.  Study, shoot. Study, shoot. Study, shoot.  Not sure who to follow?  Type ‘photography’ into Pinterest.  When you come across some photos that you love, click through to the photographer’s website.  There you go!

#2 To pick right up where #1 left off – shoot shoot shoot!

Take lots of photos and when you download them, figure out what you don’t like about them and then Google it. Yes, I’m serious. I can almost guarantee that an article or You Tube video will show up in your results telling you just how to correct the problem and prevent it from happening again.  For example: “How do I prevent sunflare from ruining a picture?” Or on the flipside “how to I get sunflare in a picture?”  Try it – google those two questions.  Cool huh?

#3 Join a forum.

There are several forums on Facebook that are intended for ‘constructive criticism’ of photos.  For instance, there’s one called ‘Modern Talk: Image, Website and Design Critique’.  You have to request to join/become a member (it’s free) but as long as your sincere there should be no problems!  There are people of ALL skill levels in groups like these and the atmosphere is usually generous and truly helpful.  There are also other forums that have websites and are more like magazines that are LOADED with great info. Some of them have membership costs but you can still gain plenty of free insight from following them on Facebook (Chic Critique, Rock The Shot, Little Bellows, I Heart Faces, Mozi Magazine, Let The Kids Dress Themselves just to name a few).

#4 Do a photo challenge.

The idea is that you post a photo once a week or once a month to a group (typically flickr).  Often there is a different theme each week/month that the person administering the challenge chooses.  They challenge you to think outside of the box and get creative. Not to mention it’s awesome to see how other people interpret the same theme!  You don’t have to have a website, usually just Flickr or Facebook.  Here’s the one I’m doing this year (you can jump in anytime!) Project 52 (by My Four Hens Photography).  Or you can Google photo challenge lists and it will pull up several options…

Here’s the photo I took when the weekly theme was ‘Grateful’

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#5 (drumroll please…this is the bomb) Creative Live

I can’t say enough about this amazing organization/website/group of people.  To quote their website it is “Free, live, online workshops taught by world class experts”.  The site is heavily geared towards photographers although there’s also design, video and business/marketing as well.  They cater to all skill levels and almost always have a beginners photography course on the calendar.  The knowledge I have gained from watching these courses is invaluable and to be honest I feel like I’m getting away with something.  If you can’t watch during the day because you’re at work don’t worry, they re-broadcast almost every course at night and on the weekends.  They sell the courses as well (I’ve purchased 2 so far and was happy to give them my money!) but you don’t have to buy them to watch.  Just open up the link and there you are – in a classroom with some of the brightest and best artists of our generation.

So there you have it.  Whether you’re a momma just wanting to get some clear, crisp images of your fast moving toddler or whether you dream of being the next Annie Liebovitz, we all have to start somewhere so just get started