If you’ve looked through my past posts, you’ve probably seen that I’ve been following the Photo 101 course from Nicole’s Classes, taught by Nicole Hill Gerulat. The class is wrapping up this week, so I thought I would post some of my thoughts on the experience and how it has helped me as a beginning photographer. There are so many intro photography courses out there — online and off, led by an instructor or self-guided, etc. I didn’t know if this class would be worth the cost compared to other options, and all the reviews I found seemed to be from people who were given a free class in exchange for a blog review. That is NOT the case here!
I think this class is best for someone who is truly a beginner when it comes to manual DSLR settings — as in never having turned off auto before. The first week was all about how to use those settings for proper exposure (and rightly so, as understanding this is key to good photography), but it was information I already knew. The real benefit I found was that the class really forced me to use manual mode exclusively instead of the priority modes I tended to favor. Am I completely comfortable with manual mode now? Well, mostly, but it depends on what I want to shoot. It takes some time to properly expose images, so I’ll probably revert to the priority modes when I’m traveling or not taking still life photos. I’ve got to keep practicing.
What I did not expect was the strong focus on portraiture in the second half of the class. That made completing the homework a bit of a challenge because I didn’t have anyone but my husband to practice on. I don’t think he was thrilled about that, but I’m glad he was willing to cooperate 🙂 On a good note, it did force me to learn more about posing and lighting patterns, which I probably would have avoided otherwise. However, I really think that the last two weeks could have been combined (there was a lot less info presented than in the first two weeks) to make room for a few more concepts.
Overall I liked the structure of the class. The content (videos and transcriptions) was made available all at once so I could work at my own pace, and most importantly for me, there were weekly homework assignments. I think these regular deadlines are what really kept me on track — it created a level of accountability that isn’t available with self-guided tutorials online. The other big difference is that Nicole provides constructive criticism on all the submitted assignments and had a live video chat to answer questions at the end of the course. There was email available too, although I didn’t use it. Sometimes it’s nice to have an expert answer your question directly instead of trying to deduce the answer from the internet!
So to answer my original question, was the class worth the money? Maybe. It really depends on how much of a beginner you are and what your learning style is. I was able to purchase my class on a Brickyard Buffalo sale so I’m okay with what I spent, but I don’t know if I would been happy having paid the regular price. This is based purely on my experience given where my photography skills started and not a statement on the value of the course on its own. I’m not trying to say that the course is too expensive, just that some of it was a little too beginner for me. When it comes down to it, I think the real value comes in having reliable instructor contact with someone who is a trained professional, and I am on board with paying professionals what they deserve in exchange for quality service!
Will I take another course from Nicole’s Classes? Possibly, although not right away. I’m eyeing up a few courses (Photo 102, Tabletop Photography, Lightroom 101), but I don’t really have the time to devote to them right now. We shall see.
One last thought: Be conscious of what time of year you choose to take this course. It is extremely helpful to have natural light when doing the homework! Being February (the snowiest one in years to boot) and working full-time, I was unable to shoot during the week and had to cross my fingers for good light on weekends. Just a friendly tip that I hadn’t considered before signing up 🙂 I just noticed that Nicole’s recent blog post mentions the same thing here.
I did not write this review as part of any affiliate program and am not being compensated for it. All opinions are my own.