Last year, my husband bought me the best birthday present ever - a Canon EOS 5D Mark III! I consider myself a hobbyist photographer, so I was really excited about this pro-grade camera but also nervous. I love photography, but I haven't had any formal training, and since I have a full-time job, I've never been able to put in the time to learn the technical skills.
Still, I'm the go-to person among my friends if anybody needs a cheap/last minute photographer for a wedding, birthday, etc. My husband's expensive gift inspired me to finally dedicate the time to pursue my passion, and I decided to hunt for a beginner photography class.
My local community college offered a summer class, but it cost thousands of dollars and was during work hours anyway. I tried looking for a YouTube course, but it was overwhelming - I didn't even know what I needed! Then I turned to online classes, and after sifting through dozens of $1,000+ options, I found Shaw Academy.
Shaw Academy is an online school that offers classes in business, technology, and the arts for an affordable price. Most classes are four modules and cost $49.99 each, but you get your first module free so it basically ends up being just $150! Each module is supposed to take four weeks, and you get the equivalent of an Associate's Degree at the end.
I worried that I wouldn't learn as much compared to an in-person class, but the course writers are experts in their field and I'd still be handing in assignments and getting practice. There are lectures twice a week that you can still watch on your own time if you miss them. You can also chat with other students and teachers during this time, which reminded me of my photography club in college. We could compare photos and trade tips!
I began my free trial month and enrolled in the beginner photography class. The four modules were called Intro, Mastering Light, Powerful Enhancement, and Creative Techniques. Just the Intro module was so educational; I was kind of embarrassed to think that I thought I knew camera basics before this! Excited about how much I could learn in three more months, I decided to keep my enrollment.
It's crazy to think about how much I learned during those next three modules. My schedule was packed with preparing for client presentations at work and entertaining visiting relatives, but Shaw Academy lets you watch the lectures online at your own pace if you miss the scheduled times (which you can do in your PJs!). They have 24/7 support from advisors, so I could ask questions whenever I thought of them. I even made a couple of local connections from other people in my class.
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Before this, I'd never thought about actually making money from photography, but now that I'm way more technically skilled and even have an internationally-recognized diploma, I've been thinking about starting a wedding photography business on the side. I'm taking the Photoshop course next, and if I want to, they even have marketing/business classes I can take if I want to get really serious.
I'm so grateful that my husband's thoughtful gift sparked me to finally go down this road, and even more grateful for Shaw Academy for teaching me everything in such a flexible and affordable way. I'm so excited to see how far I'll go with this!