Free (yes, really): Improve your photography with an online course from Stanford professor Marc Levoy


posted Saturday, September 3, 2016 at 9:00 AM EST


Too often, the word "free" is misused. Really, what it often means is "with strings attached", or "with a pricetag that you'll discover later". Thankfully, that's not the case with an online course in digital photography just shared by Stanford professor Marc Levoy. In his free 18-lecture course, you'll learn about the history, scientific theory and real-world practice of photography, and especially of digital photography -- and he's not asking for so much as a penny in exchange!

Levoy currently leads a team at Google Research, but for the last quarter century he's been on the faculty at Stanford's Computer Science Department, from which he recently retired. Clearly, he has an extensive knowledge of computer graphics. While studying at Cornell he developed the animation system used by Hanna-Barbera to make shows like the Flintstones and Scooby Doo, and in the decades since he's pushed the boundaries of volume rendering, used lasers to digitize the statues of Michelangelo and laid the groundwork for light field imaging (as used by the likes of Lytro). At Google, he's co-creator of the company's book scanner, has helped launch Google Street View, and also participated on development for Google Glass, the HDR+ mode in the Nexus 5 and 6 smartphones,  and more.

Stanford professor and Google researcher Marc Levoy has shared his comprehensive digital photography course online, completely free of charge!

His knowledge of photography seems equally encyclopaedic, and for five years he taught a course on digital photography at Stanford. Earlier this year, he dusted off his course materials, updated them, and taught them once more, this time at Google HQ. And now he's placed the entire course -- including videos of his 18 lectures at Google from March thru June of 2016, plus a range of other materials including applets demonstrating photographic principles and information on course assignments -- online completely free of charge.

Of course, by studying online you won't get the opportunity for one-to-one discussion with Levoy and your fellow students that those who were lucky enough to take the course at Stanford or Google were able to experience. Even without that, though, there's a whole lot of potential for learning and improving your photographic knowledge.

As of this writing the videos sadly aren't viewable, having been downloaded too many times in too short a period, but that will likely change after the initial flurry of activity as news of the free course has spread. (So we'd suggest bookmarking his site, and then dropping by in a week or two to check if the videos are available to download yet.) And in the meantime, even without access to the videos, much of the rest of the course remains available to browse. 

Even if you're already an experienced shooter, there's likely more than a little which could be gleaned from Levoy's materials to expand your knowledge still further. And if you're still relatively new to photography, doubly so. And best of all, it's available to you completely free of charge, making it a total no-brainer if you want to learn the history and theory, then apply it in the real world! Click here now to get started with the course, and be sure to watch out for the videos to become available for viewing once more!

(via DIY PhotographyIndex image courtesy of Marc Levoy / Wikipedia; used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 license. Image has been modified from the original.)