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Internet is an ocean of information. As many rivers pour water into the ocean, there are many websites providing information on photography but only a few have good quality content. Being a self taught photographer, with a 10 years of experience, I very well understand the value of finding the right information at the right time of one's learning curve. I am writing this article to provide a self learning plan along with reference to the best free learning material out there.  

The Beginning Phase

All hobbyists start here. Assuming that you already have a good quality camera, in the beginning one must focus on understanding the exposure triangle. It means practicing manual camera controls of Shutter speed, aperture and ISO. To begin with use YouTube videos to learn about exposure triangle and manual mode of your camera. You'll benefit the most by practicing as much as you can. It's true that you are your best critique but sometimes it's better to get opinion of other photographers. There are some good online FB groups, websites that provide feedback on your images. Here are few such groups that I found very helpful:

It's a very good and trusted resource for anyone who is trying to learn photography. There are many reviews, mini challenges and discussion forums. Reviews of lenses and cameras are very detailed and unbiased.

I have seen this website evolve over time. They provide many articles focused on different topics. The website has tips for beginners, genre based articles, articles on camera gear and post processing. 

This website has many good topic based articles. They also offer many certification courses. 

The Growth Phase (A)

This phase begins after one masters manual controls and develops a deep understanding of depth of field, effects of slow shutter speed. By this time photography starts to feel like more than just a hobby. This phase is marked with an increased hunger to grow, get recognition, win competitions. Many people by this time may start taking assignments such as baby shoots, product shoots, weddings, travel, etc. A person at this stage may often wonder that his or her images are just as good as the ones that get global recognition but don't understand why he or she doesn't get the same recognition. This phase can get frustrating as the growth is more internalized so there is not much external improvement that you can see but others can see the improvement in your work. This is also a good time when one should start thinking about a specialization. By this time you have mastered creative techniques and all the things that can be done with the buttons on the camera. You have understood basics of lighting in photography but still struggle to get it right sometimes. Areas to focus on during this phase are composition & storytelling. Provide yourself more photography opportunities such as traveling or working as an assistant to other photographers. Here are the best resources to help you during this phase:

B&H Event Space is one of the best learning resources out there. There are very helpful videos on different topics by special guests. 

This is a community of photographers and National Geographic Editors. Every month one or two Assignments are published and after it's over a story is published with selected photographs. Editors keep in touch during the assignment and often post updates. In the discussion board you can discuss images that you or other people plan to submit to an assignment. 

it's a very good place to get conceptually strong in photography. Resource Center section on the website is very helpful. So check it out. 

This website must be on your bookmarks. This one website will tell you about all open Photography contests, deadlines, fees (if any), prizes, etc. 

This is also similar to Contest Guru with one major difference; it is more artistic and academic in nature while Contest Guru showcases contests which are more commercial in nature. But both these websites ensure that you are aware about all major photo contests, exhibition happening in different parts of the world. 

The Growth Phase (B)

 This phase is very interesting. By now you have received some recognition in the field of photography. You have mastered composition and lighting. This is a growth period which will be marked with an improvement in concept. This is the time when you start bringing art into commercial photography to make your work more compelling and outstanding. This is the time when your personality also evolves and it becomes visible in your photography. You tend to network with other big names in the industry. Growth Phase (both A & B) can be better assisted with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Photography degree in a good photography college. But if you are someone who wants to keep it self learning then you must work hard. It gets really hard after this phase but if you have made it this far then it shows that you are special. Here are few resources available on the internet to help you get through this phase:

This is a competition website. It's very different than other highly commercial competitions. There is an artistic weight-age given to each photographer.  They have five different competitions that happen each year one after the other, each of which open for two months and concludes with the declaration of the winner. Once one competition is over entry for the second competition opens. 

Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members. It is one of the most reputed agency in the field of documentary and social photography. One can learn a lot by seeing work of the other magnum photographers. 

As the name suggests this is a British magazine. It is a highly reputed agency in the field of photography. There are competitions and online learning resources that someone can benefit from. 

The Final Phase

Learning is a lifelong process but as far as learning phases are concerned in photography, this is the final phase. It is marked by factors such as by now you have published your work in several reputed international publishers, you are member of photography societies and occasionally rub shoulders with politicians and celebrities. Now you no longer look for work but assignments come to you and you have to choose the work that is worth your time. Growth from here depends on your humility. 

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