Design, Photography, & Fashion

The Technical Side of Photography

Annie Leibovitz

Lesson time 12:34 min

In this chapter, Annie shares how she approached transitioning from film to digital, and what starting out in the dark room can teach you. Annie also shares her perspective on focus and sharpness—and how above all else it's the content that matters.

Annie Leibovitz
Teaches Photography
Annie brings you into her studio and onto her shoots to teach you everything she knows about portraiture and telling stories through images.
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The Art Of The Photo

Annie Leibovitz was the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone and the last person to take a portrait of John Lennon. In her first online photography class, Annie shows us that what makes a picture stunning isn’t the gear or technology—it’s the story. Annie teaches you her philosophy: how to develop concepts, work with subjects, shoot with natural light, and bring images to life in post-production. See the world through her eyes.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

never thought of taking pictures could be an art of philosophy. the lesson i have learned is that the pictures should have or could tell some stories that moves the viewers and have some sort of resonance between.

I think the most valuable lessons in this materclass was just to listen to Annie’s experience and process. A lot of information can be learned from that alone. And that’s essentially how photography works: Observing other people’s work and understanding their process, helps to formulate a personal foundation from which you can build your own work.

The class has taught me a great deal about photography composition as well as what it means to be an artist using photography

Wow, by being part of Annie’s journey thru the different classes in a way it’s validated my journey, made me appreciate the opportunity I have to photography people, whilst learning and perfecting my craft.


A fellow student

This class is very disappointing As an architect I know how important is the conceptual side of arts, but I also know the importance of the technical side of your tools. I hoped that at least one of the lessons would give a basic idea of how to use a camera. In this lesson Annie mentioning technical terms as if we already learnt and understand them. In general this class is disappointing as it doesn't even seem she teaches us, it's more like a very regular Netflix documentary.

Renee M.

I loved this lesson. Sharpness is something (as a new photographer) I have been spending time thinking and reading about. It made me feel good to know that other photographers are having the same thoughts with digital.

Paul C.

Here's another one I had fun playing with the DOF. Notice how JUST the anther of the flower is in focus...

Paul C.

I liked the lesson, though I have not done the blind assignment yet. I have done blind photos before, and have one that is totally blurry of my friend and her family members, but I still like it. For me, I'm opposite from Annie in that I enjoy playing with depth of field, and have done so since using an original Polaroid Land camera when I was a boy. One of my favorites is attached, and I like how you can see the gradual focus change which sets it apart from fake Bokeh.

Graeme R.

Content is absolutely paramount. I love much of Annie Leibovitz's work, but it's clear from listening to her that she is profoundly ignorant of photographic technology. So many technically proficient photographers produce boring, empty work, devoid of ideas and emotion.

Graeme R.

Kodak did not discontinue manufacturing Kodachrome until 2009, not the 1970's as Annie stated.

A fellow student

when a photographer erase herself out of a picture, she erase a point of view out of it. It gives a picture less of a voice. It becomes a thing that is not a photograph. Regarding focus, it is a complicated topic to discuss here. My first AC is in charge of focusing, it had made me mad when I take still pictures, because that magic of the actors are always carry with them a sharp image is gone and I was left feeling powerless like I am trying to touch that flower in the mirror.

Mandy C.

The photos from the blindfolded shoot feel more intimate than any i have taken. The angles have so much memory, as though it’s the perspective of a baby whose environment is imposed on her. Or the views that we don't notice when we're lying on the couch staring off into space.

Vincent M.

I often take and buy old magazines at garage sales and flea markets. Its away of looking at print work of yesterday and seeing the light and sharpness variances of today's print work. I do here other photographers complain about sharpness to a point where they will actually throw away the image because of the lack of sharpness. I don't use the DOF on my camera (I probably should) but I find that I tend to use the f/stop as my DOF starting point and then move the subject from the background to achieve what I am looking for in the final image. Editing is so much more creative then the darkroom but the editing software's that are out there are based on the darkroom techniques of the day. This was taken many years ago and was one a few attempts at print work. I still like it.

Jim C.

I felt really connected and heartened by this lesson. I like that she is about the image and not the technical side. I feel the same way. If it’s shot on a cell or a Canon. If the subject, composition, etc. is good, then it’s good. I understand DOF, but never really ever used the feature on any camera. Just made things look dark in the viewfinder to me. Autofocus was the greatest miracle for someone that doesn’t see well. And when one is shooting photojournalism, then only basic things one could do in a darkroom are allowed. Couldn’t take yourself or anyone else out of an image other than by cropping.