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Lenspiration Membership (online photography training) Review by Lori Hooten

James Staddon

Elective courses for middle school and high school students are needed, especially for specialty topics like photography. James Staddon, a professional photographer who shoots landscape, event, and portrait photography, created Lenspiration to fill a need for students to get hands-on training in several types of photography. The Lenspiration Membership gives the student access to written, video, and live-stream training on assorted topics. Access to the site can be month-to-month or an annual charge. 

The Lenspiration Membership includes access to all the training courses and videos. It consists of a monthly challenge with the ability to be paid if submitting the winning photo and access to all photography coaching webinars. Access to several databases, including Pro Posing, the Landscape Locations Guide, and the Wallpapers Collection, are included with no restrictions. There is a steep discount for personal coaching and purchases in the Lenspiration store. One membership allows access for the entire family so everyone can become a better photographer. 

There are three main parts to the Lenspiration website for photography training. First is the Photography Program. It includes all the recorded and written training on the site and is guided with available workbooks that can be downloaded for free. The photography training, including the Photography Program, builds the student's knowledge from the ground up, beginning with getting to know the camera equipment in hand. From there, the training includes each of the settings and how it affects photographs. Other topics included experimenting with what you have, organizing and sharing photos, earning money, and additional advanced topics. It is comprehensive training. 

These training topics can be covered linearly, following the workbooks, the road map in the membership, or by picking and choosing the ones most relevant or of current interest. The training is a combination of video, written, or both. There is a lot there, and it can be daunting to figure out where to begin. The workbooks and the road map can assist here, however.

The Foundations of Photography course is a part of this program. It included a lot of written, highly factual information but was challenging to read. At the end of each training section, there is a quiz that requires 75% to pass. The questions are easy enough to get through most of the time, and you can move on. However, if it includes a fill-in-the-blank question, the answers require exact wording from the written material. This becomes difficult.

The video instruction is somewhat rough a lot of the time. It appears clear that the instructor is a photographer, not a videographer. Sometimes the video bumps around, or the speaker leans in while talking, and only his forehead is visible. However, it is clear that he is passionate about the information he is sharing. This is fine, but it makes learning from many of the videos challenging to learn from. Having the written information for the topic is quite helpful in these cases. Not only does this allow one to skip the video and just read, but it allows students who learn in different ways to have access to the same information.

The second main feature of the membership is the ability to participate in photo challenges set by actual companies looking for photos for their business. Anyone can submit photos and have their photo chosen as the winner, but those with a membership have the opportunity to be paid if their photo is the winning submission. The challenges are posted on the website monthly with the details of what is needed. There is also a training video or post about how to shoot the challenge. 

The third main feature of the Lenspiration membership and website is the live photo coaching. These sessions are webinars; Mr. Staddon evaluates recent assignment photos and provides feedback to improve students' ability and understanding. Students are getting feedback and constructive criticism from a professional photographer without the cost. These sessions are appropriate for photographers of any age. Past photo coaching webinars are available at no cost to those with a Lenspiration membership.

The membership to Lenspiration offers many appealing pieces of training and lots of options for those who have varied interests. Unfortunately, the site is slow to load, and thus it takes a good bit of patience at times. There is also a lot of clicking needed to get to some of the parts of the membership site. However, the answers to questions about the membership are clear and easy to access if you are looking for more information. 

Lenspiration Membership gives much bang for the buck, and getting training and feedback from a professional is unbeatable. If photography is on the books for an elective, this membership site should be considered. 

-Product review by Lori Hooten, The Old Schoolhouse®, September 2021