Digital photography courses are able to take the unpracticed amateur to the same level as the trained professional, as long as that amateur is prepared to go through the intense training which is necessary to achieve that standard. There are many amateurs who do not have the desire to reach that exalted level, but just a desire to get the best results from their camera without expending too much time. This can also be achieved, as there are both online and offline courses aimed at every level of photographer.
The first important principle you will learn on a digital photography course is that there are few fundamental differences between the techniques used in new photography and those used in the past. The way in which the camera operates at the most basic level is little changed, as the shutter still allows light into the mechanism which has been designed to capture it. It is the manipulation which is possible with digital photographs which sets them apart, and the best results will be achieved from this manipulation when the initial photograph has been taken in the most effective way. The techniques of taking effective photographs are never to be overlooked, even if you have powerful software.
You will also need to learn how to effectively manage a portfolio of your own photographs, and this does require very different techniques from managing and storing analog photographs. A digital photograph, just like any other file, needs to be cataloged with a numbering system, or file management system, to allow you to find it easily again whenever you need to. If you are taking photographs on many different subjects, the best system will be one which starts with these categories. You will also need to learn the vitally important skill of backing up your files.
The major focus of digital photography courses will be the manipulation of the images which have been taken, as it is this which separates digital technology from the previous film based era. There is now the potential for photographers to correct common errors such as red eye, which can completely ruin photographs which can never be taken again. The tool which is used for these repairs is known as Adobe Photoshop, and it is certainly not cheap software at over $500. It will, however, allow you to get the best possible results from your endeavors, as long as you can spare the time to learn to use it properly.
It is possible to use free software to carry out some limited enhancements to digital photographs, and this free software can even open Photoshop files if it has the right plug in attached. You will not have the same range of options that you would get with the paid version, but you may not need them if you are only going to be carrying out limited edits. It may also be useful to learn what you can do with the free software before taking the step of investing in anything better, because then you will have a greater understanding of how effective the paid software will be.
There are many digital photography courses to be found online, and many of these can be sampled for free. They will not be as comprehensive as the paid materials, and they will certainly not show you the techniques in as great a detail as you would get from a paid offline course. They can be especially useful for absolute beginners who want to give themselves something of an edge when they go to take on more comprehensive digital photography courses.