Travel mindfully.
Pursue creatively.
Live life with intention.

Travel mindfully.
Pursue creatively.
Live life with intention.

Jimmy Chin Masterclass Review: Professional Photographers Opinion

by Tom Shu
image of a person in front of a mountain range
illustration of editors choice stamp

What We Think

The Jimmy Chin Masterclass is perfect for the professional photographer or aspiring professional photographer who wants to shadow Jimmy Chin into the field and learn from one of the best in the industry. However, it’s not the best for beginner photographers and assumes you have a basic knowledge of photography.

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PROS

  • It gives you an insightful look into how Jimmy operates and thinks in the field.
  • Provides beneficial and practical information about the editing process that would benefit photographers of all skill levels
  • Provides insights into the editorial vs. commercial photography projects at the highest of levels
  • It allows you to see the soft skills Jimmy uses in the field and will enable you to learn how to work with talent to achieve a precise shot.
  • Most importantly, it gives you access to the entire masterclass library so you can improve on other skills needed to be a professional photographer.

CONS

  • Not for beginners and assumes you already have basic knowledge of photography.
  • It does not dive very deep into any particular subject.
  • You have to buy the annual Masterclass membership, so if you don’t care for the other classes, then this doesn’t make sense.
  • Some topics are breezed over because of the time constraint. It’s unfortunate as Jimmy could have provided very good insights.

Why Trust My Opinion?

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I have been a professional travel photographer/filmmaker since 2018 and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as prAna, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Google, Visa, Airbnb, and many more.

My first short film Spirit of Matsu which is about the annual Matsu Pilgrimage in Beigang, Taiwan was also pretty successful. It went on to win the Audience Award at an international film festival based out of Glasgow, United Kingdom, and has close to 50k views on YouTube.

I’m self-taught and never took a photography or filmmaking course before getting the opportunity to work on a paid project.

However, since becoming a professional I have made it a point to continue learning as much as possible. I have invested in online photography courses as in-person workshops never worked with my schedule and I always liked the learn at your own pace potential with online classes.

From these experiences, I think I’m in a good position to provide some valuable insight into who the Jimmy Chin Masterclass is for and who it’s not for.

What to Consider Before Investing in an Online Photography Course

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Online photography courses are one of the best ways to grow your skill as a photographer from home. However, before investing in any course, including this Masterclass from Jimmy Chin, really be honest with yourself in evaluating your skill level and where you want to go as a photographer.

The reason why this is so important is that there is a huge variety of free and paid online photography courses available. Each photography course is designed for a specific audience in mind, so by doing your research beforehand you’ll get the best value for your investment whether that’s time or money.

In general, here are the types of online photography courses that you will see and where this Jimmy Chin Masterclass fits in.

On the Job Training Course

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The Jimmy Chin Masterclass fits in this category. In these types of courses, you follow the photographer into the field to see how they go about shooting a specific project. In most cases, you will get a behind the scenes take from the photographer explaining why they did things the way they did and why their thoughts behind each image.

Who are these Courses For: These types of courses are a good choice if you want to learn how a skilled photographer performs at a high level on location and in the editing room.

Beginner Photography Course

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As the name suggests, these courses are geared towards beginners so they will cover everything you need to know about photography to get started.

If you’re just starting, these courses can be very helpful as they will cover basic and more advanced camera settings in detail and will explain what situations to use them. Additionally, they will usually have dedicated lessons about the basic compositional techniques such as Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Rule of Triangles, etc.

Who Are These Courses For: These courses are a good choice if you’re just starting and are still learning the basics of photography such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Instagram Photography Course

illustration of a photo on instagram

Instagram specific photography courses will cover everything you need to know about Instagram and how to best utilize the platform to market yourself. These courses can be extremely helpful as Instagram is still one of the best ways to promote your work and break into the industry. Additionally, you will learn about the specific differences you need to consider when taking photos for Instagram, which other courses most likely will not cover.

Who Are These Courses For: These courses are a good choice if you want to learn how to best leverage Instagram’s platform to gain exposure for your work.

Specialized Courses About a Specific Topic

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These courses are all designed around a specific topic such as astrophotography, food photography, timelapse photography, etc. Since they are about a specific topic, they will dive much deeper into the topic then other courses will.

Who Are These Courses For: These courses are a good choice if there is a specific topic you want to learn about in photography.

The Jimmy Chin Masterclass

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Photography is an extremely personal endeavor. Even if two photographers shot the same location, it’s likely that they would approach shooting the location differently and would end up with a different series of images. Because it’s so personal, you will learn different things from different photographers even if they’re teaching you about the same topic.

What makes this masterclass so valuable is that you get to follow Jimmy Chin into the field and into the editing room to see how he works. Most importantly, will get behind the scenes look into the mind of Jimmy Chin which will help you understand exactly what he was thinking at that specific moment on the photoshoot or back in the editing room.

One way to think about this course is if you got the chance to have coffee with Jimmy Chin for 4 hours. Except instead of just hearing about specific project examples from his past, you get to see it in person.

With that said, the course does assume you have the basic knowledge of photography and are passionate about becoming a professional photographer in some manner so it’s not the best for beginners.

Who Is This Course For:

  • Professional/semi-professional photographers who already have experience and a portfolio of work that is looking to gain additional knowledge from a master photographer’s workflow (shooting, editing, post-processing, working with talent, etc.)
  • A photographer who already has paying clients or who understands how to get paying clients. This is an important distinction as the course does not go into depth about how to get clients.
  • Are a professional adventure or travel photographer or aspire to be one and you think you could benefit from shadowing Jimmy Chin to see how he works when he’s on location (e.g. what focal length he used and why)
  • If you want to learn the difference between commercial and editorial photography work on the level that Jimmy works at.
  • A photographer who understands that being a professional photographer is much more than just taking photos and will also take other Masterclasses to increase their business, writing, and marketing knowledge.
  • If you want to gain a better understanding of the soft skills needed to execute projects on the level Jimmy Chin does.
  • If you just love photography and want to learn from one of the best photographers in the profession.

Who Is This Course Not For:

  • If you’re a beginner photographer. This course is more of an advanced course and assumes you have the basic knowledge of photography.
  • A photographer looking for a deeper dive into a specific subject of photography as this course is more of an advanced high-level overview.
  • If you’re an aspiring professional photographer and are hoping to gain insight into how to find paying clients.
  • If you’re not interested in taking any of the other Masterclasses.
  • If you’re looking for very specific technical information from Jimmy’s photoshoots such as ISO, why he chose this aperture vs another, how many stops he underexposed, does he use bracket exposure functionality, how does he set his camera up, etc.
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A Quick Note on Masterclass

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The cost for the Masterclass Annual Pass is $180 ($15/month) and for this price, you get access to the Jimmy Chin Masterclass and the rest of the Masterclass Library.

In my opinion, this is an incredible value considering the quality of the classes and the level of expertise of each teacher. There is literally no other online course where you can take an adventure photography course from Jimmy Chin and then the next day take a business strategy class taught by the CEO of Disney, Bob Iger.

Since the focus of this article is on the Jimmy Chin Masterclass, I’m not going to get into the details of the other classes. However, if you want to see what other classes are in the Masterclass library, you can just head over to their website. Once you’re there, you can browse each class offering and you can even see detailed information about each lesson in the class.

Why This Matters for Photographers: As a professional photographer or aspiring professional photographer, what’s important to understand is that taking photos is only a very small portion of your job. What’s just as important are your business, marketing, writing, negotiation skills, and much more. This is the primary reason why I think Masterclass is such a good value. Not only can you take a course taught by Jimmy Chin, but you can also build on the other skills you need to succeed as a professional photographer.

Inside the Jimmy Chin Masterclass – Features and Benefits

screenshot of the summary page of the jimmy chin masterclass

The Jimmy Chin Masterclass is broken down into 20 different lessons for a total of 4 hours and 10 minutes. Like all the other classes, you also get access to a downloadable workbook. The workbook is a nice companion resource as it summarizes each lesson, digs a little deeper into what was covered in the lesson, gives you specific exercises you can do to improve, and provides links to other related resources. 

With that said, I do think they relied too heavily on the workbook as many of the useful details are only found here. It would have been nice if Jimmy Chin had covered some of this information in his class too, but I understand there was a time constraint.

Overall, here are the lessons that I found most useful and practical for both professional photographers and aspiring professional photographers.

Chapter 1: On Location – Climbing Photoshoot

screenshot of chapter 1 of the course. image is of a mountain range

In this first lesson, you follow Jimmy Chin into the field as he photographs Conrad Anker on a climb with Grand Teton National Park as the backdrop. You will get a behind the scenes look into how Jimmy captures Conrad while he is climbing on a wall and what he is thinking while he is taking the photos. Most importantly, you will see how Jimmy communicates with Conrad to set Conrad up in the perfect position for each frame. 

Why It’s Useful: You are literally on the job shadowing Jimmy Chin on a professional photoshoot and can gain an understanding of what he is thinking while executing each photo.

Chapter 2: On Location – Portraits and Natural Light

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As the sun sets under the mountains, you follow Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker to the top of the wall they are climbing for a portrait session in the soft natural light. You will get a behind the scenes look into how Jimmy takes portrait photos and what he is thinking as he executes each shot. 


Why It’s Useful: You are job shadowing Jimmy Chin and can gain an understanding of how he works with natural light and what he is thinking while composing portrait shots.

Chapter 4: Principles of Narrative – Concept, Research, and Pitch

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In Chapters 4 and 5 you start to learn about what it’s like to shoot an editorial project and Jimmy uses his Yosemite editorial story with National Geographic as the example. You will learn that for an editorial project, there are 4 primary steps in the process:

  • Concepting and research the idea
  • Pitch the idea
  • Shoot the story
  • Edit the story

In Chapter 4, you will cover the first two steps in the process.

Why It’s Useful: This chapter gives you a much deeper understanding of how much preparation and research it takes to work with a prestigious magazine like National Geographic.

Chapter 5: Principles of Narrative – The Shoot and the Edit

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Continuing the Yosemite project example from chapter 4, in chapter 5 you will cover the next two steps in the editorial process which are shooting and editing the story. To give you a better understanding of the level of photographic excellence that National Geographic operates at, Jimmy dives deeper into the editing process in which they have to whittle 35,000 – 40,000 images into a final set of 15-20 images.

Why It’s Useful: It gives you a much deeper understanding of how much effort and decision making goes into selecting images to include in an issue of National Geographic Magazine. 

Chapter 7: Commercial Work – Pitching and Working with Clients

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In this lesson, Jimmy Chin will introduce you to what commercial photography is all about and what a commercial pitch might look like. The most important part of this chapter is that you will learn what makes commercial photography different from editorial work and the pros and cons of each type of project.

Why It’s Useful: As a professional photographer you will have to pitch a project at some point in your career. Before making your pitch, it’s important to understand the differences between a commercial project vs an editorial project and tailor your pitch accordingly.

Chapter 8: Commercial Case Study – Canon Shoot

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To add on to Chapter 7, in this lesson, Jimmy walks you through a commercial project he worked on with Canon that he had to quickly organize, execute, and deliver images for in a short time frame. The best part is that you get a behind the scenes look into how he planned and shot this expedition to the Waddington Range in southwestern British Columbia.

Why It’s Useful: This case study gives you an insightful understanding of what it takes to organize, execute, and lead a commercial photography expedition. Additionally, you will gain useful knowledge into how to best scout out a location for a commercial photoshoot.

Chapter 13: Editing

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Chapter 13 is one of the most important chapters in the entire course. In this lesson, Jimmy Chin walks you through his entire editing process and gives you his framework to use with your photos. In doing so, you will learn just how critical you have to be with each of your photos how much detail goes into selecting each final image to send to a client.

Why It’s Useful: Most photographers (including myself) are not critical enough of their photos. You will learn that to be the best photographer you can be, you have to take emotions out of the editing process and finely comb through each image to select the very best ones.

Chapter 19: Jimmy’s Story

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Chapter 19 is all about Jimmy’s story and how he got started in photography. It’s a fun, inspirational, and humble story that all photographers would benefit from hearing. Most importantly, it shows you just how many paths you can take in both life and photography.

Why It’s Useful: Photography is a difficult and mysterious profession to break into. Unlike working in the corporate world, there isn’t a specific blueprint you can just follow to break into the industry. Each professional photographer’s journey is different and I think the story of Jimmy’s journey will resonate and inspire many of you.

Conclusion

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After going through the entire course and spending just over 4 hours with Jimmy Chin, I can honestly say that I gained many insights (especially his editing system) which I plan to implement into my photography workflow right away. Additionally, I now have a much better understanding of what it takes to work on an editorial or commercial project at the level Jimmy Chin does.

Most importantly, since the Jimmy Chin course is just a part of the entire Masterclass Library, I am also able to take classes to improve on the business, marketing, writing, and negotiation skills that are needed to be a well rounded professional photographer.

Yes, this course isn’t the best for beginners and, unfortunately, some topics are glossed over. However, for the $180 annual Masterclass membership cost, it’s a worthwhile investment especially if you’re serious about photography.

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