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Learn Photography: Annie Leibovitz MasterClass Review

Check out our honest review of Annie Leibovitz’s Photography MasterClass and decide whether this is the right course for you.

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Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography: Our Verdict (2024)


4.6 / 5

Annie Leibovitz’s Photography MasterClass provides a unique look at the work and approach of one of the world’s most respected photographers. The course combines one-on-one lessons, case studies, and student sessions, and it’s ideal for aspiring portrait photographers and admirers of Annie Leibovitz’s work.


  • Learning from an iconic photographer
  • Immersive lessons
  • Case studies and student sessions
  • Assignments


  • Lack of technical information

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Without a doubt, Annie Leibovitz is responsible for some of the most fascinating portrait photographs I’ve ever seen.

Annie’s artistic journey is extraordinary as well. With a career spanning over 50 years, she worked with some of the biggest publications such as Rolling Stone and Vogue, photographing artists like John Lennon, Meryl Streep, and Michael Jackson.

Needless to say, taking her MasterClass felt like a huge privilege.

But how much did I actually learn, and who will benefit the most from her lessons?

In this honest review, I’ll tell you everything about my learning experience so you can decide whether Annie’s course is something you’re looking for.

Table of Contents

What is the Annie Leibovitz MasterClass?

Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a popular learning platform known for its team of expert instructors. It’s taught by one of America’s best portrait photographers, Annie Leibovitz.

Best known for her work for magazines like Vogue, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, Annie Leibovitz had a chance to work with some of the biggest stars in pop culture, the music industry, and politics. Her photographs are recognizable by bold colors, interesting concepts, and unusual poses, which makes them impactful and memorable.

In her MasterClass, Leibovitz explains the process and ideas behind some of her famous photographs and talks about creating concepts, working with subjects, and her life as a professional portrait photographer.

By sharing her experiences and honest advice, she teaches how to tell stories through images.

The course contains 15 video lessons with a duration of 3 hours and 4 minutes.

Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz

Who is Annie Leibovitz?

Annie Leibovitz is considered to be one of the world’s most esteemed photographers.

She began working as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone in 1970 while she was still studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1973, she became Rolling Stone’s chief photographer, and ten years later, she joined Vanity Fair.

Leibovitz is also widely known for her Vogue covers. She started working regularly for Vogue in 1998, and in addition to her editorial work at Vogue and Vanity Fair, she created influential advertising campaigns and contributed to various projects.

Thanks to her hard work and unique vision, she received many honors and awards, including the International Centre of Photography’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities.

Who is Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass for?

In short, Annie’s online course is best for photographers who want to discover more about her iconic photographs and the artistic process behind them.

Annie tells many stories from her rich career, but she also points out what she learned through those experiences. She provides tips and advice that can be helpful to novices and seasoned photographers alike.

However, Annie is not a very technical photographer. She is a creative artist using photography, she says. Therefore, if you want to learn about equipment, camera settings, and other technical aspects of photography in detail, you should probably look elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the course is well-rounded and insightful, and anyone passionate about portrait photography will be able to take something out of it.

What does Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass cover?

This MasterClass primarily deals with Annie Leibovitz’s creative process and vision.

As Annie points out in the course, she is interested in the concept rather than technology. Hence, her lessons are focused on ideas, research, and learning how to see.

She also discusses some of her photoshoots and projects, such as the “Angels in America” Vogue photo shoot.

Additionally, the course includes student sessions where Annie provides feedback and advice to San Francisco Art Institute students.

In terms of content, here is what you can expect from each lesson:

  • Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Annie briefly introduces herself and the course.
  • Lesson 2 deals with portraiture and photojournalism. Annie explains what makes portrait photography so compelling for her as a medium.
  • Lesson 3 is focused on research, the development of creative concepts, and Annie’s ability to get ideas on the spot.
  • Lessons 4-5 include Annie’s views on natural lighting and shooting in the studio vs. location.
  • Lessons 6-7 show how Annie works with her subject and her team during a photoshoot. There’s a behind-the-scenes look at Annie’s “Angels in America” photoshoot for Vogue magazine.
  • Lesson 8 explores opportunities that come from photographing your family and other subjects who are close to you.
  • Lessons 9-10 deal with self-reflection and the technical side of photography.
  • Lesson 11 contains a student session where Annie talks to photography students and critiques their work.
  • Lessons 12-13 include a case study where Annie reminisces about a photo shoot with the renowned chef Alice Waters.
  • Lessons 14-15 are focused on Annie’s photographic influences and her artistic journey.

My favorite parts of Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass

Honestly, each lesson provided me with something interesting and insightful, so it’s hard to say which one I liked the best, but here are a few of my favorite chapters.

Creating concepts

Annie Leibovitz reflecting on her photoshoot experience with Robert Penn Warren
Annie Leibovitz remembering her photoshoot with Robert Penn Warren

You need to be ready to change your concept and adjust to the situation at hand. In my opinion, that’s the key takeaway of this lesson.

Annie is obviously a very spontaneous photographer who, thanks to her experience and skills, knows how to spot an opportunity to take a good photo. For instance, after meeting with the writer Robert Penn Warren, she decided to go back to his house because she felt there was something else she could capture.

One of the ways to be ready for anything is to conduct research about your subject, says Annie. This way, ideas can emulate from a person more easily.

Working with a subject

Annie Leibovitz recounting her encounter with Bruce Springsteen
Annie talking about her meeting with Bruce Springsteen

One of the most important jobs of a portrait photographer is to be able to work with a subject effectively.

Annie doesn’t believe in setting people at ease during photo shoots. The important thing is to allow people to present themselves and to realize that this photo shoot, after all, is not such a big deal.

Case study: Angels in America

This case study lesson allowed me to be a fly on the wall during one of Annie’s photo shoots for Vogue magazine. There were many familiar faces there, including Lee Pace and Andrew Garfield.

I’ve never had a chance to watch a professional photo shoot with celebrities, so it was very interesting to see how everything works and how Annie directs her subjects and her team.

A behind-the-scenes glimpse of Annie Leibovitz's photoshoot for Vogue magazine
Behind-the-scenes look at Annie’s photoshoot for Vogue

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass

Now, here are some of the main reasons why I found Annie’s MasterClass so interesting and enjoyable.

Learning from an iconic photographer

Annie Leibovitz is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic photographers I know of, and having a chance to take her lessons, even though they were virtual, felt like a privilege.

She turned out to be a good teacher – engaging, confident, and honest – and although I’m not a photographer, I’ll apply some of her advice to my own artistic ventures.

Immersive lessons

In most lessons, Annie talked about her photography by showing examples. Each time she mentioned some of her photographs, the photograph would appear on the screen, which ultimately made me feel more focused and immersed.

Case studies and student sessions

Behind-the-scenes clips, case studies, and student sessions contributed to this feeling of immersion as well. I’m always happy to see a MasterClass that provides variety in delivering content.


Another thing I liked about this course was the assignments. They were short and simple but very helpful to students and people who want to get started with portrait photography.

Drawbacks of Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass

Although I genuinely enjoyed Annie’s MasterClass, there are some elements that may be considered a downside by some learners.

Lack of technical information

As I mentioned before, Annie is not so passionate about the technical side of photography. She did mention her equipment and digital tools, but that’s far from what you would consider a helpful how-to guide.

For me, this lack of technical information and theory isn’t a downside. However, some learners might expect something else from this course.

Perhaps changing the title of the MasterClass would help avoid false expectations.

Review conclusion: Is Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass worth it?

All things considered, I think Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass is worth taking.

If you want to dive deeper into portrait photography – whether as an aspiring photographer or a curious creative – Annie’s lessons will provide you with insightful discussions, compelling case studies, and useful guidelines.

The course is not packed with technical information, though. Annie is more interested in concepts and ideas; she is a creative artist who uses portrait photography to tell stories.

If you want to learn more about editing and outdoor photography, you should check out Jimmy Chin’s Adventure Photography MasterClass. And if you’re looking for a course that will show you how to create images with different kinds of cameras (including smartphones), perhaps Tyler Mitchell’s Storytelling Through Photography MasterClass is more up your alley.

But if you’re interested in the artistic and conceptual aspects of portrait photography, Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass is a must.