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Fundamentals of Photography

Sometimes we point, shoot a picture, and get lucky. The rest of the time, we wished we knew what we were doing. This is the way how.
Fundamentals of Photography is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 818.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course This course gives you a wide view of photography with alot of explanation and examples. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in going beyond family snapshots.
Date published: 2023-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really helped me with everything about photography Happy to know more about my camera and how to use it. I’m buying a copy for both my siblings!
Date published: 2023-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Opened my eyes. I am so happy that I purchased this course. It has opened my eyes to techniques and how to preserve life in photographs.
Date published: 2023-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview to Photography This was a great overview on photography. I especially liked how Joel taught about making picture’s interesting.
Date published: 2023-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Camera and the Process of taking Good Pictures Joel made me learn my camera. I never used half the features. I have tried different things and have a greater comfort. I now have my camera with me at all outings and functions. I'm going to ask my golf league organizers if I can shoot a photo story about our golf league.
Date published: 2023-02-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fundamentals of Photography The course is interesting, however, by the time you get to lecture 11 or so it becomes repetitive. The 24 lectures could probably be reduced to about 16 - 18.
Date published: 2022-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I learned a lot about improving my techniques with lighting, aperture. I also think more about composition after watching the lectures.
Date published: 2022-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well presented A very well structured and presented guide to better photography. Each chapter covers a discrete topic with helpful verbal and visual information. Good comparisons between OK photos and really outstanding pictures.
Date published: 2022-11-18
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Get an in-depth and highly interactive tutorial on how to take better photographs, in this thorough course taught by an award-winning National Geographic photographer.


Joel Sartore

The reach of this course amazed me. People from all over the world have written to tell me their pictures are much better because of the lecture series. That's so very satisfying.


National Geographic Photographer

Joel Sartore is a professional photographer and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. His assignments have taken him to some of the world's most beautiful and challenging environments and have brought him face to face with a diversity of wildlife in all 50 U. S. states and all seven continents. He was recently named a National Geographic Fellow for his work on The Photo Ark, a multiyear project to document the world's biodiversity in studio portraits (see and His photograph of a lion in a tree was voted the best picture by National Geographic magazine in 2011, and also won him a 2012 Veolia Environment award for wildlife photography. In addition to his work for National Geographic, Mr. Sartore has contributed to some of the most prestigious and widely read publications, including Audubon Magazine, Time, Life, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. Mr. Sartore and his work have been the subject of national broadcasts such as National Geographic Explorer, NBC Nightly News, NPR's Weekend Edition, and an hour-long PBS documentary, At Close Range. He is also a regular contributor to CBS's Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. A noted author and public lecturer on photography to audiences around the world, Mr. Sartore has written several books that highlight his craft and his work. Among these are RARE: Portraits of America's Endangered Species, Photographing Your Family, and Nebraska: Under a Big Red Sky.

By This Expert

The Art of Travel Photography
National Geographic Masters of Photography
Fundamentals of Photography II
Fundamentals of Photography
Fundamentals of Photography


Making Great Pictures

01: Making Great Pictures

What makes a photograph iconic? What three things must every picture have to stand out from any old snapshot? These two questions form the core of Mr. Sartore's introduction to the course. You'll also discover that a great picture doesn't rely on equipment-but on being able to see and think critically about your surroundings.

34 min
Camera Equipment—What You Need

02: Camera Equipment—What You Need

To take a picture, you need to have good equipment. Here, get a no-nonsense guide to finding photography equipment-including cameras, tripods, and camera bags-that fits your needs. Also, take an in-depth look at a camera's controls and settings for everything from aperture to shutter speed to ISO (your film's sensitivity to light).

29 min
Lenses and Focal Length

03: Lenses and Focal Length

According to Mr. Sartore, lenses are the most critical tools of photography. In this lecture, he takes you into the field and shows you different camera lenses in action. Among them: 70-200 mm (good for blurring out distracting backgrounds), rectilinear lenses (great for photographing things with minimal distortion), and wide-angle lenses (perfect for both landscapes and for shooting subjects in t...

28 min
Shutter Speeds

04: Shutter Speeds

Your camera's shutter speed controls how much light enters the lens in a shot. Learn how to become a master at working with this critical tool of photography. You'll discover when to use fast or slow shutter speeds, study each speed's unique effects, and uncover different techniques-such as panning and ghosting-that can add great artistic touches.

32 min
Aperture and Depth of Field

05: Aperture and Depth of Field

What do numbers such as f/1.4, f/2.8, or f/16 mean? Finally make sense of your camera's aperture settings, which can help create eye-popping visual effects and solve specific compositional problems. Then examine some of Mr. Sartore's acclaimed work to see the dramatic relationship between aperture and a photograph's depth of field.

30 min
Light I-Found or Ambient Light

06: Light I-Found or Ambient Light

In this first lecture on one of the two building blocks of photography, learn how to tap into the power of ambient light, which isn't created in a studio but is found around you. Look at how you should adjust your camera to make the most of found light, and learn the best kind of ambient light to shoot in and why. Explore front lighting, hatchet lighting, and even zebra lighting.

38 min
Light II-Color and Intensity

07: Light II-Color and Intensity

Continue exploring light and photography with a look at color-both the "color" of different types of light and colors as they appear in your photographs. Then, focus on the differences between hard light and soft light, and how to adjust your camera accordingly to maximize the potential of these key photographic elements.

32 min
Light III-Introduced Light

08: Light III-Introduced Light

Mr. Sartore discusses a tricky type of light: man-made (or introduced) light. You'll learn tips for manipulating different sources of light (including firelight, car taillights, reflectors, and spotlights). Also, you'll start to see your camera's flash setting as not a pesky button but a powerful tool for creating breathtaking effects in your photography.

35 min
Composition I-Seeing Well

09: Composition I-Seeing Well

How do you truly capture the beauty of the three-dimensional world around you? The answer lies within composition-photography's second building block. In the first of three lectures on the subject, analyze a series of pictures to get a basic understanding of how framing works.

31 min
Composition II-Background and Perspective

10: Composition II-Background and Perspective

Great composition also involves paying attention to background and perspective. Here, Mr. Sartore offers you numerous tips and strategies for finding the perfect background, examining the benefits and drawbacks of particular perspectives, and avoiding compositional mistakes that can ruin the power of even the most perfectly lit photograph.

28 min
Composition III-Framing and Layering

11: Composition III-Framing and Layering

Frames. Leading lines. The eyes of your subject. Layers. Learn how paying attention to-and using-these and other compositional tools can isolate the true subject of your photo and add a strong sense of dimension.

30 min
Let's Go to Work-Landscapes

12: Let's Go to Work-Landscapes

Now start applying the information you've learned. Your first assignment: rural and urban landscapes. Some tips you'll discover include surveying the ground ahead of the prime light you want to shoot in, using wide-angle lenses and a little height to suggest grandeur, and focusing on a subject you can get repeated chances at capturing.

32 min
Let's Go to Work-Wildlife

13: Let's Go to Work-Wildlife

Explore techniques for photographing wildlife, whether it's birds in your backyard or lions on a safari. Learn how to set up a blind to conceal you from your subject, where to find the best places to photograph flora and fauna, common mistakes that wildlife photographers should avoid, and more.

35 min
Let's Go to Work-People and Relationships

14: Let's Go to Work-People and Relationships

Using touching photographs of family and friends, Mr. Sartore demonstrates how to use your camera to best capture joy, sadness, anger, and other emotions-without interfering with your subject's behavior.

31 min
Let's Go to Work-From Mundane to Extraordinary

15: Let's Go to Work-From Mundane to Extraordinary

A key skill for any photographer is the ability to capture the special aspects of even the most mundane subjects. Focus on developing and strengthening this talent alongside Mr. Sartore, who teaches you how to make great frames in seemingly "boring" places from hotel rooms to hog farms.

34 min
Let's Go to Work-Special Occasions

16: Let's Go to Work-Special Occasions

Special occasions come loaded with moments that beg to be captured with a camera. Taking the knowledge you've gained from previous lectures, investigate ways to anticipate and better prepare for candidly photographing the range of emotions, moods, and scenes that can be found at any wedding, party, or holiday event you attend.

34 min
Let's Go to Work-Family Vacations

17: Let's Go to Work-Family Vacations

Transform the way you think about and take photographs during vacations. How can you avoid taking the same dull pictures like other tourists? What are some good ways to capture the story behind a famous landmark? Who can you ask for help about the best places for photo opportunities in your destination?

30 min
Advanced Topics-Research and Preparation

18: Advanced Topics-Research and Preparation

Despite what you may think, researching is an important part of any well-planned photo shoot. In the first of several lectures on advanced topics in photography, learn from Mr. Sartore's own diverse shoots around the world about ways to research and prepare for photographing in more complicated situations.

32 min
Advanced Topics-Macro Photography

19: Advanced Topics-Macro Photography

Examine how to capture the remarkable (and often overlooked) beauty in miniature subjects such as insects, flowers, eyes-even a pile of money. Learn the best equipment to use, lighting techniques to capture specific features of your miniature subjects, and common mistakes to avoid (such as not getting enough depth of field).

31 min
Advanced Topics-Low Light

20: Advanced Topics-Low Light

Low light used to be the bane of Mr. Sartore's profession. Now, it's all he wants to photograph in. Learn how to take advantage of low-light situations by picking the right gear (including lenses that give you wide apertures) and techniques such as using objects to block bright spots in your frame.

27 min
Advanced Topics-Problem Solving

21: Advanced Topics-Problem Solving

In order to be a better photographer, you need to be a visual problem solver. Mr. Sartore, using his own career experiences, takes you through varying levels of difficult situations-such as shooting in Antarctica, on a snowy road, or throughout a massive city-to illustrate the importance of mastering this skill.

28 min
After the Snap-Workflow and Organization

22: After the Snap-Workflow and Organization

Regardless of whether you're shooting with film or on a digital camera, you need an effective system to organize your pictures. Here, get practical tips on everything from storing film negatives and naming your digital pictures to touching up your shots and archiving all of your work.

29 min
Editing-Choosing the Right Image

23: Editing-Choosing the Right Image

Hone your editing skills by combing through groups of images to select the ones that stand out. It takes time and practice-but once you can narrow your photographs down to the best of the best, you can sharpen your critical eye and improve the way you shoot in the future.

32 min
Telling a Story with Pictures-The Photo Essay

24: Telling a Story with Pictures-The Photo Essay

Close out the course with a fascinating look at telling stories with your photographs. Using his photo essays on Alaska's North Slope; people at Leech Lake, Minnesota; and dwindling biodiversity, Mr. Sartore leaves you with a greater appreciation of how photographers are not just observers but actual storytellers.

35 min