Fundamentals of Photography

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Photo Class Ever I am so sad that this course is over! It was by far the best photography course I’ve ever had! The instruction was so helpful and easy to follow; Joel was humble and interesting and despite his being a world class photographer for THE National Geographic he never flaunted his expertise but rather makes the student feel he’s always still learning along with us. I loved that there was far more about how to think about your picture before you begin and what you want to convey with your picture than just a run on lecture on ISOs and f stops. His instruction is timeless and I loved how at the end he conveyed the importance of a photo essay as I have been creating “year books” of our family for 42 years now which began in 1978 as a newlywed with a Christmas photo and a paragraph, and has morphed, as technology has evolved, into full 50+ page photo books trying to capture each year for posterity. When I was a young girl my parents had National Geographics around and they are every bit as interesting and exciting today as they were then. Thank you, Joel, for helping us see the world through your eyes and learn through your experience!
Date published: 2021-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So worth your time! I have always loved photography and taking pictures but never had any education on the particulars. This course started with easily understood basics and took you all the way through professional photography tips. I learned about things on my camera I never knew. I learned how to take better shots. Totally awesome course. Thank you Joel!
Date published: 2021-02-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too repetitive! Photos a little old and tired! I bought this course a few weeks ago. Although I’m not new to photography I still have much to learn. The first 10 sessions were quite engaging and I did learn a fair amount. As I progressed through the programme, I found the content too repetitive and I lost interest. However, the worst criticism I have is that I think that the photos shown as examples seemed very old and tired. There were too many examples containing his family and many were similar in nature. Where were gritty, vibrant street photographs? Many of the photographs I would have discarded as being dull and poorly composed. Sorry but I expected better.
Date published: 2021-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nice photos; pedagogy could use work Joel is a great photographer. He knows his stuff and is honestly trying to pass that on. However, I think the course would benefit from more planning and scripting. There are too many times when terms are introduced without proper definition. If you don't already have some background in the topic, I think you could easily feel lost. There are also too many times when he wanders away from his main topic of the session in ways that aren't helpful.
Date published: 2021-01-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I learned so much about light, it has changed how I view light, use it, what time of day is great. It wasn't as technical as I wouldn't liked, but I dont think that is what he intended
Date published: 2021-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses I've ever taken This course really worked for me. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the homework. All good stuff!
Date published: 2021-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Joel Sartore Fundamentals of Photography Course Excellent overview of many aspects of photography. You'll learn about techniques, camera settings, shooting in different situations and view many sample photos from Joel's work. The one thing that stands out is how Joel teaches you to put your heart and soul into photography. He talks about the the emotional side of photography, how to tell a story and how to interact with others. Joel will show you that some blur is good and how to be creative with every photo. Thanks Joel for these amazing lectures.
Date published: 2021-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect introduction to photography Easy to understand, and lots of practical skills to learn.
Date published: 2020-12-15
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Fundamentals of Photography
Course Trailer
Making Great Pictures
1: 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
2: 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
3: 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
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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
8: 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
9: 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
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

About Joel Sartore

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.

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