What Are the Fundamentals of Photography?

From a lecture series resented by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

For most of us, our best photographs were a result of luck and a little bit of … more luck. We happened to hit the right angle, captured the perfect expression, or got the light just right by accident. But as the experts can tell you, you can maximize your chances of getting that perfect shot by learning the fundamentals of photography.

image of woman with camera taking picture for fundamentals of photography article

No matter what photography is to you—a lifestyle, a passion, a hobby, a way to capture memories and tell stories, or simply a means to show off on Instagram or Snapchat—there are a multitude of benefits for mastering fundamentals of photography.

  • Picture-perfect photos. You’ll discover how to capture *THAT* shot—the one picture perfect moment that happens in a split second and that you’ll never get again—with purpose and intention, not by a fluke.
  • Adapt to any camera. No matter what kind of camera you use – even if it’s your camera phone — you can learn to maximize the quality of shots you get so they look like you were using professional-quality equipment.
  • Perfect photojournalism. [https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/films/title/ng-live-ed-kashi-photojournalisms] Learning how to tell a story with your photos means no one has to sit through 400 slides of Mount Rushmore from different angles again.
  • Make the most of your money. The market for photography equipment is vast and pricey. Discover which tools are essential [https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/fundamentals-of-photography/camera-equipmentwhat-you-need] and worth an investment, which parts you can finagle, and the plethora of items you don’t need or won’t ever use.
  • Learn a new language. Show off by throwing around f-stop, aperture, shutter speed, focal length and other photography terms like a pro. More importantly, understand what they mean and how to use them to your advantage.
  • Skills for any situation. As you learn the tips, tricks, and techniques the professionals use for their assignments, you’ll discover how to translate those skills and knowledge into everyday situations.
  • Step outside yoru comfort zone. Use the assignments to expand your repertoire by learning and experimenting with new styles and techniques you may not have known about or understood previously.
  • Look at and critique other photographs like a master. Your new skills will help you notice things you may not have considered before, such as how to use negative space in a composition, or you may gain a new appreciation for the intentional graininess of a low-light photograph.
  • Stop fiddling with the buttons. Discover how to get your camera set up as you want it, well before you frame your photograph, so you can concentrate on taking the right picture as soon as it happens.
  • Love what you do. Turn your passive hobby into a passionate lifestyle.

You may be surprised to find out that, even if you are not a photographer in any capacity, studying with the master photographers of National Geographic can help you develop your artistic eye. You’ll learn to look at the world around you differently. It can help you to improve other art forms such as painting or drawing, or just better frame a scene in your mind to make it a more magical memory.

You can learn more about Photography when you start your Free Trial of The Great Courses Plus.
Check out Fundamentals of Photography by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore, or The National Geographic Guide to Landscape and Wildlife Photography by Michael Melford and Tim Laman, or prepare for your next trip with The Fundamentals of Travel Photography by National Geographic Photographer Bob Krist.