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Online Class

Fundamentals of Photography

by The Great Courses

Go beyond "point and click" and start thinking like a photographer! Explore fundamental concepts such as composition and light as you learn to create unforgettable images.

What You Get

  • 24 Streaming HD video lessons with anytime, anywhere access
  • Downloadable class resources, including a 167-page course guidebook
  • Hours of close-up instruction
  • Closed captioning available (web only)
  • Answers from fellow classmates in our virtual classroom


When many of us take photographs, we simply point our cameras and click. In reality, taking great photographs means viewing the world like a photographer and using the same fundamental techniques the experts employ. Join Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer with more than 30 years of experience, and learn the essential skills you need to capture great photographs every day. During class, Joel will guide you through essential camera settings including focal length and shutter speed and teach you how to make the most of a variety of types of light. Then, you'll discover the steps to beautiful photo composition as you explore skills for framing, finding the perfect background, capturing the right perspective and more. Want to be ready to shoot in any setting? Joel will walk you through capturing a variety of situations, from landscapes to birds in your backyard to people at parties. Plus, you'll get great tips to help with your editing workflow after shooting!

Lesson Breakdown

1. Making Great Pictures
What makes a photograph iconic? What three things must every picture have to stand out from any old snapshot? Joel Sartore starts class with these two core questions. He'll also show you that a great picture doesn't rely on equipment. Instead, it starts with the ability to take in your surroundings and think critically about them.
2. Camera Equipment: What You Need
3. Lenses & Focal Length
4. Shutter Speeds
5. Aperture & Depth of Field
6. Light I: Found or Ambient Light
7. Light II: Color & Intensity
8. Light III: Introduced Light
9. Composition I: Seeing Well
10. Composition II: Background & Perspective
11. Composition III: Framing & Layering
12. Let's Go to Work: Landscapes
13. Let's Go to Work: Wildlife
14. Let's Go to Work: People & Relationships
15. Let's Go to Work: Mundane to Extraordinary
16. Let's Go to Work: Special Occasions
17. Let's Go to Work: Family Vacations
18. Advanced Topics: Research & Preparation
19. Advanced Topics: Macro Photography
20. Advanced Topics: Low Light
21. Advanced Topics: Problem Solving
22. After the Snap: Workflow & Organization
23. Editing: Choosing the Right Image
24. Telling a Story: The Photo Essay

Recommended with this class

  • Digital or film camera

Taught by

Joel Sartore
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. Recently, Joel was named a National Geographic Fellow for his work on The Photo Ark, a multi-year project documenting the world's biodiversity. In addition to his work for National Geographic, he has contributed to a variety of widely read publications, including Time, Life, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated. A noted author and worldwide lecturer on photography, Joel has written several books that highlight his craft and work, including RARE: Portraits of America's Endangered Species.