Great Set of DVDs: Joel Sartore’s Fundamentals of Photography

Fundamentals of Photography

I finally found an excellent series of photography lessons on video to complement my book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies, and it is by Joel Sartore, a first class photographer who does a lot of work for National Geographic. He does stunning photography in amazing situations all over the world. You can see some of his work in the galleries at his web site.

You can buy Joel Sartore’s Fundamentals of Photography via Ignore the “This item is not available for purchase from this store” message and click the “Buy at button”. You can also find it at The Great Courses. The lessons on this DVD are a great way to visually reinforce and build on the information in my book.

Sartore presents 24 lessons that are each 30 minutes long. The topics parallel very well the contents of my book. He begins with lessons on exposure, depth of field, and light. My books begins with chapters on exposure, depth of field, and light. Sartore has lessons on landscapes, people photography, and wildlife. I have chapters on people photography, landscapes, and wildlife. Sartore’s “advanced topics” include macro (close-up) photography and low light photography. My “special situations” include close-up photography and low-light photography.

We give emphasis to different topics. For example, I provide a lot more detailed information on exposure, depth of field, the use of flash, including how to do manual flash. Sartore covers these topics in much less detail. He recommends manual flash but doesn’t tell you how to do manual flash. On the other hand, Sartore does a whole lesson on equipment and I only do part of a chapter. Sartore does three whole lessons on light which I cover in just one chapter. We cover the same basic information on light but Sartore does it in a lot more detail and with a lot more photographs. There is also some information I cover in great detail that Sartore touches on lightly or not at all.

Taken together, my book and his videos complement each other quite nicely. I recommend reading my book first, or at least the first 10 chapters. Then Sartore’s video lessons will emphasize and reinforce what you just read.

Each lesson consists of Sartore standing next to a large screen TV. As he makes his presentation, photos that illustrate his points are on the TV. The video cuts to full screen versions of the photos so you can see them better.

You also get a 150 page guide book with the information from the videos.

The lessons include plenty of Sartore’s National Geographic images. It is a visual feast. But some of the photos that illustrate photographic principles are fairly pedestrian. To illustrate how depth of field changes with aperture settings, he shows a series of photos of one of his children in a living room. As he goes from wider to smaller apertures, the wall behind his daughter gets sharper and sharper. I’ve been to enough photography classes and workshops to understand the need for presenters to take a series of illustrations in a controlled setting. I’ve done that myself.

Actually, this should be encouraging. It is nice to know that a first class photographer takes ordinary photos. Sartore is quite modest about his own work, and he says less than one tenth of one percent of his photos ever gets in print. That’s less than 1 out of 1,000.

Out in the field when a bit of wonderful light happens for only a few seconds, the key is to get the shot, rather than miss the shot by taking pictures for a photo class to show how NOT to photograph the scene. And Sartore shows you plenty of these magic moments when everything comes together to create a great photograph. When I grow up, I would like to take photos like Sartore.

Joel Sartore, Fundamentals of Photography

Joel Sartore, Fundamentals of Photography. Same set but in the older burgundy case.

When I bought my copy, the DVD case had a burgundy cover. If you find a set in the burgundy cover at a great price don’t hesitate to buy it. The contents are the same as in the National Geographic cover.


Fundamentals of Photography sells at The Great Courses site for as much as $250 to as little as $70, but you can sometimes find it via Amazon’s 3rd party sellers for less. Just go to this page in my photography store and click on the “Buy at Amazon” button. Your order through Amazon is protected by Amazon’s great guarantee. But these prices do fluctuate a lot and the Amazon price can range from great to scary high so buy wherever you can get the best price.

This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.

You can order Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies here, and learn more here.