Book Review: Fundamentals of Photography

Photography is such an expansive subject and it’s quite impossible to cover everything in a single book. Some books focus on very specific topics, but contain in-depth information. Other books are broad, but just skim the surface. Regardless of the style, many informational photography books drone on page after page, leaving the reader in a haze of technobabble and jargon.

I received a copy of the Fundamentals of Photography by Tom Ang, and I must admit that I was skeptical of the book before I opened it. I assumed it would be one of those “talk about everything” books with a very shallow offering of knowledge. I was wrong.

I don’t know how he did it, but Tom Ang managed to pack an incredible amount of information into this small handbook. Not only is the information valuable, it’s extremely concise and well laid out. The book would be great as a front-to-back read or as a reference book for the occasional information search. Oh, and it covers both film and digital photography!

Be sure to read on, we’re giving away a couple copies of the book for free.

Fundamentals of Photography (ISBN 978-0375711572) can be purchased directly from the publisher or through


Fundamentals of Photography, the Essential Handbook for Both Digital and Film Cameras, by Tom Ang is 352 pages long with a soft cover. The book contains 11 chapters filled with information and sample photos to demonstrate the topics covered. The chapters include a General Introduction, Fundamentals of Light, The Camera, Capturing Light, Using the Lens, Manipulating Light, Working with Color, Processing the Image, Digitizing the Image, Outputting the Image, and References.

Each chapter is broken up into bite-sized sections covering a very specific topic (as the sample above shows). Most of the sections span two pages (across the fold), so the topic can be studied without flipping through page after page — it’s all right there in front of your eyes. Certain sections are also marked as “advanced topics” aimed at the photographers with some amount of learning under their belt. And finally, there are a couple of “Analysis” sections in some of the chapters that present a full image across the two pages with many notes pointing out things that were talked about in previous sections of the chapter — kind of a “hands-on” lesson.

The really cool thing about this book is the fact that it presents material for both digital and film photography. In some cases, similar concepts between the two mediums will be in high contrast. In other cases, the same exact concepts apply to both. This type of content is useful for those wanting to explore the medium they’re not familiar with. It’s also useful as a digital photographer to understand film concepts and how those concepts have transcended into digital.

For me, the book showed up at a great time (I just got my darkroom set up and running), and I found myself reading heavily into the darkroom sections along with the deeply technical subject of film in general.


Tom Ang is a seasoned photographer and educator, not to mention an avid writer with nearly 20 books published. His work has been exhibited internationally, and for 12 years he was a Senior Lecturer in Photographic Practice at the University of Westminster, London. He was also the presenter for two six-part BBC programs on digital photography.

You can find Tom on the web at his main website and his photography blog. This man has a wealth of knowledge, and I’d suggest you check out his blog articles and any of his books.


Knopf Publishing Group is giving away two free copies of the book. All you have to do is leave a comment and let us know you’d like one of them. In one week (December 1, 2008), I’ll choose two random entries and we’ll send the books along.

If you don’t see your comment show up immediately, it probably just needs to be moderated. If you don’t see it show up after two days, it probably got attacked by the spam filter. If you want to be sure it doesn’t get eaten, just include the word “fundamental” in your comment and I’ll search the spam box for that word.

UPDATE: The winners have been chosen!


I like it, definitely. I’m not typically a fan of photography-information books because it’s not usually done well, but I like this one. My main reason for liking the book is because it gets to the point and doesn’t fool around — very concise layout. The other reason I like it is because of the diversity of the subject matter (film, digital, illustrations, examples, technical, non-technical, etc). The book is easy enough for a beginner, but interesting and useful enough for advanced photographers.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about the book. Some people might not like the soft-cover, but I think it suits this book just fine (plus it helps keep the price to a ridiculously low number). I could complain that it doesn’t go to extreme depths on every topic presented, but that would defeat the purpose of the book (plus it would be really boring).

I would definitely recommend the book to beginners wanting to jump-start their education. I’d also recommend it to the more advanced photographers as a reference. And if you’re interested in learning the ropes of film photography, this book is a good start.

Fundamentals of Photography (ISBN 978-0375711572) can be purchased directly from the publisher or through

68 thoughts on “Book Review: Fundamentals of Photography

  1. Neil Creek

    Great review Brian, and it sounds like a fascinating book. One which I’d love to have a copy of :) So please count my fundamental interest in your givaway ;)

  2. Mike

    Great review, and it is exactly what my sister in law needs now that’s she starting photography with an SLR: the fundamentals!
    She’s a great artist, and would probably already get some good stuff out of her camera, but with a little fundamental knowledge, you can get soo much more out of a camera.

  3. Bridget

    This book would help me a lot. I LOVE taking photographs but am self taught so would love to learn the Fundamentals of Photography.
    11 chapters filled with information and sample photos to demonstrate the topics covered sounds PERFECT.

  4. David

    I’d be definately interested in a book like this. Sounds like its got a little bit for anyone regardless of experience.

  5. Ernie

    Ang has proven to be a master at writing about the fundamentals, advanced techniques, and philosophy (Tao of Photography) of photography. I am looking forward to having this new work.

  6. Jody

    I would sooo love to have a copy of this book as I am so desperately trying to learn how to be Great at taking photo’s. This looks like it would be a great resourse book!

  7. the_wolf_brigade

    I don’t think it’s ever possible to read enough about the fundumentals of photography. While I may know most of the basics, a book purely on the fundumental aspects would be a welcome addition to my library.

    I guess I should go a and read about what exactly fundumental means….

  8. Bill

    I’ve always thought that Tom Ang’s books were some of the best available, so I’m delighted to hear of a new one. Please put my name in the hat for a copy.

  9. Jeff

    I have a read several of Tom Ang’s books and I look forward to reading this one as well. Sign me up for the give away.

  10. Mary Ann

    Hey, Brian, love to have a copy. Thanks for all the tips and thoughtful commentary. I’m a relative newbie to DSLRs, and really appreciate your help.


  11. nolanstern

    I think this book would be great for any photographer who wants to learn beginner and advanced techniques.

    Please put my name in for the giveaway of this book…Thanks.

  12. Argos

    Would it be possible to post the table of contents (this isn’t on Amazon)? I’d like a copy, but want to see how it differs from other “fundamentals” books.

  13. Jonah

    Hey Brian,
    Great review. Been looking for something a little more concise than your typical book, sounds like this may be it. Would love a free copy, but plan on checking it out either way. Oh and fundamental.

  14. Scott Coulter

    Sounds like a great resource for a younger/beginning photographer to learn
    those fundamental aspects of the craft. I know a teenager I’d love to pass this
    along to (after browsing through it myself!).


  15. Lucus Crawford

    This book sounds like an excellent resource, I would love to get a copy and it would be a great birthday surprise to get one free on my birthday (the draw date is my birthday). ;-)

    oh ya I’m suppose to include fundamental in my comment.

  16. Kimberly

    I’d love to have a copy of the Fundamentals of Photography book. I’ve added it to my Amazon wish list, though, as Plan B if I don’t win.

  17. DaveB

    Thanks for the great review. I’m always looking to learn more, I’d love the opportunity to have this book!

  18. Daniel Yee

    haha…it’s funny reading how previous commenters are trying to use the word fundamental in their comments =)

    This looks like it’s a really good fundamental reference for photographers. I would love to be able to add this to my library.

  19. steve dunsmoor

    I would think this could make my appreciation of Tom’s photography fundamentally greater than it already is! Fundamentally speaking of course.

    I agree you should see if other publishers want in. Fundamentally of course.

  20. D. Travis North

    I have another of Ang’s books, the “Digital Photographer’s Handbook”. As you pointed out, his writing style is very to-the-point – he doesn’t mess around explaining theory (except in some sidebars). My learning style is that I need to learn how to accomplish something before I learn the theory about it. The theory, of course, helps me to properly utilize the techniques, but I like to know how before I know the why. I would recommend ‘Digital Photographer’s Handbook’ to anyone of almost any skill level. As such, I have had an eye on ‘Fundamentals of Photography’ for a little while. I would definitely be interested in getting a copy of the book.

    – Travis

    PS – I typed in my postal address on the “Mail” line. I think I need to wake up.

  21. Rebecca Reid

    I’m a reader with a budding interest in photography, thanks to my husband’s huge interest. But I need some guidance of the basics, so this books sounds fundamentally interesting to me… I’d love to be entered in the contest for a copy!

  22. Andree

    Wow! I think this book would really give me a helping hand and I would love to receive a copy! I have been using my Canon S5IS but am not progressing even in manual mode – the quality (light) is not what I am looking to achieve….is it me or is it the camera ? Help ! Thanks for a GREAT site to visit.

  23. Emil Sit

    One can never be too well-versed in the fundamental concepts of any field. I’d love a chance to read the book and would be happy to write up review on my blog too.

  24. Rick Grant

    I’d also recommend the Digital Photographer’s Handbook in addition to Ang’s Fundamental’s of Photography. He is a rare writer and a photographer’s inspiration. You can be sure that if I don’t win a copy, I’ll be buying one.

  25. Jordan Boesch

    I would love this book about the fundamental things in photography! Thanks for the opportunity to get this book!

    (Sorry if this comment came up twice, my computer spazzed out on me, or rather, my internet did.)

  26. Mathew Ballard

    I’m interested in a copy of the book. Like you said in your review it seems as if it would be a great reference book or a good tool to use to teach someone about photography.

  27. rchr

    Hi Brian,
    I’d also love to have a copy of the book please.

    It seems like it’s a very well written book for fundamental principles of photography.

  28. Lloyd

    The Fundamentals of Photography looks like it’d make a great text for a first year journalism program.

  29. Ada

    Hey thanks for the review of this book ‘Fundamentals of Photography’. It’s so hard to find books that are worth the expense. Put me down for the giveaway please!

  30. Robert Banghart

    I am a novice digital photographer and it sounds like this book would be fundamental in improving my skills.

  31. Clinton

    I can appreciate clear, concise writing on the fundamental principles of photography. As a person that is just learning the basics, this book looks great. You wrote an excellent review.

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