Tom Ang’s Fundamentals of Photography is aptly subtitled “the essential handbook for both digital and film cameras.” As a very amateur photographer, I was fascinated by the technical explanations for photography: how cameras work, how light is best captured, and how to process photographs appealingly. While I will never again photograph using film cameras, I was likewise fascinated to learn the technical aspects of film photography. For, just as Tom Ang seamlessly wove both film and digital photography together throughout his handbook, understanding how film photography works should be seamlessly tied to understanding the tools available to a digital photographer. I am convinced that understanding film technology (of which I was woefully ignorant) will help me in my digital processes.
Fundamentals of Photography is a dense book, full of technical terms, explanations, and diagrams. As such, it was challenging to read it cover to cover. Besides, it was a new book at the library, so I had a three-week time limit, which made it all the more challenging. I would have loved to study it over the course of an entire semester in school or maybe during my lifetime – for there are so many details within it that were unfamiliar to me. Despite the difficulty, reading it was incredibly rewarding.
Previously, I thought of photography primarily as a fine art: capturing images for aesthetic pleasure. I reviewed a coffee table book a few months ago that helped me see photography as such. That was helpful in helping me think about photography aesthetically. But now, having stumbled through Tom Ang’s handbook, I realize that photography is also a complicated science: using lighting and tools to your advantage to capture the most aesthetically pleasing image for an infinite number of needs.
The book is organized by basic principles:
- What is photography?
- Fundamentals of Light
- The Camera
- Capturing Light
- Using the Lens
- Manipulating Light
- Working with Color
- Processing the Image
- Digitizing the Image
- Outputting the Image
- References (tools in Photoshop; troubleshooting with film, etc.)
As I read each chapter, I wanted to experiment with various things – not to mention purchase a new camera after chapter 3, purchase $1,000 of lens after chapter 5, and scan all of my film after chapter 9. I even (briefly) wanted to learn how to develop film after reading about darkroom work (however, if I had to do all the work to process my photographs, I’d not be interested in photography at all!).
I started a photoblog a few months ago, and although I had started to neglect it, I did want to dedicate more time to my photography in the New Year. Now, however, I realize how inferior my photographs are, for I failed to use many of the basic developing processes that Photoshop has to over, let alone to capture the images in proper lighting and with an appealing composition. (To be honest, I now feel rather embarrassed that my poor photographs are on the web!)
One reviewer on Amazon suggested that there is too much emphasis on film photography in Fundamentals of Photography. There is a fair amount of detail about film in Fundamentals of Photography, and I’d suggest that understanding how film works is integral to understanding how digital processing works. I had a lot to learn, and I still do, but I’m grateful I read this book.
I saw a review of this book on Epic Edits, one of the photography sites I follow. Although I didn’t win a copy of Fundamentals of Photography in the giveaway, I was delighted to see it was a new book in my local library. I found Fundamentals of Photography to be a powerful technical reference for an amateur photographer and I’d recommend it for anyone else interested in photography as a science and art.
Are you an amateur photographer? Where do you post your photographs? Do you get constructive criticism? How to best find yourself improving your talent? What photography books have helped you?
If you have reviewed Fundamentals of Photography, leave a link in the comments and I’ll post it here.