Fundamentals of Photography, Tom Ang – Book Review


Book Info

Title: Fundamentals of Photography – the essential handbook for both digital and film cameras

Author: Tom Ang

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Release date: November 2008

Edition: 352 pages, soft cover

ISBN: 978-0-375-71157-2


Just a small note before I start with the review: I have a couple of copies of this book to give away. Details are bellow, so keep on reading.

Tom Ang

Tom is an award-winning photographer with many books published in the photography world. He had several teaching positions and was a senior lecturer in Photographic Practice at the University of Westminster. His work was seen worldwide in several exhibitions. The last time I came across Tom’s name was at the jury panel for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 competition.

Besides Fundamentals of Photography, some other books by Tom Ang (a small sample since the full list is way too large) are: Digital Photography Masterclass, Tao of Photography, Advanced Digital Photography, Erotic Home Photography and How to Photograph Absolutely Everything.


The Content

Fundamentals of Photography is divided in 11 main chapters:

  • 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

My Impressions

Confused/Relaxed, by stevec77 Photography has evolved immensely in the past decade. Digital photography became much more affordable and is now the norm with film relegated basically to the serious enthusiast. This tendency can also be seen in the dedicated photography books and if you take some time at your local book store and overview the contents of the books on photography edited in the last years chances are that a big majority is focused on digital photography. Unfortunately, and of course this is my personal opinion, by “digital photography” many editors are only thinking about digital darkroom. And while knowing what can be done with an image on the computer is a necessity and a pleasure to explore, photography is much more than that. Photography is understanding the camera and how light is captured, is understanding light and knowing how to modulate it, is understanding how an image will be perceived by someone looking at it,… And there is where this book excels.

The content is extremely well structured and explained in detail without overwhelming the reader. Although it can be read from cover to cover in one sitting, one of the strengths of the book is being structured in a way that individual chapters stand by themselves and can be referenced on their own. The sub-chapters are well divided and have just the right length: enough to provide all the information without crossing the “too boring” barrier. Every definition or concept is explained in great detail without sounding excessive, but it does go deep and it is not what can be considered light reading. Even if you are a seasoned photographer, I believe that within the book you’ll find some information that you haven’t seen before. In any case, this is not a “field guide”. Don’t expect to use it as a always-carry-in-your-camera-bag book.

With over 1000 illustrations and photographs complementing the definitions, the book is visually very appealing and able to provide information on just a quick overview. From example photos to schematics on lenses, cameras and other gear, you’ll find everything here.

Intermingled with the content there are small sections that target the more advanced user or the really curious photographer and are technically more complex. Again, bypassing these sections, will not detriment in any way the understanding of the remaining content, but is good to have them around. There is no such thing as too much knowledge…

On the photography gear side, details on available equipment abound. Moreover, Tom gives constant advice on which type of equipment is needed or better suited for a certain kind of shot. And besides that, you’ll get explanations on how the equipment works, allowing you to completely understand the functionality of the equipment and why it might be better suited for a certain task.


Pros and Cons


  • Price – at the current listed price, it can’t be beaten
  • Huge amount of good information (read again: GOOD INFO & HUGE AMOUNT)
  • Content well structured
  • Suited for both beginners and seasoned photographers
  • Tons of photos and illustrations
  • Approaches both digital and film


  • Page layout can be tricky at times with so many boxes and side notes.

In Conclusion

As I mentioned before, if you are looking just for digital darkroom information, Fundamentals of Photography might not be the more adequate for you. This book feels like a photography encyclopedia and is a reference for everyone wanting to understanding it more. If there was only one book that I’d be able to recommend to anyone wanting to learn photography, this one could very well be it.


Free copy of Fundamentals of Photography

The publishers were kind enough to offer me a couple of copies to give away. One of the copies I’ll be giving here on my blog while the other is offered on PhotoNetCast (the photography podcast I’m co-hosting). This means, two chances for you to win. If you’re interested in a copy just write a comment saying you’re interested. You can leave your comment right on this post, on the show where the giveaway was announced, or both. BE QUICK. On Wednesday, Feb 4th, in the evening, I’ll be randomly selecting the winners. Your comment has to be in by then.


Please Note: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review. Financial compensation was not and will not be received and the review was not read or edited by the publisher before publication. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Photo Credit: “Confused/Relaxed”, by stevec77 (CC)

Recommended for you


  1. frank

    February 2, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    hallo – throwing my hat in to win a copy of the book.

  2. stefan

    February 2, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Antonio!
    I’m hereby raising my hand high up in the air to express my interest in winning a copy of this interesting book!

    Greetings from Munich

  3. Gary H

    February 2, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    sounds like a good book, I’ll have to add it to my wish list

  4. Rob Nunn

    February 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Antonio,

    Nice review, I wouldn’t mind a copy!

    CHeers, Rob.

  5. the_wolf_brigade

    February 3, 2009 at 12:25 am

    You guys have been making this book sound so good. Already left a comment after kistening to the show, but no harm in registering my interest here too!

  6. A Marques

    February 3, 2009 at 12:36 am


    The book IS good :)

  7. P.T. Korson

    February 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    would love a copy, thanks for the review

  8. Ken S

    February 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Feeling lucky. Would love to recieve a copy of the book to help further my education as I get started with digital photography.

  9. George L Smyth

    February 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Indeed, I would love a copy of the book. Interesting that after photographing for so many years that I still continue to learn. Even fundamentals sometimes get obscured over the years and I like to regularly refresh this information to make sure that I am not missing the obvious. Thanks so much for making this available.

  10. Andree O

    February 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Hi there!

    I’ve been following this blog for a while and was psyched to see the Tom Ang book — I’d love to get my hands on a copy!

    All the best and thanks for a great blog!

  11. unmuse

    February 5, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Well of course I’ll throw my hat in the ring. I’d love a copy of the book.

  12. Jeff

    February 5, 2009 at 12:38 am

    I’d love to have a copy, Thanks!

  13. Phill price

    February 5, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Hi Antonio,
    I’m interested with this book. I think j could learn a lot!

    Hope you’re well,

  14. Neil Creek

    February 5, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Hi Antonio, thank you for the great review and the opportunity to participate in this competition. I’d love to have a chance of receiving the book :) All the best to you and yours!

  15. Tony

    February 21, 2009 at 3:16 am

    I need to get this book to my dad he would like it a lot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>