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National Geographic Complete Photography

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A comprehensive illustrated reference about photography and the camera, this book combines how-to advice, knowledgeable commentary, and useful tips on how to take and look at photographs. Not just a how-to book, it is a how-does-it-work book, focusing on cameras, photographs, and photographers. Throughout, voices and photographs from the greatest of National Geographic photographers add authority to these pages. Chapters build from camera basics—like how a digital camera works, what different lenses do, and the definition of exposure—to advanced and specific techniques—such as taking the best family candids, underwater photography, or techniques for capturing fireworks on film. Every chapter includes a feature called "My Perspective," highlighting a National Geographic photographer and his or her work with a personal note on photography. Every chapter ends with a feature called "What Makes This Photograph Great?"—twelve different iconic National Geographic photographs are analyzed thoroughly for their subject matter, composition, lighting, and exposure—by James P. Blair, longtime National Geographic photographer. A fascinating illustrated timeline of photography places milestone moments in the developing technology and art of photography into historic context. With something for everyone, novice and experienced amateur alike, designed in such a way that a reader can dip in and out of page after page, this complete reference will become a family favorite, to which young and old will refer over and over for years to come.


  • Hardcover
  • 408 pages; 500 color photographs; 20 illustrations
  • 6 7/8" x 9 3/4"
  • © 2011

Author Info

Scott Stuckey is managing editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, author of a magazine column on panoramic photography, and author of National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Travel Photography.

Contributors James P. Blair and Pritt Vesilind are longtime National Geographic photographers.

Book Excerpt

Gardens are ready-made objects of beauty, but photographing gardens takes some careful crafting. Find something significant to catch the eye—a figure, a prominent physical feature, a pond, or a splash of color (as in the photos opposite and above). Remember the rule of thirds as you frame your composition and make your choices. Draw the eye to your chosen point of interest by using leading lines.

Choose lenses carefully for garden photography. It’s tempting to use a wide-angle lens to take in a wide swath of the scene, but the disadvantage of that choice is that everything within a wide shot is usually in focus, so the images can be flat unless composed dynamically.

—Telephoto lenses isolate the details of nature. Often something small says as much or more about a place than a wide view.

—Find an element that interrupts a pattern. It might be one tree trunk of a different color or a protruding rock that breaks the symmetry of concentric circles in the water.

—Patterns can be less obvious, too. Blocks of color, either the same hue or different ones of about equal tonal value, can lend depth.

When shooting food, what matters most is that it should look fresh. The easiest photos are often the ones you get at outdoor markets, where street vendors may be cooking up sizzling local delicacies with ample sunshine to light your composition. To photograph food indoors, you’ll need to plan ahead and be ready to shoot quickly once the food is ready.

—Plan the entire composition. A simple background and just a few props, if any, make the food stand out the best.

—Photograph food near a window, if possible, where the soft, indirect light makes it look the most natural.

—Try brushing a little vegetable oil on any dull-looking food surface to add shine—a trick of the trade from professional food photographers.

—Select colorful food items, and avoid whites and browns if you can.

Life at Home
Being in the right place at the right time and having close-up, intimate access to your family is what home photography is all about. To get started, think carefully about what each member of your family likes to do. Does your daughter obsess over puzzles? Does your son do his homework at the kitchen table? Those moments don’t last forever. Seize the opportunities.

Look for the places in your house with the best light. Keep your camera set on auto-exposure and autofocus. Then when someone does something interesting, you’ll be ready.

—Avoid flash indoors. Nothing wrecks a subtly lit scene like the harsh, direct light of a flash. To compensate, set a high ISO and keep a steady hand for the lower shutter speed.

—When you can, shoot outdoors when the sun is close to the horizon or the sky is hazy or cloudy. Harsh midday sun makes people squint.

—Find the best background. When you see a good subject, turn in a complete circle and look for the best direction from which to shoot.


Great Coffee Table Book...but


I was hoping for more insight into National Geographic's undisputed photographic skills. I'll keep the volume but only because it's from NG, but, make no mistake; if you're looking for advice about great photography...this isn't it.

Jimmy The Nail

Carefree, AZ


Execellent NG photography Book


Excellent book for college photography class.


Ruidoso, NM


NG Photography Book


Great for photo class work.


Ruidoso, NM


Nice book,great tips


I like it and just check for a topic which is of interest at that time.




Everything you need to know and more!


This book was required for my photography class. This is one of the first times though that I've actually gained a lot of knowledge that I'm going to use on a regular basis for the rest of my life. It explains things so well and things that I didn't quite understand before make perfect sense now. I love everything about this book and would reccommend it to anybody who wants to become a better photographer.

Take your pic Britt

Muncie, IN


Love This Book


My husband bought this book and is finding it very interesting and useful. He will use it to upgrade his digital photography skills as he gets acquainted with his new camera.




Well Done!


A quick and concise guide to everything you need to know to create Nat Geo quality images of the world around you. Photographers from beginner to Pro will find immediately useful information to enhance the quality of their photographic expression.


Cleveland, OH


Beautiful book and great reference!


Recently bought this book to learn how to take better pictures, which I do often. Some photos I use for references in my art work so this will help in this area also. I expect it to be a much used reference. Nice book!


Western New York



4.5 8