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How to Become a Nat Geo Photographer

Reader Question:  How do I become a photographer for National Geographic?

My Answer:  Photography is really no different than any other pursuit in life if you plan to make a living at it. Unfortunately, there are very few full time salaried photography jobs. All the photographers who take pictures for  National Geographic Traveler  are freelance independent business owners.

Taking pictures is an enjoyable activity, but if you decide that you want that to be your job you may find it’s not much fun anymore. So, in order to be a successful photographer you need to be absolutely obsessed with photography. You also need to have an inner compulsion to communicate stories you feel strongly about.

As I said before, becoming a photographer is not too different than other jobs. First you need to find out everything you can about that field, then you need to figure out who the decision-makers are. At the same time you must spend all your time taking pictures so that when you finally find the right person to talk to, you have the work to back up your ideas.

As a former director of photography at National Geographic magazine used to say:”If we want to hire you, we already know who you are!”

What he meant by that is photographing for National Geographic is not a first-timer’s job.

Our editors are constantly looking at magazines, books, newspapers, and online for photographers who deliver compelling pictures time and time again. Once they start to see a photographer’s name over and over associated with good work in different media, then they might reach out to those individuals and ask if they have any good story ideas.

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Because it’s not enough to just be a good photographer. To make it at National Geographic you have to have interesting stories to tell.

Dan Westergren is director of photography for  National Geographic Traveler  magazine. Follow him on Twitter  @dwestergren  and on Instagram  @danwestergren .

Do you have something you want to ask Dan about travel photography?  He’ll be answering reader questions periodically on the blog, so be sure to leave a comment.

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How to Become a National Geographic Photographer

Last Updated: May 15, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Heather Gallagher . Heather Gallagher is a Photojournalist & Photographer based in Austin, Texas. She runs her own photography studio named "Heather Gallagher Photography" which was voted Austin's Best Family Photographer and top 3 Birth Photographers in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Heather specializes in family Photojournalism and has over 15 years of experience documenting individuals, families, and businesses all over the world. Her clients include Delta Airlines, Oracle, Texas Monthly, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post and The Austin American Statesman. She is a member of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP). There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 39,372 times.

One of the most prestigious magazines for photographers is National Geographic. Many freelance photojournalists consider it a career highlight to have their work published in National Geographic. It is not easy to accomplish this, however, and takes years of hard work, skill development, and practice in this highly competitive field. Every artist whose work has appeared in National Geographic is a freelancer who has been in the industry for years. If you are willing to put the time in, getting published by National Geographic is an achievable goal.

Gaining the Necessary Photography Skills

Step 1 Get a journalism or science-focused college degree.

  • Many Nat Geo photographers use their educational backgrounds to help them with shooting. For example, numerous freelancers have solid science backgrounds, which makes them excellent photographers of natural history.

Step 2 Spend five or more years working in photojournalism.

  • Joel Sartore, a photographer for National Geographic, began his career as a photographer and later director of photography for a newspaper in Wichita, Kansas.

Step 3 Specialize in a unique skill to catch National Geographic's attention.

  • It is a tall order to bring something to the table Nat Geo hasn’t already seen. The more specific your skill is, the better chance you have of catching the attention of the editors at the company.
  • Versatility is also key. People who speak multiple languages are valuable to the publication, as are people who can dive under sea ice. If you can master vastly different skills, you’ve made yourself that much more attractive to the editors at National Geographic.

Step 4 Take pictures every single day.

  • Photography is not a cheap hobby but owning different types of cameras can help you become an even better photographer. National Geographic doesn’t require a specific type of camera for their shoots, so the more cameras you are comfortable handing, the better.
  • Nat Geo encourages photographers to shoot using experimental styles and techniques. However, the company does not want photos that are heavily-edited or manipulated. Make it a goal to become as good at capturing your vision with the initial photo as possible.

Maximizing Your Chances for a National Geographic Assignment

Step 1 Try to get your work published in multiple places.

  • This process can take time. After all, Nat Geo is looking for veteran photographers, so keep at it! As a former director of photography at National Geographic used to say: “If we want to hire you, we already know who you are!”
  • When Nat Geo editors reach out, they are usually looking to see if you have good story ideas. Take some time every day to think about stories you would like to tell. The more important the story is to you, the easier it will be for you to tell it to the world.

Step 2 Contact an editor at National Geographic.

  • Email your work to as many different addresses as you can. This gives you a better chance of being noticed.

Step 3 Visit the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington D.C.

  • The headquarters are located at 1145 17th St. NW in D.C.
  • Use this time to see what makes the photos in the exhibition pop and learn as much of the history of the publication as you can.

Step 4 Network with current and former National Geographic photographers.

  • National Geographic photographers often host seminars around the country. Look up a photographer you admire to see when and where that person will be speaking next. Stay after the talk to introduce yourself, as nothing beats an in-person introduction!
  • Networking isn’t just about finding the people who can hire you for your dream job. It’s about building relationships and getting feedback on your work. Don’t be afraid to ask accomplished photographers for their thoughts on your best stuff. This is a great way to maintain a relationship with someone in the field.

Step 5 Send National Geographic clips of your best work every few months.

  • Joel Sartore sent his work to National Geographic’s Washington D.C. headquarters every three months. This eventually led to a one-day assignment with the magazine, which was soon followed by more work.
  • There is a delicate balance to sending your work to Nat Geo. Being persistent is a good thing, but being a pain is not. If you are constantly contacting the people at National Geographic, you could come across as annoying and make it that much more difficult for you to latch on with the company.

Taking Advantage of Photography Opportunities

Step 1 Apply for Nat Geo's photography internship if you’re in college.

  • The 73rd edition of this contest featured nearly 10,000 images from students all over the world. Go over your work carefully to see which photo is your best!

Step 2 Join “Your Shot” to become part of the Nat Geo community.

  • It is free to set up a “Your Shot” account.
  • If your work continually gets noticed, you have the chance to go on assignment with National Geographic. You would get paid about 500 dollars per day for going on assignment.

Step 3 Propose a project to get a grant from Nat Geo.

  • You must be at least 18 years old to apply for an early career grant.
  • Grant projects last one calendar year or less. Early career grants are typically funded for 5,000 dollars and cannot exceed 10,000 dollars. Exploration grants feature between 10,000 and 30,000 dollars in funding.
  • You can apply for a Nat Geo grant even if you have already applied for one in the past. All you have to do is close your previous grant record.
  • The grant program is highly competitive and Nat Geo receives far more applications than it can fund.

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National Geographic photographers are generally freelancers who come from a wide array of backgrounds. They usually have 5-10 years of photojournalism experience with other newspapers or magazines and have highly specialized their skills in areas such as wildlife, underwater, landscape, portraiture, cultural, geopolitics and aerial photography.

National Geographic magazine selects photographers on an assignment-to-assignment basis. Story proposals are developed internally, with editors meeting regularly to discuss possible story ideas or are submitted by approved photographers and writers. Articles are planned months, sometimes years in advance, and photo assignments are made based on the coverage envisioned. A photographer is given an assignment not because they are the best all-around photographer, but because they are the best photographer to meet the very specific needs of a particular story.

In addition to the magazine’s pool of specialized freelance photographers, National Geographic media also leverages content from National Geographic Explorers. The National Geographic Society funds groundbreaking scientists, conservationists, educators, and storytellers. Every one of them is a National Geographic Explorer. Photographers with projects that demonstrate the power of science and exploration to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world are encouraged to apply for a Storytelling Grant .  

Related Articles

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  • Does the National Geographic Society offer internships?

For support with consumer and media products (including National Geographic magazine and TV channels), please visit National Geographic Partners Support Center . For general support from National Geographic Society please contact us here.

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How to Become a National Geographic Photographer (Step-By-Step Guide)

Last Updated on Jan 26 2023

photographer taking picture in the forest

Whether you’ve just started dipping your toes in photography or have years of experience on your shoulders, working at National Geographic is a dream. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most reputable magazines that welcomes photojournalists worldwide.

Of course, it’s not easy to be a freelance photographer at National Geographic. You need to have a college degree, 5–10 years of photojournalism experience with any prestigious newspaper or magazine, and specialized skills in cultural, underwater, wildlife, geopolitics, portraiture, landscape, or aerial photography. 

The National Geographic Magazine chooses photographers on an assignment-to-assignment basis. So, your portfolio should be strong and compelling enough.

If you’re unsure about getting started, this three-step guide will make everything easier for you. So, let’s go through them.

How to Become a National Geographic Photographer

  • 1. Attaining the Required Photography Skills

The first thing to build up your photography background to have a stronger candidate profile. You need to have a college degree, years of experience as a photojournalist, and a specialization in a skill that catches National Geographic’s eyes. Here is the breakdown:

A College Degree

You don’t need to get a degree in photojournalism or even journalism to get in with National Geographic. However, you do require a college degree, particularly a science-focused one.

While it may sound unreal, your educational background can help you shoot videos and pictures better. For instance, many National Geographic photographers with solid science backgrounds take excellent photos of natural history compared to their counterparts.

However, your academic background may not be a significant factor in the eyes of the recruiters. So, you should enroll in photography classes and keep polishing your photography skills.

Work Experience

National Geographic requires its photographers to have at least 5 years of professional work experience in photojournalism. Many well-renowned National Geographic photographers began their careers in a local magazine or newspaper at a staff position.

Therefore, before applying for National Geographic’s freelance job, you should get employed as a photographer somewhere to gain some work experience.

Specialization in a Unique Skill

Photography is a vast field. You come across several amateurs, accomplished storytellers, seasoned photographers, and gifted documentarians. So, of course, it’s just not as easy as getting a college degree or being a photographer to catch National Geographic’s attention.

Instead, you have to seek a specialization in one or two specific niches to stand out. This could be speaking multiple languages, knowing how to get the perfect lighting at any time of the day, or capturing static photos and videos while in motion.

Remember that versatility always adds extra points to your personality. The more specialized you’re in different skills, the more attractive you’ll be to the National Geographic editors.

Regular Practice

Photography takes more than passion. So, to become a photographer at such a prestigious company, you need to practice and polish your photography skills every day. Take out your camera regularly and capture photos of different objects at varying times of the day.

Try to increase your camera equipment collection to ace different techniques and angles. National Geographic photographers have to use several types of cameras, so you must be comfortable handling most of them.

  • 2. Enhancing Your Chances for Winning a National Geographic Assignment

When you’re sure your career profile is solid, you should move on to taking some brave steps to maximize your chances of working with National Geographic. Here is what you have to do next:

Get Your Work Published

Search for different publishers and send them your photography work to get it published. If you didn’t already know, National Geographic editors are constantly checking various magazines, newspapers, e-books, and online blogs to find talented photographers for the company.

The key is to get your work published continuously and in multiple places. When editors see a name appearing under every breathtaking photo, they’re more likely to contact them .

Once you publish your work, start thinking about some compelling and engaging story ideas. So, whenever an editor contacts you, you’ll be prepared to impress them with your exceptional storytelling skills.

Directly Contact a National Geographic Editor

Like every other field, you have to be known to people at National Geographic to get noticed as a photographer. The best way is to contact an editor directly and email your work.

You may not find the email addresses of the top editors publicly, so check National Geographic’s official website . Email your work to multiple editors to have a higher chance of getting noticed.

Visit the National Geographic Museum

The National Geographic headquarters in Washington DC has a museum on the first floor that allows entry to the general public. The museum consists of the history of National Geographic and features exhibitions. Thus, you can visit the museum and see what types of photos are appreciated in the exhibition to learn and enhance your skills.

Connect With National Geographic Photographers

Freelance photographers who work or have previously worked at National Geographic know the likes and dislikes of the editors and influential personalities that can connect you with editors. Therefore, network with these photographers and stay associated with them for as long as possible.

The good thing is that Nat Geo photographers also organize seminars throughout the country. So, you can attend these events, listen to your favorite photographers, and introduce yourself to them after the talk.

The bottom line is to connect with people not just to get hired but to build long-term relationships with professionals who will continue guiding you throughout your journey.

Send Your Work Consistently

Editors receive thousands of aspiring photos every day. To make your way out of this pile, you need to be consistent in sending your best work to the company. However, remember that there is a very thin line between being determined and annoying.

If you keep trying to talk to the professionals at National Geographic, they may see you as a pain, making it entirely impossible for you to land the job.

  • 3. Take Advantage of Photography Opportunities

National Geographic offers excellent photography opportunities at different times of the year. These are the best chances to showcase your photography skills before the editors and possibly get hired.

Here are some excellent opportunities that you should keep an eye on:

National Geographic’s Photography Internship

If you’re in college, you can be a photography intern at National Geographic. However, unfortunately, the program is very selective and only accepts one intern a year. The company hires the winner of a contest, “College Photographer of the Year,” organized at the University of Missouri.

In fact, the contest’s 73rd edition featured around 10,000 photos from students worldwide, and only one was selected. Of course, you’re in a tight spot here, so capture the best shot of your life and send it with your internship application.

“Your Shot” Membership

National Geographic’s official website allows photographers to create a “ Your Shot ” account to be a part of the community of photographers. All you have to do is set up your account, send or publish your best work related to any themed assignment, and get feedback from the brightest photographers in the industry.

Joining the National Geographic community helps you get noticed and be a part of an assignment. Believe it or not, you’ll be paid 500 dollars a day for working on a project.

National Geographic Grants

The company has a grant policy . The early-career grant provides less-experienced photographers with a chance to participate in a project. Such grants are usually funded for $5,000, which can’t exceed $10,000.

The exploration grant refers to a funding request that a veteran photographer makes in storytelling, education, research, and technology. These grants are between $10,000–$30,000.

On the other hand, a request for proposal refers to a project that an applicant pitches on a specific issue, such as human migration, distinct animal species, or any breed’s recovery. You have to be 18 years or above to apply for an early-career grant.

In addition, you can apply for a National Geographic grant even if you have applied for it before. Just don’t forget to close your previous grant. The grant program is super-competitive, so you have to go the extra mile to get noticed.

  • The Bottom Line

Working at National Geographic can strengthen your resume and give your professional career a sudden boost. Your chances of becoming a National Geographic photographer are bright if you have at least 5 years of experience working as a photographer, a strong portfolio, a college degree, and specialized skills in cultural, wildlife , geopolitics, underwater, portraiture, landscape , and aerial photography.

You also need to be visible enough. Therefore, network with Nat Geo’s photographers, establish good relationships with the company’s editors, and keep polishing your skills until you get your dream job.

Featured Image Credit: Massimo Cattaneo, Shutterstock

Table of Contents

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.

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Have You Ever Wondered What it Takes to Be a National Geographic Photographer?

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National Geographic Photography

Growing up I always wanted to be a National Geographic photographer. Their lives seemed so glamorous, filled with many thanks for their contributions to the art of photography and to journalism. 

But, as with many dream jobs, they are a little bit harder to attain than you would have thought as a kid. Here we will be discussing the needed qualifications of many photographer's dream job and celebrating the winners of the 2019 National Geographic Travel Photo Contest (because let's be honest, this may be the closest these photographers ever come). 

What National Geographic Says You Need


Upernavikis a fishing village on a tiny island in west Greenland. Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colors to indicate different functions, from red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes—a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow. This photo was taken during my three-month, personal photo project to present life in Greenland.

The first qualification National Geographic wants you to have is between 5 and 10 years of photojournalism experience with other magazines or newspapers.

You also must have spent those 5 to 10 years perfecting one particular type of photography. Almost all of National Geographic's photographers are hired on a freelance basis, so you must be okay with only working part of the year for them. 

Oh yeah, they also want you to get a degree in pretty much anything but photography. 

how to be a professional photographer image


There are four runways at San Francisco’s International Airport (SFO). This is a rare look at the approach end of runways 28 left and right. I had dreams of documenting the motion at SFO and [arranged] permission to fly directly overhead. What a windy day it was. Winds atSFO were 35-45 miles per hour, which meant a bumpy flight, and it was much harder to control the plane while photographing. The flight was challenging, but it was also so thrilling that I couldn’t sleep for several days afterward.

Dan Westergren, one of National Geographic's recurring freelance photographers, says you need to be obsessed with photography.

There's no way you can capture some of these captivating photos without being obsessed with shooting. 

Westergren also suggests its all about who you know. A former boss of his at National Geographic had a catchphrase:

"If we want to hire you, we already know who you are." 

visit india image


People pray on the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtemais one of the major Islamic religious gatherings which is [observed] annually in Dhaka and millions of Muslims visit [during this time]. Dedicated prayer grounds are not [large] enough to handle this huge number of people, so large numbers of people come to [Tongi], the main street of Dhaka. All the ground transportation and [pedestrian crossings] are suspended during that time.

"To make it at National Geographic, you have to have interesting stories to tell," he said. 

Studying the winners of National Geographic's many contests is a good way of forming an idea about what the editors there are looking for in terms of photos that tell stories. 

bbc photographer image


“TENDER EYES” A gorgeous griffon vulture is seen soaring the skies in Monfragüe National Park in Spain. How can anyone say vultures bring bad omens when looking at such tenderness in this griffon vulture’s eyes? Vultures are important members of the environment, as they take care of recycling dead matter. Vultures are noble and majestic animals—kings of the skies. When looking at them flying, we should feel humbled and admire them.

What National Geographic Photographers Think

You have most definitely heard of Joel Sartore before, and that's because the man is a photography legend. 

His advice to the question he says he is asked most often is to be persistent. 

nature photographer image


What happens before a wave breaks? That question has been my assignment this past year. On this particular day, I decided to shoot the sunset on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii. About 100 photographers were out in the morning, but I had the evening to myself. The textures from the trade winds [created] subtle colors from the west and blended well using my 100mm lens. I had to look into my viewfinder while this wave was breaking. Not an easy task when a wave is about to crush you.

But, you also can't necessarily capture photos like the one above only through persistence.

"Being very Type A and borderline obsessive helped me a great deal in getting Geographic to notice me," he said. "It's almost a requirement."

He acted out his obsessiveness by sending in his best work on a three-month rotation. Every three months he would send in photos until eventually he was given a single-day assignment. 

dolphin pictures image


Dusky dolphins often travel together in great numbers in the deep canyons of the Kaikoura, New Zealand in search of food. They glide through the ocean effortlessly, coming up only to breathe. Dusky dolphins are fast and will often keep pace with a speeding boat. I waited on the bow of the boat as the Dusky dolphin almost broke [through the surface]. Their elegance and streamlined bodies are built for speed and maneuverability—accentuated by the smooth, clear water of the New Zealand coastline.

"To get into National Geographic," he continues, "You have to offer them something they don't already have access to-which is a tall order."

"You have to be a great photographer and be able to dive under sea ice, spend days in tree stands in the tropics, speak fluent Russian and know Moscow like the back of your hand, or be an absolute genius at lighting impossible situations." 

portrait photography poses image


Actors prepare for an evening opera performance in Licheng County, China. I spent the whole day with these actors from makeup to [stage]. I’m a freelance photographer, and the series “Cave Life” is a long-term project of mine. In China’s Loess Plateau, local residents dig holes in the loess layer [to create cave living spaces, known as yaodongs] and use the heat preservation properties to survive cold winters. This series mainly records the life, entertainment, belief, labor, and other [daily] scenes of the people living in the caves.

Ami Vitale, another National Geographic regular, says the job is a lot about sacrifice. 

"I literally invest a ton of money myself in the beginning," she says. "Everything I make goes right back into the work." 

Editor's Tip: Starting a photography business? Save money and buy quality used gear . You can save hundreds if you buy a used camera and used lenses, and apply those savings to investing in other gear. Better still, a great way to watch your bottom line is to sell or trade in your old gear that you no longer use. Doing so minimizes how much gear you have to keep track of, and if you sell or trade in your gear, you have some spare money to put towards upgrading your kit. It's a win-win!

"I've got to do a few commercial things a year in order to make the documentary work sustainable." 

national geographic competition image


This photo was taken at a public park at Choi Hung House in Hong Kong. When I visited during the afternoon, it was very crowded with many young people taking pictures and playing basketball. But when I visited at sunrise, it was quiet and a different place. [The area] is [designated] for neighborhood residents in the early morning, and there was a sacred atmosphere. I felt divinity when I saw an old man doing tai chi in the sun.

Vitale is not the only National Geographic photographer who cannot sustain herself on the paychecks from the position. Most National Geographic photographers do commercial work and speaking gigs to supplement their income. 

how to do nature photography image


Every year on the feast of Saint Anthony the ceremony of the purification of animals, called Las Luminarias, is celebrated in Spain. In the province of Avila, horses and horsemen jump over bonfires in the ritual that has been maintained since the 18th century. The animals [are not hurt], and it is a ritual that is repeated every year. To make the photo, I moved from Seville to San Bartolomé de Pinares because I am very interested in photographing ancestral rites.

If You Still Feel Like This May Be the Job For You...

Listen to one of Nat Geo's most adventurous photographers talk about her insane life before you jump on board.  

Learn More:

  • This 21-Year-Old Photographer Just Became the Youngest Person to Visit Every Country
  • Top Ten States Where Photographers Make the Most (and Least) Money

 Via Business Insider  and  National Geographic

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How to Become A National Geographic Photographer

photography jobs national geographic

To many photographers, getting published in National Geographic is the pinnacle of achievement. With its long history of stunning documentary photography, its ability to maintain this high standard into the present relies on taking only the finest photography produced today.

Many dream of seeing their photography immortalized in the pages of National Geographic, but especially to young, fledgling photographers, the goal can seem too great to imagine. And while a byline in Nat Geo certainly requires years of passion, hard work, and a little luck, it’s achievable for those with the drive to do it.

That being said, there’s no magic trick–no shortcut–to getting your work into Nat Geo. It requires enormous effort and perseverance. Luckily, with over 115 years of photography in National Geographic, there’s no shortage of advice from its photographers. Here’s what the most knowledgeable sources on the subject have to say about getting published in National Geographic.

National Geographic themselves offers advice on the subject, actually. In their website , Nat Geo acknowledges that they’re “often asked by aspiring photojournalists for advice about entering this highly competitive field.” National Geographic doesn’t have any full-time staff photographers–all are freelancers–so you can believe that the magazine here’s from an enormous amount of interested photographers every week.

The answer Nat Geo provides on their FAQ page implicitly states a number of qualifications typical of their photographers. One is a college degree; another is that while their photographers didn’t necessarily major in photography, “all took photo courses.” They also add that “freelancers usually come to us with at least five years of photojournalism experience or with specializations such as wildlife, underwater, nature, or aerial photography.”

Also, if you’re still in college, you can also throw your hat into the ring for Nat Geo’s incredibly selective photography internship. Only one intern is accepted each year: the winner of the College Photographer of the Year contest administered by the University of Missouri.

There’s no need to speculate about the inner workings of the National Geographic editorial staff when several former staff members have talked personally about what it takes to shoot for the magazine. Dan Westergren, formerly the director of photography at National Geographic Traveler, has offered advice that can be summed up in just one word: obsession.

“Taking pictures is an enjoyable activity, but if you decide that you want that to be your job, you may find it’s not much fun anymore,” Westergren writes. “So, in order to be a successful photographer, you need to be absolutely obsessed with photography. you also need to have an inner compulsion to communicate stories you feel strongly about.”

Kent Kobersteen , a former director of photography for National Geographic itself, and an employee for the magazine for over two decades, has also talked about the qualities and attributes most important to shooting for the magazine.

He points out that every director of photography and editor-in-chief at the magazine brings to the job their own set of attributes and skills they’d like to see in the photographers they hire, but four qualities are apparent in all the photographers that the magazine publishes: intellect, passion, maturity, and drive.

While these qualities might seem a bit on the esoteric side, Kobersteen also added that Nat Geo doesn’t often bring in new photographers, but when they do, he emphasized the importance of being established in the photojournalism community.

“Occasionally there was an opportunity to work with photographers who were new to the magazine – but always these were photographers whose experience on other publications, and reputation in the photographic community, was well known to us,” he writes.

As a final note, Kobersteen puts photographing for National Geographic into perspective. “It’s no different that if Manchester United is looking for a forward, or the Los Angeles Lakers are looking for a center. Because of the place that photography plays at the National Geographic Magazine, and because of the tremendous investment in each photographic coverage, the magazine is no different than a top sports team. What does it take? Be the best there is. It’s quite simple. The magazine can afford nothing less.”

photography jobs national geographic

As these past directors of photography show, becoming a National Geographic photographer doesn’t happen overnight; it’s the culmination of a long, successful photography career. It’s an ambitious goal to work toward, but here are a few places to get started:

Nat Geo Photo Contests: Two big recurring photo contests run by the magazine are “Your Shot,” where National Geographic editors highlight the best photos they receive in their “Daily Dozen” and the very prestigious International Photography Contest . There are also several popular contests run by its auxiliary publications, such as the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest, which publishes some of the most stunning wildlife photography around the world each year.

National Geographic Expeditions Workshops: These seven-day workshops may cost as much as $4,000, but gaining invaluable insight into the magazine’s workflow, practices and techniques might be worth it.

Get outside and shoot! As Westergren and Kobersteen both emphasized, skill results from hard work, practice, and all-out obsession. So travel where you never have before and hone your photographic skill as often as possible. No one ever became a National Geographic photographer sitting down!

Main Photo Credit: “ Framed by National Geographic ” by Alexander Mueller

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National Geographic Photo Camp provides a meaningful introduction to photography for young people around the world. Each Photo Camp is an immersive experience where students receive instruction and guidance from world-class National Geographic Explorers and photographers, build skills and confidence, explore the world around them, and develop deep connections with each other.

The mission of Photo Camp is to inspire the next generation of storytellers, as they share their ideas and see the power of their own voice through photography and writing. Through intimate presentations in their own communities and public exhibitions that reach millions of viewers, National Geographic Photo Camp showcases global youth perspectives on issues that are important to all of us.


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To date, National Geographic has held Photo Camps in more than 35 countries and has reached thousands of students.

National Geographic Photo Camp is conducted in partnership with VisionWorkshops of Annapolis, Maryland, and relies on its partners to reach students all over the world. If you would like to partner with Photo Camp,  email us .

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Digital Camera World

National Geographic's "Photographer" shows the struggle of 7 pros looking to capture iconic images

H ave you ever looked at a cover of National Geographic and wondered how they take those amazing images? Or maybe like me you dream about getting a call from Nat Geo to go on an assignment, and wonder what that would look like?

Well, if you answered yes, you will be glued to this new six-episode docuseries from Nat Geo called Photographer . These individual episodes, each an hour long, take a deep dive behind the scenes of how seven National Geographic photographers struggle to take images that adorn the pages of this international publication. 

If that doesn't sound tempting enough, then take a look at the official trailer for Photographer below, and tell me you don't get chills watching it!

Each episode has been directed by award-winning directors, to enhance the story of each photographer's journey to capture images that take your breath away.

From the insightful vision of Oscar-winning husband and wife duo E Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin ( Free Solo ) to the skilled direction of Tribeca winner Marshall Curry ( Racing Dreams ), International Documentary Association winner Pagan Harleman ( The Trade ), Sundance-winning Crystal Kayiza ( Rest Stop ), San Diego International Film Festival winner Sam Pollard ( MLK/FBI ), Emmy-winning Kristi Jacobson ( Solitary ) and LA Outfest winner Rita Baghdadi ( Sirens ), each episode is a collaborative and visually stunning adventure that invites anyone into a captivating world where every frame tells an inspiring story.

" Photographer  is a testament to National Geographic’s commitment to delivering groundbreaking narratives that spark curiosity, leaving a lasting impact on our viewers," said Tom McDonald, executive vice president, Global Factual and Unscripted Content. 

"The intentional pairing of these visionary directors with each respective photographer captures the essence of their creativity and showcases the extraordinary lengths they go to redefine the boundaries of visual storytelling.” 

Photographer  premieres on March 18 2024 on National Geographic, and will also available to stream on March 19 2024 on Disney+ and Hulu. 

If you're serious about documentaries, you might be interested in the best cameras for filmmaking and the best cine lenses . 

 National Geographic's "Photographer" shows the struggle of 7 pros looking to capture iconic images

Wildlife Photographer of the Year awarded to man who captured a polar bear falling asleep

A polar bear carves out a bed from a small iceberg before drifting off to sleep in the far north, off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago

The Natural History Museum 's prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition revealed stunning images that detail the profound environments and behaviors of creatures around the world.

On Tuesday, Photographer Nima Sarikhani was named the winner of the grand title award for "Ice Bed," which captures a “dreamy image”  of a young polar bear "drifting to sleep," according to a press release.

"Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet," said Douglas Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum. "His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss."

Sarikhani's image and four finalists were selected from a shortlist of 25 images, which were announced last year by the Natural History Museum, London. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.

If you love to get in touch with nature by looking at photographs of big cats, birds, reptiles, mammals or ocean life, checkout the shortlist of contenders, which included a mudskipper fish defending its territory and two mountain hares sharing a tender moment.

The four "Highly Commended" finalists include "The Happy Turtle" by Tzahi Finkelstein, "Starling Murmuration" by Daniel Dencescu, Mark Boyd’s "Shared Parenting" and Audun Rikardsen’s stunning capture "Aurora Jellies".

The People’s Choice Award images will be showcased in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in London until the exhibition closes in June 2024.

More: Wildlife Photographer of the Year awarded to woman who captured frantic cactus bee ball

Columbia University in the City of New York

Miriam and ira d. wallach art gallery.

  • Visitor Information
  • Exhibitions
  • Publications

Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography

April 30–june 21, 2003.

Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography , an exhibition of 20th-century photographs of Moscow, opens at Columbia University's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 and remains on display through Saturday, June 21, 2003.

Moscow has been a powerful magnet for many Russian photographers of the 20th century. Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography presents the work of 31 photographers, whose images have defined the visual experience of Moscow from the 1920s to the present. Diverse in form and strategy, the 90 photographs chosen for the exhibition trace the history of Russian documentary photography and offer insight into individual practices. From Aleksandr Rodchenko's constructivist visions and Evgenii Khaldei's humanist landscapes to Igor Moukhin's scenes of urban spectacle and alienation in the works of Russia's key 20th-century photographers, Moscow ventures beyond the expected image as a site of famous landmarks, architectural treasures and dramatic lifestyles.

Early 20th-century photographers Boris Ignatovich and Arkadii Shaikhet saw themselves in the vanguard of an emerging mass-media culture, defining with their cameras the visual experience of Soviet modernity. For nearly 70 years, Soviet photography was assigned the duty of maintaining the ideological rigidity of the Soviet State. Yet, as examples of the work of Iakov Khalip, Anatolii Egorov, Mikhail Savin, and Mark Markov-Grinberg show, Soviet photographic practices were much more complex than has been previously acknowledged. The works of these photographers remain intensely compelling to a modernist eye.

Contemporary Russian photographers, such as Lev Melikhov, Valerii Stigneev and Sergei Leontiev, engage with the legacy of the Soviet documentary photography. But for them the documentary is a complex and multivalent genre, which incorporates subjectivity, ambiguity and reflexivity and comments on social and cultural issues without losing sight of the position from which that commentary is made. In the recent photographs by Vladimir Kupriyanov, Igor Moukhin, Anna Gorunova and Pakito Infante, the "real" space of Moscow is replaced by an imaginary and optical spaces of virtuality.

The works in the exhibition are on loan from Moscow's Cultural Center Dom, and many are being shown outside Russia for the first time. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Wallach Art Gallery is publishing an illustrated catalogue with a scholarly essay by the exhibition curator, Nadia Michoustina, a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia University's Department of Slavic Languages. The essay presents a nuanced history of Russian photography of the 20th century, and contributes to an interpretation of extraordinary images.

Shooter Files by f.d. walker

Street Photography Tips, Interaction, Travel, Guides

Dec 28 2016

7 First Impressions of Moscow, Russia (From a Street Photography Perspective)


At over 12 million people, Moscow is the second largest city in Europe by population. It’s an urban, cosmopolitan city of the highest level, with more than enough glitz to cater to the elite, but without losing its fair share of roughness around the edges. It can be fast paced, brash, busy, and trendy like other big cities, but it has its blend of European and Russian that makes it stand out on its own. And the most beautiful subway system you’ve ever seen.


So here are my first impressions of Moscow, from my personal Street Photographer perspective…

7 First Impressions of Moscow  (From a Street Photography Perspective)

1. big city with so much to discover.

It’s no secret that Moscow is a big city, but it can feel even bigger with how spread out much of it is. This is especially true if you compare it to cities outside of Asia. If I compared it to cities in Europe, I’d probably say only Istanbul would warrant more time to really discover the depths of this city. Most only explore around the Red Square and surrounding area, but that is such a small part of the city. Although, that central area does give you plenty to see on its own. 


Fortunately, I had a good friend living in the city to show me around, but it opened up my eyes even more to how much there is to discover in Moscow. It’s a big city with a variety of atmosphere that can take you from “east” to “west” and trendy to rugged depending on where you go. I’d imagine you’d have to live here a while to really know the city.


2. Museum Metro

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The Moscow metro system was the first underground railway system in the Soviet Union and today includes 203 stations across 340km of routes. The elaborate system has some of the deepest stations in the world too, with escalators that seem to go on forever. None of this is what makes it so special, though. Many of its stations feel like stepping inside a museum, making it without a doubt the most interesting and beautiful metro system I’ve been in.


When built, Stalin wanted to make the metro stations “palaces for the people” with marble, chandeliers, and grand architecture. The best part is the variety of architecture and styles used, making many of the stations a completely different experience visually. You could easily spend a whole day traveling the stations and there are even tours available for people who wish to do just that. My advice, though, would be just to buy a ticket and hop on and off at different stations, while exploring different lines. The museum-like surrounding mixed with the crowds of characters can make for a great photography experience.


Since there are so many stations, here are some of my favorites to definitely check out:

  • Novoslobodskaya 
  • Mayakovskaya
  • Elektrozavodskaya 
  • Komsomolskaya 
  • Ploschad Revolyutsii
  • Dostoyevskaya
  • Prospekt Mira

3. Not as walkable as Saint-Petersburg

While Saint-Petersburg feels very walkable for a city its size, Moscow can feel very spread out, even for its bigger size. Outside of the Red Square area, you can have a lot of walking before getting anywhere very interesting, so you’ll need to take the metro a lot if you really want to explore the city. Maps are deceiving here too, it will always be further than it looks.


Another reason it’s less walkable than Saint-Petersburg is its completely different set-up. Moscow’s streets are mostly contstructed in rings with narrow, winding streets in-between. This is common with medieval city cities that used to be confined by walls, but you usually don’t have it in a city this massive. Saint-Petersburg has a more grid-like pattern that also uses the canals to help you know your way around. When it comes to navigating on foot in Moscow, it can be more difficult, so bring a map and take the metro when needed. It’s why Moscow’s metro carries more passengers per day than the London and Paris subways combined.


4.  Gorky Park is like a Russian Central Park

One of the most famous places in Moscow is Gorky Park. The official name is Maxim Gorky’s Central Park of Culture & Leisure, which gives you an idea of what goes on here. When built, it was the first of its kind in the Soviet Union. Divided into two parts, it stretches along Moscow River. One end contains fair rides, foods stands, tennis courts, a sports club, a lake for boat rides, and more. This end brings more active life due to its number of attractions, while the other end is more relaxed, where you’ll find gardens, trees, older buildings, and an outdoor amphitheater.


Gorky Park attracts mostly locals so it’s a good spot to capture the non-tourist side of Moscow life. Muscovites come here to escape the city and unwind in a picturesque setting. The park remains alive outside of the warmer months too, especially when the lake turns into the city’s largest outdoor skating rink. I’d recommend taking the metro out here to spend at least half a day exploring the massive park’s life with your camera.

5. Half the city under construction

European cities in general seem to be filled with more construction than usual lately. But while this won’t be true forever, Moscow was filled with the most I’ve ever seen. Moscow already has the most skyscrapers in Europe, with many being less than a decade old. In only the last few years, the three tallest skyscrapers in Europe have opened here, giving it five of Europe’s ten tallest. The 2018 FIFA Word Cup is bringing much of this on, but the city is pushing to complete a skyline here than will rival any in the world.


The recession has slowed down the construction some, but the government is pushing it on. So all over the city, there were sidewalks covered with wood boards and lined with striped construction walls. At first, it was a little disappointing from a street photography perspective to see so much blocked by construction. After a while, though, it became something to capture. The striped construction materials and signs are colorful and all the workers created some interesting activity. It will be interesting to see what the city looks like when everything is complete, but for now, the construction provides interest itself.


6. Learn the Russian Alphabet

Much of Moscow, including the metro system, doesn’t use english. The Russian alphabet uses letters from the Cyrillic script, which if you aren’t familiar with it and don’t know the sounds, it can be hard to decipher the words. This is most important for street names and metro stops when trying to get around. It can save confusion and make it easier getting around if you learn the basic alphabet. At the very least then, you can sound out the words to see which are similar in the english conversion, which can help matching them to maps. When out shooting street photography, getting around is as important as anything. So save yourself some time and frustration by learning the Russian Alphabet.


7. Where East Meets West

Modern skyscrapers mixed with amazing architecture, a world-class metro system with a museum-like beauty, trendy fashion and chic clubs, Moscow is a rich mix of Russian culture and history in a more European package. There is a push to keep the Russian culture, while pushing forward with a modern metropolis the whole world will envy. This comes with an impressive skyline and modernities with soviet emblems and atmosphere mixed in for good measure.


It’s East meets West, modernizations meets Soviet nostalgia, and a whole lot more.

Russia’s Metropolis

Moscow is famous around the world, but it might not be completely what you expect from Russia’s capital. The city’s name brings a certain mystique, but once you’re there it brings something changed over time since its Soviet days. It’s big and sprawling, but beautiful in many ways. Most might say it feels more like a European capital on a grand scale, but you can definitely find its Russian side in there.


The urban sprawl of Moscow can be intimidating, but give it enough time and you’ll be rewarded with plenty to discover. All with the world’s best metro system to take you around.

If any of you have been to Moscow before, tell me about your experience and impressions of the city and country in the comments below! And stay tuned for more on Moscow, including some of the best Street Photography shots I captured while there.

Click Here for More First Impressions on Cities Around the World 

(from a street photographer’s perspective)

Moscow, Russia

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    Jan. 12, 2024 Job Summary: About the Role & Team We are looking for a Senior Digital Editor! This role assigns and edits stories for National Geographic's digital audiences while taking a lead contributing role in developing story pitches, refining story framing, and offering subject matter expertise. Responsibilities:

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