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.
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.
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.