Photo: Jim Richardson

About Jim Richardson

Photographer Jim Richardson travels the world for National Geographic, going around the world twice in the last year alone. While producing 45 stories for National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Traveler, where he is a contributing editor, Richardson has visited more than 50 countries on six continents, and has been called "perhaps the most prolific photographer for one of the world's most prestigious magazines."

Concentrating on environmental issues affecting the world's food supply (where he has covered soil, water and grasslands and food safety), he has also championed rural places and unsung landscapes, delving deeply in the Celtic cultures of the British and Irish Isles. ABC News Nightline, The Martha Stewart Show, and CBS News Sunday Morning have profiled his work and Time, LIFE, The New York Times, and other worldwide publications rely on his photographs.

Closer to home, Richardson's documentary photography of the Great Plains and his native Kansas has been praised as sensitive portraits of everyday life, work which won the Crystal AMI Award for multimedia production. Richardson teaches workshops and seminars in the US and abroad and accompanies travel groups for National Geographic Expeditions. He is a seasoned public speaker, appearing multiple times for National Geographic LIVE and the Aspen Environmental Forum. Apple, Epson, Nikon and Energizer have relied on his technical expertise in product development and featured his work. He is noted for delivering insights about travel locations and environmental issues, as well as about making graphically compelling images that also convey information in a complex world. His work requires strategy and endurance, as well as a good eye and the right equipment. "Students and other photographers want to believe in the romance of the moment—that we just happened to get the picture, the idea of the once-in-a-lifetime shot," Richardson said. "If I do my job right, it's my job to go out every day and get once-in-a-lifetime shots."

Jim lives in the small Kansas town of Lindsborg, where he owns Small World Gallery. His work is at, and his ideas about photographs can be found at and on

Jim's Top Ten Photography Tips

  1. Photo: Reflection of buildings on the water
    Work the Reflections

    Reflections always add visual drama to pictures and can make an otherwise ordinary scene interesting. But reflections require calm waters so get out early in the morning before the winds kick up. Just a few minutes can make the difference between glassy calm and a freshening breeze that turns the waters choppy. Also, get lower and closer to the surface of the water to get more reflections. Even a small puddle of water can produce large reflections if you are right down to the surface.


    Work the Reflections

  2. Photo: Red Suma leaves
    Work With Shapes

    The red sumac that I found out on the prairie was pretty, but what was really interesting was how the shape of the branch mimicked the shapes of the white clouds against the blue sky. Looking around to find graphic elements to use as building blocks for pictures is one way to turn a humdrum situation into something elegant. In this case I picked out just one branch to focus on and moved around, finally getting down low, to make it line up with the clouds.


    Work With Shapes

  3. Photo: Churchyard in Kirkwall, Orkney
    Keep an Eye Out for Shadows

    It doesn't happen everyday, but occasionally a great shadow will make a great picture. Looking around this churchyard in Kirkwall, Orkney, I found the scene nice enough, but not particularly exciting. Then I happened to see how the shadow of the craggy old tree lined up with the gravestones and I had my picture. Often you'll need to get up higher to see the shadows well, and you'll need to tune your eye to see how dark they can be and what sorts of interesting shapes they may form.


    Keep an Eye Out for Shadows

  4. Photo: Mayor of Dartmouth’s medallions
    Collect the Details

    Detail pictures do wonders for a set of travel pictures. Not only do they offer a welcome variety in the scale of the images (pictures get dull quickly when they are all shot from the same distance and viewpoint). They can also reveal telling aspects of a place and its story. Such was the case when the Mayor of Dartmouth, England, came aboard the National Geographic Explorer festooned in her official regalia of office. Not only was it a telling detail, it was colorful as well.


    Collect the Details

  5. Photo: Men playing boules
    Move Around to the Back

    Moving around and trying different viewpoints is always a good idea, but too often we don't go far enough. Going clear around to the backside of the action can make images that offer a fresh perspective. Too often we follow old habits and shoot everything from the front. Certainly when I was trying to photograph these guys playing boules in Brittany I was frustrated that I couldn't get all the action in one picture. That's when I went around behind the player. Suddenly I could see exactly what was going on.


    Move Around to the Back

  6. Photo: Cluster of yellow flower blooms
    Shoot Through the Flowers

    This is a simple trick that can utterly transform your flower pictures. Get in close with a telephoto and shoot thorough the clutter of flowers, focusing on a flower somewhat further away. You'll have to look for a wee opening amongst the blossoms to peek through, and you'll have to be much closer to the flowers in the foreground than you ever imagined. But when you pick up the trick you'll suddenly have a way of adding color and variety to the composition while keeping just one flower in sharp focus.


    Shoot Through the Flowers

  7. Photo: Norwegian wooden boat on the water
    Keep It Simple

    Clutter kills too many pictures. Simplicity is powerful. Usually that means cleaning up the background, leaving out extraneous, unnecessary detail. So watch your framing carefully, and especially watch the edges of the frame. For example, this Norwegian wooden boat had such simple, dramatic lines, it just begged to be made the total, uncontested center of interest of the picture. The mountain side in shade on the far side of the lake was the perfect background, but I had to very carefully leave out a house just to the left of the picture, and a shaft of light falling on trees to the right of the picture. By leaving them out I got a perfectly simple blue background.


    Keep It Simple

  8. Photo: Colorful streets in Arles, Provence
    Welcome Weird Colors

    Look for great color and then fill the frame with it. This street in Arles, Provence, was an absolute riot of colors, at once strange, eerie, and exciting. With so many weird light sources there was no hope of capture "correct" color. But then, many photographers worry too much about getting the white balance right, when the odd colors of the real world are perfect material for great pictures.


    Welcome Weird Colors

  9. Photo: Working in the distillery in Scotland
    Work Hard for Action

    Action pictures stand out from the crowd. The vast majority of pictures are static pictures, pictures where nothing is moving and very little is going on. Action pictures are much rarer, and they just shout for attention, even if they are not perfect. And you'll have a lot of pictures that aren't quite perfect when you go after action. Note that I never did get this distillery worker's face very sharp. That's OK. The power of a dynamic action picture can often make up for small failings. But when the magic happens, action pictures can be powerful.


    Work hard for action

  10. Photo: Colorful patterned tiles in Morocco
    Strong Patterns Make Strong Pictures

    Patterns work in pictures for the same reason they work in the real world. Our brain is hard-wired to recognize patterns and we love playing the mental games of figuring them out. So whenever you see a pattern (and if you travel to Morocco, like I did, you are going to see a lot of them) then go to work. The main mistake photographers make is going in too close and making the pattern too simple. In this picture there are myriad patterns played off each other, but the design is strong enough to maintain a sense of harmonious order. Finding that balance is the hard part of pattern pictures.


    Strong Patterns Make Strong Pictures

Photo: Spring Burning Photo: Callanish Stones in Scotland Photo: Isle of Skye, Scotland
  1. Spring Burning: Cowboys in the Flint Hills of Kansas follow the old tradition of burning off the old grass to allow fresh growth in the spring.
  2. Callanish Stones in Scotland: Pre-dawn light brings a soft glow to the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides. The stones have been standing for 5,000 years.
  3. Isle of Skye, Scotland: The Storr on the Isle of Skye is a place of rugged beauty in the Hebrides of Scotland. Formed by a great landslip, the Old Man of Storr stands out on the horizon.
  • Aboard the National Geographic Explorer, Coast of Ireland

    Jim Richardson's Gallery

    National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson has travelled the world during his long career. Check out a selection of images from his travels!

  • Coming at You

    View 2010 Winners

    Last year's Grand Prize winner won a trip for two to Tanzania and Zanzibar! View last year's winning photography picks and find out what it takes to take home the prize.

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Jim and Energizer Batteries

The Galaway Inn was alive with Irish music, packed wall to wall with people and like all Irish pubs, very dark. My Energizer-powered flash units lit up the scene—the musicians kept playing, the energy was fantastic, the action never let up and my camera outlasted us all.

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