How Do You Make Great Photos? It's Not How You Think

Behind every great photograph at National Geographic is a photographer—and their editor. In this video, they share their stories.

How Do You Make Great Photos? It's Not How You Think

Behind every great photograph at National Geographic is a photographer—and their editor. In this video, they share their stories.

If you have ever thought that a photo editor is someone who Photoshops pictures, you are not alone. Few people outside of the media industry realize that, much like editors help writers tell their stories, photo editors help photographers visualize theirs. When you come across photo spreads in magazines, newspapers, books, or online that transport you inside the story or elicit an emotion that only images can convey, you are benefitting from the fruits of that relationship.

This is especially true at National Geographic. Whenever a photographer goes out into the field, sometimes multiple times over several months, the photo editor is their dedicated partner, offering moral support, direction, honesty, and sometimes tough love.

Each photographer is required to deliver every frame they shot—sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands—to then have their photo editor sift through it all and help them piece together the story in the most impactful way possible. They become, as photographer Erika Larsen says, “a second set of eyes, and a second heart.”

We put together this video of our photographers and photo editors to illuminate this unique synergy behind the scenes.