National Geographic and Photography

national geographic

National Geographic is known for its breathtaking photos taken around the world. Photos often feature specific tribes, various ethnic groups, landmarks, as well as flora and fauna. The photography featured in National Geographic has been so groundbreaking that they have actually influenced photography as a craft. Not only that, but their publications and contests continue to influence and inspire photographers. Here, we will look at the history of influence National Geographic has had over photojournalism by tracing this path from yesteryear to today and beyond.

Understanding Needs of Photojournalists

In the beginning days of photography, equipment was bulky and difficult to transport. With many of National Geographic’s photographers being on assignment, a more compact and lightweight camera was needed.* Luis Marden, a writer and photographer for the magazine, recognized this. He convinced the magazine in the 1930s to let photographers carry cameras that were loaded with light Kodachrome film. Mostly, they used 35 mm cameras. This allowed photographers to take pictures in much more isolated locations. Slowly, people began to recognize photos like these as an art form in and of themselves. In the 1950s, these photos started to appear on the cover of National Geographic.

The Red Shirt School

From the very beginning, photographers working for National Geographic recognized that images of beauty were much more appealing than photos that simply captured a scene. Often times, they chose subjects because of their bright garb*. These sorts of photos began to appear in the magazine in the 1920s. In the 1950s and 1960s, this trend with photojournalists in the magazine reached its height. Eventually, these photographers were deemed part of The Red Shirt School. The Red Shirt School marks one place in history where Nat Geo had a real influence on the world of photography.

Contests and Books

Today, National Geographic continues to influence the photographic world. Many of their photos have become instantly recognizable. Through contests held annually, National Geographic still influences and inspires up and coming photographers, as well as photojournalists trying to gain more recognition.* They have also published a wide range of books featuring photos from their magazine.* Books and contests mean that they are constantly uncovering more and more interesting and cutting edge photo techniques. Promising artists may want to study these books or try to mimic techniques used in these pictures. They may also want to enter these contests regularly.


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