Changing Planet

Your Questions for an NG Photo Editor

Alice Gabriner, photo editor for National Geographic magazine. Photo courtesy Alice Gabriner

Ever wondered what makes a photo “National Geographic” worthy? How someone chooses which photo will be two inches wide, and which will take up two pages? How they manage to turn down thousands for each one that ends up in print? Wonder no more.

Alice Gabriner joined National Geographic magazine in January 2011 as a senior photo editor, after serving as deputy director of photography in the Obama White House, where she was responsible for editing thousands of pictures per week taken by four White House photographers, including Pete Souza, director of the White House Photo Office.  Before the White House, Alice was chief picture editor at TIME Magazine. Over ten years at TIME, she oversaw coverage of two Presidential elections (2000 and 2008) and TIME’s award winning coverage of the Iraq war. Prior to TIME, Alice was deputy director of photography at U.S. News & World Report where she covered primarily national and international stories for the renowned magazine.

Alice’s first contribution to National Geographic magazine was in photo editing the stunning aerial images in “Africa’s Afar Depression” in the January 2012 issue. Her next feature is on the “Journeys of the Apostles,” the cover story of the March issue.

Join Alice Gabriner in a live conversation on the National Geographic Facebook page Wednesday, February 8 at 2:30pm ET (7:30pm UTC). View some of the photos she has edited, then post your questions on Facebook or in the comments section of this blog post. Then tune in for the live interview and post more questions as the conversation develops.

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.
  • Scott Myers

    We’ve already beaten the odds. The images provided by your company, by your photographers, are all for a reason. Is the reason to enhance our appreciation of Nature?

  • Tracie Love

    was wondering about doing a photography course but not yet sure which website is the best as we live in the middle with nothing here it would have to be by correspondent
    I have photos on my fb page that have taken

  • Visnja Anic

    Have other NG photographers covered the immense potentials of the sea phenomenon we have been trying to promote?

  • James Watkins

    Dear Alice Gabriner,

    I would like to contact you so you can evaluate some of my photos. I am interested in your opinion, would you be open to this? Thank you, James Watkins

  • Kelley Coleman

    Getting a photo into National Geographic is actually on my bucket list!
    Does a photo ever drive the story or inspire an entire layout for a story?
    What do you look for in a photo that makes it magazine worthy?

  • Jacob Byk

    I’m a student currently in school, extremely ambitious to do photojournalism in the “real world”. My question for you, is different than you may expect. I’m an extremely social person and have no problems with communication via in-person conversation, however I have trouble finding contacts for the stories I work on. Currently, I’m working on a story that is attempting to link methamphetamine use to poverty, and cannot find any police, addicts, dealers or anyone who would be willing to talk – frankly I can’t even find them period. I wonder if it’s just an acquired talent, luck or something else? Thanks,

    Jacob Byk

  • Greg Miller

    How does one distinguish themselves as a photographer in this day and age? The Internet is flooded with great photography, and everyone can show their work on their own; so how do you make yourself known, and move from aspiring to taking those first steps to becoming the person who photographs the President, for instance? Thank you.

  • Adrienne Englert

    Good Evening – will the interview be recorded and posted on the National Geographic Facebook page? I am extremely interested in Ms. Gabriner’s views on what makes the cut. I cannot possibly break away from work at 2.30 Eastern tomorrow, but I would love to watch the recording later in the evening. Thank you.

  • Tyler Peterson

    The Africa Afar photos are amazing. How much of what we see is due to post-production editing, and how much to what the camera actually captured?

    In general, how much “touching up” do Nat Geo photos receive? Could you describe the general editing process?


  • Felix Masi

    Is National Geographic an “exclusive club” I think there are more great images out there?

  • John Boal

    If a photographer has not worked with NG before, is it essential to already have images from a story idea? I feel like it’s a chicken/egg problem. I can’t work on an idea in a substantial way without funding, but I’m told editors often want to see the progress on a potential project before committing to it. Are editors willing to consider funding a project with a photographer by assessing their portfolio, instead of progress on their story?

  • dan shugar

    I posted this on the FB page, but just in case, here it is again:

    I am wondering how to pitch a story to NG. I remember many years ago reading that NG would seek out photographers on their own, and assign story ideas generated in-house. Is that the case or do stories get pitched by photographers and writers?

  • Madhu Gopal Rao

    If the photographs strongly supports the story, and technically or quality wise if it is below the standards, how does national geographic treat such images?

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