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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.


  1. Madhu Gopal Rao
    Hyderabad, India
    February 9, 2012, 11:11 am

    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?

  2. dan shugar
    Victoria, BC, Canada (www.danshugar.com)
    February 8, 2012, 2:22 pm

    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?

  3. John Boal
    Alexandria, VA
    February 8, 2012, 11:21 am

    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?

  4. Felix Masi
    Washington DC
    February 8, 2012, 10:03 am

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

  5. Tyler Peterson
    February 8, 2012, 10:02 am

    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?


  6. Adrienne Englert
    United States
    February 7, 2012, 11:13 pm

    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.

  7. Greg Miller
    Tacoma, WA
    February 7, 2012, 10:19 pm

    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.

  8. Jacob Byk
    Kent, Ohio
    February 7, 2012, 9:41 pm

    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

  9. Kelley Coleman
    Lubbock, Texas
    February 7, 2012, 9:22 pm

    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?

  10. James Watkins
    Dallas, TX
    February 7, 2012, 6:56 pm

    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

  11. Visnja Anic
    Zagreb, Croatia
    February 7, 2012, 6:50 pm

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


  12. Tracie Love
    Hopetoun, Victoria
    February 7, 2012, 6:45 pm

    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


  13. Scott Myers
    Tannersville, NY
    February 7, 2012, 6:27 pm

    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?