National Geographic


I've been re-listening to several instructional photography courses that I've purchased over the past several years. In the process, two quotes really stood out to me, especially as they relate to one another. They both told me that being a successful professional photographer is about more than just good exposure.


As I followed Corey Rich's Creative Live Class he said the following, this isn't word for word, but the gist was: "Great exposures and good technical settings won't set you apart. What sets you apart as a photographer is how you layout your frame."


A couple of days after hearing that, I heard this from Jim Richardson in his class on National Geographic story research: "Photo editors don't buy images they like, they buy images they need."

I think a simple takeaway here is that we need to learn to tell a compelling story within a frame. The technical ability to expose and edit are a small part of the business of being a photographer. Create images that are needed and you'll set yourself apart.


“I’m an adventure photographer.” That’s my elevator pitch: quick and easy but lacking in real substance. In the grander scheme, I fancy myself a good storyteller. I’m great at verbally recounting stories in a way that’s engaging and I like to think that’s something I’m really good at visually as well. One of the main advantages to being a storyteller instead of just a photographer is that it allows me to transition and change as the medium changes. Whether it’s still photography or DSLR video or some new technology doesn’t matter because it’s just a story, and I know how to tell a good story.

Given the above insight, I’ve spent considerable time and energy learning and practicing visual storytelling and I’ve acquired some real gems in terms of quotes, ideas, and advice from other great storytellers. So the plan is to share it all here on my blog and I’m hoping to engage a larger dialogue that would be uplifting and eye opening.


Cory Richards

Cory Richards

This first post on storytelling comes from photographer Cory Richards of National Geographic. I’ve added and embellished it a little, but the basic ideas and concepts are all here.

When telling a story, Cory starts by asking himself some great questions: What are the elements of storytelling that tie everything together? How do I show the culture of where I am? What am I feeling? What am I smelling? What am I tasting? What am I hearing? How do I show that visually? What do our sensory experiences look like?

Now, clearly these questions are framed in terms of creating a still photograph, but I think the principles can be applied to any storytelling medium. If the story is verbal what do these same sense sound like? How can you create them through language or noise or gesture? This was really a keen insight for me and I’m so glad I happened upon it.

Please share your thoughts or stories through the comments. I truly would love to hear what you have to say.

Now that you've had the recap, have a listen to the actual talk.