As some of you might know, I have been a National Geographic "Your Shot" member since 2009. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT is a free platform that allows you to upload up to fifteen images per week. Each one of the photos you upload is reviewed by the Nat Geo's editors and there is always the possibility to get published in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DAILY DOZEN section. Members vote for their favorite shot, and If you get voted as the best, you can get published in National Geographic's monthly magazine. Back in the day, you were only allowed to upload a few images per month, and you had to compete for the attention of the editors with thousands and thousands of users. I was super lucky to get published on the Daily Dozen section in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
Recently, National Geographic introduced NAT GEO ASSIGNMENTS, a platform that invites you to go on assignment, shoot, and to submit your images following a theme and a certain criteria. With Nat Geo Assignments you can upload up to three photographs per assignment. The editors will review all the submissions and select twenty five for a special story.
I was lucky enough to get noticed once again by the National Geographic's editors during the "Create It" challenge, 2015. The Create It challenge was curated by Jeanne Modderman, National Geographic's Photo Producer, and it was based on the following criteria:
"For this assignment, I want you to become artists. Yes, you’re all photographers, but the term artist is not always synonymous with photographer. The assignment is simple. Create.
Take an idea, sketch it out in your mind, on paper, on the napkin beside you, on your hand and make a photograph. Visualize it, and then photograph it. Without the tricks of Photoshop."
The image I submitted was "CAGED BUTTERFLY" during that challenge, and it was picked as one of the EDITOR'S FAVORITES. The process was long but quite rewarding.
Well, as you previously read, we were not allowed to use Photoshop to create the final image, however, I was able to create a photography composite to be used as my background for my scene (the final image could not be retouched in any way besides cropping and adjusting brightness levels).
I went to the garden, picked up dry some leaves, and opened a little box where I used to keep two beautiful butterflies I found on the ground at some point.
I photographed them against a black background using a small light and a black piece of fabric, nothing fancy.
Then, created a photo composite using Photoshop. My idea was to create a Monarch Butterfly migration scene.
Next, I printed the image in a 20"x30" photography sheet to be used as my background.
I got some props, and I asked my beautiful friend if she could be my model.
I laid the background on the floor and started experimenting with different lighting and compositions.
I tried studio lighting, but didn't work the way I wanted. I wanted my image to evoke sadness and melancholy, as well as beauty and fragility. I guess the title say it all, she had to represent a caged butterfly.
I finally found the lighting and composition I was looking for. I found out that if I shot in the afternoon--right before sunset, I would get these long and strong shadows from a window that created the impression of a cage.
I scheduled the photo shoot with my friend and shot the scene using all the elements I had collected.
The image below was the final shot. I submitted it un-retouched as the guidelines suggested.
What's next?. A killer title and description.
National Geographic editors like a catchy title and a descriptive/artistic caption to understand the thinking process behind your image.
This is the title and description I used:
We all look for some sort of freedom.
I created this image to represent how fragile and trapped we feel sometimes. As a background, I used one of my large prints of butterfly's wings and dry leaves. I used the window spot in the afternoon to capture the shadows from the bars.
HOW TO START SUBMITTING:
1- Create an account with National Geographic Your Shot
2- Upload and submit your images.
3- Start submitting to Assignments.
1- Image size: photos must be at least 1600px high by 1600px wide.
2- Photos can not be larger than 20MB.
To learn more about the National Geographic photo guidelines click HERE
TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET NOTICED WHEN YOU SUBMIT TO NAT GEO ASSIGNMENTS:
1- Read the instructions very well and follow the editor's guidelines.
2- Submit early. Submitting early in the assignment will allow the editors to have time to review your work before the deadline, and maybe be picked as one of their favorites for pre-publication. You will be able to upload THREE images per assignment.
3- Think your title and description very well. Editors like a descriptive caption to understand what you were thinking but you only will have 40 characters for your title and 500 characters for your description (including spaces). Use them wisely.
4- Think like an editor. Look at the "Editors Favorites" section before you submit, and take a grasp of what they like. Look at other assignments and stories published by the editor, read the editor's biography, look at their Nat Geo profile. Doing all this, will give you an idea or their personality and taste when it comes to photography, as well as their favorite styles.
5- Be creative and adventurous. Think outside the box.
6- Be respectful. Avoid nudes and images that may be considered inappropriate. Nat Geo community takes photography very serious and you will be reported and banned.
7- Have fun!, at the end, this is the most important thing.
Watch this video by National Geographic's editors on the process of selecting images for their stories.
I hope you find this small article helpful, and I hope you have fun shooting and submitting your shots.
To see my National Geographic publications, follow the link below:
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