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National Geographic Guidelines

From the Director of Photography National Geographic magazineGuidelines for submission of digital images


I encourage you to submit photographs that are real. The world is already full of visual artifice, and we aren't running a Photography Contest to add to it. We want to see the world through your eyes, not the tools of Photoshop.


Please do not digitally enhance or alter your photographs (beyond the basics needed to achieve realistic color balance and sharpness). If you have digitally added or removed anything, please don't submit the shot. We look at every photo to see if it's authentic, and if we find that yours is in any way deceptive, we'll disqualify it.


CROPPING: OK, if it makes the photo better; eliminate clutter, clean your edges and fit your paper/print size properly. Do not over-crop and degrade your picture quality.


DODGING AND BURNING: Dodging (to brighten shadows) or burning (to darken highlights) is OK, but it should be minimal. Do not overdo it. Your goal in using digital darkroom techniques should be only to adjust the dynamic tonal range of an image so that it more closely resembles what you saw. And don't over-saturate or alter the color.


SOLARIZATION, MEZZOTINT, DUOTONE, ETC.: No. If you use one of the myriad alteration "filters" available in your digital photo software, please stop.




HAND-TINTED IMAGES: OK, but only if you're experienced in this art.


FISH-EYE LENSES: OK, but enter at your own risk - editors tend to dislike such optical gimmicks.


STITCHED PANORAMAS: OK, but only if the segments were all made within the same time frame. We don't want panoramas with sections made at significantly different times. Do not change focal length when you create a stitched image. Do not stretch the meaning of panorama to include elements that weren't in the scene as you saw it. If your entry is a stitched image, please indicate this in the caption. (A stitched panorama is created from multiple images, each taking in a different angle of view from the same position, then combined using digital techniques. It results in a wider view than can be achieved with most wide-angle lenses.)


HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE IMAGES (HDRI): OK, but like panoramas, only if the combined parts are made at about the same time. We don't want final images where the foreground was shot at noon and the sky at sunset. If your entry is an HDRI image, please indicate this in the caption. (An HDRI image is created from, multiple images of exactly the same scene, made rapidly but at different exposures, then combined using digital darkroom techniques. The final image, when done successfully, allows one exposure for shadows to be combined with another for highlights to produce a final image that has a greater dynamic range than is possible with a single exposure.)


Download the National Geographic Guidelines
in PDF format


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