What’s it like to be a National Geographic photographer? Joel Sartore tells all
March 8, 2013

What’s it like to be a National Geographic photographer? Joel Sartore tells all


Joel Sartore at work

“To get into National Geographic, you have to offer them something they don’t already have access to – which is a tall order.  It’s not enough just to be a great photographer.  You have to be a great photographer and be able to dive under sea ice, spend days in tree stands in the tropics, speak fluent Russian and know Moscow like the back of your hand” ~Joel Sartore

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a National Geographic photographer? Getting paid to travel the world, find fascinating stories, and meet incredible people, sounds like a far-fetched dream to most of us. For Joel Sartore its work, and hard work at that, but he loves every minute of it.

What is a Nat Geo photographer’s salary?

If you’re thinking of joining Joel, here are some things you can expect:

  1. It’s not a one-day gig.  Most of my trips last two weeks minimum.  Fourteen 18-hour days in a row often reduces the best of my assistants to rubble.
  2. When you’re trying not to disturb wildlife, the fewer people in an area the better. When I’m out in the field doing actual shooting, I’ll often be by myself in a blind while my assistant is making phone calls and lining up things for the next day.
  3. Quarters are cramped. I’m often in very tiny blinds, crammed in between trees, or trying not to fall off of a rock.
  4. It’s not really all that fun when you’re working around the clock. We often eat poorly and infrequently. It’s exhausting work, and going at it for three or four weeks at a time isn’t most people’s idea of a vacation.

Grizzly Bears Mountain Goat


Visit Joel Sartore’s website for more information on what it takes to be a Nat Geo Photographer.


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