Nat Geo photogs give insight from Rich Clarkson

Gerd Ludwig continues his series on speaking to former Directors of Photography including Rich Clarkson. Clarkson was Director of Photography for the National Geographic Magazine from 1985 to 1988.

Like Kent Kobersteen, I have spent much of my professional life moving on from an early role as staff photographer to a director of photography. My time spanned two successful newspapers and eventually, the National Geographic Society.

It included working as a contract photographer for a news weekly and the nation’s premier sports magazine, as well as the editor of a number of books and photographic projects. So from both sides of the fence, my career has been about the business of getting good pictures and then using them well.

So what did I learn in these various stages? And what should all photographers know?

This is about what directors of photography do, and how to use them well.

First, a director of photography is your friend — and your spokesman, your salesman and often, your mentor. But he is a middleman. His job lies between you, and the users of your work, along with a picture editor and various other layers of editors whose job it is to combine the visuals with words. It is a very competitive environment.

Some managing editors are brilliant manipulators of all the elements to tell a story most effectively, but often they can use help. Dealing with various magazine editors over the years, often a scene of negotiations and compromises.

To read the rest of the article, go to The Photo Society.

The Photo Society is a collaboration blog of National Geographic photographers, their work, and their opinions.

Scroll to Top