“Keep up the good work Monica and don’t forget to browse others’ work to get inspired…”
Several years ago, not long after I’d submitted a photo to Your Shot, I received the above comment from another member of the community. This person had no idea that I was a picture editor at National Geographic but liked my photo and wanted to pass on a helpful hint—learn from looking. This could easily be the tagline for the community.
“Looking at the pictures on Your Shot is a really wonderful way to see a lot of really great pictures and learn something. I think that we learn how to take better pictures by looking at better pictures … If you spend the time, you can really grow as a photographer.” —Maggie Steber, National Geographic photographer
Let’s take a step back and assume you have never heard of Your Shot. Who and what is it? It’s a group of people who are passionate about taking pictures and want to get better at it; who love all types of photography; who enjoy an energetic debate and respect differences of opinion; and who share their lives through images and words. It’s a community of almost 400,000 members from 196 countries—more than half of which live outside the United States. Apparently photography is a universal language because the quality of the conversation and the depth of personal connection that happens on a daily basis are inspiring. Last year we redesigned and reengineered the entire online experience. One consequence was that the conversations that had been happening on a small scale in the shadows were enlivened and exposed for the first time. It’s no surprise that many of the photos submitted to National Geographic are amazing, but what really distinguishes Your Shot is the conversation.
“I started going to the discussion section and it was there that…the richness of the experience occurred. Because I started to converse with individual photographers and make more comments—really having back and forth conversations with people. And that was completely fascinating to see how passionate this community is. They really want to get better. It’s meaningful to them … and that changed the entire experience (for me).” —Lynn Johnson, National Geographic photographer
Each month we run several assignments that are led by editors and photographers who curate their favorite photos and add their own commentary to create a collaborative or crowd-sourced story. Our most recent story was edited by National Geographic photographers Lynn Johnson and Maggie Steber, and National Geographic magazine senior photo editor Elizabeth Krist. The Love Snap assignment was a transformative experience for both the community and the editors.
“It’s moving to see how engaged people are. I think it says something wonderful about photography.” —Maggie Steber
The editors’ preconceived notions about what makes a powerful image were broadened to include photos that while not technically strong, were powerful in showing raw emotion. The community was challenged to go beyond the cliché and find unexpected moments of tenderness. The result was our most emotionally charged story thus far. And the heartfelt conversation continues…
“I am so very honored to be included in this collection. It is even more meaningful since my father passed away a few days ago, and this was the last photo taken of him with my daughter. What a wonderful legacy to have their special bond not only captured, but immortalized in such an amazing way. Thank you!”—Elizabeth Flora Ross, Your Shot photographer