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Interview with Krista Rossow, Photo Editor at National Geographic Traveler

Monday July 18th, 2011

Let’s start the week with something we haven’t done in a bit, shall we? I’m happy to share with you an interview with National Geographic Traveler photo editor, Krista Rossow. Krista and I met during a Wonderful Machine portfolio review. Since then, we’ve kept in touch through her periodic photo requests. Last week she was kind enough to answer some of my questions and provide a bit of insight into the world of photo editing. We normally do five questions for an art buyer but Krista was so great, we threw in one more for good measure. Enjoy!

- Maria Luci

What makes a photo great?
As a photo editor at Traveler, for me a great photo is one that combines a sense of place with a unique moment. I’m most drawn to photos that have many layers of interest, for example children playing in the foreground, a gurgling fountain in the mid-ground, and colorful Roman buildings in the background. I think that by having all of these elements coming together in one image, it shows more than what a place looks like, but rather what it feels like.

A strong sense of place is essential for travel imagery. Photo by Yadid Levy/Argentina/Denmark

How did you get your current job?
Before I got my job at National Geographic Traveler I cobbled together a living as a freelance photographer and photo workshop assistant. I spent a year working at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops where I was a course assistant. It was nonstop work and nonstop photography, and in short, one of the best years of my life. That experience allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do with my own photography, and, although I had a background in fine art photography from college, I realized that I was drawn towards photojournalism. I was lucky enough to work with many National Geographic photographers and ended up meeting the person who hired me while I was working at a Traveler photography seminar.  Eventually there was an opening at Traveler, and I moved across the country to work at NG.

How does National Geographic Traveler source photography?
NGT assigns freelance photographers for most of our feature stories. We occasionally assign for smaller front-of-book stories, but primarily use stock images for our departments and any round-up style features.

Has finding decent photographers become easier or harder in the digital age?
I think that with digital photography, it is both easier and harder to find decent photographers because more people consider themselves photographers and are putting their work out there. On one hand, that accessibility is great because that means I might run across a shot on somebody’s website or blog that will work for my story, whereas in the past they probably wouldn’t have been able to get their images out there on the internet as easily. On the other hand, I sometimes feel deluged by photographers’ emails and websites. It is a lot to keep up with.

A crowded market can feel…overwhelming. Photo by Ball & Albanese/New York

What annoys you the most?
I’d have to say one of my biggest pet peeves is getting tons of promo cards and emails promoting content that is way off the mark! I wish photographers would dedicate more time to researching the client that they are reaching out to. If you want to shoot travel for us, then show us that you can shoot travel….and that you understand our style. I feel like a lot of photographers think that shooting travel is easy, so they don’t even bother to put examples in their portfolios or on their websites. I need to KNOW that you can perform, and although your promo with your latest corporate shoot may look really fantastic, that won’t get me to go to your website.

What’s the most satisfying part of your day?
The most satisfying part of my day is when I can get a few hours to actually sit down and edit photos! Some days are spent responding to emails, going to meetings, and putting out fires. I love it when I can really immerse myself in a story and decide how best to illustrate the piece. It is like taking a trip for a few hours! You can imagine that my travel wish list is expansive, and I’m always the person at a cocktail party who talks as if I’ve been to a place when I’ve actually only been through (fabulous) pictures.

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