Design, Photography, & Fashion

Principles of Narrative: Concept, Research, and Pitch

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 11:55 min

With a focus on editorial photography, Jimmy teaches you how to construct a photo narrative to win magazine clients and tell a compelling story.

Jimmy Chin
Teaches Adventure Photography
National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.
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I'm going to talk about the editorial process. I think there are a lot of different approaches that you can take. I'll talk a little bit about how I think about it. You know, there's probably four main areas to examine. There's the concepting of the idea. There's the pitching of the idea. There's the execution of the shoot. And then there's the edit. When you're thinking about a story, you want to have a lot of layers to it. I think probably the best way to illustrate some of these points is to talk about a specific "National Geographic" assignment that I came up with, pitched, shot, and then it eventually became a magazine story. So not every shoot is for "National Geographic." Usually you have some editorial control over the images that you share with the publication that you are shooting for. And clearly, you know, "National Geographic" holds the highest standard for kind of visual documentation. And they're a magazine that I always dreamed about shooting for. But that also makes it very challenging. And, you know, I don't think there's any photo shoot that I do that I feel more pressure on than a "National Geographic" assignment just because of your peer group and the bar that they've set and the expectations of the editorial staff. So I came up with an idea to shoot a story about Yosemite, which is very close to me. And it was about the climbing culture of Yosemite. And I knew that "National Geographic," you know, loved to do stories on the national parks. There's obviously a lot of visual opportunities there. But I also know that they've done stories on Yosemite. So I wanted to show another side of the park. My thinking is that, OK, you know, a national park pitch is something that they would like. And if I could put-- if I could pivot that in some way that would bring a new perspective to it, that would, you know, give me a better chance at landing the idea. So I thought about the climbing culture of Yosemite and kind of like what was happening in Yosemite, the cutting edge of climbing. And the idea behind it I knew had to be even bigger than that. And so what I had been seeing in climbing, in particular, but in a lot of sports, was that, you know, there were people pushing the boundaries of climbing. And every time you thought that, you know, we had achieved the highest human potential, somebody new would come along and break that barrier. And over the years, I started to realize that, you know, there was nothing that you could claim to be impossible because someone seemed to always break that barrier. So if you extrapolate from that idea, you know, the broader idea that I wanted to kind of examine is that the human potential is kind of infinite. So now the story had some depth. You know, we were looking at how beautiful Yosemite was. You had a subculture that you could kind of dig into. You had these physical achievements that you could shoot. And it was pointing to a larger idea beyond that, which was about h...

Push the limits of your photography

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Ahhh! So sad it's done! Jimmy does such a great job sharing his passion for climbing and photography. I watched the last 3 chapters twice because I kept writing down phrases and pausing to think and dream. So good!

I learned a lot of practical information, and things that would boost my confidence.

Jimmy's narration and the way he brought out key learnings was incredible - Key things i learnt was one to discover my self, two the way he shot- various focal lengths etc, three hard work # shots and finally staying in the moment

First of all, excellent talent. Jimmy is clearly a master in his field. His insight and knowledge inspired me to try new things and expand my view on things.


Peter S.

Pretty much all of these classes are completely Worthless. I came into the MasterClass with a lot of questions and expectations. Should I get a teleconverter lens? Tell me in your 20 classes many scenarios that you use different lenses. Tell me why this f-stop is preferable. What are the settings of your national geographic photos? What are ideal combinations of f-stop, Iso and aperture to get proper photos outside vs inside. Midday vs night time, etc. Jimmy Chin ends up talking about things like "you need to allow yourself to fail." Yea, no kidding, I already learn those lessons everyday in my own life and my own career. This is a waste of money. I literally learned more about photography from the first 5 minutes from ANY YOUTUBE VIDEO or from the first five minutes of any photography book or the first 5 minutes from taking a photography class. He just wastes your time telling you stories about when he was a kid, waiting tables, working for his mentors, how Conrad is his best friend, etc, etc, etc.

Jacob G.

Getting psyched. Just hearing his words on how research plays a huge role into photography has really opened up a new world of potential. I should have known understanding the environment and the culture of the land can make your work more empowering.

Kenton M.

He's absolutely right on everything in this video! Research is always a good way to start.

Josep B.

Could I somehow read online his editorial for National Geographic? Thanks!!

Meg N.

I was talking to a colleague on our way home from our "day job", and he was really convinced that writing, photography, etc., were impossible to have as a full-time occupation without a trust fund that provided all financial support needed. I mentioned this and other Master Class courses, all of which seem to include how to pitch your work in order to get assignments and importantly, get paid. This Chapter 4 is excellent in that regard! My father studied photography and got good reviews when he exhibited, and when WWII broke out he volunteered and spent the entire war in reconnaissance photography... after which, he tried to make a go of being a professional photographer. By that point in time he lacked mentors, his school of photography had disappeared... so there was an unopened trunk in the attic. He never talked about what he had done or what had happened to his hopes, other than "it wouldn't support a family"... He took a job he disliked, which led to a different job that he hated, until finally he reached retirement, when he picked up photography as "a hobby". But looking at Chapter 4, I can see what happened: this part is KEY to being a professional photographer!

Ricardo A.

For someone who dreams of one day going on assignment for National Geographic, this right here is 100% worth the price of entry. Super insightful and informative!

Ian C.

Would love to see an example of one of Jimmy's pitches and how he presents the idea initially. Not sure if this is possible?

Alex M.

Very, very interesting to hear of the other attributes a photojournalist requires other than taking great photos.

Laurien R.

Concept, Research, and Pitch, Great section of Masterclass. Very interesting to listen to someone who has actually done work with National Geographic level photography. Thanks.

David M.

Jimmy, thanks for this very insightful look at the pitch. In a way, one of the most interesting and useful parts of the MasterClass so far. Thanks for doing this! —Dave Manning