Design, Photography, & Fashion

Principles of Narrative: The Shoot and the Edit

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 14:51 min

Now that you have a clear, powerful story in mind, Jimmy explains the core tenets of working with your editor and subjects to bring that story to life.

Jimmy Chin
Teaches Adventure Photography
National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.
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When you're shooting an editorial assignment, you have to really think about diversity of images. You know, if I went to Yosemite and spent two months and just shot the cutting edge of climbing, which is very tempting because that's where all the action is, and, you know, what I consider the kind of coolest shots or like the most logistically challenging shots and show up after a couple of months with a portfolio of epic, beautiful climbing shots, they'd probably never hire you again. You have to come back with a body of work that not only illustrates the ideas that you've pitched to them, but they have to be visually diverse. At the "Geographic," you often get an assignment. They'll send you out for a month. You'll shoot. You'll come back to DC. You'll do a interim edit. You put together what we call a tray because going back to the old slide trays, but now we do it digitally. Then you have to present it to the editorial board. And they will all chime in, and you're working with your own specific photo editor. I worked with Sadie Quarrier, who's incredible, and they'll kind of pick apart your shoot. And it can be a little rough. Things can go a couple of different directions. They can say this looks great. Just keep doing what you're doing. We love what you're doing. You know, go back out there and finish this job. You probably don't hear that very often. More likely it's, we love what you're doing. This is going in the right direction. We'd really love you to develop this idea a bit more. You're very heavy on these kind of figuring a landscape shots. We need something more intimate. Let's send you back out there. Here are notes. And then, of course, there's the this is not going anywhere. We're cutting the job. Obviously you don't want to hear that. You go back out, you shoot, and you start to take that feedback, and I think that that feedback is always very helpful because they look at it and you learn to look at your work through that lens. You think, well, I've gotten all of these really great climbing shots. Some of them are big, broad, expansive, iconic shots of somebody on a wall. There's some really close up and tights of the holes and the body movement and the climbing. I'm a little light on the culture, the subculture. I'm a little light on what it looks and feels like to live on a wall. You start to kind of really pay attention to the details of what the images are telling you, how they look visually, what your compositions look like. You want them to look different because when they put it in the magazine and when you're sitting at the edit, you know, you have to make a lot of hard choices. But it always comes down to having a very broad range of looks, not only looks but also feelings like how an image feels and also what the image illustrates in terms of an idea. And when you go into shoot, you really have to think about all those elements. It's helpful to take notes. I'm a terrible note taker, but f...

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.

I can’t wait to buy a good camera! Wonderful class

I would love to see the final edited photos, and the ones chosen for publishing.

A huge thank you to Jimmy and MasterClass to such an incredible analysis and diving deep into every process that is explained in the series. "Commit and figure it out."

This is absolutely your best class on photography, and top 3 overall. Jimmy's teaching style and topic strategy strikes the perfect balance of aspirational and tangible/practical. I found myself taking notes on specific things to improve my technical abilities with a camera. Would love to see more fro Jimmy


Jacob G.

I need to think more like an editor and be more confident when selecting my photographs. I'm internalizing every lesson and am continuously getting psyched.

Alejandro M.

David Alan Harvey. España, Galicia. (1977)

Pat W.

What an excellent lesson. I'll be watching this again. And again. I write a travel blog and the points on narrative are so excellent, so helpful, I will be incorporating them into my writing as well as my photography.

Kenton M.

I'm really enjoying this class as a whole. Jimmy is definitely an interesting individual! The editing stage is/can be a very busy and difficult process of your photography job/journey.

A fellow student

I can only imagine how intense the editing stage is...I struggle at curating a much smaller sample, but when you get in the tens of thousands of shots it must take some incredible instinct and acumen to hone down to tell the right story. Well done...both in this class and in your accomplishments. Admirable.

Jim C.

This is the most informative class thus far in this Master Class. A lot of great information on the entire process of a National Geographic shoot. Editing (not to be confused with manipulating) images is difficult for a lot of people. My newspaper photojournalist friend calls it "killing your puppies." Images you personally love, but that just don't work. You have to edit them out. I see this problem on social media frequently and in some portfolios. Someone will post basically the same image five times. Perhaps the very same image that has been manipulated in various ways (one color, one black and white, one cropped differently). All because they cannot decide which image they like best. One has to make a decision. "There can be only one." His cover image amuses me in that the climber is wearing a red jacket. Or National Geographic red as some call it. Great lesson.


So good...especially stepping through all the WORK involved. And the admission that even the best of the best (like Jimmy) don't have the final say in what gets published. Love this series!

Amelia D.

Do they (Nat Geo) still pay you after spending so much time on the job if they decide not to go with the story/images?

Ferricio G.

It was good to hear that it is not about a bunch of great photographs. "...they'll probably never hire you again."

David L.

I recently finished a project that I published in PDF format. It isn't action or adventure photography, but the editing process was long and some of the cuts were painful. One photo that I cut was an image that I really like, but it was a little redundant in subject matter and in composition to two other photos, so it had to go. I also had a rough time editing a short essay I wrote to lay out the conceptual framework for the project. I ended up cutting a lot of that, and refocusing the direction the essay was going. That meant I had to go back and rework my photo picks, resequence, and cut more images. This photo didn't make the cut, but after this lesson I think it has the visual and conceptual strength to summarize the whole project.