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How I got a photo on the cover of National Geographic magazine… ?!

It has to be the pinnacle of every travel photographer’s career: A National Geographic cover photo! And I finally did it. Well, sort of. There’s a caveat, and here’s why…

Stock photography is a weird career. You work hard to take photos that you hope will sell. They go to various agents, and eventually royalties start dribbling in. And that’s it. No client meetings or team lunches. There’s no fanfare or applause when a photo sells.

Agents do not divulge who they’ve sold to. So I just have to keep my eyes peeled. My photos pop up all the time online, on news channels and various websites. Just occasionally, Rachael or I will come across one of my photos in use in the real world.

We once found a photo on the top of the Christmas McVities biscuit tin. My father-in-law saw himself on a billboard in Bangalore, India. More recently I came across a photo on the front cover of Nature Magazine.

This time I found a photo being used by National Geographic. It’s not the first time: I’ve had a few photos in their Traveller magazine. But this was a front cover. That’s a big deal, right?

Well, let’s not get too excited. Firstly, it was the Kids edition, not the main magazine. Secondly, you really need an eye of faith to see the photo being used. You see, it was an edition about Alexander Hamilton, the founding father who established the US mint. They used one of my still life photos of US dollars to form a background.

I’d taken this photo well over a decade ago, when I was first finding my feet in digital photography and learning to shoot different subjects and genres. But, technically… it’s now on the cover of a National Geographic magazine. 😉

And that sums up stock photography. You just have to keep shooting. Persevere. Build a portfolio and improve your photography. Experiment and diversify. The sales will follow.