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Love Snap

This assignment ran from Feb 14 to Mar 7, 2014.

Welcome to the month of love.

Who do you love?
What do you love?
Where do you love to hide to get away from it all?

We tend to be casual about using this powerful word, so stop for a moment and consider what love actually means to you. Now is the time to turn words into images. Don’t tell us who or where or what makes your heart sing—show us.

Photography is a powerful voice for all things, physical and metaphorical. How can the people and things you love be expressed with light, movement, and color? More...

Curated by:

Lynn Johnson
National Geographic Photographer

Elizabeth Krist
Photo Editor

Maggie Steber
National Geographic Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Mar 14, 2014.
Thank you for your contributions!

Behind The Edit

Posted mar 24, 2014

Over 14,000 photos were submitted to the Love Snap assignment, 27 made it into the final story. Listen to our phone call with the editors—who were “warriors for your pictures”—on how the experience changed them.

Learn more about this process on our sister blog PROOF.

Pique Our Curiosity

Posted mar 5, 2014

When selecting photos, we're looking for spontaneous, real-life moments. But what we're seeing is too many saccharine-sweet photos that don't have a backstory and that don't tell us about a different kind of love. We're looking for photographs that pique our curiosity and make us want to know more.

So, among all these thousands of very similar photographs, especially subject-wise, how will your photo stand out in the crowd? Have a look at the Editors' Favorites and you'll see some pretty interesting moments, compositions, light, situations, and expressions of love that go beyond hearts and roses—even venturing into death, service to country, and more. All these photos have something extra that the viewer can learn from or relate to or stop to think about for longer than a moment.

I suspect that many people are posting photographs so that their families and loved ones can see them on the website. But if you want this to be more than Facebook, do the things we've suggested. Photos without any context have less chance of being selected, especially if we're seeing the same kinds of photos thousands of times. We love that people are posting, but go wild a little more, and think of all kinds of love, not just romantic or family love. The operative word for this week is imagination! Use it!


Posted feb 28, 2014

Let’s try an experiment. Suppose you need to make one new frame of someone you love, to bring with you on a long journey. But you are absolutely forbidden from making the classic snapshot—no standing at eye level and shooting a head-and-shoulders frame straight on. No passport pictures!

Stop and close your eyes. Conjure up the situations that bring out your deepest feelings for your chosen subject. Is it when your husband cooks you breakfast or your wife tucks your daughter into bed? When your mother practices the cello or a friend cuts your hair? Or when your dog runs through the woods? What time of day is it? What is the light like? 

How will your picture capture and express the feelings you have for loved ones?

And don’t forget: You’re not allowed to stand like two duelers facing each other; no recording anyone straight on. Now’s the time to play. Try shooting action for a change, catching your beloved in motion, with a bit of blur. Shoot from different angles, like above or below. Tilt the horizon. Crop out part of a face or an arm; come in close on a detail. If you don’t usually shoot black and white, try it. Shoot in low light, play with flash. And don’t be afraid to shoot a lot—many of the frames will fail, but some wild ones may surprise you by feeling like the essence of what you remember. And they could give you an image that’s meaningful decades later, a spark of why you always loved that person.   

Dig Deep

Posted feb 21, 2014

We live in a Hallmark world, surrounded by images of the surface. TV, fashion, lifestyle, Internet images—messages zipping past our eyes, stopping only when we sleep. Those are not the images that make great photographs. A great photograph is timeless, purposeful, balanced, energized.

These are the images we ask of you. Please think about the light, the design of the frame, and above all the content of the photographs you send. Ask yourself, Is the light interesting or does it just flood the scene? Light also has a personality. Ask yourself, Is my frame balanced—light and dark, from left to right, up and down, and into the scene? Balance is the essential stuff of life. It's difficult to achieve, but we can actually feel it when it happens.

And then the all-important content. Ask yourself, What am I trying to say with this image? Photographs are visual messages. They can be literal or deeply nuanced. Mine below the surface.

Love is about relationships (to ourselves, each other, and the natural world) and there is always mystery there. So if you're sending images with flat light, obvious clichés, and poorly balanced frames—go back! Pick up your camera and try again to see, to create, to explore, until you find a level of seeing and feeling that result in an image that will carry all of us to a deeper level.

Beyond the Cliche

Posted feb 14, 2014

Your images can be superreal or dreamlike, journalistic or imagined; they can speak to a person or to a moment in time. We challenge you to go beyond the saccharine-sweet clichés and show us the intimate and personal aspects of your ideas on love.

Elevate us. Surprise us! Inspire us with what you love, and we'll share it with the world.

Lynn Johnson

Lynn Johnson

National Geographic Photographer
Photojournalist Lynn Johnson has been photographing the global human condition for the past 35 years. A regular contributor to publications like National Geographic and to various foundations, Johnson brings a subtle perspective to tough issues—the scourge of landmines, the value of threatened languages, and rape in the military among others. She works with at-risk youth around the world as an educator with National Geographic Photo Camp and is working to develop a mentoring program for mulitmedia, photography, and design students at Syracuse University.

Elizabeth Krist

Elizabeth Krist

Photo Editor
Elizabeth Cheng Krist was a long-time photo editor with National Geographic. She curated the Women of Vision exhibition and book, as well as an auction for Christie’s. Krist has judged grants and competitions for Visura, PDN, Critical Mass, Aftermath, and the State Department, and with her colleagues has won awards from POYi, the Overseas Press Club, and Communication Arts. She has reviewed portfolios for the New York Times, PhotoPlus, and Palm Springs. Krist has taught workshops in Santa Fe and has served on the board of the Eddie Adams Workshop. Her favorite way to relax is to hang out in museums and galleries to look at more pictures!

Maggie Steber

Maggie Steber

National Geographic Photographer
Maggie Steber has worked as a documentary photographer in 63 countries. Her photos are included in the Library of Congress collection and the African Diaspora collection at the University of Miami, where she serves as a visiting lecturer. A collection of Haiti photographs from her longtime work in the country was published in Dancing on Fire: Photographs from Haiti (Aperture). She is a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and the recipient of multiple grants and awards, including the Leica Medal of Excellence.