In 2013 Sarah Leen became the first female Director of Photography for National Geographic Visual Media. In 2019 she founded The Visual Thinking Collective for independent women photo editors, curators and teachers dedicated to supporting visual storytelling.

For nearly 20 years she worked as a freelance photographer for the National Geographic magazine until 2004 when she joined the staff as a Senior Photo Editor. As a photographer Leen published sixteen stories and produced six covers for the National Geographic magazine.

In 1979 Leen was the first woman to receive the College Photographer of the Year award while a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The award included an internship at the Nat Geo magazine where she published her first NatGeo story, “Return to Uganda.”

Leen has also won numerous awards for both her photography and photo editing including the Pictures of the Year competition and the World Press Photo Awards. In 2007 and 2008 she won first place Magazine Picture Editing Portfolio from POYi. Her Nat Geo photo editing team won the Angus MacDougall Overall Excellence in Editing Award in 2016 and 2017.

Leen teaches photography and photo editing workshops at the Missouri Photo Workshops, the Maine Media Workshops, the Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and the PhotoLux Festival in Lucca, Italy.

She has juried numerous contests and portfolio reviews including Pictures of the Year International, Lens Culture, Critical Mass, Photo Lucida, The FotoEvidence Book Award, the Carmignac Award, The W. Eugene Smith Grants and the Getty Images Editorial Grants New York Times Portfolio Reviews and the World Press Joop Swarts Masterclass.

In 2013, Leen was the c0-curator of the exhibit ‘The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years’ at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, California.

Sarah Leen is an Affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers and a National Geographic Society storytelling grants reviewer.