Learn how to be a narrator for documentaries 

Learning how to become a narrator for documentaries, like any genre of voice over, has its own specific needs. Documentary narration in particular requires stamina, patience, a good sense of pacing, and a voice that’s easy on the ears. Documentaries can be lengthy, meaning listeners have to hear the same voice for a long period of time. That means having a great voice is especially important. Shrillness in the voice or distracting noises — such as loud breathing — in a documentary voice over can turn audiences off.

How to become a narrator for documentaries

Practice pacing and patience

Documentary narration, more so than other genres, requires careful attention to the pacing of a voice over. Documentaries are typically slower paced than genres like promos, or strictly follow the imagery. This requires the voice over to follow the pacing of what’s being presented, instead of the voice over dictating the pace.

Visualize the imagery

A documentary narrator must be able to envision what’s being said, and narrate as if they’re seeing what they’re reading. It’s different from just reading words on a script. Documentary narration is best when it seems like the voice over comes from the scene itself, and not from a recording studio.

Add dimension

Aside from visualizing the imagery, a good documentary narrator exercises their creativity and provides different readings, while still staying true to the script. Meaning, documentary narration involves giving directors different readings, which adds options and dimension to the voice over. Meanwhile, staying true to the script means understanding the feelings and meaning of the script, and making sure it comes through in the documentary voice over. That’s different from simply reciting lines.

Ensure a good sound

Unwanted noise is only amplified when listening to it for long periods of time. Any hiss, fuzz, distracting breathing or background noises are a no-go. Ensure the voice over for documentary is clean and adds to what the documentary is showing, instead of taking away from it.


First, learn the ins and outs of voice acting.

Second, practice and improve to establish endurance and believablity.

Third, listen to documentary narrations and do research on tone, style, and genre.

Fourth, set up your voice over business and start auditioning!

For a 30-min program, $500-$1000 is average. For a 1-hour program, you can earn $1500 for a less-dense read, and $2500-$3000 is fair for denser reads.

No. An accent isn’t required, but can help. Localization — the use of a voice that’s native to the intended audience — can have a great affect on audiences.

"An OK narrator recites lines. A top notch narrator tells a story with pacing and dimension. You must be inside the writer's mind and heart."