Photo Editor Jobs

The photo editor supervises the photography that appears in newspapers and magazines, therefore they hold one of the most important positions at their publication.

The photo editor is also in charge of hiring photographers.

A running joke among photo editors is that they are failed photographers. That is not necessarily true, but photo editors usually have a working history as photographers and they must have the knowledge, skill and expertise that a photographer would have. The difference between the photo editor and the photographer is that the photo editor works on the publishing side and the photographer produces the work.

In addition to the technical skills, a good editor combines creativity, business knowledge, organization and excellent people skills. The most successful photo editors are those that also have an eye for talent and narrative. Therefore, if your goal is to become a photo editor, the most important action to take is to develop your eye for good photography. Here is how:

  • Edit images. This begins, primarily, with your own portfolio. What images go where and in what order all demonstrate how skilled you are at creating an aesthetically appealing narrative. Put together several different portfolios, each with its own particular theme. This will show potential employers that you not only know how to photograph well, but that you can also create a narrative out of photographs alone.
  • Network, network, network! Make connections with every up-and-coming photographer you know. More importantly, learn the names of working photographers in your city and in the magazine or newspaper at which you are interested in working. When you are consulting with editors on a story, you need to be able to pull up a list of photographers whose style and tone would go work well with that story.
  • Continue to work on and improve your knowledge of photography. This includes staying abreast of technological developments in software and hardware

Photo editing has developed into a highly specialized skill with job possibilities at newspapers, magazines and books. There are photo editors who work exclusively with travel photographers at travel magazines or within the travel sections of newspapers.

Others find their niche in editing fashion photography in the pages of Vogue, Elle, and GQ.

Photo editors have particularly busy schedules. Since the photo editor is in charge, they are ultimately responsible for making sure that all work- shoots, editing and post-production- gets done on or before deadline. They are also in charge of acquisitions, which mean that they are charge of contracting photographers for work. This is why it essential to always maintain and add to your roster of photographers- it is so handy to have a few names on hand to choose from for a shoot because their work fits the editors’ vision for that story.

Photo editors also work alongside editors to plan the layout and format of copy. They might also work with editors and art directors to create an editorial calendar. Where the editor looks for writers according to the editorial calendar, the photo editor will plan his shoots accordingly.

In addition to commissioning photographers for shoots, the photo editor may also be in charge of researching and purchasing stock images. Photo editors do not often use stock images for editorial stories; they might use them for blurbs or shorter stories that do not require more than one or two images to accompany the story.

Most editors have a degree in photography, since it is important to have working knowledge of the practice. However, it is more important to have experience than anything else is. The best way to get started as a photo editor is to work your way up through the ranks of a magazine or newspaper. This usually starts with an internship as an editorial assistant. After finding work as a paid editorial assistant, expect to move through the ranks as an assistant photo editor before you have earned the title of photo editor.


As with many other photography careers, average salary depends on experience. The median salary for a photo editor with five years of experience in 2009 was about $46,000.

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