Career Development

What Does a Photo Editor Do?

Find out what a photo editor does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a photo editor.

Photo editors are responsible for managing the visual elements of a publication or broadcast. They work closely with writers, designers and other editors to ensure that each piece of content is visually appealing and consistent with the overall style of the publication.

Photo editors may also be responsible for sourcing images from freelance photographers or photo agencies. This can include everything from commissioning new photos to purchasing rights to existing images.

Photo Editor Job Duties

Photo editors typically have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Conducting research on current trends in photography styles, techniques, and technologies in order to keep abreast of industry trends
  • Reviewing photos taken by photographers on assignment to determine which images will be used in published materials
  • Preparing image files for publication, including cropping, retouching, color correction, adding text or graphics, and converting formats
  • Editing photos to improve composition and aesthetics, using digital software such as Photoshop
  • Assigning photographers to cover specific events or subjects
  • Managing the department’s workflow to ensure that deadlines are met
  • Assisting in the creation of photo essays, such as capturing B-roll footage for use in a video presentation
  • Reviewing and selecting images for use in advertising campaigns or other marketing materials
  • Selecting photos for publication in printed newspapers or online magazines

Photo Editor Salary & Outlook

Photo editors’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of company or publication they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $41,500 ($19.95/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $89,500 ($43.03/hour)

The employment of photo editors is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Digital photography and the use of social media have increased the demand for photo editors, who are needed to edit digital images and create visual content for websites and social media platforms. However, the increasing popularity of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has led to a decline in the number of traditional photo processing labs.

Related: Photo Editor Interview Questions and Answers

Photo Editor Job Requirements

Photo editors typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: Photo editors need at least a high school diploma or GED. Some employers prefer an associate or bachelor’s degree in photography or a related field. Courses in photography, digital media and graphic design can help prepare students for a career as a photo editor.

Training & Experience: Photo editors typically receive on-the-job training. They may shadow other photo editors or photographers to learn the workflow and style of the publication. They may also learn how to use the photo editing software the publication uses.

Certifications & Licenses: Photographers need a photography license to work in certain fields. Each state has different requirements for how to get a photography license, so photographers should check the requirements in their state.

Photo Editor Skills

Photo editors need the following skills in order to be successful:

Editing skills: Photo editors use their editing skills to make changes to images, including adjusting lighting, removing objects and adding effects. This is a crucial skill for photo editors to have, as it allows them to make changes to images to improve their quality.

Technical skills: Photo editors use technical skills to edit images and create graphics. They may use software like Photoshop or other image-editing software to crop, resize and adjust images. They may also use software to create graphics like charts, graphs and other types of images.

Communication skills: Photo editors often communicate with clients, other photo editors and other members of a team. Effective communication skills can help you collaborate with others, share ideas and explain complex concepts. You can also use communication skills to communicate with clients, ensuring they understand the work you’ve done for them.

Critical thinking skills: Critical thinking skills are the ability to analyze a situation and make a decision based on the information you have. As a photo editor, you may be asked to edit a photo that doesn’t have all the information you need to complete the task. For example, if you’re asked to edit a photo of a person’s face but you only have the person’s back, you may need to use your critical thinking skills to decide what to do with the photo.

Problem-solving skills: Photo editors often work on tight deadlines, so they need to be able to solve problems quickly and effectively. This can include finding solutions to technical issues, such as when a photo isn’t displaying correctly or when a file is corrupted. It can also mean finding solutions to non-technical issues, such as when a model doesn’t show up for a shoot or when a location isn’t available for a shoot.

Photo Editor Work Environment

Photo editors work in a variety of settings, including newsrooms, advertising agencies, corporate communications departments, and yearbook and newspaper offices. They usually work a standard 40-hour week, although they may occasionally work overtime to meet deadlines. Photo editors typically work in well-lit, comfortable offices or studios. They use computers and other office equipment to perform their work and may be exposed to occasional fumes from chemicals used to develop photographs.

Photo Editor Trends

Here are three trends influencing how photo editors work. Photo editors will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Rise of the Visual Storyteller

The rise of the visual storyteller is a trend that is quickly changing the world of photography. As more and more people are turning to social media for their news and information, photo editors will need to learn how to tell stories through images.

This trend requires photographers to be able to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to capture the attention of their audience. It also requires them to be well-versed in editing software so that they can create visually appealing photos.

More Use of Video in Advertising

As advertising becomes more digital, businesses are starting to use video more often. This is because video ads are easier to produce and can reach a larger audience than traditional print ads.

Photo editors can capitalize on this trend by becoming experts in video production. They can do this by learning how to shoot and edit video, as well as by developing an understanding of how to create effective video ads.

A Focus on Diversity

Diversity has become a major focus in the photography industry in recent years. This is due to the fact that many customers want to see images that reflect the diversity of the world around them.

Photo editors can capitalize on this trend by making sure that their portfolios include images that represent different cultures, genders, and sexual orientations. In addition, they should be open to working with photographers who specialize in these areas.

How to Become a Photo Editor

A photo editor career can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to work with a variety of photographers and subjects, as well as develop your own creative vision. As a photo editor, you’ll need to have an eye for detail and be able to see the big picture. You’ll also need to be able to manage multiple projects simultaneously and meet deadlines.

To become a successful photo editor, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in photography and technology. You should also be familiar with the various editing software programs available. Additionally, it’s important to build relationships with other professionals in the industry, such as photographers, designers, and writers.

Advancement Prospects

Advancement prospects for photo editors are good. With experience, photo editors can move up to higher-level positions, such as chief photo editor or director of photography. They may also start their own photography business or become freelance photo editors.

Photo Editor Job Description Example

As the photo editor for [CompanyX], you will be responsible for the visual style of our website, social media, and marketing materials. You will work with our team of photographers to select and edit photos for publication, ensuring that all photos meet our high standards for quality and composition. In addition to your editing skills, you must be able to take direction well and work quickly to meet deadlines. The ideal candidate will have a strong eye for detail and a passion for creating beautiful visual content.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Edit and enhance digital images, using a variety of software programs
  • Work with photographers, art directors, and other members of the creative team to select appropriate images for stories or advertisements
  • Balance artistic expression with the technical requirements of the project
  • Crop and resize images, adjust levels, remove blemishes, and perform other necessary edits
  • Ensure that all edited images meet the specifications of the project
  • Maintain a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
  • Stay up-to-date on new editing software and techniques
  • Manage multiple projects simultaneously and meet deadlines
  • Archive edited images and maintain a library of stock photos
  • Assist in the training of new photo editors
  • Participate in brainstorming sessions to generate ideas for new campaigns
  • Perform quality control checks on finished products before they are released to the client

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in photography, graphic design, or related field
  • 5+ years experience as a professional photographer or photo editor
  • Proficient in Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and other editing software
  • Exceptional attention to detail
  • A strong portfolio of work that demonstrates creative vision and technical skill
  • Excellent communication and organizational skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in photography or related field
  • 7+ years experience as a professional photographer or photo editor
  • Experience working with fashion, beauty, or product photography
  • Familiarity with video editing software
  • Working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and other web development technologies


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