Career Development

Photo Editor Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Photo editors are responsible for choosing, editing, and publishing photos that will appear in a variety of different media outlets. They work with the photographers who take the pictures to determine which ones are worth publishing and how they should be edited.

Photo editors are responsible for choosing, editing, and publishing photos that will appear in a variety of different media outlets. They work with the photographers who take the pictures to determine which ones are worth publishing and how they should be edited.

Photo editors must be skilled in all areas of photography—from the technical side (exposure, depth of field, etc.) to the creative side (composition, lighting, etc.).

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a photo editor and what it takes to become one yourself.

Photo Editor Job Duties

The duties of a photo editor include:

  • Editing photos for reproduction in print or online media, including cropping, adjusting color, removing red eye, and spotting blemishes
  • Producing a product that meets the needs of the readership or will sell a product or an idea through images
  • Conceptualizing and producing graphics for advertisements, websites, and other visual media
  • Arranging for models, props, lighting, backdrops, etc. as needed to create the right image for each product or situation
  • Supervising staff, including writers and graphic designers when necessary, to ensure they are on track in their projects
  • Sourcing relevant photos from stock libraries for articles published in the publication
  • Communicating with reporters to choose relevant photos for articles and helping them submit requests to photographers or freelancers

Photo Editor Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for photo editors is $55,125. The highest earners make over $97,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the motion picture and video industries.

The number of photo editors in the United States is expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to improved technology and new advances in digital photography that make it easier for individuals to take their own pictures and edit them without hiring a professional.

Photo Editor Job Requirements

Requirements for a photo editor include:

Education: A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as photography or visual arts, is typically required. This can be earned at a four-year college or university. Some employers may hire applicants with a strong portfolio and the ability to do the job without a degree.

Training: To gain skills and knowledge needed to edit photos, some photo editors attend workshops and courses where they learn the basic tools and techniques used in this type of work. On-the-job training is also available to photo editors. Those who work for magazines, newspapers and other print publications usually train under the supervision of another employee and learn the brand and style of the company. 

Certifications: Certification is not always necessary to become a photo editor, but some employers prefer candidates who have them. One such certification is the Adobe Certified Professional. It is open to those with any level of experience and requires candidates to pass exams on specific areas of their expertise. 

Photo Editor Skills

Photo editors need to have the following skills:

Editing skills: Photo editors must be able to edit images for quality and consistency.

Digital knowledge: Photo editors must understand basic digital imaging concepts in order to be able to work with a variety of different software programs.

Communication skills: Photo editors must be able to communicate well with others, including other staff members, designers, and clients.

Critical thinking skills: Photo editors must possess strong critical thinking skills in order to make good decisions about which images are best suited for publication.

Research skills: Photo editors must possess strong research skills in order to find and use images that will suit their publication’s needs. Some photo editors are required to conduct interviews and write stories.

Time management skills: Photo editors must possess good time management skills in order to meet deadlines and complete projects on time. Photo editors often work in high-pressured environments due to publication deadlines.

Photo Editor Work Environment

Photo editors usually work in quiet offices. They use computers and other office equipment to prepare photos for publication in newspapers, magazines, and other media publications.

Photo editors spend most of their time sitting and looking at computer screens. An editor’s job can be very stressful because the work is time-sensitive and deadlines are tight. Photo editors may work long hours when an important news event occurs, such as a natural disaster or a national election.

Photo Editor Career Path

Gettign Started

New photo editors must learn the basics of their craft and the style of the publication they work for before they can begin to develop their own style. In the beginning, new photo editors work with photographers, assisting them in developing story ideas and helping to arrange shoots. When they have mastered these tasks, photo editors are free to explore new aspects of the profession.

Five Years Out

Five-year veterans have developed a good sense of what makes a story compelling and how to make it visually appealing. They’ve developed both their technical expertise and their people skills. Some photo editors take on more administrative duties such as supervising junior photo editors or become lead photo editors. Most photo editors stay at this level for another five years before moving on.

Ten Years Out

As photo editors progress toward ten years of experience, they assume greater control over both staff and budgets. Photo editors become involved in editorial meetings, directing the visual elements of articles and determining which images will be used. They may choose freelance photographers or assign specific stories to staff photographers. Some photo editors become art directors who develop layouts and pages at this level; others move into managerial positions within their organization or into marketing, sales, or public relations capacities at their company’s client firms. Those who stay in journalism will find that they spend more time writing than editing as they take on larger roles as leaders of the newsroom staff.

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.

Self-Taught Photographers

The internet has opened up a vast array of opportunities for photographers, particularly those who can work independently.

These opportunities offer the ability to market oneself and build a professional portfolio, as well as use self-publishing platforms that allow for instant sharing and payment. In addition, the ubiquity of high quality cameras on smartphones means that many people have access to quality equipment at any time.

In fact, surveys have found that more than 80% of photos posted online are taken by people other than professional photographers – a trend that is likely to increase in coming years as smartphone sales grow and more photographers take advantage of self-publishing platforms like Instagram and Flickr.

Photo Manipulation

Photo manipulation has become an essential part of many creative jobs today, as images are often altered to reflect specific styles or artistic vision.

For example, photo editors who work for fashion magazines may edit out imperfections on models’ bodies to make them appear thinner, while photographers working in the cosmetic field may use photo manipulation techniques to remove scars from patient photos.

The Role of Editors in the New Digital Age

The number of images being shared on social media sites has increased exponentially over the past few years, making it more important than ever for professionals who are tasked with sorting through all these images to have strong editing skills.

It is not enough to be able to use simple filters—editors will need to learn how to edit using sophisticated software that can help them cut down on repetitive tasks while still maintaining the integrity of each image.

How to Become a Photo Editor

1. Planning Your Career

Photo editors can work in a variety of industries, such as advertising, journalism and even as freelancers, so it’s important to consider which type of work environment is most appealing.

It’s also important to keep in mind that photo editors do not always need a college degree; those who want to work as freelancers, for instance, may be able to start their careers with just a high school diploma and some freelance photo editing experience under their belt.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for photo editors should demonstrate their ability to use software, their creativity, and their attention to detail. When describing your previous jobs, be sure to discuss how you applied your skills in a variety of situations. Additionally you can include links to your work if they are available online

You should also include any education or training that relates to the position. This may include specialized courses or workshops you’ve taken related to photography or computer graphics, as well as college degrees related to design, art, or technology. You can also include awards won for any projects you’ve worked on in the past.

3. Applying for Jobs

One of the best ways to learn about photo editing jobs is to work as a photo assistant or apprentice. If you’re already an expert, consider volunteering your services to non-profit organizations and other worthy causes; many will not be able to afford professional photographers, but will welcome the help of a dedicated volunteer. If you’d like to explore the freelance world, social media can be a great way to find opportunities and keep tabs on other editors’ work. Sites like LinkedIn and Meetup also offer a good way to meet people and network with those in the industry.

You should also develop a professional portfolio that shows off your work and gives potential employers an idea of your talents. You can create a website or blog that includes the same kind of content; it doesn’t matter where you post your images, but it’s important to make sure that they are visible to anyone who might be looking for your services.

4. Ace the Interview

For a photo editor position, applicants should take the time to research the publication or website for which they’re applying. Doing so will help you understand what direction the publication is heading in and what its current strengths and weaknesses are. It will also help you prepare answers to interview questions that demonstrate your understanding of the industry and show that you have a clear idea of how you can contribute to it.

You should also know your own capabilities well enough to answer common questions about them. Have examples at hand so you can quickly explain how your skills directly benefit a business or publication. Also, remember that the job is not just about creativity—it’s about problem-solving as well. Be prepared to discuss how you would handle difficult projects and what types of solutions you could offer.


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