How to Become a Photo Editor

How to Become a Photo Editor

Photo editor working at lightbox
Jon Feingersh/Iconica/Getty Images

Photo editors oversee the photography that appears in a magazine, primarily working as a point person for communicating with, and hiring, photographers. Photo editors also work for newspapers and other publications which feature photography.

Do Photo Editors Take the Pictures?

A common misconception about photo editors is that they act as photographers. Unlike magazine editors, who may often write for a magazine, photo editors very rarely take pictures for their magazines.

Instead photo editors conceive of the visuals -- they hash out with editors what the photos will be and how they will complement the text -- and then go about hiring the right photographer for the job.

The Necessary Skills

Although photo editors aren’t actually shooting the pictures, they need to know a great deal about photography and have extensive contacts in the industry.

Not only does a photo editor need to be able to translate the editor’s ideas to the photographer who’s hired, but they need to find the right person for the job. This means that a photo editor needs extensive contacts within the photo industry, since they need to know what kind of photographers will be available and who does what best. If the shoot calls for various shots of a family, that will likely require a different photographer than a beauty shoot of various products -- the photo editor needs to know who to assign what to, and when.

What People on the Job Say

One of the best ways to glean what a profession might be like, and whether it’s right for you, is to talk to people in the industry. Below are interviews with, and stories by, working photo editors:

  • The blog A Photo Editor is written by Rob Haggart, who’s worked for magazines like Men’s Journal and Outside, and is also a working photographer.

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