Photo editor jobs have been around in the publishing industry for decades, and landing the right job can pay quite handsomely.
You might think that photo editors are involved in the actual photography.
Instead, photo editors are involved in conceptualizing visual boards, selecting the right photos for a layout, and sometimes even hiring the right photographer for a job.
In today’s article, learn what a photo editor job involves, what you need to get started, where to find photo editor jobs, and how much you can expect to earn.
What Does a Photo Editor Do?
At its most basic, photo editing involves tweaking, altering, and enhancing film, print, or digital photographs.
A photo editor examines a photograph and makes adjustments to correct any errors in it, such as red eyes, incorrect color tint, or glare.
Photo editing also involves manipulating and retouching an image to suit the purposes of a specific job or photo campaign. For instance, if a photograph is for an advertising campaign, it would require more editing than if it was an accompanying image for a news article.
Photo editing used to be done by hand on the negatives themselves; editors would scrape, draw, or paint on the negatives, sometimes even pasting multiple negatives together to create a single print.
Nowadays, nearly all photo editing is done using computer software, such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
Photo editor jobs can also involve creating visual boards or storyboards and determining the photos that are needed for a specific job, as well as scouting for locations, producing and directing photoshoot sessions, and sometimes even hiring photographers.
Photo editors are in demand in the publishing industry, as well as other industries including marketing, advertising, website development, and the arts.
How to Get Started as a Photo Editor
If being a photo editor sounds interesting to you, here are some of the things and skills you’ll need to get started.
Education. Many employers prefer to hire photo editors who have bachelor’s degrees in photography, photojournalism, visual arts, and similar subjects.
Even though having a college degree is more preferable, it’s possible to become a photo editor with only a high school degree or a GED.
Equipment. You’ll need a computer, monitor, pointing device, and an output device.
You can start with a laptop computer, as long as it has a high-definition display, a high-speed processor, and a huge storage space.
Tablets are also becoming a popular choice, especially for those who prefer working with a stylus with variable pressure that software responds to.
The best equipment is one that will load your photo editing software and enable you to do the functions you need comfortably and without any hassle.
Depending on the job, you’ll need to have a way to print out the image using a high-quality inkjet printer or to export the image onto a portable hard drive.
Software. Employers are usually looking for photo editors who know how to use Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign, Illustrator, and Bridge.
It may be worth buying the latest edition of Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite, as it has all the Adobe editing software you’ll need and more.
A good grasp of photography concepts. knowledge of the hardware and software is useless if you don’t have a good grasp of photography concepts, such as contrast, exposure levels, lighting, color correction, retouching, and cropping.
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A creative eye. The whole point of a photo editor’s job is to improve on an existing photograph or photographs and make them aesthetically pleasing.
You must also have an eye for the type of photos appropriate for specific industries and jobs. For instance, if the photo is for a travel magazine, you need to know what kind of colors should pop out on a type of scenery and how to select photos that aren’t only gorgeous but inviting to tourists.
Portfolio. Employers would want to look at the portfolio of your previous editing work that showcases your style, range, and skills.
Have both a digital portfolio (on your own website) and a physical portfolio with actual, tangible prints.
A portfolio on iPad is an emerging popular choice for portfolios. It’s a great supplement for your print portfolio, but having a print portfolio is more impactful.
Make sure the first and last photos are striking; you want to make a memorable first and last impression.
Communication skills. You’ll be working with photographers and coordinating with art directors to decide on the look and feel of the photos that you want to achieve, so you’ll need to be able to effectively express your ideas through words.
Organization skills. Part of your responsibilities is putting together a campaign and organizing photoshoots. If you can’t handle the logistics, you’re going to have a difficult time.
Time management skills. You’ll be faced with tight deadlines in projects and jobs that can quickly change. Meeting those deadlines while maintaining the quality of your work is an important requirement for the job.
Passion for photography. This is perhaps the determining factor of whether you’re going to be a successful photo editor. If your heart is just not in it, it will show in your work.
Where Can You Find Photo Editor Jobs?
In the past, photo editors and photographers were the same people. The photographer-slash-photo editor does everything from conceptualizing a photoshoot to the actual picture-taking, then picking from the pile and editing final pieces.
In recent years, the roles of a photo editor and photographer had to be separated because of how quickly information is being gathered and published.
A great example of this is how digital magazines began as monthly subscriptions and have gradually moved to bimonthly, weekly, and even daily.
Nowadays, the specialized expertise and trained eye of photo editors help make the jobs of photographers, digital artists, copywriters, and graphic designers easier, more organized, and more in line with the task at hand.
You can find photo editor jobs in traditional newsrooms, magazines, big or small publishing houses, greeting card companies, advertising agencies, and other media-related companies.
And because almost every company maintains a website, newsletter, and social media accounts, photo editor jobs are also available at non-profit organizations, IT companies, government agencies, and other companies across a wide range of industries.
Stock Photo Sites
The biggest chunk of photo editor jobs can be found in stock photo agencies.
Take for example New York-based company Shutterstock.com, one of the most popular resources for stock photos.
Check out their Career page and click “View all jobs” to find current openings for photo editor jobs.
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Shopify is an e-commerce platform making it simple for small, medium, and big-time entrepreneurs take their retail business online.
They offer a Shopify Partners Program wherein merchants and sellers on Shopify can hire freelancers with different specialties to help them grow their businesses.
Freelance photo editors are in demand by sellers whose homepage photos and product photos need work to be more compelling.
If you’re looking for online photo editing jobs, your best bet is to FlexJobs, where you can find flexible, both work-from-home and office-based opportunities.
How Much Can You Get Paid to Edit Photos?
Office-based photo editor salaries start at around $30,000 annually, but the average salary is more like $45,000 a year.
Senior-level photo editors can earn up to $80,000 a year.
A huge advantage of working as an employee of stock photo agencies and other corporations is that benefits like health insurance and paid vacation time are included on top of the salary. Plus, they are mostly paid higher than their work-from-home counterparts.
Self-employed photo editors may have flexible work schedules, but they often earn minimum wage (from $10 to $15 an hour) in exchange for the flexibility afforded by this setup.
As you may soon discover, online photo editing is usually exclusive to the editing part of the job. If you do land a work-from-home job, don’t expect to lead a campaign’s photo direction (as with traditional photo editing positions).
Final Thoughts: Are Photo Editor Jobs Right for You?
Of course, like most skill-specific jobs, becoming a photo editor isn’t for everybody. You do need to have the eye to spot a perfect photo composition, pick the best photos from a batch, edit the components of an image, and oversee a bunch of small tasks to arrive at an end-product to match the concepts made at the start of every campaign.
But for those who think photo editing is perfect for them, here’s some good news: the outlook for this job is on the rise for a couple of reasons.
First, photographers are passionate about their craft, so switching their mental gears to a job that doesn’t require them to go behind the lens isn’t very appealing to most photographers. As a result, the percentage of photographers who decide to take the route of a photo editor is very low.
Second, more and more companies are publishing regular content for their products or services on websites, newsletters, social media, phone apps, and other media. Photo editing jobs are no longer exclusive to the print industry, which means you’ll have more opportunities available beyond magazines and newspapers.
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Are you looking for photo editor jobs? Do you think you have what it takes? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!