How To Become A Photo Editor: A Comprehensive Guide

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Photo editors are professionals who curate images and visual content for magazines, books, newspapers and online publications. They may perform a range of technical and editorial duties in a publication house. If you are interested in this job role, you may benefit from understanding how to become one. In this article, we examine how to become a photo editor, what duties they perform, what skills they require on the job and how much they make.

How to become a photo editor

As a photo editor, you may work with publishers of magazines, photo books and newspapers, or with film producers and advertisers. These professionals also take decisions regarding the visual content of publications like company reports, newsletters, fliers, brochures and other marketing collaterals. Photo editors create layouts for publications, choose photographs that align with the text and suggest modifications to visual material. They also determine printing methodology, paper quality and digital processing workflows.

While large publishing houses and press, newspaper and magazine companies employ multiple photo editors, a photographer may complete the job of a photo editor in smaller organisations. The goal of a photo editor is to use photographs in ways that elevate a reader's experience. Photo editing is ideal for creative professionals with a flair for photography and editorial skills. It is a very technology-oriented job involving knowledge of photography practices and complex photo editing software. If you would like to learn how to become a photo editor, consider the following steps:

1. Pursue a bachelor's or master's degree

Most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in photography or a related major like visual communication, digital media, visual arts, fine arts or photojournalism. Bachelor's and master's degree programmes include photo editing as part of their syllabus and train students in the latest and advanced photo editing techniques. Apart from photo editing and photography, bachelor's and master's courses may cover subjects like computer imaging, colour photography, studio lighting and digital processing. The courses also prepare you for advanced photo editing tasks. If you are interested in a career in photo editing, you can consider pursuing the following courses:

  • B.Sc. (Bachelor of Science) in Photography

  • B.Sc. in Photoshop

  • B.Sc. in Multimedia

  • B.Sc. in Animation

  • B.Sc. in Graphic Design

  • BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Photography

  • BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Visual Communication

  • BA in Fine Arts

  • M.Sc. (Master of Science) in Photography

  • M.Sc. in Graphic Design

  • MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Photography

  • MA (Master of Arts) in Fine Arts

2. Get certified in photography and photo editing

The aim of a diploma or certificate programme is to equip students with specialised skills in a particular field. While diplomas may last from six months to two years, certification courses are short-term courses typically lasting from one week to six months. Since photo editing is a technology-oriented field, employers may prefer hiring candidates who are knowledgeable about the latest image processing tools and techniques. Passing an entrance exam and knowledge of photography may be the eligibility criteria for diploma programs. A few diplomas and certificate programmes that are beneficial to pursue are:

  • Diploma in photo editing

  • Diploma in digital photo editing

  • Diploma in photography

  • Diploma in Photoshop

  • Diploma in cinematography

  • Diploma in photojournalism

  • Certification course in photography and photo editing

  • Certification course in audio and video editing

  • Certification course in graphic designing

3. Build additional skills

During your studies related to photography, you may have learnt to use a variety of image processing tools. You can learn to use editorial tools to succeed in the role of a photo editor. Knowledge or familiarity with multiple software platforms and tools can improve your employability.

4. Create a portfolio

Build a portfolio of relevant photographs and samples of photo editing work that you have done. If you have worked on any yearbooks, magazines or event publications, you can add them to your portfolio. You can create a website to upload relevant work samples to share with potential employers.

5. Pursue an internship opportunity

Pursue paid or unpaid internship opportunities for publication companies that employ photo editors and professional photographers. Working under professional photographers and senior editors can help you understand concepts you learn in college and apply them to real-life professional scenarios. You can apply for internships during college or after you complete your education to gain work experience.

Related: What Are Internships and How Do You Find One?

What skills do photo editors require?

Knowing the basics of photography is a typical requirement for a photo editor and can help them understand what a photographer or a publisher expects from an editorial role. A photo editor largely works with photographers and other visual content creators. They provide instructions, guidelines and suggestions to help photographers and camera professionals create images that meet the requirements and specifications of the publisher. A photo editor also requires working knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud software like:

  • InDesign

  • Photoshop

  • Illustrator

  • CorelDraw

  • Lightroom

  • Bridge

If you are interested in becoming a photo editor, consider developing the following skills:

Knowledge of social media

Creative professionals use social media extensively to share their work and also look for new talent. Knowing how to use social media to attract attention to your work can help you reach potential employers. You can also connect with other professionals in this line of work and build your professional network.


Photo editors work with images, and one of their primary responsibilities is to use the images to add to the aesthetic appeal of a book or a magazine. They decide on layouts for pictures, image sizes, resolution of images and density of visual content. They make progressions, narratives and linear edits using photographs that match the textual content. Visualising how the image will look in print is an important skill for a photo editor.

Business skills

Companies may also use the services of a photo editor to hire additional freelancers and photographers for special events or projects. Photo editors may also hire permanent photographers and arrange for the required equipment at reasonable rates on behalf of the company. Their role requires good negotiation and decision-making skills.

Communication skills

Photo editors interact with content writers, graphic designers, publishers and the management team to finalise the layout of the end product. Their insight is crucial for creating a visually appealing book or magazine. Strong verbal and communication skills are important as they talk to a variety of stakeholders and professionals on a regular basis.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Organisation skills

A book or a magazine may contain many pages that have pictures. Photo editors may process multiple versions of each photograph before deciding on the best-suited aesthetic for the publication. They usually work with a large volume of visual and textual material. Therefore, they benefit from being meticulous while arranging their workspaces, resources and tools.

Decision-making skills

A photo editor curates images and other visual content for magazines and publications. They choose and position pictures to align with the text or theme of the material being printed. Decision-making is another key skill required for a photo editor.

Time management skills

Most publishing and printing jobs are time-bound projects. A photo editor may work with multiple projects and manage more than one team of editors and photographers. Prioritising what requires to be done first, delegating work among team members and collaborating with other departments are important duties of a photo editor.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

What are the duties of a photo editor?

A photo editor's responsibilities may vary depending on their industry and company. Experienced photo editors are often in charge of their team members, like photographers or entry-level photo editors. They may also collaborate closely with department heads and managers to decide on pictures for certain projects. Some key duties of a photo editor are:

  • collaborating with department heads and editors to determine the company's photography needs

  • delegating tasks to photographers

  • tracking assignment progress to ensure prompt delivery

  • reviewing and editing photos according to organisational goals, guidelines and specifications

  • choosing the images to publish in print or web publications

  • editing pictures on time to meet tight publication deadlines

  • using photo editing software tools and applications to adjust and improve photos

  • maintaining and caring for cameras, computers and photography equipment

  • ordering additional photo editing supplies

  • planning future projects with photographers, editors and advertisers

How much does a photo editor make?

Photo editors are professionals who have access to many lucrative work opportunities. They may find employment in newspapers, magazines, marketing and advertising companies, real estate agencies, scientific and research institutions, fashion brands and e-commerce businesses. The average base salary of a photo editor is ₹15,173 per month.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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