Photo Editor: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Photo editors require some formal education. Learn about degree programs, job duties and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Photo editors work for publications to select and prepare photographs for particular projects. They might manage a staff of photographers or, in a smaller organization, work as a photographer as well as the photo editor.

A career as a photo editor usually requires previous experience as a photographer, as well as a bachelor's degree and classes in photography, visual arts or digital media. Relevant master's degree programs are also available for those seeking advancement opportunities; they might lead to positions such as photography department supervisor or editorial chief.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in photography or relevant field
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 4% (all photographers)
Mean Salary (2013)* $37,190 (all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

Photo editors often work for a website, newspaper, magazine or book publisher. They're typically responsible for selecting, editing, positioning and publishing photos to accompany the text of a publication. Photo editors also might supervise staff photographers, give photo assignments and make sure that others complete their work on time.

Job Duties

The duties of a photo editor differ depending on the type of industry. Photo editors might meet with managers to discuss what types of pictures are needed for a certain project and then give out photo assignments to their staff. After the pictures are taken, the photo editor typically looks the pictures over and if changes are needed, alters the photos accordingly.

In large corporations, photo editors have a photography staff to take photos. However, in smaller organizations, photo editors might be responsible for taking their own photos or use photo stock agencies to purchase pictures to meet the needs of the project. Additional duties of a photo editor might include training new staff members, ordering supplies for the photo department and making sure that the cameras and other equipment are working properly.


Individuals interested in a career as a photo editor often need a bachelor's degree in photography, visual arts or digital media. These 4-year programs typically include classes in studio design, photo editing and digital imaging.

For those wanting to advance their careers, there are several master's degree programs in photography. The majority of these programs require some educational background in photography and art history. At this level, students typically take advanced courses in such areas as digital editing, studio lighting, computer imaging and color photography.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), today's photographers normally use digital cameras and edit their own work on computers (www.bls.gov). In 2013, the BLS reported an annual average salary of $37,190 for photographers. The BLS also projected just 4% employment growth for photographers from 2012-2022, with employment of photographers in the newspaper business projected to drop by 36% during that decade.

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