Magazine Photographer: Job Duties, Salary and Outlook

Sep 28, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a magazine photographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and technical knowledge to find out if this is the career for you.

With a high school diploma or GED and some photography know-how, it is possible to pursue a career as a magazine photographer. However, the projected a decline in growth for photography jobs from 2018-2028 and formal training may improve career prospects.

Essential Information

Magazine photographers are photojournalists who use artistic ability and technological skills to create photos to accompany magazine articles. Magazine photographers are employed in salaried positions or as freelancers. Magazine photography jobs are expected to rise as Internet magazine growth rises.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary education helpful
Other Requirements Technical camera knowledge
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* -6% for all photographers
Median Salary (2018)* $34,000 for all photographers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

Magazine photographers are photojournalists who work either salaried positions or as freelancers. As freelancers, magazine photographers accept assignments given by editors for an agreed-upon fee. The content of the photos depends on the accompanying article, which is often determined by the magazine's genre.

Magazine photographers are knowledgeable about the technicalities of working a camera. Magazine photographers know how to program the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, in addition to understanding how to manipulate lighting, depth of field, and motion to create a clear and creative image. Additional equipment like tripods, off-camera flash systems, different lenses, studio lighting, filters and reflectors are also used to achieve a desired photograph.

The goal of each photo is to capture the reader's attention, tell a story, and invoke emotion. Magazine photographers often accompany reporters on interviews to learn more about the story.

Magazine photographers also cover certain events, which may require the magazine photographer to work in unpleasant or risky areas. Magazines that cover national and international affairs may send a magazine photographer to regions experiencing political conflict, war, natural disasters and other types of tragedies.

Digital editing and computer skills are often required of magazine photographers. The majority of magazines use digital images that are uploaded from the camera's memory card to the computer. Once on the computer, the image can be edited and sent to the proper editor for layout and printing.

Caption writing is another duty of magazine photographers. Captions tell the reader the who, what, where, when, why and how of the photograph. Accurate spelling of the names of the people and places in the photograph are essential in caption writing.

Code of Ethics

Some media photography associations, like the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), have established codes of ethics that photojournalists should abide by to ensure creditability. Some of the guidelines established by the NPPA are:

  • Be accurate and thorough in representing subjects.
  • Don't stage photos of current events. Capture the happenings as they occur.
  • Be compassionate when photographing sensitive events like crimes, accidents or other tragedies.
  • Do not accept any type of compensation for favorable coverage.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all photographers earned a mean annual wage of $42,770 in May 2018. Income for freelance magazine photographers varies based on how many assignments they receive each year. The BLS reported that salaried magazine photographers tend to earn a higher annual income because freelance magazine photographers are responsible for acquiring and maintaining their own equipment.


Photographer employment is expected to decline over the years 2018-2028, according to the BLS. A demand for magazine photographers is expected to rise thanks to a growing number of Internet magazines. Competition is intense for magazine photographer positions because it is a popular field, the BLS reported. Salaried positions are expected to become more scarce as more magazines opt for hiring freelance magazine photographers. The most successful magazine photographers are highly creative, business savvy and technologically adept.

Magazine photographers capture images for publication in magazines and online. They write the captions for the photos, and they are also responsible for any photo editing necessary. While a high school diploma or GED can be sufficient for this position, a college-level photography program may be helpful for prospective photographers.

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