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What is an Editorial Photographer?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, photography is the art of composing those thousand words in a visual narrative, whether in a single image or in several images.

While the advent of compact digital cameras has expedited the process of rendering pictures in camera, editorial photography remains a specialized domain. Expertise in photographic techniques and strong conceptualization skills are the core strengths of editorial photographers. An editorial photographer should be able to convey a story through pictures.

Job Profile of an Editorial Photographer

An editorial photographer provides images for magazines, newspapers, books, websites or other editorial material, rather than corporate branded material. The most important difference between editorial photography and other types of photography is the element of usage.

The work of an editorial photographer is typically published with text, such as a story or caption. It should complement the piece and present a definitive idea from the story in a visual manner. The editorial point-of-view is crucial in this form of photography. Thus, editorial photographers express their creativity within a conceptual boundary.

Editorial photography can be fashion. It can be still-life or photojournalism. It can be food, or it can be architecture. Depending on your area of interest, you may decide to specialize in one of these areas or another, for example, sports photography.

An editorial photographer shoots both on location and in-studio. Depending on the assignment, they hire cast and crew, and even have to pull location permits. Some editorial photo shoots can be like an advertising shoot in their high production value. However, since the usage is editorial, the budgets and resources can be much different. And yes, some are even conceptualized to the degree of an ad shoot. The difference is in how the image is used.

Don’t be confused. The term "editorial" can also be used as a descriptive to identify a style that has a relaxed, more spontaneous quality. Sometimes, art directors at an ad agency describe their concept or project as having an "editorial" feel, but this is not an editorial shoot. They are simply describing a "feel" they are trying to achieve. Again, very often there is a lifestyle component to their vision, but it still remains an advertising shoot.

The job profile of an editorial photographer includes, but is not limited to:

  • Coordinating with photo editors and art directors at an editorial outlet to understand the requirements for an image. Sometimes, this involves coordination with writers, reporters or editors.
  • Finding suitable locations or events where the idea of a piece can be conveyed visually.
  • Analyzing photography requirements and selecting cameras and gear accordingly.
  • Taking photographs.
  • Retouching images as per publishers’ requirements.
  • Submitting images to the publishing house.
  • Knowing how to run a small business, or at least basic accounting, and developing excellent research and marketing skills. Client management is important too.

How to Become an Editorial Photographer

With the online industry boom, the opportunities for editorial photographers have expanded. However, it remains a highly competitive market, which values vision and technical proficiency.

Being able to respond and execute quickly is also very important, as sometimes editorial photographers get an assignment in the morning to shoot that afternoon! This job also requires diplomacy and problem-solving skills. The publishing world is going through a major shift right now and magazines and newspapers a tremendous volume of work in a landscape that is changing almost too quickly for them to keep up.

To become an editorial photographer, superior photographic skills and a deep understanding of the tools for the trade are necessary. It is essential to build a strong, smart and well thought out portfolio that will serve as your resume. As an aspiring photographer, opt for a specialist photography school course such as Editorial Photo 462.

Academy of Art University is one of the leading photography schools. Students work with award-winning photographers who bring their professional experience to the classroom. With courses available online and in San Francisco, Academy of Art University offers Associates (AA), Bachelors (BFA) and Masters (MFA) degrees in Photography as well as continuing art education, online awards of completion and pre-college programs for high school students.

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